that he didn't make the catch," says Fido, "and they were the home
fans. They said, 'You're the best umpire in this league, Fido, and we ain't
gonna jam you.' "
Back in his late
teens and early 20s, Fido had touched down as a for-hire athlete at no less
than six campuses. At Fordham he played football for Major Frank Cavanaugh.
"Major Cavanaugh called me 170 pounds of dynamite," says Fido. He
relates that prior to his second season at Fordham, Cavanaugh made him
proprietor of the campus poolroom in order to insure his continued presence.
"It was a gold mine," says Fido. "It was open till 9 o'clock, with
six tables, 5� a game. But I didn't go near the joint. I had a couple of hero
worshipers who ran it for me and brought the money to my room every night and
dropped it on the bed."
Fido received a telegram from Hunk Anderson, then football coach at St. Louis
University, who invited him west. Fido wired back: SEND TRANSPORTATION MONEY.
Anderson wired $200, and Fido stuffed the money into his pocket and hitchhiked
to St. Louis. "The first day in scrimmage," he recalls, "I ran 71
yards for a TD. Joe Lintzenich, who later was a star for the Bears, was the St.
Louis captain, and he said to me in the showers, 'Hey Speedy, you looked pretty
good out there.' I said, 'Phooey! I just hitchhiked three days. Wait till I get
some rest.' "
clearly remembers Fido as an outstanding ballcarrier, possessed of excellent
speed and a tricky change of pace. Yet St. Louis refused to award him a letter.
"The authorities," says Anderson, "found out that Fido got into the
university by borrowing high school credits from a pal in New England and
putting his name on them. He got bounced out of school." Soon after, Fido's
collegiate career came to an end at Duke University.
" Wallace Wade
recruited me," he says. "He gave me a great deal. So right away I
knocked them dead in spring practice, but in the summer the head coach of North
Carolina University, a guy by the name of Chuck Collins, ran into Hunk Anderson
in Chicago and said, 'I'm worried, Hunk. Duke's got a back who drew crowds in
spring practice. Guy by the name of Fido Murphy.' And Hunk said, 'You can't
defense that guy! He can run all over the lot!' So Chuck Collins turned white
and went back to Carolina and said to Wade, 'You can't play this Murphy. He's
played all over the world.' "
Fido returned to
his native New England, where he already had achieved distinction as the first
man to win a game while in the showers. He played semipro ball for the Sokol
Rosebuds ("a big Polish society in Bridgeport"), but he was so
spectacular that the Sokol Rosebuds' archrival, a Polish society on the west
side of town, hired him to play against his own teammates in the championship
game. "Those people up there were betting their houses and their wives on
that game," says Fido. "I beat the Sokols all alone. I purposely let a
punt fall and then picked it up on the third bounce and ran 69 yards for a TD.
Some guy in the stands yelled, 'Don't give that guy half a chance or he'll kill
Going where the
money was, Fido next joined the New Haven Triangles, a pro club coached by the
famed Century Milstead. "The first time I scrimmaged I dipsy-doodled past
every man on the field, and Milstead said, 'This guy's better than Albie
Booth.' They had a mortgage on the stadium, but I filled the joint and paid off
Fido turned up
shortly in Chicago, where he asked George Halas for a berth with the Bears.
Halas replied, "Well, kid, I've heard a lot about you. Hunk Anderson
recommends you highly. But I already got three tailbacks. However, if you want
to play for $50 a game, be here tomorrow."
Fido did not
regard himself as a $50 player. He therefore went to Ed A. Garvey, a big
office-supplies man in Chicago, and was hired as a traffic manager. "But my
main job," Fido explains, "was to take out Garvey's big accounts and
tell them about my experiences. One of these accounts was a purchasing agent
who was a big blonde babe. She'd say to me, 'I want 100,000 of this item, Fido.
I can give the order to a lot of salesmen, but I like keeping company with you,
sweetie boy.' So I went to Garvey and said, 'Look, I'm not strong enough to
hold this job.' Garvey said, 'You're the greatest salesman in the U.S.' But I
had football in my blood, so Garvey said, 'Look, I'll make you coach over at
St. Viator College.' Garvey could do that because he was always writing out
$10,000 checks for Catholic colleges."
The early 1930s,
consequently, found Fido revolutionizing offensive football at St. Viator.
"There I am with the modern T formation—my quarterback is using a fake that
is now the 37 counter in the New York Giant offense. Why, I'd already done a
little coaching at Samuel Johnson Academy in Connecticut and I'd used it there.
So now Marchmont Schwartz, who was Clark Shaughnessy's assistant at the
University of Chicago, sees my stuff and tells Shaughnessy about it."
Shaughnessy huddled with George Halas, and the two began toying with T plays on
paper for several years, according to Fido. In 1939 Halas' Bears made extensive
use of the formation, but justice prevailed and Halas was done in by the fine
hand of the T's true creator—Fido.