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Geneva's Footballers Finest Hour

By Jack Goddard with help from Rex Downie

Milestones Vol 35 No. 1

Next year, 2011, will be the 85th anniversary of what was, without any doubt, tiny Geneva College's most glorious season on the gridiron. They didn't go undefeated. As a matter of fact, they lost two games. But, it was their victories that were the most impressive.

It was the year that a big strong kid came out of Missouri to bolster the line. His old head coach, Bo McMillin, probably wrapped it all up in one statement when he stressed, "Cal Hubbard was the greatest football player I ever saw or hope to see - back, end, tackle where-ever he played."

Hubbard went on to become the only man named to all three of the major Halls of Fame.

That team also included two men that I had for teachers in the Beaver Falls Area school systems. One, Paul "Pip" Booth taught junior high history. I credit him for giving me the interest I enjoy today. My eyes would be wide open as he taught like he was there himself.

Getting back to Hubbard. After seven years as a professional footballer, he was one of the original inductees named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. But, the jolly huge guy didn't stop there. He was selected posthumously to the Cooperstown, N.Y. Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 for his umpiring abilities. He had received the nod for the College Football Hall of Fame back in 1962 for his exploits at little Centenary College of Louisiana and, of course, Geneva.

I am of the belief that Cal Hubbard and the Geneva football triumphs did much to bring two boroughs, College Hill and Beaver Falls, together. They were the talk of the town. Parades were held and The News Tribune plastered the front page with "Cinderella" type headlines. College Hill and Beaver Falls would soon merge to become one.

Hubbard, The American National Biography tells us was the "Gentle Giant" born Robert Calvin Hubbard in 1900, near the village of Keytesville, Missouri. His small-town roots would forever play a big part in his life. The Sports Hall of Fame(Vol. 5) proclaims: "He loved football from his early days." That informative book continues: "His local high school didn't have a football team, so Cal traveled to one that did."

That same book points out that, "He worked on three family farms" doing odd jobs - and, growing. He was a well-muscled 200-pounder by the time he was 14 years old. He first became a four-sport letterman at Chillicothe (M.O.) Business College during the 1919-1920 school year."

He was enticed to go to Shreveport in 1922 by "BO" McMillin who knew a good thing when he saw it. By now Hubbard was beefed up and 6-4, and he still had exceptional speed for a 250-pounder as Centenary College foes would soon find out. He played for them for two years 1922-1924.

"Cal," The New Encyclopedia Britannica, writes, was an admirer of coach McMillin. One can feel his sadness, when McMillin took over as head coach at another small college, Geneva, far, far away. Cal thought about it, decided to sit out the 1925 season, and then packed his suitcase for Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

While the big guy was knocking opponents into next week, Cupid was silently, but deftly, doing his job too. He and classmate Ruth Frishkorn of Zelienople, PA (Butler County), wed the year he was at Geneva. They, according to The 1930 Geneva Alumnus, had two children.

The 1926 Geneva roster included, beside Cal Hubbard, only 30-some players.

(I wish to thank the folks at Geneva College's McCartney Library for their help. Temporary reference instruction librarian Bernadette A. McKean was a big help researching and looking up material, some from even the archival section. Thanks should also go to my schoolmate, Betty Booth-Palmer, the daughter of "Pip" Booth.)

Giving nicknames to players was a common practice in the 1920's. That "PC" stuff hadn't come out yet. Let's see, we've already mentioned "Pip" Booth and Cal Hubbard. There was also speedy "Pinky" Pinkerton, "Rip" Cullen, "Swede" Carl (two-yards) Anderson, "Skinny" Hamilton, "Irish" McColly, "Tubby" McDowell, "Happy" Harry Haude, "Toughey" Schlosser, "Os" Maddox, "Nate" Lippe and "Dilly" Jim Campbell.

They joined the likes of Oliver Harris, Clyde Smith, the powerful Howard Emerick, Clarence Wilson, Murray Boggs, Luke Brown, Glenn Srode, Regis Heinler, Al Maglisceau, Mack Flenniken, Conrad Puhey, Francis Rowan, Tim Temarario and team captain Ernie Meyer to form a powerhouse.

I purposely left one name out. To say that I was flabbergasted and speechless to learn the role he played on this team is putting it mildly. Yes, he's the second teacher I had. But by this time he was a whisp of a man who wore a brown suit and felt hat, and who seemed hardly able to walk up the stairs. His name was LeLand "Shack" Schachren.

A sickly-looking person, he had the appearance of a concentration camp survivor. He looked far from being an athlete, let alone the smart quarterback who led this team to their big wins. He scored at least one winning touchdown and booted the field goal that sent a fine Oglethorpe University of Atlanta home wondering how this underdog won the Orange Blossom Classic.

Many historians claim that bowl game, played in Jacksonville, Florida, in January was the initial start of the Orange Bowl. Others argue that it was the early beginning of the Gator Bowl. Whichever it was, it concluded a great season. Ollie Harris moved the pigskin into position for our hero, LeLand "Shack" Schachren, who reportedly could drop-kick a ball on a straight line from 50-yards out, calmly booted it through for the 9-7 triumph.

"Shack" was a real "triple-threat man" according to several. He "was also the smallest man on the team", The 1997 Alumnus gives the chronology of this 1926 season:

The season started at Cornell, which had the reputation of playing a "patsy" so they would win the home opener. Almost didn't happen this time. Geneva was hit for over 200 penalties, thus, Cornell escaped with a hard-earned 6-0 win.

Over 30,000 fans watched "Shack" scoot around the left end for the winning touchdown the next week to stun Harvard University with a 16-6 Geneva win. That's right. Harvard! The NewsTribune presses rolled and a "special edition" was on the streets before it got dark Saturday night. The New York Times used it as a lead story.

Geneva then won four more games in a row. They bopped Duquesne 56-0, Canisius 28-9, Waynesburg 20-6, and Thiel 19-0. So far, they out-scored their foes 139-28. It was no doubt abnormal to have such a successful start. And, Grove City took advantage of that, coming in and humbling the locals 3-0.

It must have made Geneva re-group and take an oath that their last two foes wouldn't score, let alone win. They then blanked Allegheny and Bethany College of West Virginia, 15-0 and 20-0 respectively.

Hubbard, upon graduation, signed with the New York Giants at $150 per game. During a road trip to Green Bay, he felt comfortable in the small-town setting and said he'd retire if not traded to them. The Giants obliged him. He led Green Bay to three straight titles. He did "hang 'em up" now but the Packer's management persuaded him to come back. Again he was going to retire but his Giants "needed help" now.

While playing football, he earned extra money off-season umpiring in the minor leagues. It didn't take long until he reached the majors. He began umpiring American League games in 1936 and did so until he injured his eye in a 1951 hunting accident. Prior to that, he had worked "The World Series" four times: 1938, 1942, 1946 and 1949. He also did three All Star games.