It was fourth down and inches to go for the San Francisco 49ers on the Los Angeles 40. Some 60,000 fans waited hopefully for Quarterback Y. A. Tittle to sneak for the inches and keep the 49ers moving. On the sidelines, a slim, dapper young man who looks like a muscular Franchot Tone and talks like Jimmy Cagney after two Miltowns, waved his arm. The 49er punting team trotted on the field and Rookie Fullback Larry Barnes sliced the kick off the side of his foot for a net advance of three yards, and the stands howled their dismay.
"If I had been playing quarterback instead of coaching, I'd have called the sneak without a second thought," Frankie Albert said the other day. "But you get real conservative when you start coaching. When I was playing, I never thought about a play failing."
When Albert was quarterback of the 49ers, he gambled with a wild consistency which always kept the fans and the other team confused. His favorite play was a suicidal bootleg which sent him scurrying, alone and small, into the face of the giant linemen of the defense, his only protection the almost magical ability he had to deceive the opposition. He played seven years for the 49ers and then tried to give up football.
"I couldn't find anything else I liked," he said the other day, seated at his desk in the 49ers' Redwood City office, some 30 miles from San Francisco, "so I came back and begged Tony Morabito for a job with the 49ers." Morabito put Albert in charge of promotion for a year, then made him an assistant to Head Coach Red Strader. When Strader left at the end of the 1955 season, Albert took over. He has a strong, confident voice and he runs his practices from a high, movable platform overlooking the practice field and offers occasional comment, most of it laudatory.
"We're still a year or so away," he said. "It takes a long time to build up in this league. Coaching is a terrible job when you're losing. You worry. I used to worry up until 2 o'clock of game day when I was a player, but after the kickoff, it was fun. It was hard fun, but it was fun. Now I worry right on through until 5, and when the game is over I don't want to talk about it to anyone, win or lose. You get so tired of it. You play it over and over in your mind until you get sick of it.
"Sometimes I think I ought to get out of football," he said. "Maybe I'm not dedicated enough. But I work hard at it here. And I never have found anything else I like as well. I feel I belong in football."
OLD COLLEGE pep talk is given hired hand by Albert during break in 49er game.