By Jim Dunne
A tenth game in the 1948 season was scheduled to be played against the semi-pro team in Sayre, Pa. When it was cancelled because the Sayre team folded, the Giants management felt fortunate to secure a home game against the Syracuse All-Nationals as a replacement. Since it was in addition to the 7 home games included in the season ticket, fans were told that they would have to buy another ticket for this game. Stan Georgia knew that the fans would not pass up the chance to see this Syracuse team again. In the most exciting game of the 1947 season, the Y Giants had spoiled the Nats’ unbeaten season in a 14–13 barnburner. Not only that, but the Nats had gone undefeated since that game, with the loss to Norwich the only one in 3 years. What’s more, the Nats’ “spread-eagle” offensive style of play was described as “razzle-dazzle, hokus-pokus,” similar to what the Colgate Red Raiders had been taught by Andy Kerr, and sure to please the fans, even if Norwich lost -- which they were expected to do. The Giants were ready, though, and would have John Pierson, Fran Spadaro, Ed Weed, and Bill Crawley, in addition to all the other regulars.
The game itself lived up to its billing, with three quarters of scoreless play. Although Norwich benefited in the third quarter from the punting of VanDeusen, it appeared that the game was destined for a scoreless tie. However, in the last quarter, a Syracuse pass was caught, and the receiver took a vicious hit from Don McGraw. The ball went up in the air and into the arms of Jim Kelly, who took it all the way to paydirt. Bob Palmer converted, and the score stood at 7–0, with Syracuse pulling out all the stops to avoid defeat. After Babe Barnes blocked a Nats’ punt, Norwich found itself with a fourth down on the Syracuse 17-yard line, and Plumb Palmer calmly put the game on ice with a placement from a difficult angle. (In those days, there were no hashmarks to keep the ball in the middle of the field, but the goal posts were on the goal line.) The game ended with the Giants on top, 10–0, and with the Syracuse Nats suffering their second loss in 3 years, both to the Y Giants.
On Thanksgiving Day, at 10:30 in the morning, Norwich hosted the Sidney Cardinals for the last game of the year. Perry Browne did his best to hype the game, reporting that Norwich residents who worked at Scintilla had angered the locals by bragging about the Giants, and that Sidney had recruited several “ringers” from other southern tier clubs to bolster their strength. He may have increased the attendance at the game (no doubt his purpose), but Norwich prevailed, 27–0, and did it while playing the reserves who had contributed so much to the success of the team by their presence at all the practices. During halftime, Mayor Fred Benedict gave a Thanksgiving address, and Rev. Larry Durgin provided prayers.
Two days after the last game, on Saturday evening at the YMCA gym, the banquet honoring the Y Giants was catered by Ernie Taranto and the Bluebird staff. It was a gala affair, planned by Bill McNulty, and all 225 tickets were sold. Toastmaster was Judge David F. Lee, father of local attorneys Dave and Ed Lee and uncle of Coach Jack Lee. The invocation was given by the Rev. Lloyd Charters. Dinner music was provided by Miss Sadie Quinn at the piano and Miss Margaret Ivory on the violin. After dinner, Rosie Benedict took over at the piano, and Phil Card led the crowd in a rousing songfest. Judge Lee opened the program by stating that everyone was gathered to pay tribute, honor and respect to Norwich’s great semi-pro team, the Y Giants. Then he complimented the fans, stating that without their support, the season would not have been the success it was. The toastmaster then mentioned by name several men, paying special tribute to Stan Georgia and Bill McNulty. “Norwich is a great place to live,” he declared. “Here in Norwich we do things right.”
Judge Lee then introduced the guest speaker, Earl “Bud” Svendsen, former All-American at Minnesota, a pro star with the Green Bay Packers and Brooklyn Dodgers, and presently head football coach at Hamilton College. Svendsen covered a lot of ground in his presentation, and was warmly applauded at its conclusion.
Next on the program was Bill Barnes, who donated the MVP trophy in honor of Judge Frank W. Barnes. It was to be awarded to the most valuable player of the past season, taking into account performance, sportsmanship, and team play. The winner was selected by the fans, using signed paper ballots, with 5 points for first place, 3 for second, and 1 for third. An even 200 ballots were cast, and the winner, with 505 points, was center Bob “Diz” Conron. The popular former NHS and Syracuse star received his award to a thunderous ovation. Fans showed how much they appreciated the whole team by awarding points in the voting to Harold Barnes, Dick VanDeusen, Richie Barnes, Bob Crittenden, Don McGraw, John Kelly, Jim Kelly, Bob Palmer, Burt Palmatier, Andy McMullen, Jack Lee, Bill Currie, Bill Crawley, Don Barnes, John Blood, Fran Spadaro, John Pierson, and Nick Sylstra.
Coach Jack Lee was the next speaker, and he reviewed his two seasons as coach, praising the men who had played, and pointing out that they had lost only 3 of 17 games. Lee then presented on behalf of the team the “Player’s Player” award, saying, “It gives me great pleasure to present this trophy to one of the greatest ends it has been my privilege to play with – Harold ‘Babe’ Barnes.” Again, a loud ovation showed the approval of those present. Lee then presented special awards to Dr. James M. Flanagan and Dr. E. F. Gibson in appreciation of their help during the season. The coach then introduced each member of the squad with a few remarks, and presented him with a special jacket. Receiving jackets, in addition to those named above in the MVP voting, were Chuck White, Frank Kelly, Charlie Meade, Buff Magistro, Sam DiNoto, Walt Tracy, Ang Natoli, Jack Frink, Jim Kennedy, Ed Weed, manager Don Collier, assistant manager Ang Muserilli, and announcer Bob VanTine.
Bill McNulty, chairman of the Board of Control and the man that Judge Lee said was responsible for the banquet, took the podium next. McNulty spoke of Coach Jack Lee, and told of his accomplishments in high school, college, the Army, and as coach of the Giants, and declared that he was a credit to Norwich. (Lee’s service during World War II earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, the award second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor, when, as a captain in the Army, he led a raid which rescued the family of French General Charles DeGaulle.) McNulty presented the Giants’ coach with a special gift in appreciation.
The program concluded with the benediction by the Rev. Thomas G. Swales. Afterward, the movie of the game with the Syracuse All-nationals was shown, with Bob VanTine filling his usual role as announcer and commentator. A summary of the 1948 season of the Norwich Y Giants looks like this:
Sept. 19 Norwich 6 Seneca Falls 0
Sept. 26 Norwich 14 North Utica 0
Oct. 3 Norwich 7 Little Falls 13
Oct. 10 Norwich 25 Vestal Vets 0
Oct. 17* Norwich 7 Herkimer 7
Oct. 24* Norwich 20 Little Falls 19
Oct. 31 Norwich 9 Oneonta 7
Nov. 7* Norwich 13 U-E North Side 25
Nov. 14 Norwich 14 North Utica 0
Nov. 21 Norwich 10 Syracuse Nats 0
Nov. 25 Norwich 27 Sidney 0
Total 152 71
Record 8 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie
Don McGraw 30
John Kelly 19
Harold Barnes 18
Richard Barnes 18
Bob Palmer 17
John Blood 12
Jim Kelly 12
Bob Crittenden 6
Bill Crawley 6
Burt Palmatier 6
Ken Meade 6