Lansford-Coaldale Scoreless Struggle in the Snow – 1938

Lansford-Coaldale Scoreless Struggle in the Snow – 1938

(Jack Yalch, The Valley Gazette)

Danny O’Brien, George Kuntz’s sidekick, and Orville “Yogi” Roberts, of Lansford, the nightshift bartender at Helen and Tom Jones’ Tavern, rolled back the calendar a few nights ago and replayed the unforgettable 1938 Lansford-Coaldale Turkey Day football war that took place on the Tigers’ gridiron, during a blinding snowstorm.

Administrators of both schools wanted the game rescheduled due to inclement weather but the Panthers insisted that they came to play and weren’t about to climb out of their suits until the final gun, regardless of the wind, snow and Arctic-like temperatures. Coach Ken Millen backed his boys to the hilt and they battled Tom Raymer’s Tigertown eleven to a scoreless tie, before 4,500 frozen fans.

Yogi Roberts quarterbacked the Panthers that day and he recalled that the team sat-it-out in the locker room for more than two hours, waiting for the call to take the field. Yogi credits Leo Olsovsky of Lansford, who could kick better than a mine mule, for keeping the Panthers in the game, under conditions that warranted skis instead of football shoes.

“Leo got some dandy punts off that day,” Yogi recalled, adding that Olsovsky was “one of the best.”

Danny O’Brien likewise played a major role in helping stage the clash. He lived just over the fence on the east side of the stadium, around the 50-yard line, and was the guy who put the white lines on the field. Danny said it was a-snowin’ and a-blowin’, with drifts around town piling-up to around four feet.

At first, attempts were made to keep the field in some sort of playing condition with a broom and scoop shovel brigade, but Mother Nature put the blocks to that plan in short order.

Then when the snow finally removed all traces of the white lines, somebody came up with a brilliant idea and lined the field with fine-sized coal. Danny and Yogi think the coal came from down at the Coaldale No. 8 colliery.

Danny remembered that John Gildea, “Casey’s” brother, used to give him a hand with his field preparation chores and also pointed out that Mitchell’s Saloon on Lehigh Street, just off Fifth Street, was the halftime oasis and it was jammed that afternoon.

The shivering fans who braved the weather during the intermission were treated to perhaps the most unique halftime show in the annals of coal region football. According to O’Brien, somebody designed a make-shift snowplow on-the-spot, using a long plank and an old car that was handy. The plank was roped to the back end of the jitney and pulled downfield in a somewhat vain attempt to clear some of the white stuff away.

Questioned whether the old buggy was equipped with tire chains, Danny quipped, “You bet it had chains – understand, there was no snow grips those days.”

“Pop” Dorsey, Tommy and Jimmy’s dad, was at the helm of the Lansford band at that time. “Old Dorsey had a big fur coat on like a woman that day,” O’Brien chuckled.

Asked if the crowd remained until it was all over, Danny replied, “Understand – they were wrapped-up in horse blankets and their rearends were frozen to the bleachers – they hadda’ stay!”

We talked to John “Teeler” Jabbo about the game and he remembered it just as though it all took place yesterday. Teeler was only a freshman back in ’38 but he made the varsity and was 105 pounds of greased lightning. Ask anybody who played against him.

This one should start some lively discussions around the local taverns on Thanksgiving. Have fun!

Coaldale Line-up:

L.E. - Kohler; L.T. – Shotkosky; L.G. – Martin; C – Williams; R.G. – Brown; R.T. – Macenka; R.E. – Ruscavage; Q.B. – Sicenavage; L.H.B. – Dally; R.H.B. – Jabbo; F.B. – Griffiths.

Substitutes: Stembrosky, Murphy, S.Shanosky, Kupec, Melley, Slaby, Priggins, J.Shanosky, Krutzick, Pascoe, Richards, Sachon, Winsko.

Lansford Line-up:

L.E. – Ruback; L.T. – Horvath; L.G. – Kolaya; C – DeMichele; R.G. – Pavlis; R.T. – Praskac; R.E. – Morgan; Q.B. – Roberts; L.H.B. – Olsovsky; R.H.B. – Mongi; F.B. – Price.

Substitutes: Rendish, Vrabel, Petroic, Shinkosky, Kennedy, Ogazalek, Horwoski, Pavlik, Dorrian, V.DeMichele, Lawson, Markus, Pekarik, Zuzu, Spence, Weaver, Holmes, Obulaney, Jaso, Pohlod, Delpero, A.DeMichele, Ringer, Boyle.