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Today's Tidbit... Frank Hinkey Gets His Bell Rung
Frank Hinkey played end for Yale from 1891 to 1894, earning All-American status all four years. Slight of build, Hinkey was a ferocious competitor and hitter, becoming the game's premier shutdown end nearly one century before shutdown corners came into vogue.
His play in the 1893 Princeton-Yale game epitomizes his toughness, the dangers of football in the era, and their handling of injured players, which was nothing short of brutal.
To set the stage for the 1893 game, Yale went 13-1 in 1890, losing only to Harvard, before going 13-0 in 1891 and 1892. Meanwhile, Princeton went 11-1-1, 12-1, and 12-2 from 1890 to 1892, losing to Yale all three years. Like Yale, Princeton was 10-0 coming into the season-ending game set for Thanksgiving Day 1893.
New York City was abuzz as fans paraded to the Polo Grounds, with up to 50,000 fans preparing to witness the game, including over 15,000 on Coogan's Bluff.
Even before the game started, the high-class Yale and Princeton fans were as excited as anyone had seen at a football game.
Not surprisingly, both teams were hyped up, ready to sacrifice their bodies for their school's glory, which is exactly what happened to Frank Hinkey.
Hinkey's first injury came early in the game. Yale's Frank Butterworth punted, with James Blake of Princeton returning the ball. The following describes the play and its aftermath.
Besides Hinkey apparently being concussed and returning to the game, the other interesting point is the pausing of the game during Hinkey's recuperation. Under the practice and rules of the time, injured players had five minutes to recover, sometimes leaving the field to be repaired. Since the rules did not allow substituted players to return to the game, those not ready to play within five minutes often stayed on the field, stood to the side, and did not participate until ready.
A bit later, Princeton was moving the ball and nearing the goal line for the game's only score when the referee called time again due to Hinkey's bleeding head.
Hinkey remained in the game, playing aggressively, including running the ball on end around plays and covering additional punts. In a repeat of Hinkey's first injury, Butterworth punted later in the game when Hinkey again tackled Blake on the return, leading to Hinkey's third injury and recovery period, including time spent in the clubhouse.
The news reports do not indicate that Hinkey went down a fourth time that game, but his being dazed from the tackle on the first punt likely would have led to him being taken out of the game today and assessed under the concussion protocol. Instead, football was early in its mass and momentum days in 1893 and was far from ready to deal with players who'd had their bell rung. That situation continued for another century before leagues established concussion protocols to systematically deal with potential concussion events.
As for the 1893 Thanksgiving Day game, Princeton claimed a 6-0 victory, earning the national championship banner. However, Frank Hinkey gained his revenge when he finished his career in 1894 by captaining the Bulldogs and leading them to a 16-0 record, including a 24-0 takedown of Princeton.
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