75 YEARS AGO
TECH WINS 222-0
John William Heisman, the famed Georgia Tech coach and the man behind the trophy, was a vindictive person. When Cumberland College canceled its football program in the fall of 1916, Heisman was furious—he believed he had a score to settle with the tiny school from Lebanon. Term. Earlier that year Cumberland had crushed Tech's baseball team—also coached by Heisman—22-0. Actually, the team calling itself Cumberland for that baseball game had been a professional squad from Nashville, illicitly assembled by some Cumberland baseball players hoping to save their flagging athletic program. Nevertheless, Heisman felt he'd been publicly embarrassed.
He sent a letter to Cumberland offering the football team $500 and an all-expenses paid trip to Atlanta if they would play Tech as originally scheduled. I he letter reached George Alien, Cumberland's former team manager. He accepted the offer and rounded up 19 "players," most of whom had never played football. This makeshift squad ran a few practices and even developed a play-calling system: Each player was assigned the name of a vegetable, and the signal-caller then shouted out plays like. "Turnip over lettuce! Hut-one, hut-two..." or, "Cucumber to cauliflower! I hut-one, hut-two..."
In the subsequent game against Georgia Tech, the Cumberland squad was reduced to tossed salad, Tech's offense scored every time it got the ball, never threw a pass, never was penalized and never took more than three downs to score. The defense never gave up a first down.
At halftime, with the score 126-0, Heisman told his players, "Men, we're in front, but you never know what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. Don't let up." During the second half, a Cumberland player was found hiding under a blanket, and two others climbed a fence to get away. The final score of 222-0 represents the most lopsided match in college football history.
After the game. Heisman congratulated the Cumberland team and gave Allen a check for $500. He then promptly put his squad through a hard 30-minute scrimmage.
65 YEARS AGO
THE GREATEST (PROBABLY)
The history books say that Satchel Paige pitched his first pro game in 1926 for the Chattanooga Black Lookouts, a 5-4 win over the Birmingham Black Barons. (Could be.) Ol' Satch himself says his first game was a 1-0, two-hit victory over New Orleans some time that same year. (Possibly.) Paige was either 19 or 20 or 27 years old at the time. (Or not.) What is certain about Leroy Robert Paige is that he was a pitcher of astonishing skill. "No telling how great I might have been if there hadn't been a color line," he once said. "I might've been the best ever." That, too, we will never know for sure.
35 YEARS AGO
MASTER OF EVERY GAME
On Sept. 27, 1956, 45-year-old Babe Didrikson Zaharias died of cancer in Galveston, Texas. Perhaps never before or since has an obituary outlined a life so rich in athletic accomplishment: In track and field, she set American, Olympic or world records in live different events and won gold medals in the javelin and the 80-meter hurdles at the '32 Olympics. She was an All-America in basketball in 1930. '31 and '32. As a pitcher, she appeared in a few major league exhibition games and was such a prodigious hitter in her youth that she was nicknamed Babe. She won 82 golf tournaments as a professional and an amateur, including a record 17 in a row in the mid-'40s. In 1954, she won five tournaments, including the U.S. Women's Open by 12 strokes. Asked once if there was anything she hadn't played in her day, Zaharias replied, "Yeah. Dolls."
Perhaps the only suitable summation of her deeds is rendered in the epitaph on her tombstone: MILDRED 'BABE' DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS, 1911-1956. WORLD'S GREATEST WOMAN ATHLETE.