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REVISITING THE FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AND MORE…PART 3…THE COACHES

Harry Cochems…Born ion Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin on January 11, 1875.  He was the older brother of Eddie Cochems, “The Father of the Forward Pass”.  Harry played football for the first time upon entering UW and played only two years, first as a backup in 1894.  He didn’t play in 1895 and 1896 but then started at halfback 1897.  Harry was an outstanding debater, student and in track he was the Intercollegiate shot up and hammer throw champion.  Cochems stood 6’ tall and weighed a robust 185 pounds.  He was an advocate for ending “mass” plays and changing some of the kicking and scoring rules.



















Harry Cochems at UW 1896  Harry in about 1917


The above pictures were found at Frank Hinkey on a web site dedicated to the life of North Tonawanda coach Frank Hinkey.  This is the only photo collage of the four team pictures taken of the 1897 Madison team that I have located.


After graduating UW, he attended Harvard Law School earning his law degree in two years instead of the usual three., the first to ever do so.  While at Harvard he participated on the school’s strength team (Weightlifting) and his score of 1,766 points (Not sure how they were computed) earned him the title of the “world’s strongest man”.   He also played on the Harvard reserves football team but as a tackle, a position he had never played, rather than as a halfback. 


At age 23 Harry went into politics, first with Robert La Follette, a Republican who in 1924 ran for President under the Progressive Party that he founded. Harry stumped for La Follette who ran for governor in 1898.  At the state Republican convention, he presented to the organization the nominating speech for La Follette who was running for governor for a third time. “Fighting Bob” won the nomination and with Cochems help won the election.  In 1901 La Follette suggested that Harry run for the state senate in the Wisconsin Fifth District.  Over time he would run for the office three times but lost in all three races by a close margin each time to a Socialist opponent. 


Harry found himself, a few years later, working for President Teddy Roosevelt as an advisor and a bodyguard.  Following Roosevelt’s second term Cochems moved around various political contests making speeches for his fellow Republicans.  In early 1912 Harry and several other influential Republicans approached Roosevelt about running again for president as a third-party candidate.  Teddy had been unhappy with the way his former VP and current President William Howard Taft was running the country.  Roosevelt ran under the Progressive Bull Moose Party name.


Visiting Milwaukee on October 14, 1912, in an attempt to regain the presidency, Harry was waiting by the car outside the Hotel Gilpatrick, and he held the door for the former President. Roosevelt got into the car and stood to wave to the crowd.  John Schrank of New Youk stepped out of the crowd as Cochems was about to get in the car to take Roosevelt to his speaking engagement before 9,000 supporters at the Milwaukee Auditorium.  Schrank pulled a pistol and shot the former president in the chest.  The bullet hit Roosevelt’s glass case and his 50-page speech.  Cochems and another man grabbed the shooter, wrestled him to the ground and then turned him over to the police. The former president was bleeding, but he insisted on going to his speech which he did, speaking for 80-minutes.  Following the speech Teddy went to the Johnston Emergency Hospital (Located on 3rd and Michigan) after the speech and was x-rayed.  A special train was arraigned and Cochems and Roosevelt went to Chicago the next morning for a stay at Mercy Hospital.  The shooting may have helped lead to Roosevelt’s defeat in November.  The split in the Republican Party didn’t help as Roosevelt garnered 27.4% and Taft received 23.2% to Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s 41.8%.


Harry stepped away from active politics and practiced law in Milwaukee.  He was well respected throughout the community.  But, in 1921 he developed cancer and went to Colorado to his brother’s hospital in Salida for a second opinion and surgery.  A noted Chicago surgeon and brother-in-law, Dr. A.E. Halstead, went out to Colorado and assisted by Dr. Frank Cochems, performed the surgery. The surgery was performed on September 11 but it was a matter of the surgery being successful, but the patient was too weak, and he passed.  Harry died on September 23, 1921.  Seven siblings attended the funeral. A brother received the news of Harry’s death late and did not attend.   60+ lawyers, judges, business associates and politicians from the Milwaukee area plus a large group of mourners from around the state attended. A blanket composed of 4,000 red roses. Created by a florist in Chicago and brought north by three of Harry’s friends from the Windy City to the funeral in Sturgeon Bay.  Christian Doerfler, the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court gave the oration at the funeral. A delegation of representatives from Buffalo, New York attended the services.  One of the Buffalo delegation attendees was Frank Hinkey who was living in Springfield (IL) and met the group in Chicago before they took the train to Sturgeon Bay. 


In 1930 George F. Downer, of the Wisconsin News Service, wrote a series of stories about famous University of Wisconsin athletes.  The second of his series featured Harry Cochems and it offered even more Insite into the man. Some of those incites have been posted above.   I found the story in the February 22, 1930, edition of the Green Bay Press Gazette.  If you have my book, the next story after the one on the 1897 Madison team was about Milwaukee South Side (Division), coached by Downer who directed the team to an undefeated, untied and unscored upon season.


Frank Hinkey…Born on December 23, 1870 (Or 1871), third of nine children in Tonawanda, New York.


Tonawanda is located in an area between Buffalo on the south and Niagara Falls on the north.  It was on the south side of the Erie Canal.  On the north side of the canal were the villages of Wheatfield and Martinsville.  In 1896 and early 1897 the three, Tonawanda, Wheatfield, and Martinsville wanted to merge into one city, but the New York legislature would not agree to the three merging as the canal was the border of Erie County and Niagara County.  In early 1897 the area villages merged and the new town became known as Nort Tonawanda. 


There had been bridges over the canal and Frank Hinkey’s father was a prosperous owner of several hardware stores located on both sides of the canal.  The real reason for wanting the merger was to help eliminate what had been “price wars” between the merchants, one side of the canal having lower prices than the other in an effort to lure customers.  The area on the north side of the canal contained a large of forest land.  In the 1870’s on his way from Canada to eventually settle in Menomonee, Michigan, Samual Stephenson (See THE PESHTIGO FIRE AND THE FIRST MARINETTE VS. MENOMONEE GAME FOOTBALL (wihifootball.com) purchased a large number of acres for his vast lumber cutting business.


Frank Hinkey lived at various times on both sides of the canal as he grew up and attended the Tonawanda elementary school.  Because his father was able to earn a good living Frank was sent to several private schools before he entered Yale in New Haven, Connececticut.  While attending Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Frank learned to play football.  When he enrolled at Yale, he stood 5’8 and weighed 130 pounds.  He would “grow” to 140 pounds when he graduated.  Yale had a tradition that the senior team captain from the precious season would be the head coach.  Sometimes the “captain” would coach for several years but for the first 40-years of Yale football, the coaching position was unpaid. The coach only received room and board for their duties.  In 1872 Walter Camp, “The Father of American Football” began playing the sport at Yale and after 1882 he worked in his family clock business before taking over as the unpaid coach in 1888.  His last two teams at Yale, 1891 and 1892, were undefeated squads and the first two seasons that Frank Hinkey played at Yale.


Camp was greatly involved in the rules of the sport and began to write numerous articles on the game as well as coming up with the first All-America teams.  While a writer named Casper Whitney printed the first team in 1889, Camps teams in the 1890’s became the “official” mentions.  The first four-time All-American was Marshall Newall, a tackle from Harvard who earned honors from 1890 to 1893.  Frank Hinkey, all of his 5’8, 130 pounds made the team as a freshman in 1891 as an end, and defensive specialist (They played both ways in those days but passing on offense was not an option.  Ends on offense blocked, of course, and ran reverses.) On defense, even with his slight stature he was a demon.  He was known as a clean tackler, but Harvard spread the word that he was dirty.  The reason came about in the 1891 game when a 200-pound (Huge for this era) fullback named Corbett tried to run around Harvard’s left end when he met Hinkey.  The ball had been marked close to the Harvard goal.  Frank went low and then picked Corbett off his feet, tossed him over his shoulder.  Corbett fumbled after Hinkey threw him on the ground. Harvard’s Bliss picked the ball up and Yale tackle William Walter “Punge” Heffelfinger (6’3, 210 pounds) picked Bliss up by the collar and rode him back into the endzone for a touchdown. Harvard thought that Hinkey had been too rough. By the way, “Pudge”, besides being a three-time All-American he is credited as being the first professional football player (Pudge Heffelfinger - Wikipedia).








Boston Globe December 31, 1925 







American Football Database    



After the 1891 season Hinkey would be named All-American in 1892, 1893 and 1894.  There have only been five four-time All-Americans, and all played between 1890 and 1900 and Frank was second one. Yale went 52-1 over the four seasons and the team only allowed 25 points in that time span.  Walter Camp coached the first two seasons before moving on to a paying coaching position at Stanford.  While this was going on Franks father suffered great financial losses due to the various recessions in the 1890’s and poor health. After coaching Yale in 1895 he returned to Tonawanda to help with the hardware business after his father’s death.  He was elected as a trustee of Tonawanda and coached the North Tonawanda high school football team.


Following the championship game in Detroit Frank went into various business’s…coaching, hardware, stock/investment broker, mining and farming. Some worked and others did not so well.  He continued to coach the local high school as well as a semi-professional All-Tonawanda team.  His brother Louis assisted him after he graduated from Yale.  In 1899 Frank became the head coach at the University of Buffalo only to turn it down because of financial differences.  Subsequent Yale coaches asked for his assistance and despite there be no monitory reward he felt he owed his time in New Haven.  Despite Frank and Louis’s best efforts the hardware business failed in 1903.  At the request of a fellow Yale alum he travelled to Iola, Kansas to work at a zinc smelting business.  Respiratory complications for his employees ensued as the workers hours were expanded to meet product demand. Frank would came up with up with a patented process to help the employees with the fumes in the smelting after he moved to the companies Springfield plant in 1908.  While in Springfield he met Anna Elizabeth Thomas in 1911 and they married in 1912.  They lived on the Thomas farm until the 1914 football season rolled around.


 In 1913 Yale, after 40 years, decided to pay for a coach.  Former them captains and Walter Camp lobbied for Frank Hinkey, but the administration decided to go with future College Hall of Fame inductee, Howard Jones, a 1908 Yale graduate. He coached unpaid in 1909 but was paid $6,000 in 1913.  Yale came calling the next year and Hinkey took the job but at a $5,000 salary.  He lasted two years.  Frank was out of touch with the “modern” game.  The forward pass was allowed beginning in 1906 but, as Yale had used the lateral in Franks playing days, he continued to use plays like that and stayed away from the passing game.  He posted a two season record of 11-7-0.  While coaching as he roamed the side lines, he often seemed to be in a state of experiencing a nervous breakdown.  He later admitted he was always troubled when he watched his team. 


His exposure to the zinc process and his coaching experience was taking a toll on his health.  He took several jobs in various cities for friends selling stocks as well as working for a tin smelter near Cony Island.  His mother died in 1908, his two sisters never married and lived in Tonawanda and his brother Louis had mental problems and was in and out of mental sanatoriums.  Anna’s parents still lived on the farm in Thomasville, IL. Frank had to work harder to support everyone besides his wife.  He was paying the hospital bills for his brother plus paying the farm mortgage for his in-laws and supported his sisters.  He found time to meet up with the Syracuse contingent of businessmen and lawyers who ventured to Door County for the funeral of Harry Cochems in 1921.    


Newspaper report in the January 19, 1925, Brooklyn Daily Eagle


The above headline and story made it seem like Frank was having mental problems, but he had developed tuberculous and was at the Pine Crest Manor in Southern Pines, North Carolina, a hospice for those people with tuberculous.


The news stories began to pour off the news presses.  He was considered the greatest end of all-time as the headline states.  Stories of his football prowess flowed throughout the nation.  Anna stayed back in Tonawanda or on the Illinois farm as Frank didn’t want her to see how bad he was.  He died on December 29, 1925.  Frank was inducted into the College Football Hall of fame in 1951.  His wife Anna never remarried and they never had any children. 15 years younger than Frank, Anna lived on the Thomasville farm until her death in 1975.

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