By Dana Stubbs – Special to the Navarro County Gazette
When October comes around, I am normally planning my Friday night activities around the Corsicana Tiger schedule. For many years I have followed the Cats. I loved the high school games. My honey Norman and I spent many hours in the bleachers with our regular gang. All of us were old, but we all followed “Our Tigers.” Now, most of our gang is gone, so we spend Friday nights in front of the radio…. Unless it is a playoff game, of course.
I loved sitting in the stands hearing the old timer’s stories of games of long ago. However, there were not many that could remember the first state championship win for the Corsicana Tigers. In August of 1932, there were five teams in District 11 ready to fight for the highest honor.
For Corsicana, there were many stars from 1930 and 1931 who were gone: Bobby Wilson, Red Goodman, Neal Crawford, Maco Stewart, George Pryor, and Claude Stubbs had all gone on to the bigger game called life, but Coach Johnny Pierce and his staff had more weight in 1932 with guys like John Kessinger, Roland Pollard, Don Humphries, Bitsy Price, and Louis Territo.
Waco High was considered the leading contender, and Corsicana had beaten them three of their four past games. Waco, however, had a giant in 1932 by the name of Paul Tyson. Temple had every thought to beat Corsicana in 1932. Corsicana had never lost to them, and Coach Forehand was ready for that record to be broken. Cleburne always gave Corsicana trouble. Coach Parker never did like to lose, and hunted a win over Corsicana every time they met. Hillsboro’s Coach Taylor had a fine team in 1931, but like Corsicana, had lost his tough players to graduation.
Over the summer of 1932, Tiger Field, located near Lee school, was enlarged and turned from an east and west direction to north and south. At the time, it was considered the best field in the state. To the delight and excitement for everyone, lights were installed, which made it possible for night games. When word got out that the lights were going to be tested on September 23, a bunch of Tiger fans filled the stands to watch the very first illumination of the field.
The Tigers opened their season on September 30 when they trekked to Fair Park Stadium for a match with Highland Park Highlanders. Robert Blackshear performed with some great blocking to lead Charles Simpson, Bill Bowlin, and Woodrow Green on dashes around the ends. Corsicana made all the points as they kept the Highlanders at bay, and won 20-0.
The Tyler Lions were no match for Corsicana on October 7. That game was an easy win by the Tigers 45-0.
Their first district game was with Hillsboro on October 14. Prior to kickoff, the new lighted Tiger Field was formally dedicated. Then Corsicana racked up 110 yards in penalties to Hillsboro’s 85, but the Tigers won their first ever night game at home: 67-0.
On October 21, again in Corsicana, the Tigers hosted John Reagan (Houston). At first, it was a hard brawl. Reagan was the star of south Texas, and the toughest challengers the Tigers hosted in years. The first half ended with a Corsicana lead over Reagan 7-6. However, it was a Tiger dominated second half. They turned on the heat, and ended the battle with a 39-13 win.
The next game was with Waco High, October 28. Many thought the winner of this game would take home the state championship. “The Battle of the Bengals,” as the Waco Times called it, was between “two traditional rivals… two powerful rivals.” The chant all over Corsicana was “Beat Waco.” It was back and forth for four quarters with neither one able to cross the line. Seven thousand Corsicana fans were left flabbergasted as their Tigers were held by the Waco Tigers to a 0-0 tie.
On November 4, it was back to business as usual for the Corsicana Cats as they marched over Marshal at Corsicana. The Tigers scored in every quarter as they corralled the Marshal Mavericks, and won 52-0.
Temple fought hard and almost succeeded but Corsicana took advantage of some breaks on November 11. Tigers won over the Wildcats, 14-12. Next came Mexia. This game was all Tigers as they beat the Blackcats, 37-0 on November 17. The game was scheduled for Friday, November 18, but because of the predicted cold weather, the coaches moved the game date up.
The Corsicana Tigers’ traditional Thanksgiving Day game was played November 24. In District 11, Corsicana, Cleburne, and Waco were still undefeated. On the second half kick-off against Cleburne, the Tigers took the ball 70 yards down the field to earn a 6-0 decision over a swarm of Yellow Jackets in Corsicana. That win gave the famed Bengals their third in a row district championship.
With a flip of a coin by Coach Kellam, Brackenridge and a call from Coach Pierce, the Corsicana Tigers hosted Brackenridge Eagles, San Antonio, on December 3. Admission was 75 cents for adults and 35 cents for students. Corsicana ended Brackenridge’s dream of a championship when they put them down 13-0. Corsicana then turned their sights on Greenville for the quarterfinals.
The Tigers beat Coach Henry Frnka and his Greenville Lions. When it was all over, the Bengals held the mark as a lone penetration late in the game gave them the decision after another scoreless fight on December 9.
At the Rice Institute Field, Houston, Corsicana met John Reagan (Houston) for the second time in 1932. At game time the temperature reached a wet, slippery 38 degrees. Most of the time the relatively small crowd of fans could not tell who was who for all the mud. The Tigers won 19-7, which put them in the finals with the Fort Worth Masonic Home boys.
The Tigers had only allowed two teams to score against them the whole season: The tough Temple Wildcats and the rough Reagan Bulldogs.
Coach Pierce called the flip of the coin to get the game in Corsicana. Beauford Jester, president of the athletic council, worked to accommodate seating for more than 11,000 people. Several trucks of borrowed bleachers arrived at the field early Friday morning before the 2 p.m. Monday, December 26 match. With 3,900 additional seats, Tiger Field seating was practically doubled. They reached 19 feet in height at the back. and were installed at the southern end of the field.
As fans traveled to Corsicana, they anticipated a hard played game with high scores. People poured into the city by trains and the Interurban and by 10 a.m., the streets of Corsicana were crowded with cars of football enthusiasts. At 1 p.m., the west stands were packed and the remaining seats filled rapidly. With the exception of two reserved sections, the east stands were filled to capacity. However, the reserved areas overflowed when the train from Fort Worth rolled in. By 1:15 p.m., the only seats left were in the end zone.
Jester had miscalculated the seating capacity for the crowd by 4,000. Several hundred fans watched the game outside the official seating area as they observed from cars, trucks, in trees, and atop telephone poles. It was fifteen minutes before kickoff when several fans jumped the wire fence at the southwest corner of the field and within a few minutes there were several thousand people lined up at the chalk lines that marked the playing area.
At 2 p.m., Monday, December 26, 1932, McCall of the Masonic Home took the ball in hand and dropkicked it south toward the Tiger team. Bill Bowlin took the ball to his 27 yard line before he was downed. Then it was as hard a gridiron fight as the 15,000 spectators thought it would be. Both defenses were in great shape, and kept the offenses stymied.
Later on, Bill Bowlin made a sweeping run for a long gain. Then the Tigers sent up two incomplete passes and were penalized 5 yards and the Masonic Home was given the ball. This caused a great reaction from the crowds. All of a sudden, the players noticed there was no room to run their plays. The standing crowd had moved nearer and nearer the play action until the field was full of spectators and the game had to be halted to clear the playing surface.
It took about a 45-minute delay, but the crowd was moved back off the field without much incident. Once the game resumed, it was just as hard a play as it was before the break. The Masons did not have the reserves Corsicana did, and the postponement gave them some much needed rest.
One of the greatest thrills of the contest happened late in the third quarter. Bill Bowlin dropped back and shot a pass to Dill Cole from the Corsicana 47 yard line. Cole grabbed the ball and ran down the field. It looked like Cole was headed for a touchdown, and the stands went wild as he crossed the line. However, an official ruled Cole had stepped out of bounds on the 10 yard line, and the ball was brought back. The Masons stiffened their defense and the Bengals were held tight.
The fourth quarter was much of the same with neither offense breaking through the opponent’s defense. The clock was ticking down the last minutes of the game, and the score was still 0-0. It was at this time, the Masons sent a long pass in the air. The fans jumped to their feet, but settled down as the pass fell incomplete. That caused a huge sigh of relief from the Tiger fans and they celebrated with great enthusiasm, which started the borrowed bleachers to sway.
When another Masons pass went into the air the crowd ignored the sway because just as the ball sailed over the Tiger’s Bobby Finley he grabbed the pass and the fans celebrated again. That placed the ball on the Masons’ 15 yard line, and made the fifth penetration for the Tigers.
Time was running out when Finley advanced the ball to the five yard line, and the swaying bleachers fell to the ground taking with them almost four thousand people. Green hit the line for no gain, then Finley drove the line for three yards which placed the ball on the two yard line as time ran out and the game ended, 0-0. At that time, Corsicana claimed the game on penetrations.
Oh yes, there were a lot of bruised and scratched fans when the stands fell, but only one person was reported taken to the hospital. His shoulder was relocated and he was sent home a happy Tiger fan.