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Memphis Tigers 20, Green Bay Packers 6

EXHIBITION: Sunday December 15th 1929 (at Memphis)



(MEMPHIS) - Clarence Saunders' Tigers, representing Memphis scaled the heights of football fame with a 20 to 6 victory over the Green Bay Packers, national professional league football champions, who played here on a barnstorming trip Sunday. The ambition of the sole owner of the Tigers to show Memphis that he could produce the best of independent football teams was realized in a startling almost wholly unexpected triumph over what is said to be the finest professional team ever assembled. Some 8,000 people, the largest crowd that has seen a football game in Memphis, assembled at Hodges field and paid a fine tribute to the victors. Buffeted by the weather in his three last attempts at staging big pro grid games, Saunders got a break yesterday. The air was balmy, almost summary, and shirt sleeves were in order for the occasion, offering a decided contrast to the overcoated, shivering, dripping crowds of the past few weeks. When Austin Applewhite of the Tigers charged across the line in the third period, the Packers and the crowd were a bit stunned. When Bucky Moore repeated the performance in the final quarter they were convinced, and Tiny Drouilhet added to the conviction in the last period with another score. All three scores were directly or indirectly from passes. The Packers' one big break gleaned them a touchdown in the last two minutes of play, with darkness just about settled over the field and the night football floodlights in use.


Undefeated in fourteen engagements in the National Pro league, the Packers had their spotless slate smeared dull of Memphis mud by the Tigers, and they could not understand it at all. They really could not fathom the idea of the tough resistance these Saundersman offered their very best thrusts, and they couldn't quite understand how the Tigers managed to find two passes that brought touchdowns and intercept another for the same result. They complained considerably but it didn't do any good. The defeat is chalked in large letters just where they care for it least. As a matter of fact, the pro champs were outplayed from start to finish, and put up rather listless battle against an alert, heady bunch of huskies and presented a problem to the crowd who couldn't quite understand how they managed to hand three lickings to Red Grange and the Chicago Bears, who hold the only victory over the Memphis crew. The Bears beat the Tigers, 39 to 19, and the Tigers have a record of ten victories and that one defeat. At that, only three of the men who started against the Bears heard the opening whistle against Green Bay. Saunders, since that time, has shaken up his team from top to bottom, added Ken Strong, Doug Wycoff and Red Strader, among others and assembled the classiest outfit of football stars that has ever trod a southern gridiron. It was Applewhite, once captain of the Ole Miss team who touched off the fuse that brought the victory. The teams had struggled along in the first half with only one scoring threat, and that by the Tigers. Johnny Blood and Verne Lewellen had been swapping punts with Ken Strong, New York U all-America of last year.


It was just a bitter football battle, with the advantage on the side of the locals, but a great advantage at that. Strong's fine punting was a treat to the eye. Some of his boots traveling sixty yards. Then along came Applewhite and glory. The Tigers had the ball in midfield by virtue of a pass from Red Strader to Strong. Strader fighting off Green Bay men with one hand, found Applewhite over near the sideline and flung an arching 20-yard pass. The big end caught the ball on the run, headed for the goal line and charged past the safety man and across, covering 30 yards of territory in the twinkling of an eye. Lidberg blocked Strong's attempted placement, but the Tigers led six to nothing and were never headed after that. The Packers, concentrating their strength, then struck back with fury and penetrated well into Tiger territory, only to be forced to relinquish the ball, and again shoved into their own territory by the punting of Strong. One of these punts brought a tricky play from the Packers and eventually a touchdown for the Tigers. Lewellen took one of Strong's kicks on his five-yard line, then passed laterally across the field to Tom Nash, Georgia's All-American end of two years ago. Nash started down the sidelines, made 30 yards, then fumbled the ball and Jake Williams of the Tigers recovered. Bucky Moore, who has had a hand in every Tiger victory, entered the game as substitute and on the first play, the Dixie Flyer took a 15-yard pass from Strader and dodged his way 20 more yards for the touchdown that iced the game. George Mahoney kicked the extra point.


Green Bay was beaten then, but the final Memphis touchdown was a result of Packer folly. Deep in their own territory the Packers elected to try a lateral pass. Dunn, standing on one side of the field, passed 15 yards to Lewellen on the other side. Standing perfectly still the Packers back held the ball a moment, then passes back in the direction of Dunn. Tiny Drouhilet had six feet four inches of longitudinal dimension right between these men and it was a simple matter for him to reach up, pluck the ball from the air and trot 14 yards to the goal line. Mahoney again converted with a dropkick. It was dark then, very, very dark. Dark for the Packers, but they did get one small ray of sunshine. Lewellen booted a mighty punt up the field, and in its course of bouncing around hit a Tiger man and O'Donnell fell on the ball for the Packers on the Memphis 20-yard line. Dunn passed to O'Donnell for 10 yards and then Lewellen ripped across the line on two successive tries for the touchdowns. Tommy Thompson blocked Dunn's attempted placement.

GREEN BAY -  0  0  0  6 -  6

MEMPHIS   -  0  0  6 14 - 20



3RD - MEM - Austin Applewhite, 50-yard pass from Red Strader (Ken Strong kick failed)  MEMPHIS 6-0

4TH - MEM - Buckey Moore, 35-yard pass from (George Mahoney kick)  MEMPHIS 13-0

4TH - MEM - Tiny Drouilhet, 14-yard interception return (Mahoney kick)  MEMPHIS 20-0

4TH - GB - Verne Lewellen run (Red Dunn kick failed)  MEMPHIS 20-6



DEC 16 (Chicago) - Captain Curly Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers professional football team upon his arrival here this morning from Memphis, Tenn., where the National league champions were defeated by the Memphis Tigers, 20 to 6, Sunday, said although the Green Bay squad played hard they did not seem to be able to "get going". "The weather was the greatest handicap," Captain Lambeau said. "Before the players took the field they were perspiring and before the game ended they were so weakened they could barely run. The temperature was 77 and the crowd at the game sat in their shirt-sleeves. The Southerners seemed to thrive on the hot weather. The game yesterday was the roughest we have ever played. We were weakened in the first quarter by injuries. McCrary broke his collar bone before the game was three minutes old; Dilweg was knocked unconscious after playing five minutes; Bowdoin suffered a dislocated knee and Lidberg's nose was broken. We were playing with Kern at end and Red Smith at fullback when the game ended"...OFFICIATING IS POOR: "Every man on the team got into the game because we had so many casualties. Blood should never have gone in, but he did because we had no one else to send in. His arm is far from right and he was handicapped greatly in handling the ball and tackling. Memphis used 32 players against us. For the first time in years Lewellen was outkicked. Strong, Stapleton star backfielder, who was imported by Memphis for the game, outkicked him greatly. He was able to do this because our line was not holding and Lew was being rushed on every kick. We were entitled to at least a tie. The Tigers got several fluke passes and scored on them. The officiating left much to be desired. Jim Durfee, National league official, was sent down by President Joe Carr to officiate, but Memphis refused to let him work and used four of their own officials. We lost many yards on penalties that never should have been executed and they came at a time when we seemed to be on our way to a score"...PLAY UNDER CLOUD: "The Tigers were loaded for this game and every man played hard. They had Ken Strong and Wycoff, two All-Americans from the Stapleton Long Island club, Tinsley and William, tackles from the Chicago Cardinals, and Kopcha from the Chicago Bears in the lineup. In addition they had two great players in Bettencourt, All-American center from St. Mary's college, California, and Al Moore, the "Dixie Flash" from Mississippi University. However, the Packers feel that they can beat them and every man on the squad is willing to go back to Memphis Christmas day and play them for nothing." The gridiron was of clay and it had been rolled hard, the Green Bay captain said, and this resulted in quite a few minor injuries to the National league champions. The game started at 2:45 o'clock and was not finished until nearly 6 o'clock, the last quarter being played under huge arc lights.


That Time that the Memphis Tigers beat the World Champion Green Bay Packers


In 1923, Clarence Saunders, the founder of Piggly Wiggly, lost everything in a stock market gamble. A few years later, he began a new grocery store chain named “Clarence Saunders Sole Owner of My


Name Stores.” By 1928, there were nearly a thousand “Sole Owner” stores across the country, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue. Saunders, having lost his first estate with his first fortune, designed and built a second one that he called “Woodland” to the east of Memphis. He also purchased a professional football team that year. The team practiced at “Woodland” where Saunders would arrive in his business suit and catch punts. He renamed the team “The Clarence Saunders Sole Owner of My Name Tigers.” In 1929, the National Football League was in its 10th year. The league consisted of 12 teams, including the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Independent professional football had also spread to the South and West, but the teams there did not belong to the NFL. Although the NFL played a regular season and a championship, they were also free to play teams outside of the league. These games earned the NFL team money and drew attendance for the home team. The Sole Owner Tigers, as they were called, were managed by Memphis sports legend Early Maxwell. The Tigers played a 12 game season with all but one game in Memphis. All home games were played at Hodges Field, which was located at the current site of the Memphis Veterans hospital. When it was filled to capacity, the field could accommodate 8000 spectators. For most of the 1929 season, the Sole Owner Tigers drew moderate crowds to see the Tigers play pro teams such as the Nashvile O. Geny Greenies, the St. Louis Trojans and the Hominy Indians (who were all Native Americans from Oklahoma). In addition, Saunders and Maxwell negotiated with two NFL teams to play in Memphis. The Chicago Bears were to appear with their star player Red Grange, followed by the Green Bay Packers. On November 23, Saunders hosted the Chicago Bears. A crowd of 6,500 crammed into the stadium. At one point in the third quarter, the Sole Owner Tigers closed to within 1 point of the Bears, but the Bears scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 39-19. On December 15, the week after the NFL season ended, the Green Bay Packers, undefeated NFL champions, came to town for what they expected to be an easy exhibition game. After all, opponents had scored only three touchdowns against the Packers all season. But Saunders and Maxwell had been negotiating a surprise. When the NFL season ended, Saunders paid two league players to come to Memphis. One of them was Joe Kopcha from the Chicago Bears. 8000 fans jammed the stadium and the sidelines. The Memphis fans were thrilled to see the Tigers manhandle the Packers with a 20 -0 lead going into the last minutes of the fourth quarter. The Packers avoided total humiliation by scoring in the final minutes but were shocked by a 20-6 loss. Saunders wanted one more shot at the Chicago Bears. He negotiated a final game against them which was played three days before Christmas. Joe Kopcha stayed with the Sole Owner Tigers for this game against his regular season team mates. He scored a field goal and two touchdowns leading the Tigers to a 20-6 victory. The next year the NFL extended an invitation to Saunders to join the league. Saunders refused saying that he would instead construct a 60,000 seat arena in Memphis to play only home games. Saunders may have meant it when he said it, but one has to wonder if he thought that he could do it better than the NFL, just like he had done in the grocery business and had attempted to do on Wall Street. We’ll never know…within three years Saunders lost his second fortune to the great depression and with it Memphis lost the “Clarence Saunders Sole Owner of My Name Tigers.” (PICTURED: Clarence Saunders)

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