What would Thanksgiving Day be without football? It’s as much as part of our national holiday as turkey with all the trimmings.
If they’re not feasting around the dinner table Thanksgiving Day, chances are you’ll find families across the country on their living room couches, glued to at least one of the games. Traditionally, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys host Thanksgiving afternoon games (as they do today), but in recent years the NFL introduced a third prime-time game hosted by a random team.
Beyond the professional ranks, there are only a handful of other Thanksgiving Day football games played across the country, most of which are steeped in tradition. One of which is the Catholic high school “Turkey Bowl” between Manhattan’s Xavier and Bronx’s Fordham Prep; the 91st edition of this particular big game kicks off this morning.
With many minds on football today, we felt this is an appropriate time to recall a local amateur football team from long ago, the Glendale Crescents, and a championship season they enjoyed 75 years ago.
The Glendale Crescents played their home games at Dexter Park in Woodhaven, on the north side of Elderts Lane and Jamaica Avenue, adjacent to Franklin K. Lane High School. They joined the Queens Alliance Football League’s South Shore Division, which included the Lormawood Club of Queens Village, which had won five of the six previous league titles; the St. Albans Pirates and the Viking Ramblers.
The league’s North Shore division included the Maspeth Pioneers, Astoria Wheel Club, Astoria Wampus, Rego Park Red Devils, Broadway Red Jackets and the Flushing Vikings.
The league’s payment structure was rather interesting compared to modern standards. The visiting team had the option of receiving a $25 guarantee (roughly $428 in today’s dollars) or 40 percent of the gate receipts. Needless to say, today’s professional football players make a few hundred dollars the minute the ball is kicked off.
The Crescents opened the 1939 season on Oct. 22, playing the Lormawood Club to a scoreless tie at Sherwood Oval, located in Springfield Gardens near the corner of Merrick Road and Farmers Boulevard.
Glendale’s starting lineup that day was Ed Lieber, left end; Jocko Wolf, left tackle; Jack Cathey, left guard; Frank Coerr, center; George Faller, right guard; Gus Zimmerman, right tackle; Dennis Quinn, right end; John Auger, quarterback; Joe Devine, left halfback; Don Quinn, right halfback; and Bill Von Linden, fullback.
On the bench as substitutes were Charles McCarthy, Arthur Krieg, Paul Kubik, Ken Laurel, Charles McMahon, Eich Smillie and Bill Cairns.
The team captain, Wolf, was a tackle at St. Francis Preparatory School. McCarthy was an allscholastic end and Faller was an all-scholastic guard at Grover Cleveland High School. Quinn— who would lead the Queens Alliance in scoring—played for Brooklyn Prep, while McMahon played for the undefeated St. John’s Prep team.
Road to the title
The Crescents got their first win the following Sunday, Oct. 29, defeating the St. Albans Pirates 6-0 at St. Albans Oval. Quinn scored the winning touchdown with just 30 seconds left in the game.
But the Crescents didn’t profit from the victory. The St. Albans team, as it happened, did not pay rent to the field’s landlord for the three previous games. As a result, the owner stationed himself at the gate and collected all the receipts; the Crescents did not receive their $25 guarantee.
Inclement weather forced the postponement of the scheduled Nov. 5 game against the Maspeth Pioneers at Melvina Stadium to the following weekend, Nov. 12. The Crescents won that game by another 6-0 score. This time, Murray ran the ball into the end zone from the one yard line on the last play of the game.
Glendale picked up its third win in a row the following week, Nov. 19, besting Lormawood 18- 13 at Sherwood Oval. Late-game heroics emerged again, as quarterback George Murray’s pass to right halfback Herb Lyons in the fourth quarter proved to be the decisive score.
The following Sunday, Nov. 26, the Crescents clinched the South Shore Division title with a 19-0 win over the Astoria Wheelman, running their win streak to four games. Halfback DeVine threw a touchdown pass to Ted Ille, and Don Quinn notched the extra point.
Big game was a nail-biter
The Crescents earned home field advantage in the league championship game, which they played on Dec. 17, 1939 at Dexter Park against the Flushing Vikings, champions of the North Shore Division. By then, fans in both neighborhoods had football fever, as each team hosted automobile parades the night before the big game in their respective neighborhoods.
Both teams took the Dexter Park field at 2 p.m. on Dec. 17 before a crowd of 3,500. The Crescents were at full strength, while three key Viking players were forced out of the lineup due to injury.
Following a scoreless first quarter, the Crescents got rolling in the second, as quarterback Gordon Reese threw a 25-yard pass to Charles McCarthy on the Viking 22 yard line. The Crescents were in business, but McCarthy had to leave the game due to injury.
Once play resumed, Ted Ille faded back and threw a touchdown pass to Bill von Linden. Paul Kubik kicked the extra point to put Glendale ahead 7-0.
Things got fractious toward the end of the first half, as a fight broke out between Ken Laurel of Glendale and Frank Giancarlo of Flushing; both players were ejected from the game. Despite the extra-curricular activity, the Crescents went into halftime with a seven-point lead.
Following a scoreless third quarter, the Flushing Vikings got on the board, as Oscar Camponeschi’s touchdown gave them six points. But it was the point after touchdown play that proved to be the game’s turning point.
In those days, the point after could be either kicked through the uprights or scored on the field. Viking fullback Al Mulligan tried to run the ball into the end zone, plunging directly into the Crescents’ defensive line. But Glendale held firm and stopped Mulligan at the line of scrimmage.
Glendale’s goal line stand preserved the Crescents’ lead, and it would hold through to the end. Once the clock ran out, the Glendale Crescents were champions of the 1939 Queens Alliance Football League.
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