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 Reporters Overlook
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 of weight.

"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, anyway.

"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 than ever." …

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 week.

"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 Saturday. …

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.

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 to play.

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 Flu Threat
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 Cordeiro. …

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" deal. …

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 loss.

Huskies Maul Ineffective Gael Line for Lopsided Win, 26-6
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 last Friday.

St. Mary's Has Bell

There were strange sounds in the belfry Thursday at several institutions of learning.

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 dinner.

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 car.

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 … "They finally woke up… 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.

   
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