A Day of Infamous Repute
May 30, 2016
The 1938 Giants Championship team photograph featured the signatures of two NFL hall of famer’s, Mel Hein and Tuffy Leeman’s and of a 22 year old team secretary named Wellington Mara. Mara would eventually serve as acting president of the New York Giants from 1966 – 2005. The Santa Clara College sweater, which was tagged with Falaschi’s name simply served as provenance for the rest of the items. Finally I began to analyze the original pen and ink cartoon art of Willard Mullin. This particular cartoon featured the images of several football players of note, not just Falaschi. The most important fact that I wanted to document was the date that it was published, but I had no idea just how important that date would be.
Nello was selected to three pro bowls and as a member of the New York Giants won three NFL east championships in 1938, 39 and 41 and an NFL championship in 1938 defeating the Green Bay Packers 23-17. Professional football jerseys from the 1940’s are scarce, but they are just about impossible to find from the 1930’s. After some negotiations, I left the dealers booth with Flash’s jersey, his Santa Clara letter sweater, and a photograph signed by the 1938 Giants NFL championship team. I also purchased a piece of original art that had been presented to Falaschi by Willard Mullin known as the, “Dean of Sports Cartooning” from the 1940’s through the mid 1960’s.
I was pleased with my acquisitions, but I had no idea that within the artifacts there lay a hidden connection to a historical event that was bigger than a New York Giants championship or the entire NFL for that matter. Several weeks after returning home from the show, I began to do some research related to the items from Falaschi’s estate.
Within the work, Mullin and writer Jim Burchard feature the hard hitting Falaschi in action and state that, “He can’t hurt us,,, were on the roof!” Its also made very clear that the Giants were going to be playing the Dodgers the next day, (the football Dodgers not the baseball version most of us are familiar with.) There is also a large image of Dodger player Ace Parker in the cartoon with the caption, “A ghost in Dodger uniform named Ace Parker Stole the Day”, and “,,,well last year on this occasion the day was given to Mel Hein.” I discovered that the game referred to in the past tense was played on Dec. 1, 1940 and was dedicated as, “Mel Hein Day.” On that occasion the Dodgers beat the Giants 14 – 6. Another feature of the cartoon states, “Tomorrow is Designated as Tuffy Leman’s day at the Polo Grounds as the Giants meet the Dodgers,,,.” Now it was simply a matter of figuring out what day in 1941 was Tuffy Leman’s day.
Like Nello “Flash” Falaschi, the Giants and Dodgers teams, and the record crowd of 55,051 that filled the polo grounds that day, I was taken by complete surprise. The game was played on Sunday Dec. 7, 1941! At 12:55 p.m. Eastern Time that Sunday, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I didn’t see what was coming and because of the emotions I felt after making this discovery, I think it gave me a little insight into the shock they too must have felt upon hearing of this tragedy and then wondering how their lives might change because of it.
Photo from Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Giants, December 7, 1941
Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Giants,
December 7, 1941 Game Program
Butte (MT) Standard, January 2, 1937
The Redwood (Santa Clara University Annual), 1938
Biloxi (MS) Herald, January 2, 1937
Nevada State Journal, August 4, 1938
Lauren Olivia Parmenter