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Richmond, ready for some football? You betcha

By Linda Emley

For the first time in 18 months, I’m taking a day off. It wasn’t the original plan, but circumstances created a temporary roadblock to a story about a key day in Richmond football’s past. But with the big game on Saturday, I thought it would be a good time to reprint one of my football stories from last year. I promise to be back next week with a new one that every Spartan will remember from Saturday, Nov. 27,1971. PS. GOOD LUCK to the Richmond Spartans this Saturday as they take on Logan-Rogersville.
– Linda
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? I’m not a big football fan, but I know enough to understand it would not be Thanksgivings without a few football games after turkey dinner.
Richmond Missourian – Nov. 26, 1931, “Gridiron Contests Are Within Driving Distance. Consequently, for many of those who will enjoy turkey, goose or duck, and their accompanying dishes, Thanksgiving afternoon will probably be spent digesting the Thanksgiving dinner on the lounge or in an easy chair.
“For those more energetic, however, football games offer a tempting way to spend the afternoon. There are no contests scheduled in Richmond, but a forty five-minute drive will take fans to Liberty to witness the annual Turkey Day clash between William Jewell College and Westminster College of Fulton. And for those who want football and do not wish to leave town to see it, the Farris Theater is offering what is perhaps the best football picture ever made, ‘Touchdown’ at both matinee and evening performances.“
Richmond Missourian – Nov. 24, 1932, “The afternoon offers a nap, which will be welcomed by many, and to the more energetic several football possibilities. Many Ray Countians will drive to Lexington to see two local boys, Andy White and Paul Grimes, uphold the standard of Wentworth Academy in its annual Turkey Day clash against Kemper Academy. Others will take their football without leaving home, listening by radio to the Missouri-Nebraska game at Lincoln, where this community will be represented by Percy Gill, 219-pound Tiger tackle who will doubtless uphold his well-earned reputation as one of the outstanding players in the Big Six. A few Richmondites are planning to drive to Lincoln to see the game, either late Wednesday or early Thursday morning. Other Ray Countians will avail themselves of the opportunity to see ‘The Big Broadcast’ at the Farris Theater either in the afternoon or at night.”
MU lost to the Cornhuskers 21-6 in 1932, and Nebraska went on to win the Big 6 title.
On Nov. 22, 1947, the KU-MU game was played in Lawrence. KU won 20-14. The Richmond News had an AP Wire photo on the front page with the following caption, “EVANS SCORES FOR KANSAS”. They had to be very brave to put this picture (Ray Evans was a Wyandotte H.S. grad) on the front page in a MU town like Richmond.
The KU-MU rivalry has its roots in the 1850s when slavery was a major issue between the Kansas Territory and Missouri. The first MU-KU football game was played on Halloween day in 1891. The Jayhawks won 22-10. The football border war games have been pretty close over the years. The score card reads 55-54-9 with both teams claiming to have the wining record. In 1960 KU won, but one of their players was ruled ineligible after the game and MU got the won. The only thing both teams agree on is that there have been nine ties.
They play Nov. 27 at 11:30 in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. I am sure all MU and KU fans have the day already marked on their calendars. As for the rest of us, don’t call any of your MU or KU friends that Saturday ‘til after the game is over. You might also want to check and see who won before you call to small talk.
Richmond has had two RHS football players make it to the “pros”. Harold Burnine played for the Spartans in 1948-49 seasons and still holds six school records. He lettered for MU in 1953,1954 and 1955 and went on to play for the New York Giants in 1956 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1957.
Lenvil Elliott was our second RHS football player to go pro. He was a Spartan in the 1966-1968 seasons and still holds three school records. After high school he played ball for Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville, Mo. Lenvil played nine seasons in the NFL and was on the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XVI winning team.
We can’t talk football without mentioning one of the most memorable games in football history. Nov 17, 1968 is a day that will always be remembered by all true football fans as the “Heidi Bowl’. This was the infamous game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders that got cut off with 65 seconds to go. The Jets were leading 32-29 when NBC cut in and started the new made-for-TV movie, “ Heidi”.
Without modern technology, NBC wasn’t able to switch the game back on before it ended. The Raiders made a comeback and scored 14 more points to win 43-32. After the “Heidi Bowl,” the TV networks made sure that never happened again and that’s why today all shows following a football game run the risk of starting late.
To make matters worst, during a touching scene when Heidi‘s paralyzed cousin fell out of her wheelchair, a message ran across the bottom of TV screens announcing who’d won the football game. This made all the “Heidi” fans mad, but the football fans were even madder to see they had missed a lot in the final 65 seconds of the game.
NBC ran ads in several newspapers announcing that ”Heidi” had gotten rave reviews . As a joke, the ads also quoted Jets quarterback, Broadway Joe Namath, as saying “I didn’t get a chance to see it, but I heard it was great.” Since backed-up phone lines had prevented NBC from taking quick action on this game, they installed a “bat phone” in their control room to prevent incidents like this from happening again. This phone became know as the Heidi phone.
The next evening, Frank Reynolds, the ABC Evening News anchor, was shown reading the book “Heidi” while the two final touchdowns were being replayed.
A few years later, Joe Namath and Jennifer Edwards, who played Heidi, ran into each other on an airplane flight. It’s reported that they briefly chatted and went on their way. The “Heidi Bowl” was something that neither of them ever forgot as they both went on to bigger and better things. Broadway Joe will always be remembered for his 1974 pantyhose commercial and Jennifer got to be Ms. Kyle in “ Star Trek: The Next Generation.“

You can write Linda Emley at raycohistory@aol.com

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