Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"A dollar was a dollar in those days and ballplayers weren’t worrying about money, they were worrying about the game…We were grateful to have a job.”
(Southern California)...6'0'', 191...Morris Hiram Badgro. . .Three-sport star at USC. . .Rookie with Red Grange-led 1927 Yankees. . .In pro baseball with St. Louis Browns two years, returned to NFL, 1930. . . Superior defender, excellent blocker, big-play receiver. . . Tied for NFL pass-receiving title, 1934. . . First- or second-team All-NFL 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934. . .Scored first TD in NFL championship game series, 1933. . .Oldest player ever elected to Hall. . . Born December 1, 1902, in Orillia, Washington. . .Died July 13, 1998, at age of 95.
In 1981, Morris “Red” Badgro at the age of 78 became the oldest person ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at that time. The 45-year span between his final game with the National Football League’s 1936 Brooklyn Dodgers and his election also was a record. The Badgro saga is even more unusual in that he wasn't even sure he wanted to play pro football and, in fact, retired after one year with the NFL’s 1927 New York Yankees to give pro baseball a try.
Red played in the major leagues for two years with the St. Louis Browns but eventually decided to give pro football another look. The football Yankees had folded so Red signed with the New York Giants. During his six-year tenure with the Giants that began in 1930, the team was a solid championship contender every year and Badgro, a two-way end, was one of the most honored stars. He was named to an all-league first or second-team in 1930, 1931, 1933, and 1934.
Badgro, who was born in Ordillia, Washington on December 1, 1902, was highly regarded as a sure-tackling defender and an effective blocker on offense but he was also a talented receiver. In 1934, he tied for the NFL's pass-catching crown with 16 receptions, a significant number in those defense-dominated days when most NFL teams concentrated on grind-it-out football. He also had the distinction of being the first player to score a touchdown in the NFL championship series that began in 1933.
Red made many other key catches that were converted into Giants' victories, including a 15-yard reception that was a key play in a long drive for the game’s only score in a 3-0 New York divisional title win. Badgro had his big defensive moments as well. Playing against the Boston Redskins in 1935, Red blocked a punt and returned it for a go-ahead touchdown. Badgro passed away on July 13, 1998 at the age of 95.
Full Name: Morris Hiram Badgro
Birthdate: December 1, 1902
Birthplace: Orillia, Washington
High School: Kent (WA)
Died: July 13, 1998
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 24, 1981
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 1, 1981
Presenter: Mel Hein, Former Giants Teammate
Other Members of Class of 1981: George Blanda, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo
Pro Career: 9 seasons, 94 games
Drafted: Badgro played prior to the NFL Draft being implemented.
Uniform Number: 17, (29, 32)
Morris (Red) Badgro Enshrinement Speech 1981
Presenter: Mel Hein
Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, I have the pleasure of presenting Morris “Red'' Badgro, who during his time was considered the greatest all-around athlete on the Pacific coast. That is a college athlete. He excelled in three sports, football, basketball, and baseball and that was at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. This is a tremendous accomplishment for Badgro. In fact, he came from a small high school in the State of Washington and up until the time he entered the Un. of S. Cal he had only played three football games in his life.
Red was born in Arellia, Washington. This was a small County town of about 75 people. He attended grammar school there, no sports, he entered Kent high school in Kent, Washington. He was a star in basketball and baseball. One year they tried to play football, they only played three games because they did not have enough men to tryout, so they had to disband football. Read built up his body and his strength working on his family's farm. He did a man's work when he was a very young boy.
Fishing and hunting were his hobbies. He helped build up his speed and endurance by running up the state of Washington. Have any of you been out there, you know they have plenty of mountains out there. When he graduated from high school, he wanted to go to college, but no scholarships were offered, and he didn't have the money to pay his way. So, he worked a year, he worked for the Ford Motor Company in Seattle, Washington. During the winter months there, he played League basketball in and out of Seattle. It so happened that a basketball scout from the University of Southern California saw him play three or four games. So, he called the head coach at USC and said “I have a real prospect here. He can help our program we should give him a scholarship.” so red entered the University of UFC the next fall with a scholarship.
the first day of practice in football he went out to see the freshman team practice and he got his great desire to play football. So, he waited till practice was over and cornered the freshman football coach and asked if he could have a uniform to tryout. The coach said well who are you. How many games you played and where are you from? Red said I went to Kent and played three football games. The coach said well I hate to disappoint you, but we have 120 all city, all County, and Allstate players trying to make this freshman team. These were the days when the UFC had national championship teams under Howard Jones, they called them the “Thundering Herd.” Well Red was very persistent and talk to coach into giving him a uniform. After the 4th game he was first string end on the freshman team. He went on to play first string varsity end, made all-coast and all-American honors. In basketball, the sport that he got the scholarship he was all coast two years a captain of his team the last year. In baseball, he played in the outfield three years, varsity.
After graduation, he was signed by the St. Louis Browns, a professional baseball team. He played for their farm team and then the St. Louis Browns. During those years, the seasons did not overlap as they do now, and he wanted to play some professional football. So, he signed with Red Grange's New York Yankee team. Played a full schedule there. Then Red took the team on the road. They played a series of games going across country from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast under C.C. Pile. Are any of you old enough to remember that name? He was a promoter. Ray Flaherty was the other end of that team. In 1930 Red thought he would concentrate on football only, so he signed a contract with the New York Giants. He played from 1930-1935, six years. Four of those years he was all-pro. That's when they only picked 11 men going both ways. He was all-pro four of the six years. The other two great ends at the time, fellows like Bill Hewitt, from Chicago Bears was enshrined many years ago and Ray Flaherty was enshrined five years ago. Now we will have Red Badgro, if he doesn't faint before he gets up here.
I played, with Red when I joined the Giants in 1931 and played five years with him. Red was a very strong 60-minute football player. On defense he was very aggressive. He was a deadly tackler. On offense a good blocker, a great blocker. He had a knack of getting open on offense. He had good moves, he had tremendous speed. He was a very competitive football player. I don't know if many of you remember the name of Benny Freedman, he was probably the greatest passer of professional football. He told me one time that red was his best target because he could always get open, he had sure hands to catch the ball and if there was a crowd he could go up in that crowd and bring that ball down.
With the speed he had a lot of teams in those days when they would return a kickoff, they would use a wedge. They don't use a wedge anymore, But Red was always the first guy down on the kick-off and he would go into that wedge, that was how tough he was and wasn't a real big guy but had the speed to be everyone else down there and made it easy for the rest of them to make tackles.
In 1936 a lot of new leagues have started up as they did in those early days and Red had a chance to go up to Syracuse and be the head football coach in this new league. Well they weren't very strong in finance as they broke up in the second game. So, Red wanted to go back and play football, but he found out from the New York Giants he couldn’t play with them because Steve Owen, our coach, had made a mistake and given him an out-right release, in other words, he was a free agent. So, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, so he played the 1936 season with the Dodgers much to Steve Owens' disgust because he gave us a bad time in two games.
Now he wanted to get into coaching so in 1937 he went back to the Un. of SC and got his master’s degree. In 1938 he went to Ventura Junior College about 55 miles north of Los Angeles and coached all three sports. Lou Little, who was the head coach of Columbia Un. at that time, and a very famous coach knew about Badgro's background, so he hired him to come back to New York and be his head assistant. He was assistant under Little for five years then he got lonesome for the Pacific coach again and went back to the University of Washington and went back there and was the head assistant for eight years. Then he got out of football and was with the Department of Agriculture for fifteen years.
He got many honors playing college, professional football. Among them he is on the State of Washington Hall of Fame which is in Tacoma, WA. He is on the Un. of Southern Cal All-star team. He is on the New York Giants All-time team, picked by Steve Owen who coached the NY Giants for many years. Because of his contribution to professional football, Morris ''Red” Badgro definitely deserves the honor he is receiving today. Thank you.
Thank you, Mel, for those kind words. I don't know what there is left to say. This is absolutely the greatest thrill of my life and I say that because of the everlasting role it has played in my life period now, I would like to give you a little rundown on what I have been doing and how football was played way back about 50 long years ago. First of all, risk was at the time were only 22 men. Out of those 22 men, 11 fellows who started the game usually had to play 60 minutes, the 2nd 11 seemed to be the substitutes so you were due for a good 60 minutes. And the passing was very little at that time and I will try to explain why.
During that time the football that you see today was nothing like we used. It was a smaller ball and they could pass the ball so much easier. So, therefore, due to the bad conditions you talk about bad conditions , we didn't have the covered Dome and the nice turf they have today and with that wet old ball playing out in the mud that you probably know that here in the East sometimes, the game wasn't too interesting. Now as we know now it is a game of specialties. Every one of the 44 men, which is twice as much as we have now, everyone a specialist, they get out an with some remarkable job they can do, they made the game so much more interesting and really the crowd gets a thrill out of this areal circus. And one thing I do know, we have probably gone ahead 50 years, but we will go back 50 years in regard to the formation.
Well we used that formation 50 years ago period now we will get around to what everyone wants to ask me - the salaries. well I received $150 a game period now I thought that was great. I see a lot of people smiling here, but that was a lot of money- I was glad to get it and I'm telling you it was a really great feeling because at that time, I don't know if any of you remember the big depression, we could buy hot dogs for five cents, a hamburger for $0.10, I paid $3 for a hamburger yesterday and you could buy one for $0.10 then and that was the difference. You could also buy a tailored made suit for $25. Every year from New York we would go back home with a brand-new car costing 400 to $500. So that regard to the salary was quite a difference.
And the crowds. Everyone wonders well you got such little money how were the crowds. While the crowds were small in those days. The average crowd we played too was about 10 to 15,000. but when the great Green Bay Packers come down and the Chicago Bears came too, they would get up to about maybe 30 to 35,000. But of all the games we played, I will just show you what publicity means to the game period at that time during the worst part of the depression, we decided at New York that we should put on a charity game and this charity was arranged to get as many college players off the 1930 Notre Dame team that played USC two weeks before and defeated USC 28-0, so Knute Rockne Brock these players of his and those were seniors and other All Stars they could pick up and do you know that they sold that polo grounds out so fast 54,000 and that was I am sure to come out and see what the average college team could do against the fairly good protein. And even the odds were that the All Stars would defeat the Giants. While we play the game and the All Stars completed one pass, made one first down, the Giants played the second team the second half in order to keep the score down. So that was the way they played in those days with the crowds.
Now a lot of people say well you are way out there in a little town in Washington, how did you ever think you would get into the pros, how did they pick you up? Well we all know you have to have a lucky break somewhere along in your life, and I think this was one of mine. Just as I was going back to school in my senior year in 1927, I was just entering my fraternity house and outrushed Roy Baker, Who had played with Red Grange and C.C Piles, New York Giants the year before, he stopped me and said by chance, “ Red, do you want to play Pro Football?” Well I kind of hesitated and said well sure I will take a shot at it and two days later I got word from New York to come join Piles and Granges New York Yankees. Now Justin, if I would have been one minute later and had not met Baker coming out of the fraternity house, I would have never played Pro Football and missed being here today. look the greatest thing that ever happened to me in my life. When that was all over the greatest thing to me was to graduate from college. I went back to USC and got my degree and started coaching. I was lucky enough to get a job right off because times were kind of tough and a lot of coaches were giving script to get their groceries and I got a job at Ventura Jr. College and coach for one year.
Then went back to New York as an assistant to Lou Reynolds Columbia Lions and then from there just like Mel said I came out to Washington and coached for three coaches up there and then later retired after working for the Department of Agriculture. There is no way now that I can express my feelings. My emotions are high in my gratitude is even higher, greater. For this occasion and honor is the highlight of my life for myself and my lovely wife, Dode, who has been my side and has been my very best fan for the Last 50 years, we would like to express to all you people our heartfelt thanks to the city of Canton and to the Great Hall of fame here and to all those who have made it possible to be here as a great old timer in this Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thank you all and God bless.