Today's Tidbit... Hanging Out With The Dummies
Some people enjoy hanging out with dummies, and others do not, but we should all remember that the boys at Harvard were the first football team to hang out with dummies. Amos Alonzo Stagg drilled his squad with a dummy when he was Yale's captain in 1892, but it appears that Harvard's captain, Arthur Cumnock, suspended a dummy in the air for the first time that season. Nowadays, tackling dummies are terrestrial objects, grounded, but early tackling dummies hung out, enjoying their air time.
Captains and coaches of the 1890s tried to simulate tackling by rigging up homemade frameworks from which they hung homemade dummies.
The homemade versions stuck around for a while among those with shallow pockets. Still, Spalding's commercialized the dummy business by 1899, offering cylindrical and human-shaped dummies and frameworks to hang them on.
In particular, they marketed a system developed by 1896 Princeton captain Garrett Cochrane that used pulleys to move the dummy back and forth to simulate a shifty runner.
Among others, Fielding Yost and Michigan hung out the dummy shortly after the century turned.
However, no one loved the tackling machines as much as Harvard. Percy Haughton, who tackled a few at Harvard while playing there in 1898, used them extensively while coaching the Crimson from 1908 to 1916. Here's a player attacking a dummy in 1912, followed by a 1915 newspaper photo showing Harvard had four such machines.
The heavy standup and human-form dummies remained in production into the mid-1950s, as shown by the 1956-1957 Rawlings catalog listing.
Hanging and human-form dummies remain on the market today, though the feather-light dummies seem more popular. Still, if football is played one hundred years from now, there is a good chance a few dummies will be seen hanging out with the boys.
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Haughton was usually a step ahead.