Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Change the Redskins Name?

We already did that back in the 50's. Not officially, of course, but everybody in my hometown of Charlotte, NC and indeed throughout the South rarely mentioned their first name.

They were the "South's" team.  Redskin's owner George Marshall was the first NFL boss to have his team's entire season televised.  And he aimed it toward the Southern United States, where there were no other NFL teams at the time. The "Washington" part of the official Redskin name was pretty much lost in the South. From North Carolina to Miami, they were simply "our" Redskins.

In Charlotte, 4:30pm on weekdays was "Briarhopper Time."(A famous local Hillbilly Band.)  And in the Fall, 1pm on Sunday afternoons was "Redskin Time!" We were seeing professional football for the first time. And what a show!  The Redskins even had a band, and cheerleaders; and our own Charlie Choo Choo Justice, although he never got to burst through the line for touchdowns like he did at Carolina, because they made a defensive back out of him.

The NFL, along with boxing and professional wrestling, (before the public learned it was "fake") were the pioneers of television sports.  Before 1960, Major League Baseball was the most popular sport in America. After that, it was no contest. NFL broadcast contracts are now among the most valuable in the world.

And the weekly broadcasts all began with George Preston Marshall's Redskins. That happened in the  early 1950's, which were the games we watched on good old WBTV.

Eddie LeBaron (L)
Who can ever forget number 14, that amazing, scrambling quarterback, Eddie La Baron, the
Little General! What a performer!
In 1952 when LeBaron returned to this country from serving in Korea, only one NFL team had any interest in him because of his diminutive size, 5'7'' 165 lbs. The Redskins drafted him in the 10th round.

In his rookie year, he threw 14 touchdown passes  and punted for over 2,000 yards.
Part of LeBaron’s magic was his unmatchable ability to “hide” the football from defenses.
Offensive lineman Jim Ricca said it best of his fake out skills:

“Eddie was a magician with the ball. You never knew who had the ball, he was so slick.
“I remember one time three different players on the defensive line got confused and all of a sudden Eddie’s standing in the end zone with the ball. He rolled out and had the ball on his hip, and he was gone. He was elusive and tricky, and he was so short that people couldn’t really see him.”

I don't believe the Redskins won a whole lot of games back then, but I don't think we cared. No matter the final score, we knew who the winners were; they were us!

What a show!

We learned lots of names we never knew before: Joe Kuharich (Coach), Chuck Drazenovich, Gene Brito, Dick James, and of course Eddie LeBaron.

I learned those too.......but more impressive to me (being a TV wannabe) were the names that rolled by on the credits at the end of the game; the big time television wizards who were responsible for bringing those exciting games to our living rooms!

Jim Gibbons, Eddie Gallagher, etc and the PRODUCER/DIRECTOR, Jim Silman

Those were my "Heroes;" the people I wanted to meet someday!

And, as those pleasant black and white memories slowly fade to black, a mental slide appears that reads, "Wait, there's more!"

There is:  I DID get to meet them all. In fact, the man who was inventing "How to televise football games" for the NFL, the Producer/Director, Jim Silman, was my boss for 10 years and my friend for 53.

He remembers those days too:

Lee . . .
Jim Silman

  When TOP got the Redskins' rights,  they were playing in Griffith Stadium. Eddie LeBaron had replaced Sammy Baugh a year or so before. Baugh was not in any of our coverage.

Our TV broadcasts were simulcast on the Amoco radio and television networks covering the south (all the way to Miami). I set up the network formats and disseminated them to the stations involved. And, as you know, our remote truck was on the road for all the out of town games with our crew. I was the producer/director for both radio and television.

Jimmie Gibbons (play by play) and Eddie Gallagher were the announcers for game coverage. The quarter time-outs and commercial breaks were handled by Arch McDonald for the radio network who would return it to Jim and Eddie for coverage. 

An interesting sidelight (I had never heard of this nor have I seen it since) was one of our cameras was aligned with a film projector for Amoco film commercials to be rolled between quarters. The film was projected directly into a field camera. Our own telecine on the road! 

We were doing three camera shows which meant taking one of the cameras away from game coverage ahead of the end-of-quarter breaks to prepare for the film commercial. The projector was on a similar high hat side-by-side with the camera. All the camera had to do was pan to the projector and be fitted by a gooseneck connector. Fun, Huh? 


Hail to the Redskins.
And to old memories...and old friends!