Monday, February 23, 2015

Maine Black Bears (1949-50)

We celebrate this blog's 100th post with a look at the introduction of a helmet that served Maine for 27 seasons.

In 1949, Maine hired David Nelson as its head coach. Nelson was a Michigan man who played for Fritz Crisler, the guy who invented the iconic winged helmet while coaching at Princeton in the 1930s. As a coach, Nelson brought the design to Hillsdale College, where he coach before taking over at Maine, where the winged helmet took flight - and stuck around until 1976, when the team switched to the fat-M helmet under Jack Bicknell.

The 1949 Maine coaching staff. Head coach David Nelson,
the one who looks like a graduate assistant, is third from left.
From the 1951 Prism yearbook (which covered the 1949-50 school year).

The original winged helmet at Maine was leather (plastic shells didn't come until 1951) and the stripes didn't go completely down the back. The blue jersey was actually a holdover from the 1947-48 seasons, while the white shirts and blue pants were completely new (the Black Bears wore blue pants through 1954).

But Nelson delivered more than a new uniform to Maine. He brought a new offense - the Wing-T - and a new assistant in Harold Westerman, who took over as head coach when Nelson departed for Delaware in 1951. "Westy" coached through 1966 and was Maine's athletic director from 1966-82.

The 1949 Black Bears, with new helmets and a new offense, in action.
Also from the '51 Prism.

The 1949 Bears were a strange lot. They shared the Yankee Conference title with a 2-0-1 record, but went 0-3 in State Series play. The State Series, you ask? Well, until the mid-60s, Maine used to play Colby, Bates and Bowdoin every year for a state title, complete with trophy. Don't laugh; it was a big deal for decades, and the Bowdoin games cracked five-digit attendance a few times. In '50, Maine bounced back and won the State Series crown.

I can't find any records of Maine wearing a blue jersey in '50; this doesn't mean the Bears didn't; I just haven't found a picture yet.

Maine players hold David Nelson aloft after his final game, a 6-6 tie
with Bowdoin that clinched the 1950 State Series title. Told ya it was a big deal.
1952 Prism.

The Edward Barrows trophy, emblematic of State Series supremacy, is on the left.
The Yankee Conference bean pot is at center. At right ... well, I guess we know
what Maine did with its live animal mascots after they went to mascot heaven.

No comments:

Post a Comment