1939 UCLA Bruins – Individual Game Participation

As far as the aforementioned “updates” to the articles on the 1939 UCLA gridiron football campaign already posted at this blog are concerned, perhaps the most important would have to be in the category of line-ups and substitutions with respect to each of the Bruins’ ten NCAA games played that season. Previously, the substitutions list contained in a few of the individual “Game Reports” posted were not necessarily complete (and noted as being such, of course). But things have changed considerably ever since the research here department finally gained access to the Los Angeles Times archives and, for one thing,  an even more detailed and thorough picture of UCLA’s player participation, both in individual and overall terms, for each one of the ten game reports on display here has now been (re)painted.

On the subject of UCLA line-ups and substitutions in 1939, it is absolutely imperative for contemporary readers to remember that the substitution rules during the pre-World War II era were much different than what exist today. Back in the day when Kenny Washington and Jackie Robinson were terrorizing Pacific Coast Conference opponents with their own unique brand of thunder and lightning, the rules prevailing effectively required all players to participate on both the offensive as well as the defensive side of the football simply because, by regulation, any player leaving the field at any point of the contest was not allowed to return to until the start of the next quarter. Certainly, there was no such thing as either the third down pass-catching specialist coming off the bench in a long yardage situation or the extra ‘nickel’ back in coverage on defense to compensate, to speak nothing of even a specialized punter and/or placekicker.

Interestingly enough, it was not really all that long ago that the now veteran National Football League player Myles Jack pulled off what was, by modern contemporary standards, the almost incomprehensible feat of being named the PAC-12 Conference’s Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year for his work during the 2012 NCAA football season on behalf of the UCLA Bruins at both running back and linebacker.  Jack was, however, an anomaly in every sense of the word. Furthermore, nowadays, it would be inconceivable for the Warriors of Westwood to utilize fewer than twenty total players in any given contest, let alone any given game against opposition that was currently ranked among the nation’s Top Twenty … but such was actually the case back on November 18th of 1939 when the then # 11 UCLA Bruins battled the # 14 Santa Clara Broncos to a scoreless stalemate in a thrilling non-conference clash that, quite literally, went right down to the wire.

1939 UCLA BRUINS : Overall Participation

  • 26 total players vs Texas Christian University
  • 27 total players vs University of Washington
  • 26 total players vs Stanford University
  • 34 total players vs University of Montana
  • 34 total players vs University of Oregon
  • 23 total players vs University of California
  • 19 total players vs Santa Clara University
  • 21 total players vs Oregon State University
  • 32 total players vs Washington State University
  • 25 total players vs University of Southern California

According to the official website of the school’s athletic department, there are a total of 106 players listed on the Bruins roster for this 2018 NCAA campaign — officially being celebrated this fall as the 100th season of UCLA football. (Ironically enough, Tom Sawyer’s fine blog, “The Southern Branch”, explains how this could actually be the 106th season but that would be another story). Back in 1939, during Babe Horrell’s inaugural season as the UCLA Bruins head coach, there were ‘only’ 51 players listed on the varsity roster although it must also be prominently mentioned that freshmen were ineligible at that particular point in time.

“1939 UCLA Bruins – Numerical Roster” ….. https://lvironpigs.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/1939-ucla-bruins-numerical-roster/

Including senior Kenny Washington, the All-America left halfback who reputedly played 580 out of a possible 600 minutes while setting numerous school records in 1939, a total of 44 different players participated in at least one NCAA game for the undefeated UCLA Bruins that season;  a total of 34 players logged enough time on the field to earn a varsity letter, this according to the archives that can be found at the official website of the school’s athletic department.

Aside from Washington, only nine other players also appeared in each of UCLA’s ten NCAA games in 1939 : fullback Leo Cantor, ends Woody Strode and Don MacPherson, tackles Del Lyman, Mladen Zarubica and Ernest Hill, guards Jack Sommers and Jack Cohen in addition to center Martin Matheson.

Nine games : left halfback Chuck Fenenbock, quarterback Ned Matthews, fullback Bill Overlin, ends Jim Mitchell and Bob Simpson, guard John Frawley

Eight games : right halfback Jackie Robinson, end/right halfback Ray Bartlett, end Chuck Cascales

Seven games : right halfback Dale Gilmore, quarterback Ben Kvitky, guard Nate DeFrancisco, center Ted Jones

Six games : guard Joe Ruettgers

Five games : left halfback Monte Steadman, quarterback Joe Viger, fullback Don Hesse, guards Louis Kyzivat and Robin Williams, center Gene Alder

Four games : right halfback John Wynne

Three games : right halfback Clark George, tackles Cecil Dye and Roger Hoger, centers Lynn Hale and Milt Whitebrook

Two games : fullbacks John Zaby and Frank Carroll, tackle Jack Kinney, guard Bill Shubin

One game : right halfback Dennis Francis, quarterbacks Robert Wai and Don Toland, guard Dave Gaston

ABOVE PHOTO : “Expected to be one of the mainstays of the 1939 University of California at Los Angeles grid machine, right halfback CLARK GEORGE (# 53), a highly touted transfer from Purdue University, is shown cutting some fancy capers in a workout on the Bruin campus. George is six feet tall and weighs 180 pounds,” reads the suggested caption for the ACME Wire Press photo that was distributed on September 16, 1939 — exactly thirteen days before UCLA was scheduled to open its NCAA season with a night game against the defending national champions, Texas Christian University.

As events were destined to unfold, George ultimately played very sparingly for the UCLA Bruins in 1939. Beaten out for the starting right halfback slot by Jackie Robinson, another highly touted incoming transfer arriving in Westwood by way of Pasadena Junior College, the native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, also found himself behind UCLA co-captain Dale Gilmore on the Bruins depth chart. After remaining on the bench for the first three games, George finally got his ‘big chance’ during the October 21st meeting with the University of Montana but, unfortunately, fumbled the kickoff to start the second half and then suffered a broken nose the following week in the October 28th game against the University of Oregon.

The seldom used transfer from Purdue did receive some attention from the Los Angeles Times during the bye week of preparation that led up to UCLA’s much anticipated mid-November tilt versus nationally ranked Santa Clara. “George got away for several long runs on reverses during the semi-scrimmage,” it was noted in the article which appeared on November 11th, 1939. But, despite the continued absence of the injured Robinson, George did not get into the game against the Broncos as the Bruins coaching staff went with Gilmore and John Wynne at the right halfback position. Wynne, an emerging sophomore from Los Angeles, made a key tackle on defense for UCLA during a goal line stand sequence in the first half of the 0-0 tie with Santa Clara.

George made his last ever appearance for the Bruins during the blowout win over Washington State University on November 30th and concluded the 1939 NCAA campaign without having rushed the football from scrimmage even once throughout the course of the entire season.



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