Rosie the Quarterback

from universe - 3 Chinnaka I

Survival for the Rock Island Independents during WWII meant returning to exhibition games, setting the stage for the story of Marjorie 'Rosie' Aberson. The story comes from Marjorie's best-selling book, They Call Me Rosie.

After a perfect 1942 season, all eyes were on the Chicago Marauders to continue their dominance. Boston was floundering and both New York teams had nowhere to play home games. Hopes ran high for another championship season in Chicago. For Rock Island, however, players were being drafted into service or leaving to play for other professional leagues, especially the AFA. The pay was much better in the AFA and the games had a more reliable schedule. Despite the obstacles, Coach Holland fielded twenty players for the team, drawing on talent from retired players and college teams.

Chicago, meanwhile, was dealing with their own problems. Two exhibition games had been canceled for various reasons. The front office would claim that Chicago needed at least one game to properly prepare for the season ahead. The truth of the matter was that they were not scheduled for enough games to play the season. Big money awaited any team in other pro leagues willing to schedule a game. With their undefeated season the previous year, no team appeared willing to take them on. Rock Island eventually agreed to a game and a date was set.

Welcome to Moline

Coach Holland had neglected to say that Darby field held only 5000 fans and that he didn't have a full team. With such a small stadium, the ticket receipts wouldn't come close to covering Chicago's costs. If Chicago would win by more than a seventy point margin, the NAFL may declare the game ineligible for the purposes of completing a season. Coach Morris of the Marauders had no other offers for a game. He would later say that he planned to limit his own team to thirty-five points. For Coach Holland, the Independents needed this game to stay in the existence and create a future of his team. How he convinced Chicago to travel to Moline is an enduring football mystery.

Coach Holland convinced the lineman to rotate 2 players to play both ways throughout the game. Eddie, a fullback, would be the emergency QB. He hoped for one more player, but none could be found until that fateful night when he took what was considered at the time, a big gamble.

He asked his wife to call on Marjorie at work the next day. Marjorie was doing factory work while her husband was seving overseas. She and Ms. Holland worked in the same factory and talked frequently. Coach wanted to offer her money to help the team practice for the Chicago game. Marjorie was keen on the idea and the three of them began to work. Holland introduced her to the team as a placeholder so that the other 20 players could focus on the strategy for the upcoming game. Another assistant served as the center for practice. Marjorie proved effective and consistent. The kicker, Chance Holloway, was a lanky nineteen year old that lied about his age to play football. With him and Marjorie, the team would take the field with twenty-two players, the league minimum for a game.

The team was apprehensive at first with Holland's plans, but they grew in confidence as they became comfortable with a pass-heavy gameplan. Eddie chose to play both fullback and make appearances as a linebacker. They also practiced a couple of gimmick plays in an attempt to fool the Marauders famous defense. Marjorie would later write that everyone on the team was resolute. "The boys," she wrote, "believed that their victory was as inevitable as the Allied forces."

September 20, 1942

The day of the game came. The radio broadcasters set up. The Marauders set up on the far sideline and Rock Island lined up for the kickoff.

Chicago was surprised by the Independents' tough defense. Chicago wasn't able to score until late in the 3rd quarter on a 2 yard TD run. This was the first score of the game for either team. With a successful extra point, this put Chicago up 7-0.

Early in the 4th quarter, Rock Island answered with a touchdown of their own on a breakaway run by Eddie for a 43 yard TD. The kicking team took the field and the Chicago defense reacted in disbelief. Marjorie would say that she thought that they were gawking at Chance as he weighed 125 soaking-wet. The team lined up for the extra point and Chance was able to splite the uprights. All was not well on the field as a Chicago player took it upon himself to teach Marjorie a lesson. After the play, he ran up and knocked her down hard. He chuckled chuckled to himself as he left the field.

Marjorie dusted herself off, walked over to him and staring directly into his eyes said, “Now that didn't do anything, now did it?”

Before the Chicago player could react, his teammates walked him off the field as the entire Rock Island team rushed on to protect Marjorie. She would write that the team's support was appreciated, but was entirely unnecessary.

Late in the 4th quarter, Chicago marched downfield, but had to settle for a FG, taking the lead 10-7. By this point, however, the Independents were worn out. Chicago had put in fresh players in an attempt to expand their lead. The exhausted Independents battled on. A fumble on Chicago's next drive gave the ball back to them with enough time to tie the game. With a minute left, they lined up for Field Goal after three failed attempts to make the 2 yard run for a touchdown. Coach Holland pulled Marjorie aside and told her to run the Haymaker. She nodded and trotted in with the Chance. Chicago fans made it clear that the Independents would be lucky to walk off the field. It was later revealed that a fan was so upset by Marjorie's presence of the field, that he planned to rush the field if she returned. Several Rock Island fans pinned the man under the grandstand for the last minute of the game.

Marjorie would write that all she felt in that moment was that if the lineman tried to push her again, that she would just slug him right in the jaw. She wasn't that emotionally involved in the game, she was there for a little extra money to buy a couple chickens for eggs. Still, she had no plans to suffer a fool.

Rock Island's Last Gasp

She would also say that the snap to her went towards her face. The Chicago nosetackle had gotten the best of the center, creating a terrible trajectory. She stood up to catch the ball, took two steps back and threw a lob just over the defender to Eddie alone in the end zone. Rock Island ran together to the sideline to protect Marjorie as she left the field. Now up 13-10, Coach Holland had Rock Island return to line up in a running formation to put the ball in. Marjorie wasn't on the field. Exactly what happened after that touchdown is disputed to this day. She wrote in her book that she turned to walk off the field only to be met with a celebration of fans and teammates.

By other accounts, there was an unconscious referee, two injured Chicago players, ten fans arrested, and a hoarse radio announcer croaking over and over, “Can you believe it?” At some point in the confusion, a stray dog took the football off the field requiring some time to get it back. Ultimately, the point after attempt was not successful and Chicago had 45 seconds to come back for the win. Driving down the field, it appeared their victory was assured.

The last play of the game was a desperate blitz that successfully pinned Chicago's quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. The game ended with a Rock Island victory and the story of Rosie the quarterback was born.

The Rest of the Story

Rock Island made it through the rest of that season finishing 3-4. The Marauders went on to claim another championship. As for Marjorie, she never took the field again. She got the chickens she needed and went back to work the next day. Her husband returned from the war and her experience in professional football was soon forgotten for thirty-seven years. She wrote her book in the 1981, addressing the myths that had built up around her and the actual events of the game as she remembered them. The NAFL would honor her in 2020, inducting her into the Hall of Fame, pledging equity for women in all levels of football.

Marjorie "Rose" Aberson, number 21 for the '42 Rock Island Independents remains the only woman inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Re-Engineering Statis-Pro Footbal Cards

One of the things I really do not like about the original Statis-Pro Footbal game is the player rating. Players with a rating of 4 could be played once a half. Often they had the best cards due to a limited amount of stats. For example, if someone ran the ball once a season and got 15 yards on their one run attempt, their card would make them almost unstoppable on the ground. This is because the original cards only took the average rushing into account. The average for 15 yards a carry, so the card would reflect that. It didn't matter that there was only 1 carry. The effect was more pronounced in receivers.

When I redesigned the process, I wanted to use a minimum of stats, mainly due to the fact that many detailed stats were just not available for earlier seasons. One way of doing this was to make a rough guess at the standard deviation to understand how often a person gained a certain amount of yards. Doing this would differeniate a player that averaged 4 yards a carry, but ran for 1300 yards versus a player that averaged 5 yards a carry, but ran for 1100 yards. The former would have smaller numbers due to average, but more of them would be above average. The latter would have larger numbers up front, but smaller numbers at the end.

This is better explained visually, especially folks that have not played the game for years. Let's take one of these rating 4 backs, DJ Dozier:

On the original card, he had better normal and short gain numbers than Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, the two leading rushers that season. Because of the relative rarity of a breakaway run, DJ Dozier would be a very desirable card if it weren't for the pesky rating of 4 under his name. With the new version of the card, he can play all he wants, but he is now much less valuable. He can still breakaway for 20+ yard gain (He had two that year), but otherwise he will not dominate anyone's offense.

Speaking of Detroit, let's look at Barry Sanders that year:

Okay, I know. The short gain rushing yardage is much less and the pass yards are more spread out. One reason for this is an average 4.5 yards per carry that year. Another reason is that he didn't play in game 1 that year. The main contributing reason is that Barry didn't have but seven running attempts of 20 yards or more. Most games, he longest rush was 14 or 16 yards. I could be wrong, but I feel like the new card better reflects this. Let's compare to Emmitt Smith's cards:

Wait a minute, didn't Emmitt take the rushing title that year? Why does he have a worse New card than Barry Sanders? The main reason is that he had a lower yards per carry, 4.3. After considering his 75 yard run, he really didn't have any other huge runs that year. (I need to confirm this, I don't have the stats for him in front of me right now.) Despite catching more passes, his average per reception was more than two yards lower than Sanders. The ultimate reason that Emmit's card is not as valuable as Barry's is that Barry had more yards from scrimmage that year at a higher averages than Emmitt.

You know, of course, that this system make Thurman Thomas' card the most valuable RB card in 1991. He led the league in yards from scrimmage.

Next time I talk about Stais-Pro, it will be time for QBs and WRs.

Statis-Pro Football Stuff

Link to Statis-Pro Football Cards & Utilities page

A couple years ago, I tried to play in Statis-Pro leagues, but quickly discovered that I could not afford the time to play. Somehow in my nostalgia, I didn't remember games taking 3 hours to play. I later discovered that I enjoy playing this game casually by severely  limiting substitutions, but that's fodder for another post.

One site I enjoyed was Lee Harris' site. He published formulas for making the cards as well as several sets. Unfortunately, I couldn't provide any funds for the site to keep going, so it is now gone. Going to archive.org, I managed to find everything by searching through the many snapshots. For example, the formulas page isn't in the most recent snapshot, but is in snapshots that are from the previous year. Since the last update was 2003, I don't feel like anything was lost.

I began thinking about Statis-Pro because I get at least two hits everyday from folks looking for Statis-Pro Football stuff. My previous post about streamlining the system gets traffic, but I'm certain it produces a fair share of cursing as well because I haven't finished it. Believe it or not, I got out the spreadsheets to generate my variation of the cards and began to fiddle with it again. Who knows where this may lead...

Having said all that I have added a page for Statis-Pro Downloads that have the Lee Harris cards as well as links to the UK League which also make their own cards with some rules variations. I feel like the two folks that end up here should at least get something for their trouble.

If Lee or other members of the Football Sim community feel that my hosting these files is somehow a bad thing, I'll take them down. I'm not trying to steal or infringe on anyone, I just want to promote a game that I still enjoy playing. Considering that these files are all available from archive.org, I don't see why this would be a big deal.

Rock on football sim folks! (I own five different sims.) Given the nature of negotiations within the NFL, it looks like sim action may be the only real NFL action for this upcoming season.