Every Picture Tells a Story -- 1952

Gary MialocqContributor IJuly 10, 2009

The year was 1952.  The San Francisco 49ers were now starting their third season in the NFL after a very successful run in the All-American Football Conference under Head Coach Lawrence T. "Buck" Shaw, also known as the "Silver Fox".  Pictured above descending the stairs are from top to bottom:

Frankie Albert - the 49ers first QB and a brilliant All-Pro performer;

Joe "the Jet" Perry - All-Pro fullback and the first in NFL history to record back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons.

Hardy Brown - All-Pro linebacker widely known as the hardest hitter and dirtiest player in NFL history.  Brown knocked 21 players unconscious in a single 12 game season as documented by the NFL with his vicious shoulder tackle.

Gordy Soltau - All-Pro wide receiver and a great field goal and extra point kicker.

Leo "the Lion" Nomellini - All-Pro defensive tackle who also played on offense if needed.  One of all-time 49er greats.

The 49ers were coming home from blasting the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field, 40-16 to start out this season 4-0.  Just the week before, this team had defeated the favored Detroit Lions, also on the road in a history-making game.  49er rookie defensive end Charlie Powell, was signed and asked by the Niners to start in his first NFL game at the age of nineteen (19), which is still the youngest player ever to start an NFL game.  Charlie responded by sacking All-Pro QB Bobby Layne ten (10) times for -61 yards.  This would be the all-time NFL record but they didn't keep track of sacks in 1952.

The Niners would win their next game to go to 5-0, but it all came tumbling down in Kezar on Nov. 2, 1952. Noted Chicago Bear hit-man, Ed Sprinkle, tackled Hugh McElhenny on the sidelines and intentionally twisted his ankle, forcing Mac out for the game and the Niners lost their lead and the game.  A near-riot ensued after the tackle but the damage was done.

The 1952 was a team of colorful characters.  Powell was an amazing athlete that had signed a Major League baseball contract immediately after high school.  The Harlem Globetrotters had tried to sign him while he was still in high school.  He ran the 100 yard dash in 9.6 at 220 lbs which at the time was only 0.3 seconds off the world record, and he later fought Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Nomellini was a world class wrestler who later competed against Lou Thesz for the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship.

Hardy Brown was banned from practice by Buck Shaw to protect the other players.

It was a crazy year.