The Wedemeyer Story

by Brick Brickner
Undated, property of the St. Mary's College of California Archives

  I am a former St. Mary's College student and was a member of the football squad under Slip Madigan and Red Strader from January 1932 to December 1935. I also served as an assistant to Ed McSweeney in the Athletic Office. During my three years at St. Mary's, Slip used me as a player scout in the Northwest since my home was in Spokane.

In 1937 Pop Warner selected Herc Fletcher, Mike Steponovich, and Bill Carpenter to join his College All Star Team for a trip to Honolulu to play the Honolulu Town Team. They liked Honolulu and the Islands so well that they did not return with the team, but found jobs and stayed.

Herc Fletcher was hired by St. Louis High School as a coach and after receiving a letter from Herc, stating that he could arrange a football scholarship at the University of Hawaii for me, I hopped on the next boat from San Francisco and thus became a "Hawaiian Beach Boy" and played one season for the University of Hawaii. One of the games was with the University of Washington, coached by Jimmy Phelan [later coach of St. Mary's].

After the football season was over, I worked at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, but still having the football bug, I decided to form a College All Star Team from the "States" to play in the Hawaii Football League. I found a wealthy movie star from Hollywood to sponsor the team and we named it the Polar Bears after the ice cream company that she owned.

During a trip to the mainland to secure some new players for my 1941 team, which included Jackie Robinson of UCLA, Red Strader [of St. Mary's] and his assistant coach Marty Kordick invited me to stop off in San Francisco and to have lunch with them at the college. Strader and Kordick were interested in obtaining players from the high schools in Honolulu, and they asked me to assist them.

At this meeting, I mentioned that there was an exceptional halfback by the name of Wedemeyer at St. Louis High School, but he was only in his sophomore year, and that I would keep an eye on him for St. Mary's.

By his senior year Wedemeyer developed into the top high school back in all Hawaii.

Ohio State discovered him through a local Hawaiian swimming star, Bill Smith of Honolulu, who had become an Olympic champion swimmer while at Ohio State. Smith was putting pressure on Wedemeyer to accept a football scholarship at Ohio State, and I had almost given up procuring Wedey for St. Mary's, when out of a clear blue sky Wedey came to see me in April of his senior year and he brought along his close high school pal, Red Mauk, and here was great news for St. Mary's.

He told me that Ohio State refused to accept Red Mauk along with Wedey, and that he would not go to any college that would not include the both of them.

At this time Strader had left St. Mary's and Phelan was hired to replace him. Kordick was retained by Phelan. Kordick wrote to me that St. Mary's would take both boys and to send their transcripts, which we did.

Summer vacation had now started and the boys wanted to leave on the first boat, but a letter or wire to their parents came back from the St. Mary's Registrar, stating that their grades were not acceptable, and "not to come."

I immediately wired Phelan the bad news and he replied that he would look into it immediately, and of course he did. So everything was all set for them, except their boat transportation.

In this connection I got the bright idea that with their popularity in Honolulu, we could raise enough money for their boat fare by me taking the boys through downtown Honolulu's financial and business district and passing the hat. [That way,] we could get enough donations for their fare, which [we] did.

And thus the rest of the story is summed up by Coach Phelan's wire of June 4, 1943 to me:

"Have boys – call me Ashberry 9566 or Moraga 411"

Meaning that the boys had arrived safely in San Francisco and that Phelan and especially Kordick had negotiated and completed one of the smoothest procurement jobs in football history.

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