Updated on February 21, 2024
Continuing on with some stories on some early teams
While the Milwaukee City Conference was the first conference to organize in 1893, a second, in 1896 was formed in Dodge County. At a September meeting in Beaver Dam, that school joined Waupun, Mayville, Fox Lake, Juneau and Horicon to form the Dodge County Athletic Association League.
Post Washington would play its first football game in 1897 as they beat Grafton 18-4 in a late November affair. This was their only reported game. The school had only 11-male high school students, so they recruited several seventh and eighth graders to fill out the team. The story of their first game was in the 1925 yearbook, written by a former student, Judge A.J. Hedding, a 1902 graduate who stated that the school did have a team for from 1897-1901 (No official records remain). Judge Hedding reported that principal T.H. Jones asked his cousin, Delbert Treloar, a Carroll College graduate to coach the team. Beginning in 1903 basketball for boy’s and volleyball for girls were the only sports that were highlighted in the school yearbooks until 1923. 1921 was the first year that known yearbooks exist. After the 1901 season, based on yearbooks from 1921-25 that featured only basketball and volleyball. I must conclude that they didn’t play football again until the 1927 team was mentioned in the 1928 yearbook. Why? Because the 1924 yearbook only had about 100 students and it was tough to continue to form a team in the earlier years without seventh and eighth graders being part of the squad.
From the 1925 Port Washington yearbook
Mr. Jones would move on and later became superintendent of the West Allis School system.
On October 1, 1989, Green Bay East defeated Kaukauna 34-0. Kaukauna halfback Miller was the teams star player. Before the game started Green Bay objected to Miller playing on the grounds that he wasn’t a bonafide student. Kaukauna officials agreed that he wasn’t legit and Green Bay’s captain, Hallock said that they wouldn’t play if Miller was in the game. However, he changed his mind…remember that in this time period the team captain was often the coach…and his objections were withdrawn. The Press-Gazette noted that two professors from Kaukauna were also in the lineup!!
From the Manitowoc Pilot newspaper, dated Thursday, October 12 covering the Saturday October 7th game between Green Bay West and Manitowoc a report that West was humbled by the North Side high of Manitowoc. That means that the city may have had at least two high schools but today the North school would be Manitowoc Lincoln. In losing 49-11 West fumbled frequently and suffered a number of injuries so at one point a teacher was called to fill in.
In 1899 Marinette opened their season on October 7 against Escanaba (MI). On the opening kickoff the ball went to Marcus Lindhem who took the kick on the Marinette 15-yard line. As he ran up the field and crossed mid-field (The field was 110-yards long at that time) near the Marinette 50 Lindhem was hit and the ball popped out of his hands and Chet Porter caught in mid-air and carried it the final 50-yards for a touchdown. Marinette went on to win 17-0 and would post a 7-0-1 season record.
The opening game of the season for Green Bay West was called off against their opponent, Seymour. It seems that Seymour had two “students” that were at least 21-year-old, and the game was to be between “strictly students”. There were lively discussions between the teams. The players were dressed for combat but when West saw the two from Seymour, large enough to be playing on their city team they declined to play. West thought that they were being treated unfairly and left the field before the start of the game.
In 1901 Madison High School (Name changed later to be known as Madison Central) was in the midst of a 5-1-1 season when in their second game against Evansville a dispute started before the event even started. It seems that Evansville had a player named Richardson whose age was in dispute. A lengthy discussion between coaches and administrators over the age of that player. The Madison Tychoberahn (The name of the school yearbook) stated, jokingly of course:
“The first fairly heavy game was with Evansville at Camp Randall which at first more resembled an oratorical contest than a football game. The preliminary joint debate as to the eligibility of Richardson was decided in favor of Madison and the game therefore played under suspension of the interscholastic rules. Mr. Richardson was found later to be one of Evansville’s oldest settlers having voted for president almost since the time of Jackson and Van Buren. The score was 10-6, the game ending by Evansville’s withdrawal from the field”.
Such wonderful prose in a yearbook.
The WIAA later found that Richardson failed to meet the eligible age requirement.
Disputes over eligibility would occur many times in the future as you will read further.
While doing research on the history of Green Bay East and West I found a story of some interest that occurred on Sunday, November 2. It seems that the Mayor Taylor of Green Bay called the police. Officer Howard was directed to tell the players of the two high school’s junior squads to disband their game on the north side of the West campus. It seemed that the Rev. W.A. Garfield of the First Presbyterian Church felt that the noise the two teams were making was disturbing his Sunday School classes. By the time they moved their game to the other side of the school a heavy rain arrived, and the game was cancelled. The reverends sermon that day was about The Flood. He must have gotten his wish to "wash" the football players away.
I found a story in the December 30, 1902, edition of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that disproves previous information that I had received several years ago. I had read in a story that the WIAA didn't officially declare a state football champion in the early years. I, at first that thought that the story was incorrect as I saw a picture of a banner that both Milwaukee South Side (South Division) in 1898 and Edgerton in 1916 had received banners from the WIAA declaring that they were recognized as the official state champion. The article in the Press-Gazette stated:
There is no mention of a flag but the story states that Fort Atkinson was the official champion. Over the early days of the sport the WIAA would try and not get mixed up as to who was champion, but these are clear indications that, on occasion, the WIAA got involved.
In a meeting of the Milwaukee School Board, Director Jeremiah Quin introduced a referendum to “severe the terms”, abolish high school football in Milwaukee. The proposal was to ask that all principals consider dropping the game. The referendum was referred to the board’s rules committee. It was later cancelled when East Side principal, George A. Chamberlin, forced the issue to be dropped.
More about Green Bay West as two weeks in a row the team was involved in controversy. On October 22 West lost to Kewaunee 12-0 by what was called “Outsiders”. Four players from the “Town Team” were recruited to play against the Green Bay high school. One was a guy who was heavier than any single West player, a 185-pound fullback, who bulled his way through the defense. After the game Kewaunee officials admitted that they had used ringers, and they weren’t remorseful about doing so. Kewaunee was not part of the WIAA so they felt justified in their actions.
The next Saturday West faced Oshkosh and the problem was the referee. The trouble started with the ball on the Oshkosh 10-yard line. A 15-yard penalty was accessed but one official marked it five yards, half the distance to the goal and then another marked it eight yards putting the ball on the two. However, the two officials, hired by Oshkosh, declared that West still failed, with the penalty, to get a first down. When West asked for a proper measurement with the ball on the two their request was refused. The game ended 0-0 and Oshkosh asked for a rematch which West said they would oblige if it was on a neutral site with neutral officials.
Coach Cody Clark was in a dilemma. He was charged with coaching both the Marquette University Hilltoppers football team as well as that of the Marquette Academy Junior Hilltoppers. This was the Academy’s first season of playing the sport. Clark was having problems coaching both squads so, after the first game, an October 1, a12-11 victory against Milwaukee East Side (East Division or Riverside) he turned the reigns over to Larry Gillick. The team finished with a 5-2-2 record.
In the season’s final game, the officials, provided by St. Ignatius being played in Chicago, could not agree on the legality of the forward pass. This was a new rule that allowed for the forward pass in 1906. Each time Marquette utilized the forward pass the head referee would call a penalty on Marquette. The line official disagreed each time with the other head official but was overruled. Things became intense and Coach Gillick pulled his team off the field and vowed to never play St. Ignatius again. Marquette University also played that November 28 against St. Ignatius College and lost 12-0. In addition to the two Marquette’s playing that day so did St. Louis University who defeated Nebraska 34-0. St. Louis Coach Eddie Cochems team used, as the Chicago Tribune put it “the pass to perfection”. Cochems is considered, as I’ve written before, the “father of the forward pass “.
Gillick would coach in 1908 as the Hilltoppers earned a 4-1-1 record. Marquette didn’t play St. Ignatius in 1908 but the school got their revenge in 1910 as they won 54-0 under the direction of George Dutcher.
If you missed my three blogs a from March 2022 about the controversy of the state title in 1917, please read them but I have a bit more on La Crosse. At the time that I wrote the stories I was wondering why the school started their season later than most of the other contending teams. The season was nearly called off because of World War I. It seems that the national and local economies were not strong at the start of the season. The Chamber of Commerce and the school district didn’t feel that they could financially support the program. Three weeks into the season support was finally given in the form of $500 by people and students who bought season tickets and the team was finally able to corner a few schools to play. Most schedules had been set enough that La Crosse had to play three college teams and several high schools from Minnesota to help fill in what turned out to be a 4-2-0 record. If you haven’t read the blogs, I think that they give a valuable insight into additional early Wisconsin high school football history.
Also, in 1917 a Mr. Young (First name is unknown to my research), a teacher of shorthand at Burlington high school seems to have introduced the sport. Mr. Young coached various sports over the years. The old yearbooks were not available, so I looked at the Burlington Free Press newspaper and found that the high school played their first game against a group of alumni on October 5 and lost 18-7. Since there were no newspaper reports for a football team in the 1910-1916 years the alumni were somehow made familiar with the sport. As typical of the era the newspaper reported the average weight of the teams. The alumni were listed as being 165 lbs. and the high school players were listed as 140 lbs. A 1920 story in the paper said that the Burlington Athletic Association went severely into debt to purchase new football uniforms in 1919 and that although the total money had not yet been paid off the Ross Wilcox American Legion post would take over the debt and complete payment. Only 12 players were listed as being out for the 1920 team. A number of students must have eventually tried out as in a later news story Mr. Young was holding winter indoor training at the school gym for basketball, wrestling, races, indoor baseball and the instruction every Tuesday of the first and second football teams.
I hope you liked looking at some interesting early football facts. There was the occasional hijinks and chicanery but for the most part the game was clean. Well, almost. While I deal with high school football there are a few stories to relate about early town teams. Here are a few about the Green Bay Team.
I ran across multiple stories in the Green Bay Press-Gazette on the early days of football in that city. As I will relate in a story on the first two games between Green Bay East and Green Bay West, the paper made it hard to understand for the reader when they called teams The East Siders, East High, West Siders, West High or The Green Bay Team. You will see how confusing it was to decide what the paper was trying to convey, team wise in that future blog.
Fred Hulbert (As mentioned in Part 1…Wayland Academy) was in several rough and tumble games. Looking back at the passing controversy that Marquette Had against Chicago St. Ignatius in 1907, this was an occasional occurrence where a team would walk off the field over some sort of dispute. While the situations that I found dealing with Fred Hulbert and The Green Bay team isn’t about high school but rather semi-pro ball I can’t pass up the chance to relate Hulbert’s problems.
You’ve heard the saying “I’m picking up my ball and going home”. Well on at least two occasions that happened. The first was in a game in 1894, the first season of The Green Bay Team. The Green Bay Team was playing against the Menomonie (MI) town team. It was a bloody affair and Hulbert was knocked unconscious by a blow to his nose which was broken. As The Press-Gazette put it “a little thing like that doesn’t count in football”, probably meaning this was to be expected. With the melee that was occurring Hulbert's broken nose was minor stuff. A doctor watching the game came over and attended to Hulbert and when the Menomonie player came over to apologize, Hulbert refused to accept the gesture. Things really got out of hand and the game was called with Green Bay winning 10-4. However, the officials decided to call it a “no contest” and both sides began to protest. Hulbert was now up and around, and he and another player named Thomas protested and it nearly came to blows with the officials before the game was declared a Green Bay victory.
The second occurred in 1896 when against Oconto he pulled his team from the field after not agreeing with the officials. In this case he really did pick up the ball…it was his personal football…and walked off. There were no other balls in good enough shape to use so the game was called so his fellow teammates followed his lead and refused to play.
Such were the shenanigans of the era.
A lot of thanks to Bill Dorst and Patrick Foran for giving me leads on some of the information in this two-part series.