If you go back almost eighty years, you might recognize a football game. But it has changed more than baseball; our other big American sport. As of 1933, coaches could not call plays. If a sub was sent into the game, he could not speak in the huddle. Substitution was allowed, but it was very limited. Once a player came out, he couldn’t return until the next quarter. Many men played all 60 minutes.
The forward pass was legal and had been a tactic for at least 20 years after Notre dame beat army in 1913. But the rules committees enacted rules that discouraged the aerial game. The passer had to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage. A team was only allowed one incompletion during a drive. And an incomplete pass thrown in the end zone resulted in a touchback for the other team. Single wing tactics reigned supreme. It was like the Wildcat that some teams use for a change of pace.
In 1933, at the depths of the Depression, Veteran’s Day fell on a Saturday. Michigan beat Iowa 10-6 that day. The Wolverines were on their way to the national championship. A few hundred miles to the south and west of Ann Arbor, a young announcer in Davenport was recreating the game for Hawkeye fans. He was reading the play by play off the teletype. His name was Ronald Reagan. Michigan did not allow broadcasters at the Big House, so he stayed home. Had he gone to the game, his path might have crossed that of a benchwarmer from Grand Rapids. The sub would later be a standout center, but the Wolverines had a senior named Chuck Bernard. The world knows that benchwarmer better as Gerald Ford. Ford and Reagan’s paths did cross on the campaign trail in 1976, but they might have crossed that day 43 years earlier.
What are the odds that a small town like Russell, Kansas would have two senators growing up there during the 1930s? Russell was an oil boomtown. Must have been one of the better places to be in the Great Plains during the Depression; what with the Dust Bowl and everything. Arlen Specter grew up there before moving on to Yale Law School and Philadelphia.
On November 22nd, 1963 JFK was shot. Lyndon Johnson named a commission to investigate the assassination. It was called the Warren Commission after Chief Justice Earl Warren. One of the members was Republican congressman Gerald Ford. He tabbed Specter to become one of the lawyers for the commission. Specter was he one who developed the “single bullet theory”, the one where Kennedy and John Connolly were hit by the same bullet.
Ford was an up and coming star in the Republican Party. At the 1964 GOP Convention, he nominated George Romney (Mitt’s father) for president. Barry Goldwater won the nomination and got crushed by LBJ. So did the Republicans in general. They lost quite a few seats in the House. A group of Young Turks in the House revolted against leadership and named Ford as the Minority leader. They included Charles Goddell (NFL commish Roger’s dad), Donald Rumsfeld, and Bob Dole. Ford was ecstatic. It was his dream to someday become Speaker. Bt that wasn’t what Fate had in mind for him.
One of the consequences of the JFK assassination was the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. This Amendment is one you rarely hear about (it isn’t a hot-button issue), but it provides a way to fill Vice Presidential vacancies. The last time the U.S. had no Vice president was between Kennedy’s death and the swearing in of Hubert Humphrey in January of 1965. Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 and Nixon had to pick a new veep. He wanted to pick someone like John Connolly, Nelson, Rockefeller, or Ronald Reagan, but Ford was picked instead. Congress would have it no other way.
In 1976, Ford ran on his own. Rockefeller was his veep at the time, but Ford wanted to placate the more conservative wing of the party, so he nominated Bob Dole as his running mate. Dole was also from Russell, Kansas. His father ran a small creamery. He had large scales for weighing milk. One of his customers was a guy who ran a junkyard named Harry. He’d often use Doles scales to weigh his junk. Harry was Harry Specter and his son was Arlen. Two senators came from that town and they both were connected to Gerald Ford.