Outsquirmin' Herman

by Andy Kerr, Jr.
Excerpted from Football's Finest Hour: The Shrine East-West Game, 1925-1950 , copyright 1950

Bob Hoernschemeyer and Herman Wedemeyer

Before the 1944 East-West game, the San Francisco Examiner picked two freshmen, Bob Hoernschemeyer of Indiana for the East and Herman Wedemeyer of St. Mary's for the West as the potential heroes of the annual Shrine game. And they were right.

Hoernschemeyer's and Wedemeyer's youth was standard in the war years, when most colleges were fielding teams made up mostly of players below draft age. The following year, both young men would be in the service.

The original press caption read: "As they stand here you can compare their size and see those huge paws on Hoernschemeyer which enable him to pass with such proficiency."

Nicknamed Hunchy, Hoernschemeyer became a very popular All-American running back. After the war, he went on to an outstanding pro career, first in the All-America Conference and then with the Detroit Lions.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Rose.

 

It would not be quite fair to Robert (Hunchy) Hoernschmeyer of Indiana, to Dean Sensanbaugher of Ohio State, to Pete Pihos of Indiana or to Hank Norberg of Stanford to report that Herman Wedemeyer, St. Mary's freshman, was consistently the outstanding player in the [January 1] 1944 game.

These four men were playing extraordinary football all the time they were on the field, and they were usually there. But one may say, with perfect justice, that the little Hawaiian, known as "Squirmin' Herman," contributed three plays--just three plays--that wiped out everything that everyone else was able to do throughout a rain-swept afternoon.

And it was because of those three plays that the West was able to escape with a 13 to 13 tie though overwhelmingly outplayed. And it was because of them that Herman Wedemeyer alone was chosen from the 1944 game as a member of one of the All-Shrine teams. Wedemeyer was named a half-back on the All-Time West team for games beginning with and following 1939.

Wedemeyer's contribution to the sage of Shrine football may be summarized as follows:

1. The score was 7 to 0 in favor of the East when Herman replaced Jimmy Nelson of Alabama late in the fourth period. After punting out of bounds on the East 11-yard line and then handling the East's rebuttal with no return, Wedemeyer offered his first important play in the form of a 13-yard run around left end to the East 22-yard mark.

2. Wedemeyer had manuevered the ball into scoring position. Now he lost a yard, and then gained it back, on two running plays. Third down and ten to go on the 22. It was time for the second of the Hawaiian's decisive plays, and Wedemeyer was right on schedule. He tossed a short pass into the hands of the elusive Nebraskan, Bob DeFruiter, on the 15-yard line. DeFruiter hightailed it the rest of the way, and the score was tied at 7-7 on Norberg's conversion.

3. The East had regained the lead, 13 to 7, just six minutes after the third period--and with it the rain--had begun. A march of 70 yards in 10 plays had ended with Pihos receiving a 15-yard pass from Hoernschmeyer for an all-Hoosier touchdown. Now it was West's ball on West's 41, where Alex Kapter of Northwestern had kicked out of bounds for the East. Wedemeyer had lost six yards attempting to pass. Ball on the West 35-yard line.

Now came the third act in Wedemeyer's sublime trinity. He arched a perfect pass into the arms of Washington State's Dick Renfro on the East's 45-yard line. Renfro did the rest. Aldo Cenci of Penn State, the man whom Renfro had slipped behind to catch the pass, gave chase. But it was a fruitless pursuit. There was touchdown music in Renfro's heels as he scampered those 45 yards to the promised land.

The 13-13 tie was the result...

 

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