Ten years ago, the owners of the New York Giants had to give away 5,000 free tickets a week to get people to watch their professional football games. Last week, at Chicago's Soldier Field, 85,000 fans gladly paid up to $4.40 a seat to watch the curtain raiser of the 1940 football season: a night game (for charity) between the Green Bay Packers, national professional champions, and a team of College All-Stars, poll-picked from the recent graduates of U. S. college football.
To most of the onlookers (and the far-flung radio listeners as well) it was like picking up the threads of a serial. But they got their bearings quickly. Before the giant clock had registered three-and-a-half minutes, Southern California's Ambrose Schindler, hero of last winter's Rose Bowl game, was up to his old tricks. Intercepting a forward pass, he scooted 40 yards to the Packers' 17-yard line, plunged over for a touchdown three plays later. A successful drop kick for the extra point was made by Halfback Nile Kinnick, the passing, punting, blocking, running lowan who led his teammates to four victories in the dog-eat-dog Big Ten last year, and was subsequently voted the No. 1 footballer of 1939.
For a moment it looked as if the miscellaneous college boys, with less than three weeks' team play behind them, might humble the mighty Packers, five-time professional champions and as smooth a machine as football has ever produced. But the next moment the boys from Green Bay (Wis.) began their famed shenanigans. Paced by Cecil Isbell, onetime star of Purdue, and Don Hutson, pass-catching nonpareil, they gave the All-Stars a lesson in air maneuvers. Before the final whistle, the professional champions had scored six touchdownsfive of them by dazzling 30-, 40-, 50-yard forward passes. Just to show the Packers' versatility, Packer Ernie Smith kicked a 34-yard field goal in the last two minutes of play.
During this air attack, the All-Stars were not napping. Schindler scored another touchdown. So did U. C. L. A.'s Kenny Washington and Clemson's Banks McFadden. But that was not enough. The Packers won, 45-10-28in the most exciting game in the seven-year-old Ail-Star series.
While the Chicago Tribune, sponsor of the game, rejoiced over $150,000 it was able to turn over to Chicago charities, pro football fans rejoiced over the news that many of last week's All-Stars will be seen in professional uniforms this season. Halfback Grenny Lansdell, Southern California's leading ground-gainer for the past two years, will be with the New York Giants. Minnesota's Harold Van Every has signed up with the Green Bay Packers, Tennessee's George Cafego with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Southern California's Harry Smith with the Detroit Lions.*
But Super-Stars Schindler and Kinnick have spurned all offers to play pro football. Schindler has taken a job coaching football at a California high school. Kinnick, grandson of onetime Governor George Clarke of Iowa, prefers to study law. Another of last week's college stars whom football fans will probably see no more is kinky-haired Kenny Washington. Considered by West Coast fans the most brilliant player in the U. S. last year, Washington cannot play major-league pro football because he is a Negro.