The book: Historic Photos of USC Football
The author: Steve Springer
The essential info: Turner Publishing (linked here), 216 pages, $39.99
The lowdown: Springer, the former Los Angeles Times sportswriter and author of seven books, including one on USC-UCLA football history, was forwarded an email from a friend who saw a posting on Craigslist recruiting someone to help put this book together. All the photos had been acquired by the publisher, through various sources. Now, all it needed were some identifications, context, and history.
Springer was apparently the right man at the right time. And with extensive help from USC sports information director Tim Tessalone, this comes out as a great coffee-table book for Trojan fans to take with them to Hawaii for the season opener over Labor Day weekend — and then, perhaps, use as a boogie board while enjoying the rest of the vacation.
Some of these pictures, you’ve seen before. But in larger-scale presentation, on high-stock paper, the photos are more like pieces of art, with the detail stunning in some cases.
Remember Turd, the mascot dog? “Gloomy Gus” Henderson, smiling? “The Wild Bunch” in full costume? Those cheesy publicity shots, of guys running, jumping and diving into the camera — without padding to land on.
On page 126, there’s a stock photo of head coach Don Clark, taking a knee, with is staff surrounding him. Springer notes: “The key figure in this shot, however, is the man second from right, first year assistant John McKay, who replaced Clark a year later.” True enough. But how about the other guy, second from left. It’s Al Davis.
On page 140, there’s running back Mike Garrett, going through a gauntlet of well wishers, most likely during a senior day celebration. See the kid down on the bottom right with his arm stretched out? Pete Arbogast? The current Trojan play-by-play man has said that’s actually him.
On page 179: There’s Sam “Bam” Cunningham, diving right at you, from the 1973 Rose Bowl.
Of course, many of these shots have been in color, and those watercolor-like prints that have been published before are pieces of art unto themselves. But here, in black-and-white, it looks more like a visual documentary, the first 100 years of USC football, coming up to a shot of Paul McDonald in action in the 1980 Rose Bowl.
What Springer came away from this after working on this: “It seemed, after looking at these pictures, that they had much more fun back then. They were just guys on a Saturday afternoon playing football. Sure, there was pressure, and it was USC, but the photos especially from the ’20s and ’30s, it was a whole different time.”
Springer said Tessalone was invaluable in identifying people and teams in the photos — many which came to them without any information.
“We’re looking at a game from 1952, and there’s an arm trying to tackle a USC running back,” said Springer. “It looks like it could be a Notre Dame player. But Tim would say, ‘See that stripe on the uniform, that’s Florida.’ There were a couple of photos we couldn’t use because it was just impossible to tell who they were playing.”
Springer also became resourceful thanks to the Internet. USC dropped football, from 1911 to 1913, and one of the photos was of Trojans playing rugby, with just the ID: USC vs. St. Mary’s. Springer did a Google search and found a 1914 Spaulding Collge Rugby guide, which helped him pinpoint more information about that photo — it took place at Manual Arts High School, near the USC campus.
Classic, classy stuff.
Like Marion Morrison (top).
Did you know: Turner Publishing has done similar books about the football history of LSU, Florida, Alabama and Georgia.
Post script: Springer’s next book, coming out in November, is with Jeanie Buss, called “Laker Girl: From Pickfair to Playboy to Purple and Gold” (linked here)