SI Vault
 
BEEF, BONES AND HERSHEY BARS
Robert H. Boyle
August 10, 1964
Which is tougher: Pennsylvania football or Texas football? No one knew for sure until last week when Penn high school all-stars bonked Texas 12-6 in an extraordinary bone bruiser in Hershey, Pa.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 10, 1964

Beef, Bones And Hershey Bars

Which is tougher: Pennsylvania football or Texas football? No one knew for sure until last week when Penn high school all-stars bonked Texas 12-6 in an extraordinary bone bruiser in Hershey, Pa.

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Hershey, Pa. is sweet on sports. It is the home of the chocolate bar, the streetlights are shaped like candy kisses and the jumpingest place in town is the Cocoa Inn on Chocolate Avenue. Hershey, with a population of 6,000, is also the home of the Hershey Bears (originally called the B'ars) of the American Hockey League. In the last seven years more than two million persons have crunched into the Hershey Sports Arena (7,200 capacity) to see the Bears. Last week Hershey staged its finest sports event ever, a dream football game between all-star high school graduates from Pennsylvania and Texas.

For years Pennsylvania has crowed that its coal mines and steel mills produce the best players in the country, and for years Texas has responded with rude noises suggestive of raspberries. On Saturday night the two states bucked heads before a standing-room-only crowd of 23,251 in Hershey Stadium. When it was over, Pennsylvania muscle and conditioning had beaten Texas brawn and speed 12-6 in a melee as exhilarating as anything since Frankenstein met The Wolf Man. The teams played as though they were fighting over a bone instead of a ball. But while the game was bruising, ft was brilliant. It was never three yards and a cloud of dust. It was three yards and a mushroom cloud. And the next minute it was a 50-yard pass. "The game," said Doak Walker, assistant to Texas Coach Bobby Layne, "was one of the best I've ever seen." There were those in Hershey who would quarrel with him. They thought it was the best. It had everything, plus a spirit of fight and razzmatazz that only the athletes from these two primitive states could bring to a bloodletting.

The Pennsylvania-Texas game is the invention of Al Clark, executive sports editor of the Harrisburg Patriot-News and president of the Big 33, the charitable association sponsoring the game. Back in 1958 Clark had 45 sportswriters throughout Pennsylvania pick the best 33 players in the state. This Big 33 team then played the best 25 players of the 66 in the annual All American High School Game. Pennsylvania won 6-0 and followed that the next year with an 18-0 win over a team led by Terry Baker, the 1962 Heisman Trophy winner. The all-stars tied 0-0 in 1960 before the NCAA, in a move to stop fly-by-night promotions elsewhere, put an end to the game. In 1961 the Pennsylvania players, divided into east and west teams, had nobody to play but themselves. Last fall Clark learned that two states could play one another as long as they were not adjoining. He got in touch with Fred Cervelli, sports editor of the Orange, Texas, Leader and proposed the match. Cervelli started to round up 33 boys. Governor William Scranton bet Texas Governor John Connally two lumps of coal (one hard, the other soft) and a miner's helmet. Connally countered by betting a pair of spurs "to better enable you to ride your presidential dark horse." The Pennsylvania Department of Commerce inserted inflammatory ads in Texas papers that made mention of Billy Sol Estes, the fact that Pennsylvania had trees ("Mountains even") and that the state's players were the "meanest men alive" and would mess up any Texans who came north to Hershey.

Several days before the game the Cocoa Inn and the rest of Hershey began to fill up with college coaches and scouts from across the country. Many of the coaches were in town solely to protect their boys, all but one of whom had already signed letters of intent. Rip Engle of Penn State was particularly worried, since six of the Pennsylvania players were scheduled to enroll at State. He flew back from a clinic in Viet Nam ominously bearing a blowgun. Even so, a few of the coaches scuttled around to see what they could rustle.

What the coaches were most interested in were the players with necks like oak stumps. Such players are called studs. A prime Pennsylvania stud has no neck at all; it has sunk in somewhere around his stomach. "A stud," explained Joe Shumock, a Johnstown high school coach who was helping ex-Cornell Coach Lefty James with the Penn team, "is a male animal. The studs get strong from buckin' rivets in the mills or with a pick and shovel digging graves. Pennsylvania football is desire. They don't need a ball. Just blow the whistle and they start rockin'. They just want to go out there and hit somebody." Most studs are linemen, Shumock said, but "when we see a back who's built, we just say he's be-yoo-ti-full."

Pennsylvania high school teams disdain nicknames like Bantams or Lions as too sissified. Instead, they have hard, atavistic names like Crushers and Steamrollers. Demons and Marauders are about as fey as names get. Shumock just drooled over the Pennsylvania squad. "If I could take those boys with me, I'd start my own university," he said. "Keystone University. I'd love that. We'd play anybody."

Texas football players are supposed to be lean, rangy and fast. Well, there may have been one or two lean Texans, but most of them were big ol' studs, too. The studs along the Pennsylvania offensive line totaled 1,480 pounds, but the Texans outweighed them. According to one story, a number of the Texans—including Wilmer Cooks, a bee-yoo-ti-full, 210-pound fullback with legs like braided cables—had to wear their practice pants for the game because they could not get their calves through their all-star pants.

Temperamentally, the Texans lived up to their reputation, whooping and hollering at everyone ("even at ugly girls," said a puzzled Pennsylvanian) and parading around with a Lone Star flag. The Pennsylvania players did not retort to the Rebel yells—"We'll show them how we feel on the field," said Fullback Bill (the Tank) Rettig—but they did retaliate somewhat by stealing the Texas flag. The culprit was believed to be Terry O'Toole, a menacingly squat guard who spent much of Saturday night sitting on chests in the Texas backfield.

Wherever you looked in Hershey there was beef on the hoof. The pro football Eagles were in town training, and one experienced sports photographer sent out to shoot them started following the Pennsylvania squad around by mistake. In the milling crowd around the Cocoa were some superb "ridge heads," behemoths with belts of muscle that rippled across the backs of their heads. It was as though all the gods in German mythology had assembled for one final beer bust.

On Saturday night state police were out by the battalion directing traffic as spectators poured in for the fun. Texas received, and as the kick tumbled end over end down the field, the stands shuddered with cries of "Hit 'em!" It was rough and tough but clean. There was no talking between the teams except for compliments. "I hit their big end good three times with my forearm," said Rettig the Tank, "and he said, 'Good blocking.' " Rettig himself stood in awe of one Texan who barreled into his chest. "I can feel it now," Rettig said later, caressing the laceration.

Continue Story
1 2