The 1946 Season:
"Wedey's Got His Helmet Off!"


The 1946 season was a letdown after the magic carpet ride of 1945. While good from a win-loss perspective (6-3), somehow some of the magic had faded.

As for the title of this article, I was captivated by a taunt that opposing teams launched at Herman Wedemeyer. Gaels football expert Jerry Rose explains that this chant started in the Cal game early in the season, at which Jerry was present. Wedey came out of the game for a rest early in the fourth quarter and, as usual, took his helmet off. It had become obvious at that point that the heavily favored Gaels were going to be defeated. The huge Cal rooting section began to heckle Wedemeyer with the chant, "Wedey's got his hat off, Wedey's got his hat off," implying that Herman was tired and beaten. This chanting went on until Wedemeyer returned to the game. The hazing was continued at least through the Nevada game.

Many thanks 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 (3 MB). You can also visit the photo gallery, for more photos of the Gaels from the 1946 season.

Gaels To Be "Atomic"

By Jack Dailey, Berkeley Daily Gazette, September 6, 1946

The latest thing in atomic gridiron warfare on the West Coast will be unveiled this fall by tiny St. Mary's Galloping Gaels and will be directed by All-American halfback Herman Wedemeyer.

The 1946 edition of the Gaels, who were ranked No. 7 nationally last season, again will be under the guiding hand of slight and alert Coach James J. Phelan and in addition to new, explosive scoring plays will feature the famous "Phelan Phlanker Phormation."

Wedemeyer, the hoola-hipped Hawaiian halfback, who etched his mark on fans and players alike last years as a sophomore, will be back with his all-around ability and ably abetted by eight veterans from the 1945 "fuzz-chin" crew.

Gone, however, are such standouts from last year's aggregation as Charles (Spike) Cordeiro, Wes Busch, Joe Schultz, Harvey Adair, and Al Beasley.

The nucleus for this fall's line will be center Vic Cuccia, guard Carl de Salvo and ends Ed Ryan and Henry Van Geison….

Will Connolly Says…
Bulletin Flash -- Singing Saints Enlarge Choral Society and Their List of Songs

It's too bad a process hasn't been invented yet by which sound pictures can be transferred to the printed page, for that's what was needed to do justice to camera day at St. Mary's College.

Yesterday afternoon before the cameramen arrived, the Gaels were practicing a few numbers in the dressing room where close harmony sounds very good, what with the reverberating walls. The Singing Saints weren't doing it consciously. They didn't know anybody was listening.

We surmise Coach Jimmy Phelan, never a man to be caught napping, has enlarged his attack for this year but what is more important -- and the bulletin news of the day -- is that the Moraga Choral Society has enlarged its membership and repertory.

Quarterback Denis O'Connor was more eager to talk on the subject of barbershop chords than the mundane matter of football. Out on the field during the picture taking, O'Connor would walk away from a pigskin group to discourse on the art of Orpheus.

"Oh sure, we'll have a better team than we had last season, even," O'Connor kissed off questioners. "But let me tell you about our quartet. I'm afraid it may have to be augmented, like they say of big symphony orchestras. Too many good voices have returned to limit the singing society to four men."

"We lost a fine tenor in Spike Cordeiro (to the Army) but gained half a dozen first string voices. Wedemeyer and Van Gieson are holdovers, along with myself, and the new guys are Morales, McPartland, Callan, and Nielson. They can sing like birds. We'll have to include them in."

Jack Verutti, calculated to be regular right half, is the "find" of the choral society, O'Connor beams. The QB attributes Verutti's improvement to his stay in service with College of the Pacific, which has a celebrated music department.

"Old timers on the campus tell me he could never warble like that when he was here before," O'Connor says.

In addition to the sober standby selections of "Alma Mater" and "Bells of St. Mary's" which the society featured last season in these parts and at the Sugar Bowl, the boys are working on an arrangement of juke box numbers. They wish to avoid weighting down their repertoire with too many ponderous classics.

"By the time the opening with Washington rolls around (September 28) we'll have mastered 'Underneath the Bamboo Tree,'" O'Connor promises. "Already we've got down pat 'They Say It's Wonderful,' from listening to Tommy Dorsey's recording, and 'Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief' the way Betty Hutton does it over."

Gaels, Heading for Test by Huskies, Still Have It in Them to Be Great

By Bill Leiser

St. Mary's College Galloping Gaels leave by airplane this morning for Seattle where, contrary to normal procedure, the big test of the season comes first.

We watched the teen age kids of Moraga, aided by Wedemeyer and O'Connor, in their first two games of 1945 and offered as an opinion that if they remained together and wanted it that way they'd be a "great team" by the end of 1946.

They did not all remain together. Busch, Beasley, Adair, Cordeiro and others have been called into service. Enough to allow us to renege on our conditioned prediction. We still stand by it.

In our mind we are as much convinced today St. Mary's will become a "great team" as we were convinced a year ago that Herman Wedemeyer would make himself an All-American in the mind of every competent observer who say him play -- which he did.

The word "great" is tossed from goal post to goal post in sports pages, and has lost much of its significance, but I think you know what we mean. We see "great" potentials in the Jim Phelan-coached St. Mary's team of today, but perhaps we're looking through the wrong glasses. What we think we see will be proved right or wrong, largely, on the grid field at Seattle Saturday afternoon.

Gaels 12-Pint Choice in Tilt

By Alan Ward

EN ROUTE TO SEATTLE, Sept. 26 -- Coach Jimmy Phelan to St. Mary's goes into all football games determined to win, but never has he faced a contest with more fervent hopes and ambitions than Saturday's clash between his Gaels and the Huskies of Washington.

Being essentially a human sort of fellow, Phelan has never quite forgiven those folk who tossed him out of the head football coach's job at Washington a few years ago, and from remarks dropped over the passing years it was evident he hoped the time would come when he could lead a team, a good team, against Washington.

That time has come and it can be predicted without fear that Phelan intends making the most of his opportunity. …

A victory for the Gaels over the Huskies -- and betting in Oakland yesterday had the St. Mary's boys a 12-point favorite over Pest Welch's kids -- would do more than flood the turbulent soul of Jimmy Phelan with complacency.

A win over Washington would give the Gaels a head-start on a season which might lead them to another bowl game - perhaps the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. And the Gaels would dearly love such a jaunt, the second in as many seasons.

Phelan Scoffs at Heavy Gael Odds

By Darrell Dreyer

SEATTLE, Sept. 27 -- Coach Jimmy Phelan woke up this morning to find his St. Mary's Gaels rate a 2 1/2 - 1 favorite in their clash with the Washington Huskies tomorrow.

Phelan's reaction to this can best be summed up in one word: "Nuts."

The betting fraternity in this city base their odds on the following facts:

  1. The Huskies haven't a kicker who can come within 10-yards of Herman Wedmeyer.
  2. The Huskies haven't a passer who can compare with Wedemeyer.
  3. The Huskies lack an outstanding quarterback like Denis O'Connor.
  4. The Huskies have only one experienced tackle.

O'Connor Beats Huskies in Last Period

By Bill Leiser

SEATTLE, Sept. 28 -- Paced by Gonzales Morales who rose to heights matching the matchless Herman Wedemeyer, St. Mary's Gaels came from behind, from far behind, the hard way Saturday to win, 24-20, what observers scribe as the finest football battle ever staged in the University of Washington stadium.

They yielded touchdowns to superior Husky power and found themselves trailing, 7 to 6, early in the second period, and 14 to 6 at the half. Following a long, hard won march, they closed the gap starting the third quarter, then gave up another sudden touchdown to find themselves entering the final period almost hopelessly outclassed, 20 to 12.

Further, Washington speed had been breaking loose all about the field. Husky airtight pass defense had throttled the Wedemeyer overhead game, and Washington had been putting enough first downs end to end to reach from here to Moraga.

Washington had "won the game" so definitely that Sports Editor Royal Brougham came by to ask our explanation of the astonishing reversal of form.

That was the horrible situation, mates, when O'Connor shot a sudden quick pass to Henry Van Gieson just after the fourth period started. In just 3 1/2 minutes and with three more St. Mary's plays the galloping Gaels knocked off 102 yards downfield and two brilliant touchdowns while 43,000 fans almost blew the stadium over into Lake Washington.

Your final score, 24 to 20, tells no part of the story for never have a coach and gang of scrapping young men who insist they can't be licked had to work and fight so hard so long to pull a tough one out of the fire. …

Irish Thrush In On Winning Markers

… The crowd went home talking about the Gaels' superlative Squirmin' Herman Wedemeyer, but 'twas that Irish thrush, O'Connor, who really beat the Huskies. Everything that went before was dwarfed by Denis' display as he pulled victory out of the fire in the final period.

On the Inside

By Chick Garrett, Seattle Star

St. Mary's 24, Washington 20 -- Pardon us, please! For three quarters of Saturday's contest we had the first words of today's sports column all written. … Then, just about the time we were pondering whether to set "WE TOLD YOU SO' in 60 or 72 point red-letter type, all our astute calculations tumbled about our ears. …

Wedemeyer gave Husky fans a sample of some of the finest open-field running ever seen in the U.W. stadium Saturday, but St. Mary's fans and players headed home for Moraga Sunday secretly feeling that Washington pulled a "sly one" when it didn't cut the stadium grass shortly before game time.

"Wedey would have shown even greater than he did but for that soft turf footing and the many bumps and holes in the field," said a rabid ex-St. Mary's player Saturday night. "Heck, he would have scored two more touchdowns with firm and smooth footing." …

Personally, we think Wedey would still look good romping in a field of oats. …

St. Mary's in Last Quarter Grid Rally

By Alan Ward

SEATTLE, Sept. 28 -- In a football game which for sheer drama and hysteria never had been equaled in the Washington University Stadium, and perhaps never excelled in any other college football field of the nation, the Galloping Gaels of St. Mary's this afternoon defeated the Washington Huskies by a score of 24 to 20.

A capacity crowd of 43,000 persons was left limp and emotionally drained by the time the contest had run its course, and not until the final few seconds of that contest was the outcome made evident.

The kids from St. Mary's last year and the year previously turned in performances which represented grid hysteria at its best but today they made most of their former melodramatic performances seem pallid by comparison. …

Gaels Favored Over Bears

By John Studley, Berkeley Daily Gazette, October 11, 1946

It's a good thing that the public doesn't pay much heed to pre-game statements by rival coaches.

If such were the case there might be but 82 fans viewing tomorrow's gridiron classic between the California Bears and the St. Mary's Gaels instead of the throng of 82,000 which is expected to jam Memorial Stadium…

Thursday it was Gael Coach Jimmy Phelan who complained sadly about the progress of his team. "If we don't improve, we'll lose to California," he said, or words to that effect.

Last night it was Bears Coach Frank Wickhorst's turn to use the famous "crying towel." … "We looked lousy today. If the odds were 4 to 1 in favor of St. Mary's before, they ought to be 10 to 1 in their favor now!"

***

[Berkeley's Denny] O'Connor was his usual genial self [during workouts], and if he's worried about Cal, it didn't show on his fine Irish puss.

O'Connor yesterday was named Gael captain for the big Berkeley putsch. Denny, always relaxed, can be depended upon for another sterling all-around performance that will probably go unnoticed in the presence of all-American Herman Wedemeyer.

Interceptions Ruin Moraga

By Bill Leiser

MEMORIAL STADIUM, Berkeley, Oct. 12 -- Eighty thousand dazed gridiron customers are pouring forth from this huge bowl at this minute talking to themselves and rubbing their eyes, wondering if what they saw can really be true.

They came here to watch Herman Wedemeyer and his St. Mary's mates run wild over a twice beaten California varsity. It failed to happen. Instead it appeared as if one of the late Andy Smith teams had been resurrected from 25 years ago as the Golden Bears, reverting to the ancient game of playing vicious defense and waiting for the breaks, took advantage of three of them, scored three touchdowns, and held on against a final St. Mary's rally to win, 20 to 13.

That's right, California 20, St. Mary's 13.

And California thoroughly and richly deserved the tremendous victory achieved by Coach Frank Wickhorst's brave gang which entered the game so despised it was placed on the short end of odds of 5 to 1. …

Wedey's pass receivers were covered like tents by the Golden Bear secondary, and mighty seldom was there daylight through which to sail the ball into a pair of Gael arms. In fact, the little All-America from Honolulu completed but one toss until late in the fourth quarter.

Do not for a minute think that he wasn't a great football player today. The 80,000 here this afternoon will tell you no man ever gave them more action in four quarters of play….

The Gaels can be and have been a team capable of two touchdowns in three minutes, but they never get them when the other fellow has the ball. …

When you hold Wedemeyer down to one important touchdown run and one touchdown pass, you're good.

When you make Wedemeyer throw touchdown passes to your own men, you're very, very good.

Coach Confident After His Team Beats Nevada, 13-12

By Alan Ward

Coach Jimmy Phelan is looking toward Friday night's game between his Galloping Gaels of St. Mary's and the Bruins of UCLA with a quiet confidence he didn't possess prior to yesterday's clash with the Nevada Wolfpack at Kezar Stadium. …

"My boys turned in a great game after none too impressive a start. Had they played that way against California a few weeks ago they would have beaten the Bears.

"Only in this game with an inspired Nevada team did the Gaels seem to 'find' themselves. Their play was smooth, effective, and coordinated." …

The 50,000 fans who watched the Kezar classic agreed thoroughly with Phelan that Wedemeyer was the fair-haired boy of the afternoon.

Yes, even the substantial Nevada rooting section which all afternoon taunted Wedey with silly chanting such as "Wedey took his helmet off," had to confess at the finish Herman meant the difference between defeat and victory so far as the Wolves were concerned.

Wedemeyer scored one of the two St. Mary's touchdowns, kicked the point that gave Phelan's boys the 13-12 win and raced 66 yards to another score only to have the play nullified and the ball given to Nevada for asserted clipping while the pigskin was in the air.

That nullification of Wedey's long and sensational run through heavy traffic was but one decision of several which brought roaring protests from St. Mary's partisans and frowns of puzzlement to the faces of sports folk covering the game.

Wedemeyer obviously was the victim of excessive roughing although only once was a penalty called against Nevada for the working over Herman received. …

Gaels Win, 13-12, But Lose Some Reputation

By Nelson Cullenward

Their once great reputation more than slightly "tarnished," Coach Jimmy Phelan's St. Mary's Gaels got back to tough work today in preparation for their game with UCLA in Los Angeles Friday night.

Nevada, a supposedly 8 to 1 underdog, didn't do the Gael "rep" any good yesterday as the nearly 50,000 fans who watched the Moragans eke out a 13 to 12 win can readily attest.

The large and tough Nevadans, sparked by two great Negro players, Horace Gillom and Bill Bass, had the Gaels on their collective heels most of the afternoon, and instead of resting, Herman Wedemeyer, Denis O'Connor and some of the rest played a full 60 minutes of football.

In fact, Wedemeyer had one of his few "bad" days and finally redeemed himself by scoring the tieing touchdown from 4 yards out as the final period started and then kicking the important winning point from placement. …

Big Bad Bruins Can't Take It!

By Vincent X. Flaherty, Special to the San Francisco Examiner

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 4 -- From my particular altitude in Los Angeles Coliseum last Friday night, it seemed the Bruins of UCLA produced moments of sheer football brilliance against the international smorgasbord of St. Mary's spread across the gridiron weeds.

You knew immediately St. Mary's didn't belong on the same field with the Bruins the instant the game began, or even before that when the two teams ran out onto the field. Judging from the physical dimensions, it seemed more like matured men tackling a crew of beardless boys.

So it seemed a little disturbing when I noticed, or sensed, the UCLA's letting up and backtracking and easing the pressure when St. Mary's kids started flying into them. Some Bruins seemed as though they were not completely in love with football. And from what I saw, I am wondering what'll happen when they face a team that'll really pour it to 'em.

The Bruins blasted St. Mary's 46 to 20, which wasn't indicative of the variance in class between the teams.

However, I wasn't too certain of what I thought I had detected until after the game, when I visited the dressing rooms. Quite a few of the Bruins were stirred up and saying uncomplimentary things about the St. Mary's players.

This came about because there was a little punching in the game. As I got it, one of the St. Mary's boys, after being jostled and fired by the hot competitive emotion that prevails in any game, singled out a Bruin and show a three-word parlay at the fellow having to do with his antecedents. In retaliation, the Bruin threw a punch -- and the incident carried on sporadically from there.

If one were to accept the talk and behavior in the Bruin dressing room, one might have been carried away with the notion the Gaels were carrying knives and brass knuckles. Why, some of the Bruins were horrified at the very idea of roughstuff. …

In contradistinction to the Bruin's dressing quarters, you would have thought, upon entering the Gaels' dressing room, that St. Mary's had won the game. I heard naught but praise for the Bruins. …

And so, it is somewhat disturbing to see a team as potentially great as the Bruins blowing their collective tops. They have everything a national champion needs and simply aren't up to a championship level. …

St. Mary's Runs Over Rams 33-2

POLO GROUNDS, N.Y., Oct 29 -- With the incomparable Herman Wedemeyer passing to three touchdowns, St. Mary's rolled over a hapless Fordham eleven, 33-2 before 30,000 fans.

New York football fans wanted to see Wedemeyer in action and the Gael ace didn't let them down. His running was off but his passing was deadly. Needless to say, New Yorkers were well satisfied with his performance.

Two photos from the Fordham game. Wedemeyer is No. 11 in the lower left of the first photo. I am not sure whether he is the ball carrier in the center of the second photo. Denis O'Connor is No. 2 at the left of the second photo.

Wedey and Co. Take Over

By Nelson Cullenward

The late Knute Rockne often employed a strategic bit of football when he would start his second stringers, or "shock troops," while the regulars watched the proceedings from the bench.

Coach Jimmy Phelan, a Rockne disciple, chose to employ this strategy yesterday before 60,000 fans as his St. Mary's eleven met Santa Clara in the "Little Big Game" at Kezar Stadium, and it almost backfired into his Irish phizz.

Before All-American Herman Wedemeyer and his first string backfield mates, Willie Modrein, Paul Crowe, and Denis O'Connor got their hands on the ball early in the second period, the alert Broncos had rung up two touchdowns and Wedemeyer and Company had to work hard to pull the fat out of the fire.

However, the Hawaiian flash, putting on one of his crowd-thrilling individual shows, turned the trick and gave the Gaels their first victory over Santa Clara in the last five starts. …

St. Mary's to Meet Georgia Tech Jan. 1

By Prescott Sullivan

KEZAR STADIUM, Dec. 1 -- A 98-yard touchdown run by Paul Crowe, 185 pound right halfback from Chino, Calif., performed a double service for St. Mary's College here today.

First, it enabled St. Mary's to defeat the University of San Francisco, 6 to 0. Second, it springboarded the Galloping Gaels into an Oil Bowl game with Georgia Tech in Houston, Tex., January 1.

For more on the Oil Bowl, click here.

   
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