Yes, I know I spent a lot of time on the 1940’s Great Teams. This was a generation of superb programs and I wanted to highlight their accomplishments. This was the decade when the first official All-State teams were named, starting in 1945 by the Associated Press. The first statewide press poll for the top teams on a weekly basis was in 1947, introduced also by the AP with Appleton (8-0-0) nosing out Wausau (7-0-1). The polls would be for only that year in the 1940’s but not revived by the United Press International until 1958. Now, for more.
THE BEST GAME
Again, a number of choices but I found the best to choose from involved Marinette vs. Menominee (MI). The 1943 7-0 Marinette win was a classic featuring Earl “Jug” Girard. 1949’s 19-0 win by the Marines received national attention in Life Magazine. But I chose the 1948 14-12 battle between the two was also a classic. It pitted the undefeated #3 ranked, in the final 1947 AP poll, Marinette (8-0-0) vs. 7-1-0 Menominee which was the Michigan press’s top Northern team in the state and was undefeated until they lost the heartbreaker from the other side of the river.
Geography plays a part of these two twin cities. The Menominee River, flowing from Green Bay which is part of Lake Michigan and forming a good portion of the border between Wisconsin and Michigan, divides the two cities. Marinette got the better harbor area and after the area business of timber logging began to lag the town became known as a shipbuilding haven. Menominee also prospered in the logging business but moved into manufacturing as its main interest in business.
Menominee won their first two games against Wisconsin teams, Oshkosh and Shawano then reeled off five more wins against Michigan foes before meeting Marinette. The Maroon’s were a force to be recorded with as they had three All-State players and three more that were named to the All-Northern Michigan team. Marinette had beaten Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Watertown as Wisconsin foes. They played four Michigan teams with Escanaba and Iron Mountain being comparable opponents. Marinette was the underdog with two starters out with injurie and another hobbled with bad knees. The Maroon’s had shut out five teams and had allowed only 12 points. Things looked tough for the Marines.
It was a crazy defensive battle. Menominee kicked the ball to end Dick Pederson who ran 67-yards to the three to set up the first score of the game. It took Pat Dionne three tries to get the ball over the goal, but he succeeded, and Pederson kicked the extra point and Marinette had the lead. On the ensuing kickoff co-captain Mike Shatusky for the Maroons returned the ball 80-yards for a touchdown but the extra point was missed. Later in the first quarter Menominee drove the field for the next score as halfbacks Shatusky and Mike McCormick traded carries with McCormick scoring from the 11-yard line. Again, the extra point was missed and so the score stayed 12-7 with Menominee in the lead until the fourth quarter. It was a defensive struggle for both teams. On a fourth and inches run late in the quarter the Maroons failed to pick up he first down on the Marines 25-yard line and then Marinette got to work. Quarterback Ted Wolfe completed two crucial passes in their only good drive of the day getting the ball to the Menominee four-yard line. Wolfe ran off left tackle for the score and Pederson again kicked the extra point and the game would end 14-12.
Two good offensive teams played fine defense in the 51st meeting of the two teams, a series that started in 1894. Marinette led the series 25-20-6 as they gained only 163 yards in the game but allowed only 167. The key was three fumble recoveries and intercepted one pass. Pederson and end John Krueger, who caught the two long key passes in the final drive, were the heroes of the game.
SPECIAL NOTE: THE FIRST WEEKLY TEAM RANKING POLL: The final AP poll was released the same day of the game, November 11, Armistice Day (Now called Veterans Day). The pollsters gave the Orange Terrors of Appleton the top spot in the final poll as the sportswriters gave them five first place votes. Wausau, 8-0-1 dropped to the #2 spot, also with five first place votes. Marinette had two first place votes for the top spot, but some voters gave them a few lower points based on their not playing more Wisconsin teams and missed the second spot by just four overall points. Team standings were figured on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis with 10 points for #1 and 1 for #10. The previous week Beloit had been #3 but traded spots with Marinette. Here is the final poll:
As you can see Madison Edgewood didn’t receive any first- place votes nor did Milwaukee Messmer. Like Messmer, Milwaukee Custer’s name was misspelled, missing an” e”. Menominee dropped from the #5 spot in the overall Michigan poll down to #9 but was the Northern champions. Had the poll been taken the next week Marinette may have moved up even further in the polls.
THE BEST COACH
While the decade produced many great coaches, many mentioned in the blog THE 1930’s, part 2, there really can be only one at the top of the list. That was Win Brockmeyer of Wausau.
No team dominated the state football scene in the 1940s like Wausau High School. Win Brockmeyer would coach Wausau for 34 years (1937-70) and in that time posted a career record of 230 wins, 33 losses and 19 ties. In 1993, 23 years after he retired, he was voted in a poll of former coaches and sportswriters conducted by the Milwaukee Journal as the top coach in the previous 100 years (1893-92). As the head coach, not only did Wausau enjoy a 45-game win streak (fourth longest in Wisconsin high school history) during the late 1930s and the 1940s but they also had a 70-game conference unbeaten streak. From 1938 through 1949, Wausau won 83 games, lost four and tied five. 55 of those games were shutouts.
Win Brockmeyer…Wausau HS Yearbook…1945
Born in Mankato Minnesota, Win Brockmeyer attended the University of Minnesota and starred on the football field, graduating in 1929. Even with all-time college and NFL fullback Bronko Nagurski playing in the same backfield, Brockmeyer led the team in rushing. He then played a season of semi-pro football before moving on to coach Fergus Falls (MN) in 1931-33 and then Faribault (MN) in 1934-37. While at Faribault he coached Bruce Smith, a future all-American and 1942 Heisman Trophy winner at Minnesota. Moving to Wausau in 1937, Brockmeyer spent the next 37 years not only coaching football but also basketball (1938 state champions and runners-up in 1939), track, boxing, golf and tennis. Besides coaching Crazy Legs Hirsch, Brockmeyer would also coach a second future Pro Football Hall of Famer in Jim Otto. A center/linebacker at Wausau, he went on to attend the University of Miami and achieved superstardom with the Oakland Raiders for 15 seasons.
As you look at my Best Players list. There were some hard choices and more than just 11-players for the 11-man team. Several Honorable Mention players just missed making the Best Player list.
THE BEST PLAYERS
If I had to pick the top player of the decade, I would choose Elroy Hirsch of Wausau. He played left halfback in his teams Wing-T and led the squad in rushing, scoring and passing. Yes, I reported in the previous blog the team’s overall stats but other than scoring, individual totals were not available. The teams 1,084 yards passing probably was a state record for a team. Because Coach Brockmeyer substituted liberally Hirsch’s official rushing and passing totals were not super but when he was in the game, he was a powerful force