January 03, 2015

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle:

A place to discuss the sports stories that aren't making news, share links that aren't quite front-page material, and diagram plays on your hand. Remember to count to five Mississippi before commenting in anger.

posted by huddle to general at 06:00 AM - 3 comments

One of the delights of being both a sports fan and a lover of history is coming across a nugget of information in the "I didn't know that" category. I happened to me again yesterday as I was looking through my latest Naval History magazine. This is published by the U S Naval Institute, and it is a monthly collection of articles about famous events in the U S Navy. Each month has a theme, although articles in the issue are not limited to the theme. One month it was privateers during the War of 1812, last month it was about U S submarine warfare against Japan in WW II. The latest number features the development of race relations in the Navy. They were not always very good. In fact, for a long time Blacks were not allowed in the Navy, and when they finally were, they were restricted to certain menial rates, such as mess steward or laborer.

Not so the U S Coast Guard. Black Coast Guardsmen had been around for many generations, and served in all rates. Even though the Coast Guard came under the operational control of the Navy during WW II, the Coast Guard retained its own policies for manpower. This brings me to the nugget. Emlen Tunnel was a standout player for the University of Toledo, but suffered a near-fatal broken neck. He recovered from his injury and tried to enlist in the Army and the Navy during the war. Neither would take him, using the injury as an excuse. The Coast Guard welcomed him, and he eventually was assigned to a ship. In April 1944, his transport, the Coast Guard manned USS Etamin was attacked, and Tunnell saved the life of a burning shipmate. A year later, Tunnell went into the frigid waters off Newfoundland to save another shipmate, later being awarded the Coast Guard's Silver Lifesaving Medal.

After the war, Tunnell renewed his football career at Iowa, leaving after the 1947 season, and eventually received a tryout, and ultimately a contract, becoming the first black player with the New York Football Giants. He was a standout defensive back, helping the giants to an NFL championship in 1956. Tunnell later joined the Green Bay Packers and helped them to a championship win against his old team, the Giants, in 1961. Tunnell became the first black player inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

Since I easily qualify as an Old fart, I am old enough to remember watching Emlen Tunnell on TV when he played for NY. New England was considered part of the Giants' home territory for broadcast rights, so we were stuck with them. I can't remember any particular plays or games, but I do remember Tunnell's name frequently being called for one play or another. So as I read the article about the Coast Guard's efforts at racial integration and came across the name Emlen Tunnell, I could hear the voice of Chris Schenkel calling out a tackle or interception by Emlen Tunnell. War hero? I didn't know that.

posted by Howard_T at 04:12 PM on January 03, 2015

How do individuals who have played football their entire lives not understand the concept of getting the hell out of the way of a shitty punt they have no intention of fielding so it doesn't accidentally hit them, thus allowing their opponents to recover it and regain possession? Has it managed to escape them that a football, due to it's irregular shape, just may take a weird bounce? Carolina was in total control of their wild card game early on and a stupid decision allows Arizona back in it.

NFL coaches having to put up with so many players who can't think on their feet must be one of the most frustrating parts of the job.

posted by dyams at 05:18 PM on January 03, 2015

Great story Howard and it reminds me: we watched a bit of Mr. Mom over the holidays (because I have to stop and see at least a little bit) and I noticed a picture of a Detroit Lions QB in the boys' bedroom but the name was so unfamiliar I assumed it was the photographer's name. Turns out Eric Hipple was the QB's name and he had an eventful, if not altogether happy, life after football.

posted by yerfatma at 09:26 AM on January 05, 2015

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.