Friday, March 25, 2016

Little Sports Library Books: Pro Football (1948)

By Chris Willis, NFL Films

In 1948 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company published a set of  four small books on how to play pro football under the series “Little Sports Library.”
The Ziff-Davis Publishing Company was founded in Chicago by two friends- William Ziff and Bernard Davis. 

In its early years the company published mainly magazines, including well-known titles such as Popular Aviation, Radio News and science fiction-fantasy titles Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures. But in 1948 they published several sets of “little” how-to-play books covering such sports such as football, baseball, golf, and table tennis.

The Little Sports Library books measured 5 x 6.75 inches and were usually between 90-127 pages in length. In 1948 Ziff-Davis published both a hardcover and a paperback version with the hardcover costing $1.25 and the paperback 50 cents. Since Ziff-Davis was located in Chicago they stuck to the two NFL teams in the Windy City and their players to help write their little books. The four football titles consisted of:

Playing the Line by “Bulldog” Turner (Chicago Bears Center)

Passing for Touchdowns by Sid Luckman (Chicago Bears Quarterback)

Tricks in Passing by Paul Christman (Chicago Cardinals Quarterback)

Backfield Play by Charles Trippi (Chicago Cardinals)

Playing the Line by Clyde “Bulldog” Turner, Chicago Bears center, was 123 pages in length, with 19 chapters and 37 photos by photographer Arthur Haug. Playing the Line also featured 8 diagrams of defensive fronts and how to block them.  
Turner demonstrates how to get into a proper stance and techniques on how to block defenders from all four different line positions- end, guard, tackle and center. In his Forward Turner tells a great story about his coach George Halas and how he knew that Turner was one of the smarter players on the team.

    “Once in spring practice, Coach Halas was telling us about a particular way he wanted a tackle handled on a specific play. He offered $100 to any player who could tell him the five plays to throw at this tackle.

    However, before I could open my mouth, Halas added, “with the exception of Sid Luckman and Bulldog Turner” This was a great boost for my ego, although I was almost sorry he excluded me. I could have used that $100.”

Passing for Touchdowns by Sid Luckman, the Bears All-Pro quarterback, was 127 pages with 14 chapters on passing and featured 30 photos. The demonstration photos, taken by Haug had Luckman posing on how to handle the snap; how to grip the football; the different type of passes; when to pass; pass receiving, as well as how to throw the football. 
In the Pass Receiving section Haug shot several poses of Bears end Ed Sprinkle on how to catch-and-catching the football.
Ed Sprinkle catching psasses

Tricks in Passing featured Chicago Cardinals quarterback Paul Christman, who had just guided the Cards to a victory in the 1947 NFL Championship Game. The third book in the series was 90 pages in length and featured Christman in 45 different photos (once again shot by Haug). 
Christman posed in photos on the different throwing methods, types of passes, and more specific skills, “tricks,” that included eye faking, arm faking, goal-line passing, working with receivers, and ability to pick receivers downfield. Tricks in Passing also features 11 different diagrams of football plays.  

Backfield Play by Charles Trippi, the Cardinals All-Pro halfback, was 108 pages in length with 42 photographs, this time by photographer John Coffee. Trippi writes 13 chapters that include knowing the different offensive formations (Punt, T-Formation, Single-Wing, Notre Dame, and the Double-Wing); signal calling; carrying the ball, faking, kicking, preparing to pass; executing the pass; pass receiving; blocking; tackling; and the four different backfield positions (quarterback, right halfback, left halfback, fullback).

Three of the four players who helped write the books for Ziff-Davis ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Turner, Luckman, and Trippi), while Christman was twice named Second-team All-Pro by the UPI in 1946-1947 and later became an announcer for all three of the networks, and did color at Super Bowl I for NBC.
Ziff-Davis Publishing didn’t publish any more football books and went on to produce mainly hobbyist magazines devoted to expensive, advertising-rich hobbies such as cars, photography and electronics. Some of their more recent titles included PC Magazine and Popular Electronics. They are still in business.

This four book set is a little tough to find but can be found on or Ebay for around twenty dollars apiece, although had the Luckman and Turner books listed for nearly fifty dollars each. The “little” books are definitely worth the price.

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