John Shearer: Froggie Morrison Of Trenton Played In Famous 222-0 Ga. Tech Win 100 Years Ago
Friday, October 7, 2016 - by John Shearer
Doug Dyer with photo of his grandfather, Froggie Morrison, and 1916 team
- photo by John Shearer
Drawing of Froggie Morrison in Georgia Tech yearbook
- photo by John Shearer
Yearbook listing of Georgia Tech football lettermen from famous 1916 team
Yearbook drawing of 1916 Georgia Tech football results
Froggie Morrison, between women in white and red dresses, at Georgia Tech 50-year alumni event in 1967
1916 Georgia Tech football team reproduced from yearbook
Douglas Eaton “Froggie” Morrison enjoyed a distinguished military career, serving in the United States Army in both World Wars I and II and attaining the rank of colonel before retiring to farm and civic work in Trenton.
But the most memorable ground offensive with which this graduate of Central High in Chattanooga was associated occurred in a football game at Grant Field in Atlanta on Oct. 7, 1916 – exactly a century ago.
His Georgia Tech football team trounced Cumberland College of Lebanon, Tenn., 222-0, that day in a game still well known in the annals of sports history.
Morrison, who died in 1973 at the age of 80, was the quarterback of the team but apparently did not score, believe it or not, due to the fact his position in those days was primarily focused on blocking.
And his memories of that game have apparently become lost to time, unless an old interview can be dug up somewhere.
“He didn’t talk about it a lot,” recalled his grandson, Douglas M. Dyer of Chattanooga, the brother of NFL official Lee Dyer and Baylor School staff member Abby Dyer Franklin. “But I always heard about the game from Mom and Dad.”
Mr. Morrison was not the only Chattanooga area resident on the team. Tally Johnston, who went on to become a manager of the Davenport Hosiery Mill and was the father of Tad Johnston of Lookout Mountain, was actually the captain that year. Mr. Morrison held the honor the year before under coach John Heisman, for whom the Heisman Trophy is named.
Another local member of the 1915 Georgia Tech team, but apparently not the 1916 squad, was Wisdom Goree. Mr. Goree was the great-grandfather of Ashley Thompson, the wife of none other than Peyton Manning. One of the Mannings’ children is named for Marshall Goree, Ashley’s grandfather and Wisdom’s son.
Another 1916 teammate was future Georgia Tech head coach Bill Alexander.
Even though Georgia Tech is apparently observing the 100th anniversary of the famous game in only minor fashion, the milestone is still receiving some attention. That has been highlighted locally by a speech last Monday to the Chattanooga Quarterback Club by Sam Hatcher, author of “Heisman’s First Trophy,” a novel based on the game.
According to documentation, Cumberland College had discontinued its program before the 1916 season. However, coach Heisman demanded that they honor the contract or the school would have to pay $3,000, which was the amount Tech was expected to receive off net ticket sales. But if the team members came, they would receive $500.
Coach Heisman reportedly wanted the game to be played in part because the Georgia Tech baseball team he coached had lost the previous spring to Cumberland, 22-0, in a game in which Cumberland was rumored to have used pro baseball players. Also playing baseball was Col. Morrison, although that game is not listed among the Georgia Tech baseball games in the school annual.
To honor the football contract, Cumberland football manager George Allen – who later became a confidante to such presidents or future presidents as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Dwight Eisenhower – rounded up a few fellow Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers and others and took the train to Atlanta. Reportedly less than 20 players came.
Little did these young men from Cumberland know, but this was going to be like a not-so-fun fraternity initiation.
Although Georgia Tech did not score on every play, as one might assume, it still managed a 126-0 halftime lead through offensive domination, turnovers and a stout defense. The third and fourth quarters were shortened to 12½ minutes each instead of 15, but 96 points were still scored by the Jackets.
If television had been around back then and TV timeouts were taken after every score, as is the case today, no telling how many hours the game might have lasted.
Ironically, the story in the Chattanooga Times the next day about the game was only a brief paragraph, even though stories on other games were longer.
That Georgia Tech team would finish 8-0-1, with only a tie against Washington and Lee three weeks later. The 1916 season for Georgia Tech was the second of a three-year stretch in which the only blemishes were two ties.
Doug Dyer has his grandfather’s old Georgia Tech yearbooks, and he wonders if coach Heisman also was trying to run up the score to gain the attention of pollsters. The reason was this was a time when Southern college teams did not get as much respect or recognition as the Northern schools.
In the 1917 Tech yearbook, “The Blue Print,” coach Heisman wrote in the football section about how pollsters depended strictly on points scored to determine the best teams.
“The writer has often contended that this habit on the part of sports writers of totaling up, from week’s end to week’s end, the number of points each team had amassed in its various games, and comparing them one with another, was a useless thing, for it means nothing whatever in the way of determining which is the better of an evenly grouped set of college teams.
“We at Tech determined this year, at the start of the season, to show folks that it was no very difficult thing to run up a score in one easy game, from which it might perhaps be seen that it could also be done in other easy games as well.”
Of the Cumberland game, where they obviously did run up the score, whether intentionally or unintentionally, coach Heisman wrote, “The Jackets set all their sails to make a record run, and, for the first time in our football career, we turned loose all we had in the way of scoring stuff, and the result was a world’s record of 222 points rolled up in 45 minutes of play.”
Could you imagine coaches Butch Jones of Tennessee or Russ Huesman of UTC writing a recap of the season for their college annuals today, as coach Heisman did?
Col. Morrison had ended up at Georgia Tech after apparent stints at the University of Chattanooga and Texas A&M. Dick Lord of Atlanta, who married Col. Morrison’s niece, Kathy, and has tried to research his life, said there were some incidents involving hazing and expulsions at Texas A&M at that time, and later expulsions from protests. As a result, he wonders if that is how Col. Morrison ended up at Georgia Tech.
Neither he nor Mr. Dyer knows how he received the “Froggie” nickname, but Mr. Lord has theorized that maybe because the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs are from Texas, people in Atlanta might have mistaken that school for Texas A&M and called him that. Or, it could have possibly been a nickname given by a sports writer after seeing him leap on a football field.
Of course, the entire Georgia Tech team beat Cumberland that day as easily as if they had been leap-frogging them.
While that 222-0 game was no doubt fun for Col. Morrison and his teammates, the seriousness of the world soon arrived with America’s involvement in World War I. After the war, he stayed in Europe for three years during the occupation.
He also served as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech briefly while working with the ROTC program in the 1920s. He later served in the Philippines and, during World War II, the European Theater.
One of 12 brothers and sisters, two of whom (Zeke and Ernest) went to Baylor, Col. Morrison returned to Dade County and began working in a variety of ventures. They included serving as president of the Georgia Soil Conservation District Supervisors, and becoming involved on bank boards and in civic groups.
He and his wife, Catherine Clarke Morrison, had one daughter, Mrs. Bo (Ellen Morrison) Dyer.
While Doug Dyer said he never heard his grandfather talk about that famous game, he was quite aware of his love for Georgia Tech football and accompanied him to some games when he was young.
“We would load up on a Saturday morning and take four or five people,” he recalled. “My grandmother would make tomato mayonnaise sandwiches. We had seats on about the 50-yard line.”
Both Doug and Lee inherited their grandfather’s and other family members’ athletic genes, as both have been inducted into the Baylor School Sports Hall of Fame. Their grandfather on the Dyer side was an Alabama fan, Doug said.
Dick Lord said that Col. Morrison was known for going to games during the era when Bobby Dodd was the coach and yelling and screaming at him from the stands when the game was not going Tech’s way.
But he also had a soft side, his niece, Kathy Lord, remembers. “He was just a dear, dear man,” she said. “He was fun.”
Mr. Lord recalls that when he and Kathy were dating about 1960, a reunion of the 1916 team was held, and they went over to where Col. Morrison and the former team members were reminiscing under an oak tree on the Tech campus.
“I would have given anything if I would have brought a tape recorder,” Mr. Lord recalled with a laugh.
But Col. Morrison’s and his teammates’ exploits seem as if they will be recorded in the annals of sports history for a long time.
And that would likely be an honor to Col. Morrison, Mr. Dyer believes.
“I think he would like it a lot,” he said. “He would be real proud of it.”