Razorbacks from El Dorado in War Memorial Stadium

Ark. vs Abilene Christian War Memorial Stadium Sept. 18, 1948 Berry Moore #70

Ark. (40) vs Abilene Christian (6)
War Memorial Stadium
Sept. 18, 1948
Berry Lee Moore (#70)  Ray Parks (ball carrier)

When War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock was officially opened on September 18, 1948 it was the finest football stadium in the state. Constructed at an approximate cost of one  million two hundred thousand dollars it would seat about thirty one thousand fans and it became the flagship stadium for Razorback fans statewide. The stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has always been home for the Razorbacks, but its’ location in the northwest part of the state has made it less accessible for a large majority of the fan base. For many years following the opening of the Little Rock stadium there have been at least three Razorback football games played there every year. For the past several years the number of games has diminished to one game played per year.

The opening game for the Razorback 1948 football season was with Abilene Christian University, and it was played in the just completed War Memorial Stadium. There were two Razorbacks from El Dorado who played in that game,  Ray Parks, a halfback, and Berry Lee Moore, a tackle. Both had played for the El Dorado Wildcats under Coach Guy B. (Skipper) Hayes and both had done so well they were selected to the All-State and All-Southern Teams. In those days an All-Southern selection was the equivalent of an current All-American.

Berry Lee (Bubba) was an amazing football player for his size. He was 6′ 2″, weighing 185 pounds and played on the offensive and defensive lines as a tackle. It was very common for players to play both offense and defense, and the two platoon system didn’t become usual until the 1960’s. The average weight for linemen in the 1940’s was two hundred pounds or less, so Bubba was usually playing against men his size. As a comparison the Razorback offensive line for the 2015 season averaged three hundred and twenty-eight pounds.

A significant handicap for Bubba was his vision. He was far-sighted and needed his glasses for near vision. Contact lenses were available but were much larger than now and very painful to wear. He tried them for awhile but soon returned to his special plastic sports glasses. Occasionally he tried to play without glasses, and I notice in the photograph above he doesn’t appear to be wearing glasses. He once told me that without glasses he occasionally blocked or tackled the wrong man!

All who knew Berry Lee would attest to his quiet and gentle spirit but put a football uniform on him and his competitive “Mr. Hyde” nature appeared. I previously wrote about his tough side in a blog entitled “Coach Fischel’s Worst Moment on the Gridiron”. I once had a conversation with Dewey Blackwood, one of Bubba’s assistant high school coaches, and he told me the following story; “When Berry Lee finished his high school career and went to Fayetteville to become a Razorback I ran into one of his line coaches and asked him how my boy Berry Lee was doing. He said he was doing great and was becoming a very good football player. In fact he said if Berry Lee weighed as much as two hundred and twenty-five pounds we would force him to practice on the opposite end of the field from the rest of the team. He would injure too many of the players with his tough and aggressive play” Coach Blackwood was pleased to tell this story, and I wasn’t surprised when he told it.

Bubba said his favorite game as a Razorback and also his last was the game at War Memorial Stadium against Abilene Christian. He sustained a right knee injury early in the game, and the cartilage tear prevented him from further contact sports. The injury according to Bubba happened in the following manner; “I was supposed to stun the tackle in front of me, slide off and block down field for the halfback. I guess I stunned the tackle so hard he fell across my right knee and caused the injury. I continued playing because I wanted to get as much playing time as possible. After the game my right knee swelled so badly I couldn’t bend it.” Our Dad’s advice to him at the time was to avoid an operation and rehab the knee  back to proper function. Arthroscopic surgery had not been devised then. Today many athletes are able to return to full capacity within months of a cartilage tear.

Since that initial game in War Memorial Stadium there have been some outstanding El Dorado Wildcats who have played as Razorbacks and starred on that gridiron. They have included Bill Fuller, Jim Mooty, Wayne Harris, Jim Gaston, Buddy Reuter, Richard Branch, Tommy Brasher and Glen Ray Hines from the 1950’s-1960’s era. All these players were coached in El Dorado by legendary coach Garland Gregory. There perhaps were other El Dorado football players during this time span who played for the Razorbacks, but I don’t recall their names.

The stadium has undergone expansion and renovation for the past several decades and the seating capacity is now approximately fifty-four thousand. Over the years since 1948 there have been approximately two hundred Razorback games played there. I had the privilege of attending all the games played there during the years of 1960-1964 while I was a medical student at the University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock. The following year 1965 the Razorbacks won the national championship in football. The contract between the University of Arkansas and War Memorial Stadium will expire following the 2018 season, and some people fear there will then be no more Razorback games played in Little Rock. That decision will obviously impact many thousands of fans statewide.

As for my family and me we had a great start in 1948, and we are partial to the Razorbacks continuing to play in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock if only for one game yearly.

Dr. John

A Fumbling Shot

A Fumbling Shot

A Fumbling Shot

I doubt any doctor associated with sports medicine has ever heard of such a thing as a fumbling shot. If it were an effective medicine to prevent a football player from fumbling the football every football coach in the country would insist his team doctor immediately administer the shot to every player on his team who handles the ball!

I was fortunate to be the team physician for the El Dorado Wildcat football team for most of the twenty-nine years I was a surgeon in the town. Shortly after Cathy and I arrived in town I was contacted by Dr. Paul Henley, another surgeon who had been in El Dorado for least twenty-five years. He was a member of the El Dorado School Board and had been Chairman of that board for the previous five years. His association with the school system had begun years earlier when he agreed to serve as the team physician which he continued until I arrived. He convinced me I needed to serve as team physician until he retired from the school board, and then I should take his place as a board member. His exact words regarding the matter were, “The school board needs a doctor as a member, and you would be the perfect one.” What I didn’t realize at the time was school board members were elected in a general election and not appointed.

I agreed to serve and was honored to have been asked. I wanted to begin community service as quickly as possible, and this was an open door to use my professional skills. Another motivational factor in my decision was our son John Aaron. He was four years old, and I wanted to involve him in as many sports activities as possible, because I could see his potential. He was quick, fast and with excellent hand-eye coordination rarely dropped a ball when we played catch with either a football or baseball. I wanted him on the sidelines with me so we could spend the time at the games and travel together to the out-of-town games. On our first away game John and I rode the team bus which was exciting for both of us. He kept looking at the player one seat ahead of us, and when the player happened to turn around John asked him, “Are you really an Arkansas Razorback?” John hadn’t quite made the distinction between the Wildcats and the Razorbacks since all he had heard when we lived in Georgia were the great Razorbacks! When I learned our riding on the team bus prevented two lower tier players from making the trip I drove my car to all out-of-town games which gave John and me additional time alone.

One of the major responsibilities of the team physician was in organizing the pre-season physicals for the high school as well as the junior high school athletes. This required not only getting enough volunteer physicians to serve, but coordinating how it was accomplished. There were approximately three hundred physicals to be done annually for all the sports teams and the cheering squads of the two schools. Without a pre-arranged plan such a task would have become utter chaos. We obviously had to separate the boys from the girls, and I assigned one doctor responsible for the girl’s physicals which were much less involved than the boy’s physicals. This was prior to the institution of girl’s competitive athletics in El Dorado. I was able to enlist at least eight doctors most years and four or five nurses to take vital signs and help with the paperwork. Fortunately the paperwork was not complicated or extensive.

One of the doctors who was able to volunteer most years was Dr. Jim Sheppard, a family physician. Jim was born and raised in El Dorado, and I had known him and his family for many years. Jim was an excellent athlete who played high school football for the Wildcats and was skilled enough to play for the US Naval Academy for a couple of years. Jim’s familiarity with the football program and his wonderful sense of humor made the task of the physicals a lot more fun.

The location for the exams changed several times, but this particular year we were doing the exams in the chemistry lab of the high school. There was plenty of desk space to write our findings and the isles seemed to make the traffic flow more efficient. The young men had all stripped down to their underwear, and there were five lines of players, each going up to a doctor. Unknown to me Jim had brought a fifty cc syringe with a spinal needle attached which made the injection unit approximately ten inches in length. He had filled the syringe with some unknown yellow liquid which gave the syringe an even more ominous appearance. He had it lying on the table behind him for just the right moment.

The right moment approached him in the form of a skinny fifteen year old seventh grader who was experiencing his first football physical. He certainly had no expectation of what was next when his turn came to be examined by Dr. Sheppard. While the doctor was listening with his stethoscope to his heart and lungs and probing his abdomen for abnormal lumps the young man was asked what position on the team he would be playing. The answer proudly given was “running back.” Dr. Sheppard then slowly reached behind him and brought out the awesome syringe and held it up while squirting a small amount of the yellow liquid into the air. The promising all-star running back’s eyes widened greatly just before he asked, “What is that for?” Dr. Sheppard said, “This is a fumbling shot which we give to all running backs to keep them from fumbling the football for a whole year. You said you were a running back, didn’t you?” “Naw sir; I play on the line. I don’t carry the ball at all.” To which Dr. Sheppard  said, “Son, you’re awfully skinny to be playing on the line. Maybe I need to get you a weight-gain shot.” Feeling totally trapped and considering switching to track the rising star was speechless. Dr. Sheppard finally confessed there would be no shots given that day. Had it not been so inappropriate I believe the young man would have hugged the doctor right there.

Later when we learned some of the “things the doctors said to few students were causing them to be fearful” we changed our approach from being so jovial to more serious. After all our doctors didn’t want the reputation of creating fearful Wildcats even before the first hand-off of the season.

Dr. John