Today's Tidbit... Plainfield Teachers College's Dream Season
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Back in 1941, the standard process for reporting football scores was to call or telegram the sports desk at area newspapers. Jerry Croyden, the sports information director at Plainfield Teachers College in New Jersey, dutifully called newspapers from Philadelphia to New York City to report the school's 24-0 victory over Chesterton. He did the same the following week when the Plainfield Phantoms upset Scott 12-0. The same occurred as the victories mounted in the coming weeks when Plainfield shut out three more opponents, winning the sixth game when they gave up a lone field goal in a win over Winona.
Despite playing stiff defense, Plainfield's offense got most of the attention under coach "Hurry Up" Hoblitzel, whose innovative W formation had both ends facing the backfield. (Regular readers will recall a recent article about Syracuse doing something similar in running the Reverse Center offense in 1941.)
Plainfield's unique alignment enhanced the legend of John Chung, who scored 69 of Plainfield's 117 points in those first six games, leading to a feature article in a New York Post. However, eighty-one years ago tomorrow, on Saturday, November 14, 1941, Plainfield Teachers' season ended despite having a game with Appalachian Tech scheduled for that afternoon and another contest set for the following week. Plainfield's championship season was not to be because it never was.
The Plainfield Teachers College Phantoms were a hoax dreamed up by Morris Newburger of the Wall Street brokerage firm, Newburger, Loeb & Co. It seems that Newburger wondered how obscure college football scores got into the newspapers one Saturday evening, so he called the New York Times to report Plainfield's score and found it in print the next day. He continued the gag the next week before growing bolder, having Plainfield Teachers' letterhead printed for a press release or two, one of which included him as the starting right tackle.
The embellishments grew, and when Plainfield announced it had accepted an invitation to the Blackboard Bowl, reporters doing background work determined the school and bowl did not exist. They ultimately tracked the scores and story to Newburger, who quickly gave up the ghost.
Sometimes a story is too good to be true, and this story about a lie is true. You can believe me. It was in all the papers.
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