Origin of hidden Ball Play

It is with some trepidation that I return the blog from its vacation. Readers have been very supportive, so supportive in fact that more people read the blog while it was on vacation that had read it for several weeks. Also, one day had a record high number of readers. (Actually, one day in August 2008 was a bit higher but that was due to a glitch of some sort.) Even though more people are reading the blog when I don’t write anything than when I do, I will persist in continuing to put some thoughts in digital ink.

Jeff Miller, who is working on a biography of Pop Warner, wrote me with questions regarding the origin of the famous hidden-ball play. He found that others claim that John Heisman first used that play: “The Orlando Sentinel ran an article in which it stated that John Heisman used it first in a game against Vanderbilt in 1895.  Leather Helmet Illustrated claims Heisman first used it in a game against Pop Warner’s University of Georgia team in 1895.” Recalling reading Warner’s account of his using the trick play, I thought I should investigate the matter a bit.

The first thing I did, even before pulling Warner’s autobiography off the shelf, was to do a quick search on Heisman and the hidden ball play. Not surprisingly, I found something different than what was in Leather Helmet Illustrated. The Encyclopedia of Alabama entry for Heisman includes the following:

“The Vanderbilt game in 1895 was memorable for the introduction of a hidden-ball play into the game. Trailing Vanderbilt, 9-0, in the second-half, Heisman instructed Auburn quarterback Reynolds Tichenor to stuff the ball under his shirt. The wedge of players surrounding him then scattered to all parts of the field, distracting the Vanderbilt players. Tichenor, who pretended to be tying his shoe, got up to run down the field unopposed for a touchdown. The play would later be outlawed.”

To be continued…

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