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Original Issue



The young man at the right, pictured on the Yale Fence in 1888, was born seven years before the first football game was played, developed into the most accomplished collegiate baseball player of his generation and from boyhood to divinity school aimed for the ministry. Yet Amos Alonzo Stagg became the most creative, ingenious and original influence in the history of football. At Yale, it was as a pitcher that Stagg made his reputation. He pitched his team to five consecutive championships, struck out 20 Princeton men in one day, completed every game he played in, and in an exhibition game against the Boston Nationals struck out "Ten Thousand Dollar" Kelly, the Babe Ruth of the '80s, with three pitched balls. He believed so completely in amateur sports that although at one time he could afford only 20¢ a day for food he refused all college aid. And in winter Stagg played football, the linesmen facing each other bolt upright over the centered ball, "fighting it out hammer and tongs, tooth and nail, fist and feet" (so wrote the late John W. Heisman) and no substitution except for injury. Stagg played the game so well he was named as end to Walter Camp's first All-America team.

When Amos Alonzo Stagg left Yale all the National League baseball clubs offered him contracts. But Stagg elected to teach at the new YMCA training school in Springfield. A few weeks later word came from Yale: Would Stagg become athletic director at an exciting new college to be created with Rockefeller money in Chicago? Stagg accepted and in 1892 began the first of his 41 years as the University of Chicago's football coach. If any single individual can be said to have created today's game, Stagg is the man. He either invented outright or pioneered every aspect of the modern game from such grammar school basics as the huddle, shift and tackling dummy to such refinements as T-formation strategy. In one 15-year period his teams won 89 games and lost only 15. Thirty years ago Stagg was moved to write: "We all love a winner...but as long as a school with brains and courage plays fair in spirit and letter it is not necessary to cheat or buy players in order to produce a team of which [it] may be proud." Today, in his 96th year of life and 67th year of coaching (currently at California's Stockton Junior College), Amos Alonzo Stagg adds only this: "My opinions haven't changed."