By Jim Dunne
The initial, abbreviated season of the Norwich Y Giants continued on November 16, 1947, when they hosted the Vestal Veterans at Alumni Field. Norwich had lost to the Syracuse Valley Athletic Club, while they were victorious over the Syracuse Stars and the Little Falls team. The Y Giants continued their winning ways with a 19–0 shellacking of Vestal. Leading ground-gainer was Jim Kelly, who also starred defensively, along with Fran Spadaro, Dick VanDeusen, Jack Lee, Bill Currie, Bob Conron, Babe Barnes, Ang Natoli, and Walt Tracy. This game also marked the first appearance of Don Crittenden, who had just completed his high school season. He started in the backfield, along with his brother Bob and the Kelly boys.
The next game for Norwich was at home on November 23 against the Syracuse All-Nationals, winners of the central NY semi-pro title and undefeated for the last two seasons. In that 2-year span, the Nats had scored a total of 301 points, while allowing only 15 to be scored against them. The account of this game is presented here in the original colorful prose of the legendary Perry Browne.
The educated toe of Bob (Tank) Palmer enabled the Norwich Y Giants to end the Syracuse All-Nationals’ two-year string of victories and hand them their initial setback by the narrow margin of 14-13 in a spine-tingling, nerve-wracking game at Alumni field Sunday. Played before a large throng of cheering spectators, it was a two-in-one-game—the first half was a scoreless deadlock and a real tough defensive battle while the second half was a wild-scoring, offensive fray that had the throng on its feet constantly. Both teams scored touchdowns in the third and fourth periods with the Giants scoring first, Syracuse tying the game, the Giants tallying again and Syracuse scoring once more but the second conversion attempt was blocked by Bob Crittenden while Bob Palmer made both of his placements with perfect boots. When the final whistle did sound, it found the fans limp, wilted and thoroughly-exhausted from the excitement and furious tempo of the contest.
In the absence of coach Jack Lee, Kurt Beyer, Norwich high mentor, handled the coaching duties and his former pupils rewarded him with a victory in what may aptly be described as “one of the most spectacular and impressive performances in the stellar grid careers of the Norwich players.” Touchdown makers for the giants were Bob Crittenden (a five-yard end sweep in the third period) and Jim Kelly (a nine-yard drive through the middle of the Syracuse forward wall in the fourth period).
The list of Norwich stars in this game is an endless one with each earning a place on the honor roll with superb performances. To attempt to single out any one player as the star of the contest would be an almost impossible task. However, chief honors should be awarded to Bob Crittenden, the club’s scintillating field general. Crittenden called plays shrewdly, passed superbly, ran hard and saved the game when he smashed through to block Cicarelli’s place-kick attempt. Other players deserving of special mention are Bob Palmer (whose gifted toe provided the margin of victory); Harold Barnes (a standout throughout the game); Richie Barnes, Harry Thompson, Jim Kelly, John Kelly (his pass interception in the third quarter set up the first score and was the turning point in the game); Dick VanDeusen, Ed Weed, Billie Currie, Bob Conron and Fran Spadaro (these linemen were in the Syracuse backfield during most of the game) and of course, the man whose stellar play has sparked the team time and time again and whose outstanding performances are almost taken for granted, Don McGraw.