Norwoodites still remember the 1907 Thanksgiving Day Conspiracy, engineered by Harry Corbett, organizer and president of the old Norwood Athletic Club, now a member of the Norwood police force. There are many who saw Phil Schlossberg, later famous for his eccentricities as the fight manager of the late beloved Ernie Schaaf, cavort in Prospect Park as a member of the team from the battleship S. S. New. Jersey.
Old-timers still recall the day they ran big 240-pound Humphrey McCarron out of town in fear for his life, because he cut Martin Blasenak’s face open with a slashing blow, just because Martin outplayed him. Who was Humphrey McCarron? He was the greatest football player of that era, the Bill Osmanski, “Red” Grange, and Ernie Nevers of his day The St. Alphonsus Club put him in the lineup as a ringer, but Martin Blasenak made his ears ring with hard tackling.
The Norwood A. C. teams lost only four games in nine years, and held the state semi-professional football championship for seven years. Officer Harry Corbett organized the club in 1903. Meetings were held in one of the large rooms now occupied by the Boston Piano Supply Co. The club was composed of enthusiastic members, many of whom have become prominent Norwood citizens. On the membership lists were: John Mutch, Jim Slavin, Ed Kelley, Frank Mahoney, Obie Kedy, Billy Mills, Bill Spear, John Schacht, Ed Loring, Ed Quann, Henry Hod-rich, John • Curtin, Fred Baker, Bill Donovan, John O’Brien, Jim Mahoney, Bill Luce, Frank Mahoney, Billy Kelley, L. Chase,-Fred Perry, John Hauck, Ed Pendergast, “Bing” Callahan, Charley Donnell, Ambrose Glennon, Howard McKinnon, Cornelius “Little Bing” Callahan. Bill Sug, John Hector Nee, Clift Baldwin, Charley Ryan, Adam Bock, Martin Blasenak, Dr. George Higgins, George O’Brien, Henry Merritt, George Coombs, Frank Kritz, James “Inca” Pendergast and George Sutton.
Rough House Then
Football was a rough, tough game in those days. The pass wasn’t so common as it is now, and the equipment was ill-fitting and awkward. A very heavy turtle neck sweater sufficed as shoulder, chest, kidney and stomach pads. The pants were more or less of a novelty. At times, players would buy pants and sew pads in them, always making sure that they didn’t stuff them with so much padding as to warrant being called a “sissy.” A well-known old-time football player reports that he bought ‘a pair of pants for C5 cents and they lasted for nearly eight years.
The major games were played at Prospect Park, later divided up into house lots for an extensive development. The games always attracted thousands of fans, especially the Thanksgiving Day.classic between the combination Canton-Stoughton team and the Norwood A. C. The Norwood team played powerful. clubs like the Boylston A. C., St. Alphonsus Club, Dedham, Dean Academy, Charlestown Navy Yard, Hingham, S. S. New Jersey and others. Hard, tough, .raw boned men composed these teams and the competition was stiff.
The record of only four losses in 8 years for any club is indeed unique. The Norwood club acquired a state wide reputation as the result of its long undefeated record. The Norwood players received little or no compensation for their playing. Several felt that they should receive payment for their efforts. Money raises , havoc in friendships, family-affairs and governmental- policies, and the curse caused a – general discord in the Norwood A. C.
The team decided that the annual Thanksgiving Day game would be an excellent opportunity for making a definite stand on their demand on the money question. They planned to “lay down” and refuse to play if Corbett failed to agree to their terms. Harry got wind of the plot and immediately planned to counter-block a conspiracy, with one of his own making. He .hired two famous players from Brown University, Winslow and Higgin« He also obtained the service» of other well-known football stars. The day of the big game came. The Norwood players were about to deliver their ultimatum when on trots Harry Corbett’s auxiliaries to out-conspire the conspirators.
Incidentally, the Canton-Stoughton team hired another of Brown’s grid luminaries, “Scudder.” No one was more surprised than he to see two of his pals on the opponents’ team. However, Scudder maintained enough equilibrium’ to say, 1 “Hey, fellers, when I take the ball let me. through.” But Winslow and Higgins were of the noble variety and replied,” “Like helI we will.” The Norwood players remained adamant and Harry was forced to work his auxiliaries every Saturday. It wasn’t long, however, before the local stars returned to the fold.
The two annual N. A. C. dances captured the Norwood social limelight for many years. Jim Slavin, then in the prime of his popularity, supplied the tunes for the elaborate affairs that were held in Village Hall on Thanksgiving and Patriot’s Day.
The secret of the success of the Norwood A. C. was in the spirit of cooperation shown by its members. Everyone pitched in and did his share of the work,
“Bing” Callahan was a powerhouse type of player, while Charley Donnell was a powerful factor as a lineman. Bill Luce served as a fleet end. Bill never weighed more than 150 pounds, but was a fine, consistent wingman. John Hector Nee, now a member of the Norwood police department, was n crushing tackler and blocker. Ed Quinn also played a big part on the teams. Bill Donovan was a better-than-average gridster.
The success of the club can also be attributed to Harry Corbett’s initiative and enthusiasm. He has had a varied experience as an. Associated Press correspondent, and reporter for the Globe, Traveler and Hearst papers. He has served on the Norwood police force for about 89 years, and was one of the first six constables to be appointed. The other five were Warren Rhodes, Mike Creed, Sumner Bagley, Wally Readel and Simon Donnelley. Harry is the sole member of the sextet living.
(All articles originally published in the Norwood Messenger)