Written by J. Patrick Eaken
Monday, 22 September 2008 10:52
Waite’s historic football tradition continues to be documented in literature and art.
In the lobby of the historic Weber Block Building, a decades-old painting depicts a football game played at the Waite Bowl, a stadium said to seat 20,000 located where the baseball field and Mollenkopf Stadium are now located.
Waite’s football teams at one time traveled by train across the country, taking faculty members with them. After defeating Miami Senior (Fla.), the “Champions of the South,” 14-7, for a mythical national championship in 1932, the Waite “Purple Hurricanes” received an invitation to the White House.
Now, another book documents the Waite football program’s rise in the first half of the 20th Century. Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football, written by George Cantor, was recently released.
The book is about the founder of the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. Autobiographies about Brown have said he admitted to choosing the brown and orange colors for Cleveland’s professional franchise after a visit to Bowling Green State University.
Cantor’s book also dedicates four pages to a state championship game between Paul Brown’s 1940 Massillon Tigers and Toledo Waite at 20,000 seat Tiger Stadium, then recently built by the Public Works Administration.
Here is an excerpt from Cantor’s book:
In 1939 both schools had ended the season undefeated…Massillon did not participate in postseason games. So when Waite accepted an invitation to play Portsmouth High in a championship game at Ohio Stadium and won, the Toledo school also claimed the state title.
Canton writes that in 1940, Waite agreed to come into Tiger Stadium in return for 40 percent of the gate.
The anticipation was unprecedented. Massillon had won 30 games in a row, and Waite had won 18 straight. If high schools could play games of the century, this would have been it in Ohio. Some commentators felt it was even bigger than Canton McKinley, but that sounded like sacrilege to most fans.
More than 2,500 people had to be turned away from the ticket window after waiting all morning in a driving rain. Journalists from across Ohio and even neighboring states packed the press box. A Toledo radio station carried the play-by-play description, and a special train with 15 coaches and dining car was ordered up to bring in the Waite fans.
(Sportswriter Luther) Emery pointedly observed that Waite outweighed Massillon, and while it had “seen fit to establish itself as the underdog, it still lays claim to the state championship.”
There were serious concerns about the size of the Toledo players, particularly their star blocking back, Jack Baker. He weight 230 pounds and knocked defensive linemen aside as if they were matchsticks. No one had been able to stand up to Waite’s ground game, although two of its victories had come by a single touchdown.
“Can the Tiger forward wall throw back Toledo’s mighty thrusts?” asked Emery.
After explaining how Nazi Germany’s military buildup in Europe was affecting the country’s mood and a patriotic halftime show was planned for the contest, Cantor gets back to Waite.
Toledo Waite already had established itself as a rival worthy of scorn by choosing to stay overnight in Canton before the big game. It was as if Waite was deliberately allying itself with the Tigers’ traditional enemy (Canton McKinley).
The problem with Cantor’s book, which was sent to me for review, is a paragraph that quotes a Massillon newspaper after Cantor indicates that Massillon defeated Waite in a driving rainstorm.
“Waite may be tough in the northwest corner of the state,” said the game story, “but around here it’s just another team.”
Of course, the remarks do not tell the entire story about Waite. Only a few of Waite’s games were played within the state each season, and even less in Northwest Ohio. One brought as big a crowd as Massillon-McKinley — the annual Thanksgiving Waite-Scott battle for Toledo supremacy.
In addition, there were occasions where Coach Jack Mollenkopf’s Waite and Paul Brown’s Massillon teams met and Waite was victorious.
Cantor did mention that the Massillon Independent called the 1940 Massillon-Waite game “the most decisive triumph of (Paul Brown’s) career.”
Maybe its time an author take former Waite coach Charlie Delker’s idea about reminding football fans about the school’s once-nationally renown football program and putting it in a full-length book — the good and bad. Any interested takers who want to help?
(I wish to add that I suggest Waite take its once informal nickname for football, the Purple Hurricanes, and make it the formal nickname today for all sports — more ingenuity. In addition, it will make Native Americans who protest patronizing nicknames happy).
Cantor is a retired 40-year veteran of Detroit newspapers. His book is promoted as the first full-length biography of Paul Brown. Published in September 2008 by Triumph Books, the 256-hardbound book can be purchased at www.triumphbooks.com.