The 1947 Season:
Wedey Leaves The Field
The 1947 season was a crushing disappointment for fans of Herman Wedemeyer
and the St. Mary's Gaels. The team went into the season with high expectations.
It was supposed to be the greatest year yet. Everyone expected that the
team would go to a bowl game again and that Wedemeyer might even win the
Heisman Trophy. The new attitude was captured by a new look, with spiffy
uniforms and ultra-modern plastic helmets.
It was not to be. The wheels came off early in the season. Wedey and
other stars like Spike Cordeiro, Denis O'Connor, and Ed Ryan were plagued
by injuries and personal problems. Still mysterious coaching problems
resulted in a number of first string players leaving the team in the middle
of the season. The Gaels' competitors had rebounded from the war years
and fielded teams that outmatched the Gaels in size and depth.
There were some exciting and memorable moments, to be sure. The team
traveled to Hawaii for a homecoming for Wedey that generated near hysteria
in the Islands, and amusing hijinks surrounded the theft of a bell that
served as the game trophy in the long-running series with Santa Clara.
The team finished the season on a grace note that showed what might have
been all along. Still, the bitter taste of the 1947 season was to taint
the memory of the glory days of 1945, when teenage boys sang and played
their way into the hearts of a war-weary country.
I cannot possibly express my thanks enough to Brian O'Connor, son
of late St. Mary's quarterback Denis O'Connor, for sharing this material,
which lends so much depth and breadth to our understanding of those days.
These articles can be downloaded in their entirety in a .zip file by clicking
here (6.6 MB). You can also visit the photo
gallery, for more photos of the Gaels from the 1947 season.
With Wedey Playing, Gaels a Good Choice
By Dick Friendlich
"I expect Herman Wedemeyer to be better than ever in 1947."
So wrote James Phelan, coach of St. Mary's flamboyant Gaels, in a compact
little message concerning the Moraga prospects which was mailed to sports
editors about a month ago. Phelan did not say just where he expected Wedemeyer
to scintillate -- that is, for what term -- but since he included him
on his tentative starting lineup for next fall, it may be assumed that
the volatile Hawaiian will perform for the Red and Blue in his final year.
It is no secret that Wedemeyer has a whopping -- and we do mean whopping
-- offer from the L.A. Dons of the All-America Conference, but the latest
word (not necessarily the last word) is that he'll be back.
Hats Off to Cameramen -- They See Plenty Grid
By Will Connolly
we feel free to pass on the consensus of cameramen, who, as noted above,
have a discerning f.9 panchromatic eye -- whatever that means.
A straw ballot taken among Messrs. Bernard Peterson, Bill Young, Joe
Rosenthal, and Ken McLaughlin -- fotogs whom we trailed in the swing of
neighboring pigskin citadels -- rate Santa Clara first and St. Mary's
second, with the remainder of the field strung out.
[Webmaster's note: Two years earlier, Rosenthal had taken what is
still probably the most famous news photograph of all time -- the United
States Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.]
It isn't that the lensmen are pro-Independents and anti-Conference. They
have no politics. They evaluate a school's strength on the photogenic
qualities of the personnel and the props provided, which is as sound a
test as any in this silly season.
Before going into detail, we should interpolate that our fotogs found
all camps pleasant to work in this September, more so than at any time
since before the war. But Santa Clara won the No. 1 spot because Ryan
Field provided young wives of players, complete with babies. St. Mary's
was voted second because Quarterback Denis O'Connor had a month-old white
puppy with a black spot over one eye, and Publicist Bill Bettencourt had
a runtish brown dog available for homey shots.
From this, we take it, the Broncos and Gaels are going to kick the stuffings
out of regional competition, in the estimation of fotogs
Despite the ravages of graduation, St. Mary's will continue to have the
best a capella choir in Western football, we are assured by Quarterback
O'Connor. The Gaels may not outplay some rivals, but they will surely
outsing all comers.
St. Mary's Bound for 3rd Bowl Game
By Nelson Cullenward
Equipped with the nation's greatest all-around backfield man, the nation's
most offensive-minded football coach and a stronger reserve strength in
the line, St. Mary's Gaels embark on a tough schedule Sunday at Oakland
when they meet Portland University in the first of a series of 10 games
which may take them into a bowl game for the third straight year.
Always a colorful team since the advent of Coach Jimmy Phelan and Herman
Wedemeyer, a top duo in any football league, the erstwhile Galloping Gaels
look to be ready to give grid filberts all over the nation another taste
of "tomorrow's football, today."
However, the Gaels can no longer be called Galloping. Now they have the
wings of a Saint. During their strenuous 10 game schedule the Moragans
will take to the air four times, to train and bus.
A look into the teams' prospects reveals the fact that Wedey is ready
and fit, which always means that the Gaels will be tough to beat.
In Herman Wedemeyer they have the most versatile back in America. Wedey
can do anything -- run, pass, kick, receive passes, block and tackle.
In fact, he even plays a mean hand of cribbage or poker. No matter what
is asked of the "Hawaiian Hurricane," he always delivers.
Gales Hope to Outsmart Foes
By Jack Rosenbaum
The light, speedy St. Mary's porkhide contingent expects to win games
this fall on muscle -- mental muscle.
Coach Jimmy Phelan, headmaster of the Gaels, says his boys can't match
opponents beef-for-beef. Their only hope is to outspeed and outsmart them.
Mr. Phelan is eminently satisfied with his backfield, despite the lack
"How has Wedemeyer looked so far?" you ask.
Mr. Phelan snaps: "Did you ever see him look bad?"
All in all, you gather there is no gloom in the lush Moraga Valley. Yet
there is no shouting with joy either.
Talk Was All About Spike
By Will Connolly
A student named Herman Wedemeyer was there, all right, but most of the
talk at St. Mary's picture day yesterday was about Spike Cordeiro, doll-sized
right halfback returned from a stretch in the Army.
Even Wedey was talking about Spike. Wedey never talks about himself,
"Boy, am I glad to have him back with us!" he said. "Things are running
sharper with Spike in there. Downfield blocking is better. Plays get off
faster. The whole team picks up when he's out on the flank. He'll help
us a lot to go places this year. You know, I think he's running harder
Cordeiro has delusions of grandeur, Phelan smiles. The Hawaii-born lad
thinks he's a mighty 160 pounder, or so he said when he reported last
"I put him on the scales this morning after a workout and he weighed
exactly 149," Phelan told cameramen. "Of course, after he drinks a quart
of milk and eats a full meal he bloats up to 152 or 153. All of that."
Gaels Lose O'Connor
Denis O'Connor, the Gaels' first-string quarterback, will miss the trip
to Hawaii. O'Connor went into Providence Hospital in Oakland yesterday
with a serious case of boils, thereby putting a big crimp into St. Mary's
hopes for an impressive victory over University of Hawaii at Honolulu
Since this will be the homecoming of Herman Wedemeyer, Hawaiian star,
Coach James Phelan doesn't intend to disappoint the 26,000 fans who will
see the game.
"They want to see Herman romp," said Phelan yesterday, "and we don't
think he will disappoint them. He did have a very heavy chest cold last
week but he appears to be improved."
Gaels in Hawaii Today; Cordeiro Out
By Art Rosenbaum
HAWAII BOUND, Sept. 24 -- The St. Mary's football fly-by-nighters departed
from Mills Field tonight for Honolulu, prepared to present a healthy Herman
Wedemeyer to his island constituents, but unable to provide a No. 1 Spike
Cordeiro, also from Hawaii, has suffered a recurrence of an old knee
injury and will not be able to play against the University of Hawaii Saturday
night. Spike, who teamed with Wedey to give the Gaels their 1945 one-two
punch, made the trip and will receive the plaudits of the populace. Packard
Harrington, another Hawaii product, will replace Cordeiro.
Quarterback Denis O'Connor, originally thought to be out because of boils,
was released from the hospital with the doctor's blessing and was scheduled
In the case of Herman the Healthy, it's a good thing this flight will
leave the team in the islands but 72 hours, because the hula-hipped one
can't possibly accept the hundreds of invitations for parties in his behalf.
Coach James Phelan's desk in Moraga was stacked high with "we'd love to
have Herman visit us" mail. Everyone wants to entertain the greatest figure
in Hawaii football history. To indicate Herman's galvanic attraction,
Honolulu Stadium's 26,000 seats were sold out within two days after going
on sale at $6 top.
If Wedey were permitted to accept one-tenth of the bids, he wouldn't
be home before the end of the season.
However, Wedey will stay with the squad. There will be two small, official
gatherings, one in which St. Mary's will be host, another given by Hawaii
citizens. Herman will not go home to his folks, but will be bedded down
with the team at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
O'Connor Licked the Bug, Made the Trip
Our most acute worry in midweek concerned Denis O'Connor, St. Mary's
quarterback. He was in the infirmary with a 103 temperature and boils,
and the lugubrious word was that he couldn't make the flight to Honolulu.
That would have been a shame. All the Gael squad, including those exotic
characters who originated in Hawaii, looked forward to the overseas hop
as the trip of the year, if not of their young lives. St. Mary's is not
known as a stay-at-home team, yet the Honolulu passage was it.
How would you feel, Mister, if your rank as No. 1 man in your position
qualified you to fly to Hawaii, and then all of a sudden you came down
with boils or the flu or mumps, and couldn't go? Drat the luck. You'd
kick the slats out of your hospital bed.
QB O'Connor recovered in time to go along. Good!
Gaels Wing Way to Honolulu; Phelan Worries Over
By Bob Brachman
SOMEWHERE OVER THE BLUE PACIFIC WITH THE GAELS, Sept. 24 -- Denny O'Connor
is aboard one of the huge DC4 Clippers winging the St. Mary's football
team to Honolulu.
But James Michael Phelan is resting uneasily, nevertheless.
The Gaels' first string quarterback was given a last minute okeh for
Saturday night's game with Hawaii by the team physician when his temperature
reading showed almost normal after a siege of boils.
Phelan perked up after receiving the word but just about the time Denny
was getting the green light advices came from Honolulu that the Gaels
will run headlong into a flu epidemic.
The flu "scare" undoubtedly will cut down much of the celebration planned
for the Gaels. Phelan says he'll shun public gatherings as much as possible
although he expects having quite a time keeping the islanders going berserk
over the first game appearance of their idols -- Herm Wedemeyer and Spike
Hawaii Wild to See Wedey Go
By Jack Rosenbaum
SIPPING PINEAPPLE JUICE AT THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN, Sept. 26 -- Somebody pinch
me, please. Tell me this is a business trip, friend, and I'm here to cover
a football game for my devoted public across the sea in San Francisco.
But first, can some one spare a crowbar and pry open at least one eye?
Last night, while the poor Gaels were bedded in, the visiting rooters
-- all eleven of them -- and the press were given a fair sample of island
hospitality. Honolulu residents blather about their Hawaii luau, and with
reason. Only trouble is they distribute it in large quantities: probably
because we say aloha nui loa two short days from now.
As to this football game here tomorrow night between Herman Wedemeyer
and the University of Hawaii: Technically, there are 34 other gallivanting
Gaels on this junket who will be in football harness, but to the 26,000
customers who have been clutching to their pasteboards for weeks, it's
a one-man show.
Surprisingly, St. Mary's isn't rated an overwhelming favorite. The rugged
battle the Gaels had against Portland U. was recreated here and has given
University of Hawaii rooters considerable hope. Besides, they point out,
little Spike Cordeiro won't be able to play and local residents rate him
second only to Squirmin' Herman.
Packard Harrington, one of three Hawaii-born players on the Gael team,
has been announced as starting quarterback in place of the ailing Denny
O'Connor, a political move that is greeted locally with enthusiasm. As
one Royal Hawaiian philosopher said today, "Honolulu can't lose--even
if St. Mary's wins!"
The Gaels vs. The Bears
By Art Rosenbaum
. Saturday night's affair in Hawaii was an "all's well that ends well"
Planing homeward, Coach Phelan observed, "We were not a very good ball
club. We can't make mistakes like this against California. I would say
we must improve 100 percent to win.
Our tackling was terrible. You can't
learn tackling on a Pan American plane or the beach at Waikiki."
That Hunch on Gael Victory Grows Shaky
By Bill Leiser
California vs. St. Mary's? A month ago, it was our hunch that California
would beat both Santa Clara and Navy, and get beaten by St. Mary's.
St. Mary's condition, or lack of same, interferes with the hunch. The
Galloping Gaels are once again a team of too few football players.
Badgers Next Foe for Unbeaten Cal
By Paul Lazarus
If the Bears hadn't arrived one of the Coast's major football powers
again, it would be hard to convince the public otherwise following their
third consecutive triumph, a smashing 45-6 walloping of St. Mary's.
Herman Wedemeyer was utterly impotent for the Gaels for he had the misfortune
to play behind the wrong line.
Scott's Sports Shop
By Jim Scott
Yes, everyone is climbing on the bandwagon today -- even S.F.'s best
known sports editor who on the morning of the St. Mary's game predicted
victory for the Gaels.
He was betrayed by his long-borne opinion that Herman Wedemeyer is a
better performer than either Mighty Mouse or Superman. Cal's two crack
lines found Wedey to be just another ball player. In 10 carries, the Hawaiian
gained exactly nothing, his 21 yards being canceled by a similar aggregate
Huskies Maul Ineffective Gael Line for Lopsided
By Dick Friendlich
UNIVERSITY STADIUM, Seattle, Oct. 11 -- Using his molars only and keeping
the rest of his fangs well concealed, Washington's Husky ground St. Mary's
Gaels into small pieces before 39,000 today.
Gaels Will Be Fed to The Lions
By Art Rosenbaum
LARKBOUND SOUTHWARD WITH ST. MARY'S, Oct. 23 -- Disturbed by two kinds
of wolves, alumni and Nevada, Coach James Phelan seemed satisfied enough
to allow his 32 St. Mary's football players to be fed to the Lions tomorrow
night in Los Angeles.
These Lions are the domesticated type, like the toothless old fellow
who "arfs" at the beginning of Hollywood motion pictures. They are the
Lions of Loyola University, described by Coach Bill Sargent as nothing
more than a good junior college team.
The battle is scheduled tomorrow night in the Los Angeles Coliseum and
only the presence of Herman the Unsinkable Wedemeyer guarantees a representative
audience in the 101,700 seat saucer. In this case, "representative" means
about 10,000. For a while, when Wedemeyer was lying under the X-ray's
gleam, with a heaving breast, at Providence Hospital, Oakland, the Los
Angeles game attendance might have been estimated on toes and fingers.
Candy butchers were planning to sell popcorn in the new noiseless bags,
so as not to disturb the pigeons in the peristyle. This would also have
given the janitors a night off to keep the Coliseum clean for Saturday's
UCLA-Southern Methodist biggie.
However, Herman arose in all his glory and the present word is that he
will function as well as he has ever done this season. Whether the remainder
of the 32-man squad will function as confusedly as it did against Nevada
last Sunday is something which Coach Phelan would like to know.
Gaels Underdogs in Detroit
By Roger Williams
DETROIT, Mich., Oct. 30 -- No more thought of here than they are at home,
St. Mary's Galloping Gaels arrived in this auto capital of the world today
to learn the University of Detroit football team is a two-touchdown favorite
to whip the former Whiz Kids in their intersectional clash Saturday afternoon.
The Gaels are still riding high after their smashing 57-7 win over Loyola
St. Mary's Has Bell
There were strange sounds in the belfry Thursday at several institutions
At St. Mary's College, officials produced THE bell which they contend
was the actual gift from Joseph Moore Jr. for the St. Mary's-Santa Clara
Little Big Game trophy.
At USF, a thefted bell was under lock and key, the students on the rooftop
refusing to listen to proof that their prize was not the actual Little
Big Game ringer.
At Moraga, the bell was taken from its safe for picture purposes. Evidence
was produced in the form of a photograph when the offer of the bell was
originally made. That photograph showed a yoke-type stand, a slight nick
on the side of the bell, and a bell rope. The one taken by USF students
from the Moore shipyard has a rectangular stand and a bell handle.
Bill Bettencourt, St. Mary's public relations director, said he had been
assured that a Southern Pacific ferryboat captain of the old "Santa Clara,"
from which the bell was taken, would be able to identify the St. Mary's
bell as the "original." This unnamed captain will be feted at a trophy
The bell will be brought to Kezar November 16 for the Little Big Game
in an armored car. It will be transferred to the winning school in that
Annual Little Big Game Tomorrow Regarded Tossup
By John Studley
Shaken by losses to the squad, but still boasting of Squirmin' Herman
Wedemeyer, the St. Mary's Gaels return to local competition tomorrow afternoon
when they tangle with the Santa Clara Broncos in the "Little Big Game"
classic at 2 o'clock in Kezar Stadium.
Both coaches have indicated that they will go all out to win this contest,
which indicates a wide open game. Both teams are famous for their razzle
dazzle offensive play and this game should bring out the best in their
repertoire. Carrying the brunt of the offensive for St. Mary's will be
Wedemeyer, as usual, there are few better passers and runners in the country.
Adding to the color and spirit of the "Little Big Game" this year is
the Bell Trophy, which will be presented to the winning school and which
is expected to become as much a symbol of the "Little Big Game" as the
Stanford Axe is of the Big Game.
Gaels Are Ready for Santa Clara
By Paul Palanzo
Regardless of the odds the game will bring together two teams that
are practically even in both ability and spirit. Anything can happen when
these two traditional rivals grapple on a sports battlefield.
Gaels, Dons End College Grid Year
By Will Connolly
the final appearance of the Whiz Kids of wartime fame and the last opportunity
of Wedemeyer to strut his stuff
Dons Win Wild and Woolly
One from St. Mary's, 32-20
By Bill Anderson
At the half the press box inhabitants were stunned
Playin' a helluva game
Outplaying the Dons a country mile
Fighting like mad, and blocking for Wedemeyer too
Making Wedey look
like an All-American again, they are."
That's how we were talking. And it was true. The undermanned Gale forward
wall was outcharging the USF team every minute of the way. They held them
back long enough for Wedey, behind the great blocking of little Denny
O'Connor, to pass and run as of old.
5 Touchdowns Roar Across in Final Half
by Will Connolly
KEZAR STADIUM, Nov. 30 -- By dint of an inspired third quarter rally,
the Dons of University of San Francisco recovered from a 14 to 0 deficit
at half time and went on to surmount the sassy Gaels of St. Mary's 32
to 20, in a whing-ding of a ball game here today.
Dons, 14-0 Behind at
Half-Time, Explode for 25 Points in Third Quarter
By Alan Ward
Thirty seconds remained in one of the wildest, the most dramatic football
games of the season --
For the Gaels the contest, played yesterday at Kezar Stadium, was lost.
The score read: University of San Francisco 32, St. Mary's 20. There was
less than an outside chance the Gaels would pick up one more touchdown,
and one wouldn't be enough.
Then a mighty cheer broke from the 35,000 fans in the San Francisco stadium.
San Francisco supporters as well as Moraga devotees loudly and sincerely
paid tribute to a player who had turned in an outstanding performance,
and who was bowing out of college football in the same grandiose manner
he had played it.
Down the middle of the field streaked Herman Wedemeyer, former All-American
at St. Mary's, the well known "11" on his jersey barely discernible through
the mud which coated his working clothes.
Coach Jimmy Phelan, who for 30 early minutes of play enjoyed bright visions
of victory over an opponent 5 to 1 to win, displayed his unquestioned
histrionic ability when he sent Wedemeyer, the star of the afternoon even
in defeat, off the field at just the proper moment.
Phelan waited until the last half minute. He delayed his action until
he was certain the Gaels couldn't get so much as an even break in the
scoring -- that the 32-20 tally was final. Then he sent in a substitute
for Wedemeyer, and the boy from Hawaii made his exit to one of the most
boisterous salutes he has ever received, or can hope to receive.
USF Explodes for 26 Points in Hectic 3rd
By Prescott Sullivan
KEZAR STADIUM, Nov. 30 -- It was the kid's last game of college football.
And Herman Wedemeyer made it one of the best. Three times he threw touchdown
passes. Twice he kicked the extra point. Throughout the afternoon he was
the All-American he had been in 1945.
Even the USF side of the house recognized it. As Wedey left the field,
near the end of the fracas, his college gridiron days forever behind him,
USF's rooting section sang out a sincere cheer for him and the crowd of
35,000 joined in.
It was fitting farewell to the hula-hipped kid from Honolulu, who has
contributed so much to this city's enjoyment of college football. When
Herman returns, it will be as a professional. And mark you, Herman will
be a good one.