"The Only Yardstick for Success is Being a Champion" - Bill Walsh

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1952 - A Crazy Year

Victorious over the Bears, 40-16.

The year was 1952. The San Francisco 49ers were now starting their third season in the NFL after a very successful run in the All-American Football Conference under Head Coach Lawrence T. "Buck" Shaw, also known as the "Silver Fox". Pictured above descending the stairs (and skipping over the stewardesses) are from top to bottom:

Frankie Albert - the 49ers first QB and a brilliant All-Pro performer;

Joe "the Jet" Perry - All-Pro fullback and the first in NFL history to record back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. A stronger Frank Gore.

Hardy Brown - All-Pro linebacker widely known as the hardest hitter and dirtiest player in NFL history. Brown knocked 21 players unconscious in a single 12 game season as documented by the NFL with his vicious shoulder tackle.  The only 49er fans who believe Ronnie Lott was the hardest hitter never saw Brown play.  He is the only player in NFL  history to be banned from practicing with his own team for the players' safety!

Gordy Soltau - All-Pro wide receiver and a great field goal and extra point kicker.

Leo "the Lion" Nomellini - All-Pro defensive tackle who also played on offense if needed. One of all-time 49er greats.

The 49ers were coming home from blasting the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field, 40-16 to start out this season 4-0. Just the week before, this team had defeated the favored Detroit Lions, also on the road in a history-making game. 49er rookie defensive end Charlie Powell, was signed and asked by the Niners to start in his first NFL game at the age of nineteen (19), which is still the youngest player ever to start an NFL game. Charlie responded by sacking All-Pro QB Bobby Layne ten (10) times for -61 yards. This would be the all-time NFL record but they didn't keep track of sacks in 1952.

The Niners would win their next game to go to 5-0, but it all came tumbling down in Kezar on Nov. 2, 1952. Noted Chicago Bear hit-man, Ed Sprinkle, tackled Hugh McElhenny on the sidelines and intentionally and obviously twisted his ankle, forcing Mac out for the game. The Niners lost their lead and the game. A near-riot ensued after the tackle but the damage was done.  They never recovered and failed to make the playoffs.

The 1952 was a team of colorful characters. Powell was an amazing athlete that had signed a Major League baseball contract immediately after high school. The Harlem Globetrotters had tried to sign him while he was still in high school. He ran the 100 yard dash in 9.6 at 220 lbs which at the time was only 0.3 seconds off the world record. He also high jumped and set a shot put record that lasted over 50 years. His passion, however, was boxing and it was the reason he never achieved his deserved greatness in other sports. He stopped every morning before high school to spar with World Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore and eventually knocked out #2 challenger, Nino Valdez, which earned him a title shot against Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) for the World Heavyweight Championship. He lost, but so did everyone else.

Leo "The Lion" Nomellini was a world class wrestler who later competed against Lou Thesz for the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship.

Hardy Brown was banned from practice by Buck Shaw to protect the other players, the only player in history to have that distinction.

It was a crazy year.

Gary Mialocq
The 49er Observer

Copyright @ 2009
All Rights Reserved


  1. I had never heard of Hardy Brown before. All I can say is WOW1

  2. awesome blog!


    check out my latest entry : the ALMOST All-Time 49ers


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