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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Death of a hero bring back bold memories of early days

It was July 1950, and I was having this dream:

The entire staff (eight people) of The News-Herald was sitting around the newsroom on West Spaulding Street in Downtown Willoughby, thinking things over. The paper came out five days a week in those days.

A light bulb went off in my head. I had this great idea.

“Sometimes,” I said, “there are stories in the paper with a bunch of names. It would be neat if those names were in bold face type (like this) so the names would jump off the page and readers could pick them out more easily.”

“That sounds great,” said the editor, Eddie Broderick. “Why don’t you go downstairs to the composing room and tell one of the Linotype operators we’d like to do that.”

Turns out Eddie was pulling my leg. I mentioned my idea to one of the Linotype guys and he looked at me as if I were crazy.

“Are you kidding, kid?” he said. “That’s almost impossible on a Linotype. Broderick is joshing you.”
That was then, of course, and this is now. On a computer in 2013 you can put anything you want in bold face. But in 1950, there were no computers in the newsroom. Heck, there were only a couple of TV programs in color in those days.

I was reminded of my dream the other day when I read a name in a sports section that jumped out at me. Chuck Cherundolo had died.

I think he was 96. How many of you remember Chuck? I remember him as vividly as I remember anyone who played for the Cleveland Rams back in 1937, ‘38 and ‘39.

The billionaire who bought the Browns last year probably never heard of him. He probably never heard of a lot of guys who played for the Rams before they left town for L.A. in 1946, to be replaced by the Browns, kicking off an unforgettable era in which the Browns dominated the All American Football Conference for four years before moving to the National Football League in 1950.

The Rams were the best team in football in 1945, beating the Washington Redskins in the championship game when Sammy Baugh threw a pass from his own end zone that bounced off the goal post, giving the Rams a two-point safety for their margin of victory.

It was bitterly cold that day. The goal posts were on the goal line then before they were moved back 10 yards. But I digress.

I liked players with great names, like Chuck Cherundolo. He had many teammates on the Rams with great names.

How about Phil Ragazzo, or Vic Spadaccini, or Corby Davis? Are those All-American names, or what?

I had many favorites on those Rams teams. I pored over the sports pages every day. Their names were as familiar to me as George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton.

The News-Herald came out only on Tuesday and Friday in those halcyon days of the Rams. We got it, plus the Cleveland News. Neighbors saved the sports sections of the Cleveland Press and Plain Dealer for me. I virtually memorized all of them.

I had a lot of Rams favorites besides Cherundolo, who was an outstanding center and linebacker.
There was Jules Alfonse, Johnny Drake, and Riley (Rattlesnake) Matheson.

And Gaylon Smith, Chet Adams, Ollie Cordill and Dante Mangani. And don’t forget Fred Gehrke, Jim Gillette and Rudy Mucha.

Jim Benton was a terrific pass-receiver. An Arkansas graduate, I think he led the league in passing yard receptions a couple of times, and I recall one game in which he gathered in passes for a record 303 yards.

I will never forget when the Rams acquired Indian Jack Jacobs, and Parker Hall. They were star quality players.

At least three of the Rams – Chet Adams, Tom Collela and Don Greenwood, stayed in Cleveland when the Rams left in 1946 and played for the Browns. There may have been more. I don’t recall.
Too bad Cherundolo didn’t stick around. Paul Brown loved centers, because if it weren’t for them, a play would never start.

At the beginning, Brown had three great centers – Mike (Moe) Scarry, Mel Maceau (pronounced Macko) and Frank (Gunner) Gatski, a Hall of Famer and a ferocious man who used to go bear hunting with a bow and arrow in the woods of West Virginia. Or maybe it was with his bare hands.

At least, that’s the way I remember that stuff. But, as Dennis Miller says, I could be wrong.


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