UCLA Bruins Baseball : Kenny Washington vs Jackie Robinson

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Aside from playing together in the same backfield for the UCLA football team that went undefeated in 1939, both KENNY WASHINGTON and JACKIE ROBINSON shared something else in common — each spent one season as the starting shortstop for a Bruins varsity team that posted a record of six wins and nine losses in California Intercollegiate Baseball Association play, as well.

After establishing himself as a genuine star on the gridiron football field by totaling a combined 1,025 yards rushing and passing at the pivotal left halfback position for UCLA in the fall of 1937, Washington, as had been widely expected from the moment he first stepped foot on the Westwood campus, took over as the Bruins starting shortstop on the baseball diamond in the spring of 1938. And the sophomore out of Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles certainly did not disappoint the faithful at the plate, either. Two-thirds of the way through the fifteen-game season, the newcomer Washington found himself leading the entire C.I.B.A. circuit with a .454 batting average.

Although his production declined somewhat down the stretch, Washington still finished as UCLA’s second-leading hitter sporting a healthy .397 average and also led the Bruins in both home runs as well as runs batted in.

1938 UCLA BRUINS varsity baseball (won 6 lost 9)
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.448 avg … 30-67 h/ab … 0 HR … 13 RBI ….. Johnny Carter, of-p
.397 avg …. 26-66 h/ab … 4 HR … 19 RBI ….. KENNY WASHINGTON, ss
.353 avg …. 18-51 h/ab …. 2 HR … 10 RBI ….. John Zaby, of
.323 avg …. 21-65 h/ab …. 0 HR … 15 RBI ….. Al Martel, 3b
.285 avg …. 18-63 h/ab …. 1 HR ….. 8 RBI ….. Bill Gray, 1b
.235 avg …. 16-68 h/ab …. 0 HR ….. 9 RBI ….. Dale Wolin, 2b
.161 avg …… 9-56 h/ab ….. 0 HR …. 4 RBI ….. Charley Ewing, c
.150 avg …… 9-60 h/ab …. 0 HR ….. 5 RBI ….. Hal Hirshon, of

.333 avg …… 7-21 h/ab …. 0 HR …… 3 RBI ….. Bobby Whitlow, of-p
.318 avg …… 7-22 h/ab …. 0 HR …… 1 RBI ….. Johnny Baida, of-p
.125 avg ……. 2-16 h/ab …. 0 HR ….. 3 RBI ….. Dave Hill, of-p

(all players with ten or more official at-bats listed here)

source material for statistics presented :

https://archive.org/stream/ucladailybruin17losa#page/n393/mode/2up

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A transfer from Pasadena Junior College, multi-sport star Jackie Robinson had already earned two varsity letters at UCLA before slipping into his baseball spikes on behalf of the Bruins for the very first time. As the first string right halfback for the Westwood gridiron warriors, Robinson led the entire nation by averaging 16.4 yards per punt return while adding another 512 yards rushing (12.2 avg) in the fall of 1939. On the basketball court in winter, the would be Major League Baseball Hall Of Famer scored more points (148 in 12 games) for UCLA during the 1939/40 campaign than another other player in the Bruins’ four-team league which included California, Stanford and USC.

1940 UCLA BRUINS varsity baseball (won 6 lost 9)
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.278 avg …. 10-36 h/ab …. 3 HR ….. 8 RBI ….. Ray Bartlett, of
.269 avg …. 14-69 h/ab …. 0 HR ….. 5 RBI ….. Billy Guyer, 2b
.264 avg …. 14-53 h/ab …. 1 HR …. 11 RBI ….. Johnny Moore, of
.255 avg …. 13-51 h/ab ….. 1 HR ….. 7 RBI ….. Bob Null, 1b
.246 avg …. 15-61 h/ab ….. 1 HR … 10 RBI ….. Kirk Sinclair, of
.139 avg …… 6-43 h/ab ….. 0 HR ….. 4 RBI ….. Max Hess, 3b
.097 avg …… 6-62 h/ab ….. 1 HR …… 1 RBI ….. JACKIE ROBINSON, ss

.263 avg …… 3-11 h/ab ….. 0 HR …… 0 RBI ….. Milt Cohen, p
.250 avg …… 5-20 h/ab …. 0 HR …… 3 RBI ….. Dave Hill, of
.250 avg …… 4-15 h/ab ….. 0 HR …… 2 RBI ….. Johnny Colls, p
.167 avg ……. 3-18 h/ab ….. 0 HR …… 2 RBI ….. Rudy Hummes, p
.137 avg ……. 3-22 h/ab ….. 1 HR …… 2 RBI ….. Lynn Hale, of
.040 avg …… 1-25 h/ab ….. 0 HR …… 2 RBI ….. Ted Bell, c
.000 avg …… 0-16 h/ab ….. 0 HR …… 0 RBI ….. Bob Park, c

(all players with ten or more official at-bats listed here)

source material for statistics presented :

https://archive.org/stream/ucladailybruin19losa#page/n295/mode/1up

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The All-America Candidacy Of Kenny Washington, According To The Statistics – Part Three

kwash-cal-280Having thoroughly reviewed the statistics of the nine backfield players who have been deemed by this blog to be “serious consensus All-America candidates” with respect to the 1939 NCAA season, it is most important to expand on a concept first touched upon in the first part of this series.
In terms of quality of opposition that each individual All-America candidate had to contend with that year, it is extremely relevant to consider the number of collegiate players who were ultimately chosen by the professional clubs at the annual National Football League Draft to help put strength of schedule into proper perspective. Simply because, in any era, it is always the pro scouts and general managers whose very own livelihood flounders or flourishes based on their abilities to identify and acquire standout players.

One thing is certain – none of the other eight backfield players being scrutinized in this particular series, all of whom were named First Team All-America in 1939 by at least one of the fifteen major accredited organizations analyzed by this blog, had to face teams that season which featured as many future NFL Draft picks as UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON did.

1940 NFL Draft Picks Faced During 1939 NCAA Season
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WASHINGTON, UCLA ……. 31 NFL picks … 10 games …. 3.100 seniors/game
Kimbrough, Texas A&M * … 27 NFL picks … 11 games …. 2.455 seniors/game
Lansdell, USC ………………….. 24 NFL picks … 10 games …. 2.400 seniors game
Cafego, Tennessee * …………. 23 NFL picks … 11 games …. 2.091 seniors/game
Christman, Missouri …………. 20 NFL picks … 10 games … 2.000 seniors/game
Kinnick, Iowa * ………………… 16 NFL picks ….. 8 games …. 2.000 seniors game
Harmon, Michigan * …………. 11 NFL picks ….. 8 games …. 1.375 seniors game
McFadden, Clemson …………. 11 NFL picks … 10 games …. 1.100 seniors/game
McAfee, Duke ……………………. 9 NFL picks ….. 9 games …. 1.000 seniors/game

Total Future NFL Draft Picks Faced During 1939 NCAA Season
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WASHINGTON, UCLA ……. 75 NFL picks … 10 games …. 7.500 total/game
Kinnick, Iowa * ………………… 57 NFL picks ….. 8 games …. 7.125 total/game
Lansdell, USC ………………….. 68 NFL picks …. 10 games …. 6.800 total/game
Kimbrough, Texas A&M * … 73 NFL picks …. 11 games …. 6.636 total/game
Harmon, Michigan * …………. 42 NFL picks ….. 8 games …. 5.250 total/game
Cafego, Tennessee * …………. 54 NFL picks … 11 games ….. 4.909 total/game
Christman, Missouri …………. 48 NFL picks … 10 games …. 4.800 total/game
McFadden, Clemson …………. 43 NFL picks … 10 games …. 4.300 total/game
McAfee, Duke …………………… 26 NFL picks ….. 9 games …. 2.889 total/game

It is only fair to point out that the overwhelming majority of All-America teams in 1939 were announced before the results of the 1940 National Football League Draft (which was actually held on December 9th, 1939) could have had any impact on the voting and, of course, the various All-America selectors could not have possibly known in advance exactly which sophomore and junior players were slated to be chosen at the upcoming NFL Drafts in 1941 and 1942.

Still, now that this sort of information is available to be reviewed, it only serves to bring the individual statistical accomplishments of the nine backfield players involved in the side-by-side comparison offered by this series into a much more clear focus.

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UCLA’s Kenny Washington Wins Douglas Fairbanks Trophy After Vote Of Collegiate Players

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Several years before there ever was such a thing as the coveted Heisman Trophy (first presented in 1935) or even the prestigious Maxwell Award (1937), the collegiate football player rated to be the nation’s very best was bestowed with the honor of the DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS TROPHY.

The noteworthy prize was named after the famous silent film era actor who also was a founding member of both the United Artists entertainment company as well as The Motion Picture Academy organization. From its inception in 1931, the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy was directly tied to the annual All-America XI as determined by a poll of collegiate football players across the country and formally announced by the popular national magazine, Liberty Magazine. Players on every major college team were given specific instructions with respect to a comprehensive grading system co-invented by USC Trojans head coach Howard Jones along with prominent southern California syndicated sports columnist Norman L. Sper, Sr., and asked to vote for the very best performer at each position out of all the players that their own team had faced during the season in quesiton; additionally, players were also requested to name one opponent judged to be the most outstanding overall.

It is very relevant to note that Sper’s annual national poll of collegiate players on behalf of Liberty was always conducted after the very last of all NCAA regular season games in any given year had been played. At this particular point in time, of course, the majority of All-America squads were named before some college teams had actually completed their respective schedules. It is also important to remember that, from 1931 thru 1941, Liberty Magazine retained status as an official “selector” in terms of the NCAA’s annual Consensus All-America XI.

The roll call of Douglas Fairbanks Trophy winners reads very much like a list of college football’s brightest stars during the decade that preceded the United States’ involvement in colossal event known as World War II; as it turned out, all eleven of the players who won the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy were later enshrined in the College Football Hall Of Fame :

1931 …… Erny Pinckert …………………….. Southern Cal – sr HB
1932 …… Harry Newman ………………….. Michigan – sr QB
1933 …… Francis “Pug” Lund …………….. Minnesota – jr HB
1934 …… Robert “Bones” Hamilton …… Stanford – jr HB
1935 …… Jay Berwanger ……………………. Chicago – sr HB
1936 …… Sam Francis ……………………….. Nebraska – sr HB
1937 …… Byron “Whizzer” White ………. Colorado – sr HB
1938 …… Davey O’Brien ……………………. Texas Christian – sr QB
1939 …… Kenny Washington …………….. UCLA – sr HB
1940 …… Tom Harmon …………………….. Michigan – sr HB
1941 ……. Frank Sinkwich ………………….. Georgia – jr HB

As for the validity of allowing the collegiate players to serve as the voters exclusively, no less of a qualified authority than the professional scouts and coaching staffs of the National Football League clubs, themselves, certainly seemed to stamp their overwhelming approval on the individual players who were being chosen to receive the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy each year … (with the conspicuous exception of UCLA’s Washington, that is) :

Berwanger …… 1st round, 1st overall – 1936 NFL Draft ……. Philadelphia
Hamilton …….. 8th round, 67th overall – 1936 NFL Draft … Brooklyn
Francis ………… 1st round, 1st overall – 1937 NFL Draft ……. Philadelphia
White ………….. 1st round, 4th overall – 1938 NFL Draft …… Pittsburgh
O’Brien ………… 1st round, 4th overall – 1939 NFL Draft …… Philadelphia
Washington ……………….. not selected – 1940 NFL Draft
Harmon ……….. 1st round, 1st overall – 1941 NFL Draft ……. Chicago
Sinkwich ………. 1st round, 1st overall – 1943 NFL Draft ……. Detroit

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“GRIDDERS NAME KEN WASHINGTON GREATEST PLAYER”

Berkeley Daily Gazette – December 27, 1939

NEW YORK (United Press) — 1,659 players from 91 major football schools in the country today selected their own All-America team based on the ability of their rivals during the 1939 season. Their selection appears in the Liberty Magazine on sale today as is unique in that it was picked without the benefit of “experts”. Only one of the 664 players named (i.e., at all positions) received the vote of every player who opposed him (and) he was Kenny Washington, UCLA’s great halfback.

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The Berkeley Daily Gazette article referred to above also reported that “91 of the 93 ballots cast by opponents of the University of Michigan this year named Tom Harmon as the outstanding player they faced”. But those most impressive returns still left Harmon short as far as the voting for the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy was concerned. This because all 103 of the votes cast by opponents of the University of California at Los Angeles labeled Washington, the nation’s total offense (yards rushing & passing) leader in 1939, as the very best.

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The All-America Candidacy Of UCLA’s Kenny Washington, According To The Statistics – Part Two

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UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON hauls in a forward pass opposite the California Golden Bears during the Pacific Coast Conference game at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley on October 15, 1938. Two weeks earlier, against the Oregon Ducks on the road in Eugene, the dynamic junior out of Lincoln High School in Los Angeles had caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from right halfback Merle Harris. In addition to leading the Bruins in passing yardage during each of his three varsity seasons, Washington also had multiple pass receptions in each of his three NCAA campaigns, as well, catching a total of nine passes for 128 yards (14.2 avg) and one touchdown over the course of his distinguished collegiate career.
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Continuing on with a thorough statistical review of the nine major All-America backfield candidates for the 1939 NCAA season, it is important to bear in mind that seven of the nine players in question were, in fact, the primary passers for their respective teams with right halfback George McAfee of Duke and fullback John Kimbrough of Texas A&M being the two execptions. However, one of the great hallmarks of Single Wing football in the years between the two World Wars was the bygone aspect that any of the four backfield players could be inclined to a forward pass at any given time and, of course, any of the four backfield players might also be the intended pass receiver, as well. During this particular era of limited substitution football, there can be no doubt whatsoever that versatility (i.e., the ability to run, pass, catch, tackle and even punt or kick) was an extremely valuable commodity.

229 yards … 10 pass receptions … 3 tds …… McAfee, Duke
110 yards ….. 4 pass receptions … 1 tds …… Harmon, Michigan *

51 yards ……. 2 pass receptions … 0 tds …… WASHINGTON, UCLA
39 yards ……. 5 pass receptions … 0 tds …… Kimbrough, Texas A&M *
23 yards ……. 1 pass reception ….. 1 tds …… McFadden, Clemson

0 yards ……… 0 pass receptions … 0 tds …… Kinnick, Iowa *
0 yards ……… 0 pass receptions … 0 tds …… Cafego, Tennessee *
0 yards ……… 0 pass receptions … 0 tds …… Lansdell, USC
0 yards ……… 0 pass receptions … 0 tds …… Christman, Missouri

(* asterisk indicates 1939 Consensus First Team All-America as recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association … final receiving totals include statistics from Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games played on January 1, 1940)

It should not be forgotten that, as a junior, Duke’s McAfee also caught three passes for 45 yards against the USC Trojans in the legendary 1939 Rose Bowl contest despite missing the Blue Devils’ first seven games of the 1938 NCAA campaign due to injury. Blessed with breakaway speed in addition to a reliable set of hands, factor in the ability to effectively return kickoffs & punts and it is not very hard to figure out why the Philadelphia Eagles would have chosen the Duke senior right halfback with the second overall pick in the first round of the 1940 National Football League Draft. As it was, McAfee easily finished among the NCAA’s top ten players having accumulated 825 total yards from scrimmage rushing and receiving in 1939 :

978 yards rushing & receiving … 13 tds …… Harmon, Michigan *
862 yards rushing & receiving ….. 5 tds …… Washington, UCLA
825 yards rushing & receiving ….. 7 tds …… McAfee, Duke
742 yards rushing & receiving ….. 9 tds …… Lansdell, USC
666 yards rushing & receiving … 12 tds …… Kimbrough, Texas A&M *
503 yards rushing & receiving ….. 5 tds …… McFadden, Clemson
452 yards rushing & receiving ….. 1 tds …… Cafego, Tennessee *
436 yards rushing & receiving ….. 7 tds …… Christman, Missouri
374 yards rushing & receiving ….. 5 tds …… Kinnick, Iowa *

On the subject of versatility, there is also absolutely no question that the ability to excel in the fine art of running back kickoffs and punts had a certain influence on many of those voting not only for the various All-America teams but also the Heisman Trophy, itself, as well.

After returning a combined total of seven kickoffs in his first two varsity seasons for the Iowa Hawkeyes, undersized left halfback Nile Kinnick fielded more than twice that many during his highly decorated senior campaign in 1939 and was officially recognized as the NCAA leader based on total yards gained :

377 yards … 15 kick returns … 25.1 avg ……. Kinnick, Iowa *
178 yards ….. 4 kick returns … 37.0 avg …… Cafego, Tennessee *
132 yards ….. 5 kick returns … 26.4 avg …… Harmon, Michigan *
111 yards …… 5 kick returns … 22.2 avg …… McAfee, Duke
107 yards ….. 6 kick returns … 17.8 avg …… WASHINGTON, UCLA

14 yards …….. 1 kick return …. 14.0 avg …… McFadden, Clemson

For whatever reason, UCLA star left halfback Kenny Washington was much more effective as a kick returner in his sophomore and junior seasons for the Bruins, averaging more than twenty-three yards per return in each of his first two collegiate seasons; altogether, Washington returned a total of 19 kickoffs for 428 yards (22.5 avg) during his three years with the Westwood varsity.

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UCLA left end WOODY STRODE (# 27), who led the Westwood gridiron warriors with 15 pass receptions for 218 yards as a senior, was lauded as an Honorable Mention All-America by the Associated Press in 1939. Bruins junior right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) was cited as an Honorable Mention All-America by both the AP as well as the Newspaper Enterprise Association in addition to be named “Additional Backfield” (what amounted to Third Team) All-America by Life Magazine that same year. During the 1939 NCAA season, UCLA left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) tossed a pair of touchdown passes to both Strode and Robinson.
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It was, of course, none other than UCLA right halfback Jackie Robinson who led the entire nation in 1939 by averaging 16.4 yards per return after running back 18 punts for 295 yards in his first gridiron season with the Bruins following his transfer from Pasadena Junior College in early January of that year; based on total yards gained, it was Abisha “Bosh” Pritchard of Virginia Military Institute, the 170-pound sophomore right halfback in his first term with the Keydets after transferring to V.M.I. from Georgia Tech, who was formally recognized as the NCAA leader in 1939 with 583 yards on 42 punt returns (13.9 avg) :

365 yards … 37 punt returns ….. 9.9 avg … 0 tds …… McAfee, Duke
253 yards … 19 punt returns … 13.3 avg …. 1 tds …… Cafego, Tennessee *
227 yards … 19 punt returns … 11.9 avg …. 0 tds …… Kinnick, Iowa *

18 yards …….. 1 punt return ….. 18.0 avg … 0 tds …… WASHINGTON, UCLA
11 yards …….. 2 punt returns ….. 5.5 avg …. 0 tds …… Harmon, Michigan *

8 yards ………. 5 punt returns ….. 1.6 avg …. 0 tds …… McFadden, Clemson

Unfortunately, the punt return statistics for the 1939 NCAA season of USC Trojans senior quarterback Grenville Lansdell are not available for display here. But it will be noted for the record that the player whom the New York Giants made the tenth overall pick in the first round of the 1940 NFL Draft logged no less than two touchdowns on punt returns as a junior for Southern Cal in 1938. Lansdell, yet another product of Pasadena Junior College, ran one boot back 82 yards for a touchdown versus the Ohio State Buckeyes and returned another punt 71 yards to register six points against the Washington Huskies.

The one and only punt return touchdown in the collegiate career of Tennessee Volunteers left halfback George Cafego, whom the Chicago Cardinals made the first overall pick in the first round of the 1940 NFL Draft, came at the expense of little Sewanee : The University of the South, who were, to be succint, perennial doormats of the Southeastern Conference throughout the 1930s.

Of course, football was still a two-way game with players going both ways on offense and defense at the time that Kenny Washington was starring for the UCLA Bruins. During the Single Wing era, the fullback played at linebacker while the other three backfield players were deployed in the defensive secondary. At that time, no one bothered to keep track of individual tackles for statistical purposes, but contemporary newspaper writers, naturally, noted which players were the most influential on defense — one thing is certain, throughout the course of his collegiate career for UCLA, Washington was constantly praised for his ferocious tackling and his tendency to be involved in a high number tackles, as well.

As far as pass defense was concerned, it was left halfback Hal van Every of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the the first round pick (# 9 overall) of the Green Bay Packers at the 1940 NFL Draft, who led the entire nation by intercepting nine passes during the 1939 NCAA season :

8 int … 52 yards … 0 tds …… Kinnick, Iowa *
5 int … 59 yards … 0 tds …… Kimbrough, Texas A&M *
4 int … 56 yards … 0 tds …… McAfee, Duke
3 int … 98 yards …. 1 tds …… Harmon, Michigan *
3 int … 29 yards …. 0 tds …… McFadden, Clemson
1 int … 28 yards …. 0 tds …… WASHINGTON, UCLA
1 int ….. 0 yards …. 0 tds …… Lansdell, USC
0 int ….. 0 yards …. 0 tds …… Cafego, Tennessee *

If there was one particular facet of the game that Iowa’s Kinnick truly excelled at over the course of his entire collegiate career, it was pilfering forward passes thrown by the Hawkeyes’ opponents. The 1939 Heisman Trophy winner registered no fewer than 18 interceptions during his three varsity seasons for the Hawkeyes, a figure that still stands as the school record to this very day. Eight interceptions in a single season is also happens to be yet another feat which has never been bettered by any other Iowa player before or since.

Ironically enough, the interception that Michigan’s Harmon hauled back for a touchdown in 1939 was the spectacular 95-yard return of a pass thrown by Iowa’s Kinnick during the Wovlerines’ 27-7 romp over the Hawkeyes on the second Saturday in October of that year.

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Why Kenny Washington Was Stationed At Left Cornerback On UCLA Defense

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UCLA Bruins sophomore left cornerback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) moves in to assist his teammates as USC Trojans fullback BILL SANGSTER (# 27), also a sophomore, is tackled short of the goal line during the heart-stopping Pacific Coast Conference game played in front of 75,000 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 4, 1937.
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Several months ago, this blog took its best shot at explaining why the UCLA BRUINS of the late 1930s did not deploy their most dangerous runner, KENNY WASHINGTON, as their regular punt return man in any of the All-America left halfback’s three varsity seasons for the Westwood warriors.

The conclusion reached by this blog is that the UCLA coaches of that time period, in part due to the frequent number of fake punt plays that many college teams of the pre-World War II era were prone to attempt, obviously must have always thought it was simply better to position the speedy Washington, who just so happened to be a highly efficient tackler with very reliable hands to match, much closer to the actual line of scrimmage as compared to where the punt returner would typically be stationed in any normal kicking situation.

But, forget about punt returns. This particular blog piece here is focused on basic defensive strategies and tactics. Specifically, the positional placement of the dynamic Washington in the UCLA Bruins defensive backfield.

Nowadays, the way the contemporary game of football is played (and has been played for quite a number of decades), the defensive back who displays a great deal of speed combined with the consistent ability to effectively “cover” an opposing pass receiver at all times is traditionally stationed at one of the two the cornerback positions. Meanwhile, the defensive backs who demonstrate superior play-diagnosing instincts and pass-catching skills or the penchant to be the most punishing tacklers are, generally speaking, assigned to the free safety and strong safety positions, respectively. Naturally, quickness is also very important to the two safeties, who line up in the center of the field and can be called upon to be responsible for vast amounts of territory on any given play.

Of course, during the late 1930s, most collegiate teams (including all of those in the Pacific Coast Conference) ran the pigskin far more often than they risked putting it in the air, so the urgent need for “cover corners” was not anywhere near what it can now — almost eighty years later — oftentimes be. Realistically, defensive backfield players who could shed a block and make a solid tackle were much more in demand back in the day when Washington was headlining for the UCLA Bruins. Given the ground-oriented nature of the gridiron game at that point in time, it should come as no surprise that all regular defensive alignments of the pre-World War II era only ever utilized three defensive backs (two cornerbacks and just one safety) as compared to the four defensive backs which have been standard operating procedure in football for decades now.

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STANDARD CARLISLE SINGLE WING OFFENSE vs 6-2-2-1 DEFENSE
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Blue Square = offensive center, Blue Circles = other offensive players ……… Yellow Triangles = defensive linemen, Yellow Squares = defensive linebackers, Yellow Circles = defensive backs
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From the moment that Kenny Washington in began scrimmaging with UCLA’s first-string varsity in the spring of 1937, the highly touted freshman out of Lincoln High School in Los Angeles was considerably bigger than the other defensive backfield candidates and was certainly among the very fastest, as well. The requisite ball-hawking instincts and pass catching skills normally required of a safety were also not a problem, as the 195-pounder promptly displayed in the Bruins’ annual Blue & Gold intra-squad spring game that year. Indeed, midway through the opening quarter, Washington initiated the scoring by intercepting a pass and running 60 yards for the first touchdown of the afternoon … (UCLA’s promising newcomer later tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to cap off a 19-0 victory for the Blue team).

https://archive.org/stream/ucladailybruin16losa#page/n323/mode/1up

Interesting enough, the post-game report in the newspaper indicated that Washington was playing at the safety position during the Blue & Gold tussle in the spring of 1937. However, by the time the official NCAA season came around later that fall, the new UCLA first-string left halfback was occupying the left cornerback position for the Bruins on the defensive side of the football. From the contemporary perspective of an analyst in the 21st century, it may seem a bit odd that UCLA head coach BILL SPAULDING did not deploy Washington in the center of the field at safety but there appears to have been sound reasoning at the heart of this particular strategy.

Aside from the fact that passing the football simply just wasn’t very prevalent during the Single Wing era of the late 1930s, it must also be prominently remembered that the overwhelming majority of college football teams at that time used an “unbalanced line” (i.e., the two guards both line up on the same side of the offensive center to create an overload) when in possession of the pigskin. Furthermore, for whatever reason (perhaps because the majority of all players passing the football were right-handed?), the ‘strong side’ of the unbalanced line tended to be to the right of the offensive center far more often than not. And, for what should be obvious reasons, a good percentage of all rushing plays were directed towards the strong side of the unbalanced line.

Consequently, the left cornerback of the Single Wing era oftentimes stationed himself much closer to the line of scrimmage as compared to his counterpart over on the right side of the defensive formation.

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UCLA Bruins left cornerback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) watches as the USC Trojans ball-carrier is thwarted in his attempt to score a touchdown on a short yardage “dive” play during the pulsating Pacific Coast Conference clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 4, 1937.
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The positioning of Kenny Washington at left cornerback took full advantage of the backfield player’s tremendous size and superior tackling abilities. Tipping the scales at 195 pounds, the Bruins standout actually weighed the exact same amount as the two players, EARL “Tex” HARRIS and WOODY STRODE, who started at the left end position on the line of scrimmage for UCLA in 1937 and 1939, respectively. What’s more, Washington also weighed just five pounds less than JOE L. BROWN, the player who began the 1938 NCAA campaign as the Bruins’ starter at left defensive end, and was twenty pounds heavier than DON MACPHERSON, the player who closed out that very same season as UCLA’s first-string on the left end of the line.

In other words, when UCLA’s opponents ran the ball to its strong side of the line (on sweep playss in particular), the sturdy Washington essentially operated as something of a modern-day outside linebacker or, in certain situations, perhaps even the very real equivalent of a seventh lineman in the Bruins’ normal 6-2-2-1 defensive formation.

This is not meant to imply that Washington was merely a ferocious tackler who was not quite so effective in pass coverage. The UCLA All-America backfield player picked off a respectable total of six passes and scored two defensive touchdowns (one on the return of a fumble) over the course of his three-year collegiate career. Washington also still holds the Westwood school record for average yards per interception return in a career (37.7 avg), but that would be another blog article.

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The All-America Candidacy Of UCLA’s Kenny Washington, According To The Statistics – Part One

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Even to this very day, it is something that remains largely swept under the rug even as the University of California at Los Angeles, itself, celebrates the athletic career of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson in a most prominent and visible manner. Still, there can be no question that UCLA Bruins star left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON’s failure to secure official Consensus First Team All-America status in 1939 was a bona fide travesty of sports justice that continues to receive little, if any, attention from the general public. Meanwhile, it has always been the very specific aim of these UCLA football articles to shine a much more bright light on Kenny Washington’s athletic accomplishments in a modest bid to generate more of the genuine glory that the “Kingfish” so richly deserved but, for whatever reason, never quite got.

As has already been documented here at this blog, there was a laundry list of of different “All-America” teams that were announced by a wide range of various accredited organizations in 1939. No fewer than 20 backfield players were recognized as either First, Second or Third Team All-America that year by the 15 major accredited organizations that were carefully analyzed by this blog. Starting with said pool of twenty backfield players, this blog has narrowed a retrospective list of ‘serious’ consensus All-America candidates down to an elite group of nine gridiron standouts — junior left halfback Tom Harmon of Michigan, senior left halfback Nile Kinnick of Iowa, junior fullback John Kimbrough of Texas A&M, junior quarterback Paul Christman of Missouri, senior left halfback Kenny Washington of UCLA, senior left halfback George Cafego of Tennessee, senior right halfback George McAfee of Duke as well as senior quarterback Grenville Lansdell of USC.

Scholars and other analysts searching for evidence of outright discrimination in NCAA college football circa 1939 never quite seem to find the time to present the statistical data directly comparing the major All-America candidates side by side — common sense says this is exactly the sort of concrete evidence that will always do the most to convince an impartial jury of knowledgeable football observers from any time period.

Considering the overall importance of the running game in the pre-World War II era of Single Wing football, it is most appropriate to begin a statistical review of the nine major All-America backfield candidates’ on-field performances for the 1939 NCAA season by looking at net yards gained on the ground. Viewing matters from a national perspective, Michigan’s Harmon was the second-leading rusher in the country with UCLA’s Washington finishing close behind as the # 3 ball-carrier in all of major college football that year. Both USC’s Lansdell as well as Texas A&M’s Kimbrough also wound up on the list of the nation’s top ten ground-gainers in 1939 while, for his part, Duke’s McAfee ranked # 11 on the NCAA’s rushing chart that season :

868 rushing yards …. 6.7 avg … 12 tds …… Harmon, Michigan *
811 rushing yards …. 4.8 avg ….. 5 tds …… WASHINGTON, UCLA
742 rushing yards … 4.8 avg ….. 9 tds …… Lansdell, USC
627 rushing yards …. 3.7 avg … 12 tds …… Kimbrough, Texas A&M *
596 rushing yards …. 6.2 avg ….. 4 tds …… McAfee, Duke
480 rushing yards …. 6.3 avg …. 4 tds …… McFadden, Clemson
452 rushing yards …. 5.5 avg ….. 1 tds …… Cafego, Tennessee *
436 rushing yards …. 4.3 avg ….. 7 tds …… Christman, Missouri
374 rushing yards …. 3.5 avg ….. 5 tds …… Kinnick, Iowa *

(* asterisk indicates 1939 Consensus First Team All-America selection as recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association … final rushing totals include statistics from the Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games played on January 1st, 1940)

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As has already been noted here at this blog in the previous blog post, “The Multitude of All-America Teams & NCAA’s Official Consensus XI”, a clear majority of the All-America squads named by the fifteen major accredited organizations studied closely by this blog were actually released before the 1939 NCAA football campaign had even been completed. In other words, a good percentage of the voters selecting the various All-America teams that year had to make their choices without knowing the results of some rather pivotal showdowns late in the season, such as the monumental clash of unbeatens featuring the then # 9 ranked UCLA Bruins and the then # 3 ranked USC Trojans in front of 103,303 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9th. Therefore, it would have only been natural for some voters, if only subconsciously, to be somewhat influenced by the track records of players who had already accomplished great things in the past.

This helps to explain why a player like Tennessee’s Cafego, whose season statistics lag well behind some of the other ‘serious’ backfield candidates being scrutinized here, was named First Team All-America by no fewer than six major accredited organizations in 1939. The Volunteers star left halfback struggled with injury towards the end of his senior year and played very sparingly in Tennessee’s last regular season game against the Auburn Tigers on December 9th before picking up just nine yards on eight carries against the vaunted USC Trojans in the 1940 Rose Bowl Game. However, Cafego had excelled as a junior, rushing for 690 yards (5.5 avg) while amassing another 344 yards on punt returns (14.3 avg) as the Tennessee Volunteers concluded their 1938 NCAA campaign with an unblemished record (11-0-0) after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners 17-0 in the 1939 Orange Bowl contest.

But it should be remembered that UCLA’s Washington had also done well in his first two seasons of collegiate football and had gained almost as many net rushing yards as Tennessee Cafego, this despite the fact that the combined record of the Bruins (8-10-2) in 1937 & 1938 could not even begin to match the very same two-year slate of the Volunteers (17-3-1) :

1,191 rushing yards … 6.0 avg …… Cafego, Tennessee (37 & 38)
1,103 rushing yards … 3.9 avg …… WASHINGTON, UCLA (37 & 38)

879 rushing yards … 4.5 avg …… Lansdell, USC (37 & 38)
525 rushing yards … 5.4 avg …… McFadden, Clemson (37 & 38)
398 rushing yards … 5.2 avg …… Harmon, Michigan (38)
388 rushing yards … 3.5 avg …… Christman, Missouri (38)
350 rushing yards … 2.4 avg …… Kinnick, Iowa (37 & 38)
309 rushing yards … 4.8 avg …… McAfee, Duke (37 & 38)
271 rushing yards …. 3.9 avg …… Kimbrough, Texas A&M (38)

On the subject of packing the ole’ pigskin, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Iowa’s Kinnick was not cited as a First Team All-America in 1939 by 13 of the 15 major accredited organizations studied because of any special abilities to gain significant amounts of yardage via the land route.

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With his three backfield mates moving into position to form a protective barrier, UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) prepares to “roll out” to his right during the Pacific Coast Conference game against the Oregon State Beavers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 25, 1939 … the spearhead of UCLA Bruins blockers escorting the All-America ball-handler are quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55), right halfback DALE GILMORE (# 25) and fullback LEO CANTOR (# 2).
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Despite the overall dominance of a conservative brand of Single Wing football during the late 1930s, this did not mean that certain collegiate teams did not strive to use the forward pass as an offensive weapon far more than just occasionally; again, for the purposes of a national perspective, it will be noted that Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Kay Eakin was recognized as the NCAA’s leading passer in 1939 with 962 yards from 78 completions out of 193 attempts :

752 pass yrd ….. 5 tds … 13 int … 162-72 att/comp …. Christman, Missouri
638 pass yrd …. 11 tds … 13 int ….. 93-31 att/comp …. Kinnick, Iowa *
572 pass yrd ….. 5 tds ….. 6 int ….. 71-30 att/comp …. McFadden, Clemson
559 pass yrd ….. 7 tds ….. 8 int ….. 91-37 att/comp …. WASHINGTON, UCLA
488 pass yrd ….. 6 tds ….. 8 int ….. 94-37 att/comp … Harmon, Michigan *
479 pass yrd ….. 2 tds ….. 6 int ….. 85-42 att/comp … Lansdell, USC
138 pass yrd ….. 0 tds …… unk ………… unknown …….. McAfee, Duke

92 pass yrd ……. 3 tds …… 1 int ….. 20-8 att/comp ….. Cafego, Tennessee *
30 pass yrd ……. 0 tds ….. 0 int ……. 2-1 att/comp …… Kimbrough, Texas A&M *

completion percentage – Lansdell 49.4%, Christman 44.4%, McFadden 42.3%, WASHINGTON 40.7%, Cafego 40.0%, Harmon 39.4%, Kinnick 33.3%

average yards per completion – Kinnick 20.6 avg, McFadden 19.1 avg, Washington 15.1 avg, Harmon 13.2 avg, Cafego 11.5 avg, Lansdell 11.4 avg, Christman 10.4 avg,

interception percentage – Kinnick 13.98%, WASHINGTON 8.79%, Harmon 8.51%, McFadden 8.45%, Christman 8.02%, Lansdell 7.06%, Cafego 5.00%

(* asterisk indicates 1939 Consensus First Team All-America selection as recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association … final passing totals include statistics from Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games played on January 1st, 1940)

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It was largely on the strength of feast-or-famine passing that Iowa Hawkeyes senior left halfback Nile Kinnick was able to carry off the prestigious Heisman Trophy as the nation’s very best collegiate football player in 1939. Both Iowa and the undersized Kinnick (5’8″ 167 lbs) captured a great many hearts & minds across the country by completing a stunning turnaround — the Hawkeyes had posted a disappointing record of 1-6-1 (which included a decisive 27-3 loss to the UCLA Bruins) in 1938 but rebounded well to register the much more impressive mark of 6-1-1 in 1939. The signature moment for both Iowa and Kinnick in 1939 arrived with the 7-0 triumph over the then # 3 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 11th, a spectacular result which came just at the right time of the year to strongly influence both Heisman voters and All-America selectors alike.

Kinnick scored the lone touchdown of the game against Notre Dame on a short run and also tossed a pair of touchdown passes versus the then # 20 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers one week later but the rest of the Iowa left halfback’s season statistics are somewhat suspect. Eight of the Heisman Trophy winner’s eleven touchdown passes in 1939 came at the expense of lightweight South Dakota, a non-Division I opponent, in addition to the two Western Conference also-rans, Indiana (2-4-2) and Wisconsin (1-6-1). Also, three of Kinnick’s five rushing touchdowns in 1939 coincided with the Hawkeyes’ season-opening 41-0 romp over hapless South Dakota.

In terms of quality of opposition, there is certainly no question that UCLA’s Kenny Washington contested what was a far tougher overall schedule in 1939 as compared to that of Iowa’s Nile Kinnick. The eight opponents of the Hawkeyes in 1939 featured a combined total of 16 senior players who were chosen by professional clubs at the 1940 National Football League Draft for an average of two per team. The ten adversaries of the Bruins that season, however, had a combined total of 31 senior players who were tabbed at the 1940 NFL Draft for an average of slightly more than three pro prospects per squad.

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Being formally recognized as the nation’s total offense leader for the 1939 NCAA season by virtue of accumulating the most passing and rushing yards combined was easily the crowning on-field accomplishment in UCLA Bruins left halfback Kenny Washington’s entire three-year collegiate career.

1,370 yards rushing & passing …… WASHINGTON, UCLA
1,356 yards rushing & passing …… Harmon, Michigan *
1,221 yards rushing & passing ……. Lansdell, USC
1,161 yards rushing & passing ……. Christman, Missouri
1,052 yards rushing & passing …… McFadden, Clemson
1,012 yards rushing & passing ……. Kinnick, Iowa *

734 yards rushing & passing ……… McAfee, Duke
657 yards rushing & passing ……… Kimbrough, Texas A&M *
544 yards rushing & passing ……… Cafego, Tennessee *

touchdowns rushing & passing – Harmon 18, Kinnick 16, WASHINGTON 12, Christman 12, Kimbrough 12, Lansdell 11, McFadden 9, McAfee 4, Cafego 4

(* asterisk indicates 1939 Consensus All-America selection as recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association … final total offense figures include statistics from Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl games played on January 1st, 1940)

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It is a fact that Michigan’s Harmon played two fewer contests in 1939 than UCLA’s Washington and, thus, the Wolverines junior left halfback posted a significantly higher average of total offense per game as compared to his senior counterpart from the Bruins. However, as was the case with the Iowa Hawkeyes, it is undeniable that the UCLA Bruins (6-0-4) had to negotiate much stiffer competition over the course of the ’39 NCAA campaign than the Michigan Wolverines (6-2-0) did. The Wolverines had to face eight opponents whose combined rosters had only 11 senior players who were selected at the 1940 NFL Draft whereas the Bruins, again, lined up against ten opponents with a combined total of 31 senior players who later became NFL draft picks.

Also factoring juniors and sophomores who were ultimately chosen at the annual NFL Draft into the equation, UCLA’s ten opponents in 1939 had a combined total of 75 bona fide professional prospects on their respective rosters for an average of seven and one-half per team but, by the exact same token, the eight schools that Michigan played that year boasted a combined total of 42 future NFL draft picks for an average of just five and one-quarter per side.

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The Multitude Of All-America Backfields In 1939

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All throughout its detailed review of the UCLA BRUINS’ memorable 1939 NCAA football campaign, this particular blog has consistently referred to star left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON as a “consensus All-America” selection — this has been so because the senior out of Lincoln High School in Los Angeles was named either First, Second or Third Team All-America that year by no fewer than 11 out of the 15 major accredited organizations carefully studied.

No less than 20 different backfield players (eleven seniors, eight juniors and one sophomore) were chosen either First, Second or Third Team All-America in 1939 by at least one of the following groups — Associated Press, United Press, Central Press Association, International News Service, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Collegiate Writers, Hearst Newspapers, New York Sun newspaper, Walter Camp Football Foundation, The Sporting News, Collier’s Weekly, Liberty magazine, Life magazine, Newsweek magazine and the All-America Board.

Five of these organizations (AP, UP, NEA, CPA, Hearst) announced First, Second & Third All-America teams while five others (INS, Collegiate Writers, New York Sun, Life, Newsweek) nominated First & Second All-America sides; the remaining five entities named but a single squad.

Michigan Wolverines left halfback TOM HARMON was, in fact, the one and only backfield player in the entire nation to be named either a First, Second or Third Team All-America pick for the 1939 NCAA season by all fifteen of the major accredited organizations accounted for here at this blog. Iowa Hawkeyes star NILE KINNICK, the undersized left halfback who won the balloting for the prestigious 1939 Heisman Trophy, was the only other collegiate player in the country to be cited by at least 14 of the 15 organizations analyzed. Just five out of the forementioned twenty total backfield players — Kinnick from Iowa, Harmon from Michigan, Washington from UCLA along with Texas A&M Aggies fullback JOHN KIMBROUGH and Missouri Tigers quarterback PAUL CHRISTMAN — were honored with some type of All-America status by at least ten of the fifteen organizations in question :

43 pts … 15 teams … 14-0-1 …… Tom Harmon, Michigan – jr
41 pts … 14 teams … 13-1-0 ……. Nile Kinnick, Iowa – sr
36 pts … 13 teams … 10-3-0 …… John Kimbrough, Texas A&M – jr
33 pts … 13 teams ….. 7-6-0 …… Paul Christman, Missouri – jr
23 pts … 11 teams ….. 2-8-1 ……. KENNY WASHINGTON, UCLA – sr
23 pts ….. 9 teams ….. 6-2-1 ……. George Cafego, Tennessee – sr
14 pts ….. 7 teams ….. 1-5-1 …….. George McAfee, Duke – sr
12 pts ….. 5 teams ….. 3-1-1 …….. Banks McFadden, Clemson – sr
11 pts ….. 5 teams …… 2-2-1 …….. Grenville Lansdell, USC – sr

8 pts ……. 5 teams ……. 1-1-3 …….. Don Scott, Ohio State – jr
6 pts ……. 4 teams ……. 0-2-2 ……. Dick Cassiano, Pitt – sr
5 pts ……. 2 teams ……. 1-1-0 …….. Walt Matuszczak, Cornell – jr
5 pts ……. 3 teams ……. 0-2-1 …….. Jim Lalanne, North Carolina – jr
4 pts ……. 4 teams ……. 0-0-4 ……. Dom Principe, Fordham – sr
3 pts …….. 2 teams ……. 0-1-1 …….. George Stirnweiss, North Carolina – sr
2 pts …….. 1 team ……… 0-1-0 ……. Bob Hoffman, USC – sr
2 pts …….. 1 team ……… 0-1-0 ……. Beryl Clark, Oklahoma – sr
2 pts …….. 1 team ……… 0-1-0 ……. Milt Piepul, Notre Dame – jr
2 pts …….. 1 team ……… 0-1-0 ……. Ronny Cahill, Holy Cross – sr
1 pts …….. 1 team ……… 0-0-1 ……. Jack Crain, Texas – so

(Scoring system = three points for first team selection, two points for second team nomination, one point for third team status)

* ASSOCIATED PRESS
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1st team —- Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick, McFadden
2nd team —- Cafego, Christman, McAfee, Washington
3rd team —- Crain, Lansdell, Principe, Scott

* UNITED PRESS
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1st team — Cafego, Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick
2nd team — Christman, McAfee, Piepul, Washington
3rd team — Cassiano, McFadden, Principe, Scott

* NEWSPAPER ENTERPRISE ASSOCIATION
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1st team — Christman, Kimbrough, Kinnick, McFadden
2nd team — Cafego, McAfee, Scott, Washington
3rd team — Cassiano, Harmon, Principe, Stirnweiss

CENTRAL PRESS ASSOCIATION
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1st team — Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick, Lansdell
2nd team — Cafego, Christman, McAfee, Stirnweiss
3rd team — McFadden, Principe, Scott, Washington

HEARST NEWSPAPERS
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1st team — Christman, Harmon, Kinnick, Lansdell
2nd team — Cahill, Kimbrough, Matuszczak, Washington
3rd team — Cafego, Lalanne, McAfee, McFadden

* INTERNATIONAL NEWS SERVICE
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1st team — Cafego, Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick
2nd team — Christman, Clark, Lalanne, Washington

* NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE
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1st team — Cafego, Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick
2nd team — Christman, Lansdell, McFadden, Washington

LIFE MAGAZINE
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1st team — Cafego, Harmon, Kimbrough, Washington
2nd team — Cassiano, Lalanne, Kinnick, McAfee

NEW YORK SUN
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1st team — Harmon, Kinnick, Matuszczak, McAfee
2nd team — Christman, Hoffman, Kimbrough, Washington

COLLEGIATE WRITERS
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1st team — Cafego, Christman, Harmon, Kinnick
2nd team — Cassiano, Kimbrough, Lalanne, Washington

WALTER CAMP
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1st team — Christman, Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick

* LIBERTY MAGAZINE
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1st team — Harmon, Kimbrough, Scott, Washington

* THE SPORTING NEWS
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1st team — Cafego, Christman, Harmon, Kinnick

* COLLIER’S WEEKLY
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1st team — Christman, Harmon, Kinnick, McFadden

* ALL-AMERICA BOARD
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1st team — Christman, Harmon, Kimbrough, Kinnick

* Asterisk indicates one of nine “selectors” as recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Assocation in 1939 for the purposes of establishing the official annual “Consensus All-America” team.

https://lvironpigs.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/the-multitude-of-all-america-teams-ncaas-1939-official-consensus-xi/

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