January 19, 1918: In the Offensive Line of Duty
This Today in History post is the second in a series profiling individual soldiers, sailors and Marines that played in the 1918 and 1919 Rose Bowls.
Cloy St. Claire Hobson (kneeling on the far left above) was an unusual player for the 1917 Mare Island Marine team. Unlike his fellow starters, Hobson did not play college football, though he was a gymnast at the University of Nebraska, from which he graduated in 1916 with a teaching degree. At a time when many teachers finished their education upon graduating from high school or a two-year normal school, Hobson had a four-year teaching degree and became a high school principal straight out of school. However, he, enlisted in the Marines shortly after America entered the war and before finishing his first year as a principal.
Hobson started every game of the season for the Mare Island Marines, holding down the right end position. The 1918 Rose Bowl game, described in our previous post, ended with a number of injured players. Players at the time wore helmets made of soft leather without face masks –or did not wear helmets at all– so facial injuries were common, as were the other collision-related injuries that remain common today. One report tells us that Lawson Sanderson, a Mare Island Marines guard, lost two front teeth in the game, while the game review in The Oregonian tells of a greater number of injuries:
“…when players of both teams went to the showers after today’s game a number of them were bleeding freely.
Examination disclosed that (Camp Lewis’) Turner had three broken ribs, Christensen one rib broken, Lynch a dislocated shoulder, and MacRae a badly strained back. Hobson, of the Marines, is in the hospital with ligaments in one of his legs torn.”
Hobson’s injury, sustained on the second play from scrimmage, resulted in his remaining in Pasadena for several weeks after the rest of the players returned to their camps. One hundred years ago today, he returned to Mare Island where he was hospitalized through the end of March. Surgery was seldom used at the time to treat ligament damage; instead, doctors generally set the injury in a cast for one or more months and the injured player remained in a hospital convalescent ward until ready to return to normal life.
Hobson completed his convalescence by June and in July 1918 transferred to the Navy’s aviation ground school at MIT along with six of his Mare Island teammates. All seven men completed ground school in October and six, including Hobson, transferred to the Marine Flying Field in Miami for flight training. Hobson remained in flight training until January 1919, but did not receive his wings. Instead, the records show he left the service due to a medical issue sustained “in the line of duty.” Other records show he was a patient at the naval hospital in Key West, but it is unclear whether he aggravated his Rose Bowl injury or if another mishap occurred during flight training.
Following his release from the Marines, Hobson took another unusual path in life. He returned to Nebraska, later moving to Illinois to work as a teacher, principal, and school superintendent, all while taking summer classes at the University of Chicago. By the mid-1930s, Hobson earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in education from UChicago and later became a professor of education and department head at the University of Kansas. Throughout his career, Hobson contributed to education research journals and he provided other researchers access to his students for some groundbreaking social science research.*
Although a number of players from the 1918 and 1919 Rose Bowl teams became coaches and professors after the war, Hobson is one of only two known to have earned a Ph.D. following their time in the service.
* The 1933 study cited below shows L. L. Thurstone as the second author. If you don’t recognize Thurstone’s name, you are not a social science measurement geek. One of Thurstone's contributions was setting the measurement of IQ on the ‘bell-shaped curve’ with the average score centered at 100 points. He is best known for developing the Thurstone Scale, which continues to be used in social science research for the measurement and analysis of attitudes. Feel free to drop that tidbit at your next happy hour.
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