Category Archives: UCLA Football

Fenenbock’s Unfulfilled UCLA Bruins Potential

With his back to the camera at the very bottom of this particular ‘staged action shot’ specifically designed for consumption in contemporary newspapers circa 1939, tossing the football into the rather populous group of UCLA players is Bruins second string left halfback CHUCK FENENBOCK (# 45), who later went on to play no less than nine seasons of professional football in no fewer than four different quality, respectable leagues.

On the basis of the potential that Fenenbock had demonstrated as a sophomore during his first full term of varsity competition at the collegiate level in 1938, it is difficult not to label the production put forth by the highly recruited player from northern California during the UCLA Bruins’ rather successful 1939 NCAA campaign as something of an major disappointment. Now, it is a fact that KENNY WASHINGTON, the would be consensus All-America selection who happened to rank above Fenenbock on the UCLA depth chart at the left halfback position, hardly ever left the field of play during the Bruins’ first ever undefeated season, particularly during the latter half of the schedule – when the school’s chances at a first ever appearance in the lucrative Rose Bowl contest on New Year’s Day just kept on getting better and better as the weeks went by. And it is also true that the native of Pittsburg had a few different injury issues to cope with that fall, the first of which arose after Fenenbock absorbed a blow to the head during UCLA’s third game of that season, the 14-14 draw with the Stanford Indians on the road in Palo Alto on October 14th.

But it also accurate to cite the fact that Fenenbock, who, as a direct result of the specific substitution strategy that UCLA head coach Babe Horrell used at the beginning of the season, formally went into the history books as the Bruins’ starting left halfback for their first three games of the 1939 NCAA campaign, actually also had plenty of opportunities to sparkle all throughout his junior term, too. Fenenbock, for example, logged plenty of playing time at the right halfback position during games against both the California Golden Bears as well as the nationally-ranked Santa Clara Broncos, the same two mid-term encounters that regular first string right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON missed on account of injury. Coincidentally enough, Fenenbock’s 1939 season high total of 33 net yards (5.5 yards per carry) came in the November 4th contest versus the Big Brothers from Berkeley.

Less than one month later, Fenenbock threw the one and only touchdown pass of his collegiate career on behalf of the Bruins during UCLA’s lopsided 27-7 win over the Washington State Cougars in the Thursday night tilt that was played on November 30th. It certainly seems odd to associate a career total of just one touchdown toss at the collegiate level with the same player who was the leading passer for a pretty good Detroit Lions team that posted a 7-3 record during the 1945 National Football League season, but, indeed, such is the case. As it was, on the ninth of April in 1940, the UCLA school newspaper published an article stating that “Charles Fenenbock was declared ineligible by the faculty and will not be able to play for the Bruins football team next year.”

It had all been so promising for Fenenbock when first arriving on the varsity scene for the UCLA Bruins in 1938. To start the season, the highly regarded sophomore from Pittsburg beat out the far more experienced senior IZZY CANTOR for the second string halfback slot on the depth chart and then picked up 22 yards on seven carries during the victory opposite the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes in UCLA’s opener. Fenenbock went on to log ten rushing attempts in each of the two triumphs over the Washington Huskies as well as the Idaho Vandals, respectively, before scoring the first touchdown of his NCAA career on a spectacular 80-yard romp against the Oregon State Beavers.

Then, Fenenbock simply exploded during the very first post season contest that the UCLA Bruins ever played in, the fourth and final installment of the annual Poi Bowl (renamed Pineapple Bowl in 1940) game that was played in Honolulu on January 2, 1939. Aside from 131 net yards and one touchdown rushing on only 13 attempts, the sophomore second string left halfback also contributed another 167 all-purpose yards running back punts, a kickoff and an interception. Fenenbock’s individual highlights from the Bruins’ blowout 32-7 of the Hawaii Rainbows included a 65-yard kickoff return as well as a 52-yard excursion with a pass that he pilfered.

However, it all ended so abruptly. Tom Sawyer, author of the “Southern Branch” blog that also writes about the early history of UCLA football, once asked aloud why Bruins head coach Babe Horrell posted the dismal won-loss record of 1-9 in 1940 only one season removed from the impressive 6-0-4 mark that he had registered during his first year at the helm in Westwood. It is the opinion of this blog that, while there were several influential forces hard at work, there should be no doubt that Fenenbock’s failure to appear for his senior season was a critical factor involved with this particular nosedive from the UCLA Bruins — but that would be an entirely different story best served by a separate blog article on still yet another day.

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Analyzing ’39 Stanford vs UCLA Video Highlights – Part Two, Bruins Defense

The above photograph is a still frame image taken from a movie newsreel, the forerunner to the modern television news broadcast, which features extensive highlights — including all four of the touchdowns scored in the game — of the Pacific Coast Conference clash between the intra-state rival Stanford Indians and the visiting UCLA Bruins that took place in Palo Alto on October 14, 1939.

This was the thrilling, early season PCC contest that saw a late fourth quarter interception and subsequent 51-yard return by Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) “Save The U.C.L.A. Cause”, this to quote the headline that ran in the Los Angeles Time newspaper the very next day. What’s more, thanks to the incoming Pasadena Junior College transfer’s pivotal extra point kick  — certainly no sure thing even at the professional level during the pre-World War II era of gridiron football — the widely favored, if not perhaps a bit overconfident UCLA Bruins were able to salvage a 14-14 draw with their stubborn hosts in northern California. As had been the case the previous week during the road win over the Washington Huskies, it was a spectacular piece of late second half heroics from Robinson which proved to be absolutely critical to the ultimate fate of the visiting Bruins.

As was already discussed in “Part One, Bruins Offense”, the video’s first three plays show UCLA in possession of the football but then the Stanford Indians rattle off seven plays in succession while scoring two touchdowns on passes thrown by the left-handed Frankie Albert in the process; the UCLA Bruins defense are deployed in a classic 6-2-2-1 formation, which was the preferred norm for the overwhelming majority of teams during the Single Wing era of the late 1930s.

Stanford’s first play from scrimmage features a run over left tackle by fullback Norm Standlee, the beefy 217-pound junior whom the Chicago Bears would make the third overall player taken in the 1941 National Football League Draft. Combining to stop the Indians ball carrier for UCLA are the left linebacker BILL OVERLIN (# 5) and the right defensive halfback NED MATTHEWS (# 55). The front six for the Bruins on this particular play were, from left to right : end WOODY STRODE (# 27), tackle DEL LYMAN (# 15), guard MARTIN MATHESON (# 6), guard JOHN FRAWLEY (# 12), tackle JACK COHEN (# 14) and end DON MACPHERSON (# 38).

Stanford’s second play is a run over right tackle by reserve fullback Thor Peterson, who is tripped up by LEO CANTOR (# 2), a substitute at left linebacker for Overlin. Other changes to the UCLA defensive unit for this play were MILT WHITEBROOK (# 52) in for Matheson at left guard and MLADEN ZARUBICA (# 24) replacing Cohen at right tackle. The Indians’ third play from scrimmage in the video footage shows another run over right tackle by Standlee, who powers his way to another first down before being stopped by the left linebacker Overlin as well as the Bruins right linebacker, JACK SOMMERS (# 11).

A pair of touchdown passes to Stanford right halfbacks Jim Perry and Hugh Gallarneau sandwich yet another run by Standlee, who was the game’s leading ball carrier with 115 yards on a whopping 32 attempts against UCLA. On the Indians’ first scoring play, two Bruins players each had a reasonable chance to halt the receiver but Perry easily ran through the attempted tackle of Sommers before issuing a stiff arm to Matthews at the visitors’ six-yard line. On Stanford’s second scoring toss, UCLA right linebacker TED JONES (# 37), the 180-pound sophomore from Abilene, Texas, who operated as a center on the offensive side of the football, was simply no match in coverage for Gallarneau, the junior whom the Chicago Bears would choose in the third round of the 1941 NFL Draft.

It is most interesting to note that both of the Indians’ pass completions for touchdowns occurred on the right hand side of the field for the Bruins defense. In other words, the very same side of field on which UCLA star KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) was not stationed. This blog has speculated before that one of the primary reasons that Kenny the Kingfish’s interception total actually decreased from season to season over the course of his collegiate career is because opponents simply began to avoid throwing the football in his direction more and more often.

Albert, the 166-pound sophomore who was destined to become the first round pick (# 10 overall) of the Chicago Bears at the 1942 NFL Draft, went to the air one too many times late in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium and the sure handed in addition to fleet footed Robinson, who functioned as the lone safety in the 1939 UCLA Bruins preferred defensive scheme, made the upset-minded Indians pay dearly.

It is this blog’s belief that the above photograph, which also appeared with the first installment of this two-part series, actually shows Jackie Robinson running with the pigskin in the open field at the roughly one-third full Stanford Stadium immediately after his very first career interception for the UCLA Bruins led directly to the tying touchdown in Palo Alto.

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Analyzing ’39 Stanford vs UCLA Video Highlights – Part One, Bruins Offense

The above photograph is a still frame image taken from a movie newsreel, the forerunner to the modern television news broadcast, which features extensive highlights – including all four of the touchdowns scored in the game – of the Pacific Coast Conference clash between the intra-state rival Stanford Indians and the visiting UCLA Bruins that took place in Palo Alto on October 14, 1939.

This was the thrilling, early season PCC contest that saw a late fourth quarter interception and subsequent 51-yard return by Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON “Save The U.C.L.A. Cause”, this to quote the headline that ran in the Los Angeles Times newspaper the very next day. What’s more, thanks to incoming Pasadena Junior College transfer’s pivotal extra point kick from placement — certainly no sure thing even at the professional level during the pre-War II era of gridiron football — the widely favored, if not perhaps a bit overconfident UCLA Bruins were able to salvage a 14-14 draw with their stubborn hosts in northern California. As had been the case the previous week during the win on the road over the Washington Huskies, the significant amount of all-purpose yardage gained by the speedy Robinson against Stanford was critical to ultimate fate of the visiting Bruins.

As the footage begins, the fleet-footed Robinson (# 28) is shown sweeping around left on one of the Bruins’ trademark offensive plays for their landmark 1939 NCAA football season, a handoff to the backfield player in motion running a reverse. Robinson gained 62 net yards rushing on just four attempts for a most impressive average of 15.5 yards per carry in that early October game against the Indians at Stanford Stadium. Robinson, to review, carried the ball a total of 42 times for UCLA during that ’39 campaign and averaged an incredible 12.2 yards per attempt in the process, a phenomenal record that stands to this very day … and quite possibly might never ever be broken, as well.

The next play shows UCLA left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13), the would be consensus All-America choice who was largely held in check by the Stanford defense in 1939, taking the pass from center and heading over right guard for a gain of roughly five yards; viewers of the video will note that the Robinson, in a three-point stance on the wing at the far right end of the Bruins line, does not deploy in motion prior to the snap of the football on this particular play from scrimmage.

There are a couple of different noteworthy aspects about the specific style of Single Wing football displayed by UCLA in 1939 that are on full parade as the third play shown in the video develops into the 11-yard touchdown run that Bruins fullback BILL OVERLIN (# 5) registered in the first period of play at Stanford Stadium. The first of which would be the “unbalanced” offensive line that UCLA head coach BABE HORRELL’s troops utilized on the play that produced the game’s first points. An unbalanced offensive line is one that does not feature an equitable number of interior linemen, i.e., ineligible pass receivers, to both the left and right of the center, this being the player who snaps the football to formally begin any given play from scrimmage, of course — although rarely seen in today’s modern contemporary game, the use of this tactic was rather commonplace during the pre-World War II era.

The UCLA Bruins offensive line deployment on Overlin’s touchdown run was, from left to right, as follows : left end WOODY STRODE (# 27), left tackle DEL LYMAN (# 15), center MARTIN MATHESON (# 6), left guard JOHN FRAWLEY (# 12), right guard JACK SOMMERS (# 11), right tackle JACK COHEN (# 14) and right end DON MACPHERSON (# 38).

Despite the fact that UCLA’s offensive line is overloaded to the right, the play selected by Bruins quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55) in the huddle called for a handoff to the fullback Overlin heading around left end on a sweep; interestingly enough, the two players who will function as the ‘lead blockers’ on the play, the left guard Frawley and the quarterback Matthews, are both lined up on the overloaded right side but immediately head for the running lane developing around the end of the weaker left side once the football is snapped to the left halfback Washington.

Backfield motion before the snap – a hallmark of the UCLA’s Single Wing football circa 1939 – is utilized but on this particular occasion the right halfback Robinson is used as a decoy to lure Stanford defenders away from the actual ball carrier Overlin. The right end on the Indians defensive line is clearly determined to chase after Robinson regardless of whether or the Bruins’ lightning bolt takes the handoff from Washington or, as is the case, not. And it was the departure of the Stanford end from that zone on the right side of the Indians defensive line which truly enabled the play to unfold as it was designed to — Matthews, instead of having to confront the Stanford right end, was free to get downfield and make a critical block on a different potential tackler.


UCLA’s final two offensive plays shown in the video highlights in question here come after Robinson’s dramatic fourth quarter interception and lengthy return, his second run of more than fifty yards on the day. Indeed, earlier in the opening stanza at Stanford Stadium, the electric Bruins right halfback had already reeled off 52 yards carrying the ball from scrimmage on the reverse play. But there was/is still yet more to come.

UCLA’s first offensive play following the turnover that is shown in the video highlights in question here gives the Bruins left halfback Washington the opportunity to show off his rocket launcher of a passing arm as “Kenny the Kingfish” connects with Robinson over the middle for a 15-yard gain to move the ball inside the Stanford ten.

UCLA’s final offensive play of the video highlights shows Bruins sophomore fullback LEO CANTOR (# 2) scoring the very first touchdown of his accomplished three-year varsity career in Westwood on a two-yard run over left tackle. Once again, the visitors use an unbalanced line although this time there is no ‘pulling’ action from the left guard, JOE RUETTGERS (# 43) in this particular instance. Once again, the tactic of a fake handoff to the backfield player in motion on the reverse route has the desired effect as the Indians right defensive halfback hesitates by keeping track of Robinson just long enough to drift out of a position to be able to effectively halt Cantor.

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’39 UCLA Bruins – Statless In Seattle

On the subject of sports photography on display in contemporary newspapers of the late 1930s, it was certainly not uncommon at all for local editors to enhance the reader’s visual experience by identifying many, if not all, of the different individual players appearing in any given game photo. The above exhibit showing UCLA Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) turning the corner on his way to a 22-yard run during the first quarter of the Pacific Coast Conference contest against the University of Washington Huskies that was played in Seattle on October 7, 1939, would be just one example. For the purposes of historical research, such ‘labeled game photos’ are oftentimes quite convenient for what should be obvious reasons.

The Bruins’ landmark 14-7 victory over the hosting Huskies on the first Saturday of October in 1939 was actually rather noteworthy for a variety of different reasons. For starters, this occasion marked the very first time in history that a visiting UCLA squad had ever defeated a host Washington team in Seattle, this after having endured consecutive shutout losses by the combined score of 36-0 on two previous trips to the upper Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, it was this very same game that effectively served as the NCAA Division I breakout party for one Jackie Robinson, the highly touted incoming transfer from Pasadena Junior College who certainly lived up to all the preseason hype by amassing more than 150 total all-purpose yards on rushes, receptions and returns for the Bruins at Husky Stadium.

Regrettably, as noted in a recent article, the ’39 Washington vs UCLA contest is especially conspicuous because it is the only one of the ten “Game Reports” from that historic Bruins season on file here at this blog that does not have a breakdown of the individual rushing statistics for the Warriors of Westwood. The Los Angeles Times newspaper first began to publish thorough reports detailing the individual rushing statistics for UCLA Bruins’ games during the 1932 NCAA season although there would be some notable exceptions to this policy in the immediate years that followed. The Daily Bruin and Berkeley Daily Gazette, the two other contemporary media publications which can be cited as sources for individual rushing statistics in the Game Reports presented here at this blog, are also of no assistance in this particular matter.

As explained elsewhere in previously published articles here, from various other sources (including the archives at the official UCLA football website) it is known that UCLA left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON racked up 142 rushing yards on 25 carries and that Robinson added 45 yards rushing on six attempts in that PCC game against the Huskies in October of 1939. Washington and Robinson’s combined total of 187  net yards rushing is extremely thought-provoking considering that the UCLA Bruins, as a team, ended up with a net rushing total of ‘only’ 159 yards in that historic 14-7 victory over the Washington Huskies.  Almost needless to say, simple mathematics demand that there must be losses to account for and, indeed, as gleaned from various contemporary newspaper sources and then referenced in the applicable Game Report published here, the Bruins certainly did concede some considerable amounts of real estate on at least two of their possessions during that contest in Seattle.

The early first quarter fumble from UCLA second-string left halfback CHUCK FENENBOCK that was recovered by the Washington Huskies defense on the Bruins 4-yard line actually culminated a backwards march which had commenced on the Bruins 33-yard line! And it is also known from contemporary newspaper reports that UCLA, after moving the football down to the Washington 14-yard line thanks to a Fenenbock to Robinson pass play that covered 43 yards, once again the Bruins went in the wrong direction before surrendering the ball on downs at the Washington 32-yard line. So from just those possessions alone, it can be correctly determined that the visitors accumulated nearly fifty yards worth of losses and that sum right there could adequately explain how Kenny Washington & Jackie Robinson’s combined net rushing total could have possibly exceeded that the entire UCLA team as a whole.

But, as the legendary college football coach and television analyst Lee Corso would be wont to say, “Not so fast, my friend!” It is also well documented that, on a razzle dazzle play which involved multiple backwards lateral passes and gained a total of 52 yards altogether, two UCLA interior linemen, tackle DEL LYMAN and guard JACK COHEN, collectively advanced the football 32 yards after originally getting the pigskin from Robinson. And this particular sum, of course, must be accounted for in the Bruins’ net rushing total, as well.


From the statistical information that is available, it is known that the Washington Huskies punted the football eleven times, threw three forward passes that were intercepted by the defense and took advantage of that early first quarter turnover to score its one and only touchdown. Therefore, after factoring in the two kickoffs which come at the start of each half, it is easy to conclude that the UCLA Bruins had a grand total of fifteen possessions over the course of that entire contest that was played in Seattle. But just two of those possessions actually resulted in touchdowns, the first of which only came in the latter part of the third quarter after Robinson had returned a punt 64 yards to set up a short scoring run by Kenny the Kingfish, so clearly there is plenty of room for still even more negative yardage futility on some of the Bruins’ thirteen other offensive possessions.

Fenenbock, the versatile junior from Pittsburg who had demonstrated potential during the 1938 NCAA season by rushing for 312 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore, is definitely on the hook for at least some of the UCLA negative rushing yardage versus Washington in question here as a result of his disastrous fumble early in the first quarter. It should be noted that Fenenbock’s production on the ground dropped off dramatically during his junior season in 1939, as evidenced by his paltry rushing total of just 69 yards in the Bruins’ nine other games that term against teams not nicknamed the Huskies. Indeed, after averaging 4.22 yards per carry on 74 rushing attempts as a sophomore in 1938, Fenenbock averaged only 2.65 yards on a mere 26 rushing attempts as a junior in 1938.

It is strongly suspected by this blog’s production staff that the Washington Huskies were actually able to tackle Fenenbock while the UCLA second-string left halfback was attempting to pass on at least a few occasions. It should probably also be mentioned that, just one short week later, the Bruins’ would be consensus All-America left halfback, Kenny Washington, lost 28 yards on one single play when he was “sacked” by the upset-minded Stanford Indians. The bottom line is that it is this blog’s belief that Fenenbock’s individual rushing statistics from the Washington vs UCLA contest in 1939 simply are not pretty.



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Kenny The Kingfish & His Beloved Golden Bears

On the subject of the uniforms that the UCLA Bruins football team unveiled to begin its landmark 1939 NCAA season, the above International News Photo shows soon to be All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) modeling the ‘new’ threads in the midst of his 35-yard touchdown run against the intra-state rival University of California Golden Bears during the Pacific Coast Conference clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 4th. Looking on in the background of the picture is fellow UCLA senior WOODY STRODE (# 27), the soon to be All-PCC end whose 22-yard touchdown reception from Washington in the third quarter hammered the final nail in Big Brother’s 20-7 coffin. Interestingly enough, towards the bottom center of the photo lies an unidentified Bruins blocker whose helmet has been separated from his head — according the the rules of the collegiate gridiron game enforced nowadays, any player losing his helmet on the field for any reason whatsoever must sit out for at least one play although application of that very same standard during the late 1930s would have been especially punitive given the existing regulations at that time regarding ‘limited’ substitution.

Tom Sawyer’s unique “Southern Branch” blog on UCLA football has done (and continues to do) all the heavy academic lifting with respect to the relationship between the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles. Suffice to say, the legislative connection between the two schools directly translated into an on-field rivalry that was fierce, if originally one-sided, right from the outset. The Golden Bears refusal to meet the Bruins on the gridiron until 1933 – seven full seasons after all UCLA athletic teams had formally joined its Big Brother as members of the Pacific Coast Conference – certainly did not do much to tamp down the overt intensity.

With this in mind, in it is most thought-provoking to note that, of the three Pacific Coast Conference member institutions located in the State of California, Bruins star left halfback Kenny Washington had the most career rushing yards in NCAA games against the historically strong Golden Bears than the perhaps oftentimes more highly regarded USC Trojans. This despite the fact that Cal posted back to back ten-win seasons and registered an overall record that was very comparable to that of Southern Cal during the exact same period spanning from 1937 through 1939. As it was, for whatever reason, “Kenny the Kingfish” actually piled up more yardage on the ground in three games against the Golden Bears than he did in a combined six games against both the Trojans as well as the Stanford Indians, easily the least successful of the three California-based PCC teams during that specific era in question here :

  • California Golden Bears …….. 53 att … 258 yards … 5.38 avg … 2 tds
  • Stanford Indians ……………….. 56 att … 132 yards … 2.36 avg … 0 tds
  • Southern Cal Trojans …………. 49 att ….. 91 yards … 1.86 avg … 0 tds

As for the UCLA vs California contest that was played on the 4th of November in 1939, this particular Bruins vs Golden Bears tilt turned out to be one of the most productive NCAA games of Kenny Washington’s entire three-year varsity career in Westwood. Aside from 141 yards and one touchdown rushing, “General Washington” also had a key 27-yard pass reception on a fake punt which directly led to another score. On top of that, the UCLA star left halfback also threw two touchdown passes and was a tireless force on the defensive side of the football just for good measure.

Washington’s combined total of 168 yards from scrimmage via runs and pass receptions was his career best on behalf of the UCLA Bruins, a scant four more yards than what had been accumulated (entirely on the ground) against the Montana Grizzlies only two short weeks earlier.

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Jackie Robinson’s ‘Unusual’ UCLA Uniform Design

This series of photographs featuring UCLA Bruins first string right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON showing off his ‘swivel hips’ move in a practice session specifically staged for the benefit of a contemporary local journalist armed with a so-called “Miracle Eye” camera appeared in the Los Angeles Times on October 28, 1939, and is most fascinating for two very specific reasons. To begin with, Robinson appears in a certain distinctive style of uniform that UCLA stopped wearing at the conclusion of the 1938 NCAA campaign, one season before the would be Major League Baseball Hall of Famer actually arrived on the Westwood campus following his much ballyhooed transfer from Pasadena Junior College. And then there is the publishing date, itself, which just so happens to be very same day that Robinson scored his first two career touchdowns for the Bruins in spectacular fashion during a 16-6 victory over the visiting Oregon Ducks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Now, it was not uncommon at all during the late 1930s for college football players to appear attired in game day uniforms as part of staged ‘action’ shots taken in practice sessions, oftentimes for the specific purpose of distribution via the national wire service. The photograph that appeared with this blog’s very recent post on the subject of individual game participation for UCLA’s 1939 season, the one showing Bruins third string right halfback Clark George flashing a stiff arm while doing some high stepping, would be just one such example. As one might have expected given his high profile transfer from Pasadena, there were many such staged action shots featuring Jackie Robinson taken all throughout the fall of 1939, many of which have already been posted here at this blog in conjunction with previously written articles.

The above exhibit, which appeared in the Oakland Tribune on October 11, 1939, would be yet another example of a contemporary press photograph featuring a staged action shot. In this particular photo, Robinson also shows his stiff arm technique while wearing the ‘new’ uniform design that UCLA unveiled at the start of the 1939 NCAA campaign, the one that dispenses with the stripes and instead displays little patches of a Bruin sewn onto each of the two arm sleeves (even if they are basically impossible to see in this particular shot). Indeed, other such staged press photos from that same season reveal Robinson passing the football, punting the pigskin and even taking a handoff from another player – but none of the other numerous other staged action shots from that year showed the skillful Bruins right halfback adorning the game day uniform that UCLA had discarded after the 1938 NCAA season had finished.

As for Robinson’s efforts on the 28th of October in 1939, that was the date that saw the highly touted junior college transfer dash 83 yards from scrimmage on a reverse play to score one touchdown and then catch a long pass (one from Bruins left halfback Kenny Washington that reputedly traveled fifty-two yards in the air) to complete a 66-yard scoring play for another during UCLA’s convincing triumph over Oregon.

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Updating Landmark ’39 Bruins vs Horned Frogs Battle

As far as the aforementioned “updates” to the articles on the 1939 UCLA Bruins gridiron campaign already posted at this blog are concerned, perhaps the most exciting, if only to the production staff here, would have to be in the category of individual statistics with respect to that very successful season; readers of this blog are encouraged to notice that the “Game Report” for the UCLA Bruins’ season-opening evening contest against the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University now contains the individual rushing stats for first-year head coach Babe Horrell’s ball club :

Previously, eight of the “Game Reports” from that 1939 season already published at this blog had all contained the individual rushing statistics that were taken from the “California Daily Bruin”, the official school newspaper of UCLA. The individual rushing statistics for the Texas Christian University game, on the other hand, come from the Los Angeles Times. To date, the only remaining “Game Report” on display at this blog that does not contain the Bruins’ individual rushing stats would be the UCLA vs Washington tilt – although research in ongoing, as always.

Interestingly enough, Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON’s individual rushing statistics from the UCLA vs TCU game as reported by the Los Angeles Times mesh together well with the numbers that had been speculated upon in this previously published article here :

Meanwhile, on the subject of individual statistics of UCLA’s All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON from the 1939 NCAA football campaign, this blog has already addressed the discrepancies that exist with respect to Washington’s season rushing total in this previously published article here :

To summarize, the three-way race between Washington as well as Michigan Wolverines left halfback Tom Harmon and Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Kay Eakin for the 1939 NCAA Total Offense leadership was extremely close and, as a result, the American Football Statistical Bureau launched an immediate audit for the purposes of a ‘recount’ at the end of the regular season. As the proverbial dust settled, the UCLA Bruins star left halfback had his rushing total reduced and his passing total increased in order for the American Football Statistical Bureau to arrive at the official figure of 1,370 total yards that went into the NCAA record books. This is why Kenny Washington’s individual game rushing totals as listed in the individual “Game Reports” on display here at this blog cannot be reconciled with his season rushing total as recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

ABOVE PHOTO : UCLA Bruins quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55) paves the way for would be All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) during the landmark season-opening triumph over the defending national champions, the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, that unfolded before 60,000 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the night of September 29th, 1939.

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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” …..

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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Classic UCLA Bruins Back In The Saddle

Well, yet another season of exciting NCAA gridiron football is well underway once again, and not one moment too soon, either. It has probably also been far too long since any new posts have appeared at this particular site, which focuses on pre-World War II era history of UCLA Bruins football. So the one-man production staff here finds its especially inspirational to see that old friend “Tom Sawyer” is back in the saddle, so to speak, over at his excellent blog which also specializes in the earliest histories of gridiron football played on campus in Westwood :

On the subject of confessions, it must be mentioned that the research has never really stopped around here and that, as a result, there prevailing overall mood of ‘unfinished business’ about. Not just with respect to all the published articles concerning the unbeaten 1939 UCLA Bruins team, but other agenda items including the other campaigns that comprised All-America left halfback Kenny Washington’s entire career at Westwood and a few other topics, as well.

The exhibit presented to begin this blog entry is a cartoon by Karl Hubenthal which appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper on November 1, 1939, three days before the annual intra-state clash between the older, more established University of California at Berkeley and its ‘upstart’ younger brother institution to the south, the University of California at Los Angeles, that year.

Towards the bottom of the cartoon, on a hill overlooking the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is California head coach Leonard “Stub” Allison, who had already earned at least a share of three Pacific Coast Conference titles in his first four years as the boss in Berkeley but, in the fall of 1939, was also well on his way to what would be his worst ever season at the Golden Bears’ helm. “Your first trip away from home (a reference to the fact that the UCLA contest was, indeed, the first away game for Cal that year) – and we run into stormy weather!”  Allison explains to his obviously battered and bruised companion. Adorning the evidently frightened bear’s numerous bandages are the names of the College of Pacific, St. Mary’s, Oregon as well as the University of Southern California … coincidentally enough, the very same four schools that had already beaten the then 2-4 California Golden Bears earlier that season.

The non-conference losses to both Pacific and St. Mary’s were particularly humbling for once mighty Cal, who had posted an impressive 10-0-1 record and been crowned Rose Bowl champions in 1937 before registering another successful mark of 10-1 in 1938.

About the star UCLA left halfback, it is written that, “The key man in the Bruins attack, Washington has rolled up a record 1809 yards in his three years (a clear reference to Kenny’s cumulative ‘total offense’ rushing and passing after his sophomore and junior seasons in 1937 and 1938, respectively) – an ambidextrous passer, one of the best on the coast, he is also the stand out defensive back on the team.”

About the Westwood Warriors’ quicksilver right halfback, Robinson, it is written that, “The Bruins’ most effective weapon, Jackie is a demon in broken field – his speed and elusiveness has befuddled the best safety men in the conference.”

Of course, as it turned out, although he had dazzled the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum crowd one week earlier by rushing 83 yards for one touchdown and catching a 66-yard pass to score another against the Oregon Ducks, the UCLA Bruins simply did not require the services of Jackie Robinson for their memorable date with the California Golden Bears on November 4th in 1939.  This because, in large part, 141 yards and one touchdown rushing plus two more touchdowns passing by the legendary Kenny Washington rendered the absence of his far more famous backfield mate, who had suffered a knee injury in practice and was a late scratch as a result, meaningless in a 20-7 UCLA triumph.  The victory was only the Bruins’ second-ever versus their “Big Brothers to the North” in seven all-times games played to that point as well as the very first time ever that UCLA beat Cal in the city of Los Angeles.

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Validating The All-America Candidacy Of Kenny Washington Via The 1940 College All-Star Game – Training Camp

If comprehensive analysis of relevant individual statistics from the 1939 NCAA season, itself, is not enough to make a complete mockery of KENNY WASHINGTON’s failure to secure Consensus First Team All-America status as a senior then, surely, a review of the performance from the UCLA star left halfback against the defending National Football League champion Green Bay Packers at the memorable 1940 College All-Star Game certainly would validate Washington’s worthiness of such honors.


Passed over for First Team All-America status as a senior in 1939 by thirteen of the fifteen major accredited organizations studied by this blog and ignored entirely by all ten professional clubs at the 1940 National Football League Draft, it was at training camp for the 1940 College All-Star Game in Chicago where UCLA Bruins star left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON would have his invaluable chance to show countless All-America voters (not to mention the prejudiced NFL owners) how foolish their respective choices had been.

After being elected in the formentioned nationwide vote of fans, University of Iowa head coach Dr. Eddie Anderson gathered his enormous squad at Northwestern University on August 11th and immediately set about the difficult task of dividing this group of elite collegians into separate units for the first, second, third teams, etc. Anderson calculated that he might need to use as many as four different teams against the defending NFL champion Green Bay Packers in order to keep his troops fresh throughout the 1940 College All-Star Game. Still, with more than thirty backfield players on the roster, it was assured that at least a baker’s dozen “big name” backfield players would not be seeing any action at all.

From the outset, however, it was obvious that Bruins standout would not be one of those unfortunate players who would be watching the 1940 College All-Star Game from the bench. Indeed, the headline of an article in The Chicago Tribune on August 12th read, “Anderson Sends All-Stars Through Opening Practice – Mates Praise Washington”. Two days later, the same Windy City newspaper that was the sponsor of the annual College All-Star Game at Soldier Field highlighted the 195-pounder’s passing ability by reporting that “sideline observers express amazement at the passing exhibitions turned in by Kenny Washington, the celebrated UCLA halfback”.

Anderson, who had seen Washington play in person during the 1938 NCAA season when his Iowa Hawkeyes lost 27-3 to the UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles, made no secret of the fact that he would be use the four most qualified players in the backfield even if that meant that certain players would not be stationed at their ‘normal’ position. Of course, the primary ball-handler in Anderson’s traditional Single Wing offense would be the left halfback but the Iowa mentor was prepared to sacrifice power in favor of speed at the fullback position. The role of the quarterback, as was customary during the pre-World War II era, remained that of a lead blocker and pass receiver.

College All-Stars head coach Dr. Eddie Anderson from the University of Iowa talks things over with the starting backfield as determined by a nationwide vote involving millions of fans — Purdue right halfback Lou Brock (# 40), Notre Dame fullback Joe Thesing (# 33), Iowa left halfback Nile Kinnick (# 1) and USC quarterback Ambrose Schindler (# 24).

On August 21st, eight days prior to the seventh annual College All-Star Game, The Chicago Tribune reported that Anderson had tentatively named a first and second team for the upcoming clash with the Packers. Making good on his word, Anderson’s first string line-up included no fewer than three left halfbacks : Nile Kinnick of Iowa, Hal van Every of Minnesota and UCLA’s Washington. The nation’s total offense leader in 1939 (Washington) retained his accustomed place at the all-important left halfback position but the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner & Consensus First Team All-America (Kinnick) was shifted to right halfback and the Green Bay Packers’ first round selection at the 1940 NFL Draft who had led the entire NCAA in 1939 with nine pass interceptions (van Every) was moved to fullback; beefy Frank Emmons of Oregon, the 215-pound converted fullback who had been the fifth round pick (# 32 overall) of the Philadelphia Eagles at the 1940 NFL Draft, was penciled in at the quarterback position.

In addition to this quartet, three backfield players were named as reserves for the first team unit. USC Trojans second-string quarterback Ambrose Schindler, the two-time Second Team All-Pacific Coast selection who had been the Most Valuable Player of the 1940 Rose Bowl Game, was being deployed in training camp at both right halfback as well as at fullback while Clemson Tigers star Banks McFadden, the lanky right halfback who had been selected First Team All-America by three major accredited organizations including the Associated Press and taken fifth overall in the first round of the 1940 NFL Draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers, was working exclusively at fullback. Left halfback Bob Kellogg of Tulane, the First Team All-Southeastern Conference choice who had led the Green Wave to a regular season record of 8-0-1 and a Sugar Bowl berth as a senior in 1939, was asked by the College All-Stars coaching staff to learn the assignments of every backfield position save the quarterback slot.

Anderson’s so-called second team line-up consisted of five more backfield players featuring Texas Mines quarterback Ken Heineman, the Second Team Little All-America selection of the Associated Press in 1939 who had been tabbed in the sixth round (# 45 overall) of the 1940 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Rams. The undersized Heineman (5’9″ 168 lbs) impressed during training camp with his passing skills at left halfback while Notre Dame’s speedy left halfback Benny Sheridan was seen as a legitimate threat to run reverses over at right halfback. Also listed with the second unit were the pair of ninth round NFL draft picks : fullback Dom Principe of Fordham, the New York Giants prospect who had been named Third Team All-America by no fewer than four major accredited organizations in 1939, and rugged USC Trojans right halfback Bob Hoffman, the soon-to-be Washington Redskins rookie who had been named Second Team All-America by the New York Sun newspaper and was known to be a fearsome tackler at linebacker.

On August 25th, just four days ahead of the 1940 College All-Star Game to be played under the lights at Soldier Field, The Chicago Tribune dutifully reported Anderson’s depth chart as had been observed at practice less than twenty-four hours earlier :

Left Halfback : Washington, Kinnick, Olie Cordill (Rice), Heineman
Right Halfback : Kellogg, van Every, Brock, Floyd Dean (Iowa)
Quarterback : Emmons, Hoffman
Fullback : McFadden, Schindler, Thesing

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