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William Walter "Pudge" Heffelfinger

First Professional Football Player



Heffelfinger Family               Historical Marker Dedication


Pudge Heffelfinger


Thomas Lee "Bum" McClung
March 26, 1870-December 19, 1914

Racing At Saltonstall
The Contests To-Morrow Between the Yale Crews.
The Return Game With Amhearst.

The annual spring regatta of the Yale navy takes place at Lake Saltonstall to-morrow. The class shells and single sculls have been taken out to the lake. The crews rowed over the course yesterday and to-day. There will be only two races this year, the race between the junior, sophomore and freshman crews and the single scull race, but both promise to be very close and interesting.

It is not as yet decided whether the university crew will row in the class race or not, but should it row, the following men will be in the boat:





C. F. Rogers


No. 2

W. A. Sims


No. 3

G. S. Brewster


No. 4

W. W. Hefflefinger


No. 5

A. B. Newell


No. 6

H. T. Ferris


No. 7

S. B. Ives




180 1/2

New Haven Register, May 8, 1890

General Sporting Notes.

At the annual meeting of the Yale College Foot Ball Association yesterday the following officers were elected:

President, J. B. Sears, '91
vice-president, W. W. Heffelfinger, '91
treasurer, H. W. Bayne, '92
secretary, R. A. Paddock, '92

A cash balance of $1125 was reported.

Boston Herald, June 7, 1890

"Bob" Cook's Big Pupil
Heffelfinger's Special Course
The Awkward Fellow to Train for Ten Days at Philadelphia--
Weighing 200 Pounds and the Giant of Yale's Campus.
Ambitions to be a Ball Player.

W. W. Heffelfinger, '91, has finally consented to row on the Yale crew this year. Next week he will go to Philadelphia for a special ten days' course of training under the direction of Robert J. Cook, as on account of his neglect to train during the past two months he is very deficient in rowing. His old awkwardness, which prevented him from remaining in the boat last year, is no less an objection than it has heretofore been, but the need of big and strong men in the crew has inspired the managers to use special efforts to put Heffelfinger into the desired condition. "Bob" Cook can eliminate the principal faults in Heffelfinger's work, if anybody can, it is believed, and consequently the special course in Philadelphia has been decided upon.

Heffelfinger, if he can get himself into the right shape, will be the feature of this year's crew. He is the giant of the campus, weighing just 200 pounds and having strength in proportion. All that is necessary for him is to utilize his strength so that no portion of his avoirdupois will have to be carried as freight. Last year he trained actively for the crew, but he was dropped at the end of four months because there was no lack then of large strong men and on account of his awkwardness.

On the football field, Heffelfinger has earned a glorious reputation. He has been very ambitious to make a record at base ball, and to that end he had determined to devote all his energies this year. Up to the present time he has refused all entreaties to work for a place on the crew this year, as that training would interfere with his base ball practice.

New Haven Register, February 21, 1891



[By Telegraph To The Herald.]

New Haven, Conn., Nov. 19 1891. YALE men are singing tonight,

"Hold the line, McClung is coming; 'Bum' is leading still; Heffelfinger's in the centre; win we must and will."

("Bum" is the nickname for McClung.) This is the chorus of the parody on "Hold the Fort," and when three hundred strong lunged students sing it with all the force and power of their vocal organs it makes enlivening music. Most of the Yale men have the utmost confidence in their team and they nearly all believe that Harvard "won't be in it" Saturday at Hampden Park in Springfield. And if they beat Harvard, as they feel morally sure of doing, they think that it will be an easy job to have a glorious Thanksgiving in "doing" Princeton on that day in New York.

Nearly all the old coachers, like Walter Camp, "Papa" Corbin, Rhodes and other football authorities, feel confident of Yale's success Saturday. Those who have seen both teams play are putting up their money on Yale. Yesterday a Harvard man came down here with a roll of $1,000 in his inside pocket. He talked loud and long for Harvard and flourished his money and expressed his willingness to put up for Harvard at the rate of 10 to 7. Several Yale men heard him and they at once coincidentally concluded that "It was a pudding." They raised $300 on the spot and took up his bets and told the Harvard delegate to wait until they could go a block or so for $700 more. In a few minutes they appeared with the $700, but by that time the Harvard man concluded that they were too greedy and he would not give such odds. He wanted odds of 10 to 8, which were refused.


Stillman, whose ankle is quite weak, but who is getting along very rapidly, will be able probably to play at centre, and will begin so as to get a lead with a touchdown and then Sanford may take his place. Wallis, as right tackle, will be able to begin and do excellent work, although he has been under Dr. Thayer's care for the past week. His ankle is still sore form the game with the University of Pennsylvania last Saturday. If he has to stop Saturday Mills will be ready to jump right in and do good work at tackling. His only fault is that he runs poorly.

At two o'clock to-morrow the eleven and substitutes will go to Springfield. They will put up at the quarters of Stagg's Christian Workers, about two miles out of Springfield, where they will have a chance to rest undisturbed and practice their tricks with which they propose to do the Cambridge men. The boys are in excellent spirits to-night and were probably never more successfully trained. They are not over trained, and "just about right" is the general verdict. They will be accompanied by Dr. Thayer, of New York, and Trainers Fitzgerald, of Yale, and Davies, of the Berkeley Athletic Club.

Captain McClung worked the team at the field this afternoon for an hour and then had them run in. It is said that they worked charmingly. It is the last time they will practice here before going to Springfield. The personnel of the team is as follows:--



Ft. In.



Left end

F. A. Hinckey, '94 S

5 8



Left Tackle

W. C. Winter, '94 S

5 11



Left guard

W. W. Heffelfinger, P. G.

6 2 1/2



Centre rush

P. J. Stillman, '94 S

6 2



Right guard

Stanley Morrison, '92

6 1 1/2



Right tackle

A. H. Wallis, '93

5 9



Right end

J. Hartwell, P. G.

6 2 1/2



Quarter back

F. H. Barbour, '92 S

5 5



Left half back

T. L. McClung, '92

5 8



Right half back

L. T. Bliss '93 S

5 8



Full back

V. C. McCormick, '93 S

5 6 1/2



The substitutes are G. F. Sandford, '94, Shoff., centre; A. C. Beard, '95, guard; C. W. Mills, '93, left tackle; E. V. Cox, '94, Shoff., left end; Harry Graves, '92, quarter back; C. D. Bliss, '93, left half back; Thomas Dyer, '95, right half back, and W. C. Richards, '95, full back.

New York Herald, November 20, 1891

Game Will Be Close
Between Central High School and the Madison Team.
Manager Greely Goes To-Night
To Complete Arrangements for the Game--Heavy Coaching

...In anticipation of a hard game the special coaches on duty this week, Messrs. W. W. Heffelfinger, "Babe" Loomis, Holden, Gilbert and Jack Loomis, are putting the Central men through a course of gymnastics that will strengthen any weak points now existing and put the team in shape to do its prettiest for the honor of the school.

The officials of the game will be "Pudge" Heffelfinger and Walter Alexander.

Minneapolis Journal, November 14, 1899

She Doted on Heffelfinger
And, Without Intending to Be Too Frank, She Told Him So.

"Pudge" Heffelfinger was one of the most popular football players Yale ever produced. At present he is living quietly at home in Minneapolis and is in business with his father, a well-known shoe manufacturer of that city.

This story is told of a New York girl who visited Minneapolis. At dinner she found herself seated by a big, broad-shouldered young man, whose name she had not caught. As he was big, looked muscular and did not touch wine, she divined that athletics would be likely to interest him.

"Do you play football?" she asked, accordingly.

"Not now," he answered, with some embarrassment, apparently. She thought him shy.

"But you have played?" she queried, encouragingly.

"Yes--some," he replied.

"You look as if you might play very well. These Western colleges turn out some very fine players," she continued, a trifle patronizingly.

"The best in the world!" he responded, emphatically.

"Oh, hardly that! Of course, they don't compare with the Yale and Harvard players." She thought it a trifle provincial of him to put Western colleges above Yale and Harvard. "Have you ever seen one of the Yale-Harvard games?" she continued.

"Yes, I have seen Yale and Harvard play," he admitted.

"I never miss a game if I can help it," the girl rattled on, "but I don't enjoy them as I used to when Heffelfinger played. Did you ever see him play?"

He looked thoughtful for a moment. "No," he answered.

"Well, you don't know what you've missed. If you really care for football, you ought to see Heffelfinger play."

"I'm afraid I never shall," said the young man, regretfully.

"Evidently he's not a real football enthusiast, or he'd show more interest in the subject," the girl thought to herself, and was about to begin on some other topic, when a man across the table accosted the big, broad-shouldered young man beside her.

"Pudge," he said, "are you going to coach any this Winter for the Minnesota team?"

"No, not this year," answered the young man. A premonitory shiver went over the girl.

"Was it Pudge he called you?" she demanded, breathlessly of the broad-shouldered young man. She recalled a vague memory that Heffelfinger was a Western man.

"Yes, it was 'Pudge,'" he had to admit.

"And your other name?" she asked, her face a brilliant scarlet.

"Heffelfinger, was the apologetic reply.

--Meridian, Conn., Journal, reprinted in the Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, March 24, 1901

Instructed For Roosevelt.

Minneapolis, March 16.--The Fifth Minnesota district Republicans elected W. W. Heffelfinger and C. A. Smith delegates to the national convention. The former is the famous Yale football guard. The latter is a millionaire lumberman. No instructions were given. The county convention composed of the same delegates had previously instructed the delegates to the state convention to work for Roosevelt.

Evening Tribune, Hornall, New York, March 16, 1904

Earned His "Y" In Four Sports
W. W. Heffelfinger Only Man of Yale Who Holds This Honor.

W. W. Heffelfinger, the famous Yale guard and all-around athlete, is the only man who ever earned his "Y" in four major sports at the college. This was brought to light in statistics recently complied which showed the number of letters that had been awarded in the principal sports since 1852.

Heffelfinger, who was in the class of '91, won his letter in football, baseball, rowing and track athletics. But despite his prowess in other sports, it is as a football player, as a gigantic human wall on the Yale line, that his name goes resounding down the corridors of Eli fame.

Other Yale men have won special distinction in various ways closely approaching the accomplishments of Heffelfinger. Thirteen have received their "Y" in three branches...

Boston Journal, December 12, 1913

Heffelfinger to Help Hinkey.

NEW HAVEN, Conn., February 24.--It was semi-officially announced here last night that W. W. Heffelfinger, a famous Yale foot ball player in the nineties, has been offered a contract to assist Head Coach Frank Hinkey in the development of next fall's Blue eleven. Heffelfinger will accept, it is believed. It is stated that he will devote his entire attention to coaching the linemen.

Evening Star, Washington, D. C., February 24, 1915

Will Help Coach Yale.

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 31.--W. W. Heffelfinger, former Yale football star, will leave here probably Wednesday for New Haven to help whip the Eli eleven into shape for the coming games with Harvard and Princeton.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 31, 1916

Yale Great Recalls '90's With Old 'High-Wheeler'

Minneapolis, Nov. 24 (AP)--W. W. Heffelfinger, "Pudge" to his friends and sports writers of the 'nineties, has found a relic of his days at Yale as Minneapolis revives six-day bike racing this fall.

It's a "high-wheeler" he bought in 1888, his first year at Yale where he won 16 letters, starring as a football guard. Years later he was named on Walter Camp's "all-time all-America" team.

"Pudge" won a reputation when he brought this bike--its wheel has a diameter of 56 inches--to the campus. He was elected president of the Yale bicycle club, quite an honor in those days.

His first race with the wheel was in Minneapolis in 1889. He won it from "Flash" Graham, a well-known rider of that day.

"Pudge" rode the mile in 3:07, but it proved his first and last race. He ate too much lunch before the trial--and his memory of it never has been pleasant.

Now in his late fifties, Heffelfinger weighs only ten pounds more than when he was a star guard, a weight-thrower. Yale heavyweight champion and other things athletic.

Only a few years ago he entered a football lineup on a dare and showed he still has the ability to charge fast and hard.

"Pudge" brought his old bicycle to the six-day races here, where he served as official referee. But he declined to mount it.

"I'd rather play Notre Dame alone than take that chance." he said.

Augusta Chronicle, November 25, 1931

But Pudge Once Was Flat On His Back
By Brick Morse

We oldsters got a kick out of reading W. W. (Pudge) Heffelfinger's magazine story, "No One Ever Put Me on My Back." "Heff," as we used to call him when he coached the California varsity in 1893, advises linemen of today to stand up in the line as he used to do. Yes, "Heff" used to do it, but he forgets that present day linemen do not have his build and strength and quickness.

"Heff" weighed 220 pounds and was 6 feet 4 inches tall. He had the strength of a lion and the spring of a tiger. Well I remember that strength and spring.

He scrimmaged against us almost every day. None of our linesmen could push him back or keep him out of the play.

Unquestionably he was the greatest guard that ever lived. Will any of our present linesmen be able to hold his own with the youngsters at the age of 66?

I'll bet he is right when he says nobody ever put him on his back as far as line play goes. However I saw him on his back good and plenty. I must tell the story again.

"Heff" was playing with the second eleven against us one day and mixing up all our best players. At last I caught a punt on our own five-yard line. "Wolf" Ransome came up and I fastened my hand to his belt as was permissible.

"Heff" took a vicious flying tackle at us as we started but missed. Ransome led me over to one sideline then across the field to the other warding off the tacklers as they came up. We reached the five-yard line and there was "Heff" again, pawing the earth like a mad bull. I was scared, but didn't forget to release my hold on Ransome's belt and give him a helpful push.

Ransome lowered his shoulders and hit the big fellow squarely in the pit of his stomach. Was he on his back. Wow! For five minutes he lay there in agony struggling for breath. We thought he was dying and trying to call for a doctor. We rustled two out of the grandstands.

It seemed ages until he revived. With the first breath came the words he had been trying to utter, "Good boy, Ransome." There was a coach for you. No thought of his own suffering, just praise for one of his pupils who had pulled a master play. No wonder we all loved old "Heff."

San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 1938

At 75, Pudge Accepts Age
By Bob Considine

New York, Dec. 15--Getting a little old? Legs feel dead? Can't you take those all-night benders like you used to?

Well, before you shoot yourself give a thought to W. W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, the old Yale Blue whose seventy-fifth birthday will be celebrated Wednesday in Minneapolis.

Some responsible football men swear Heffelfinger was the greatest football player who ever lived. He was the first of the running guards. He was the first lineman to run interference for a ball carrier, and he must have been the greatest.

He discovered the way to break the then scourge of the gridiron--the flying wedge. The solution was half muscle and half cupidity.

For years after he left Yale, Pudge came back every fall to scrimmage with the undergrads. This went on until 1916 when he was 50.

Pudge couldn't make it back to Yale again for practice until he was 53. Then the Yales wouldn't let him play with those two hundred pound 21-year-old boys.

It was a hot knife in the old man's ribs. He walked away dejectedly, grumbling, 'Imagine an old man like me hurting those rugged kids!"

Two years later, at 55, Pudge played 58 minutes of two-fisted football against a team of young Ohio State all-stars. He was all over the field, blocking, tackling, getting down under punts. he led his side to a 16-0 victory.

Then years ago, when Pudge was 65, he played 51 minutes in a charity game at Minneapolis against a team of former Minnesota stars. He still was battling when taken out of the game although he suffered injuries that still are bothering him.

Today he's a picture of rugged health, plays golf with vehemence, runs a ranch in Texas and is county commissioner of Hennepin county, Minnesota, but at last resigned to the grid sidelines.

Omaha World-Herald, December 15, 1942

Heffelfinger Honored on His 75th Birthday

MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 15--They will turn back the clock to the days of the flying wedge and turtle neck sweaters tomorrow night for one of football's immortals.

The occasion will be the 75th birthday party for Walter W "Pudge" Heffelfinger, whose football feats of 50 years ago still rank him as one of the game's all-time greats.

This mighty Pudge played for Yale from 1888 to 1891, and Yale men have been talking about it ever since.

More than 300 of Pudge's friends will attend his party, and the speaker will be a man who played in Pudge's last game--when Pudge was 54.

McMillan Recalls Exploits

Bo McMillin, University of Indiana football coach, will recall Pudge's exploits in that game of 1921, when he stepped into the line-up of an all-star team made up mostly of players just out of college.

The youngsters expected to hear Pudge's bones creak the length of the field, but old Pudge turned out to be the best lineman in the game. He recalls the game with relish:

"I was going strong when they took me out at the end of 52 minutes of play. But the next day I wouldn't have been good for a game of mumbletypeg."

Heffelfinger, still a powerful figure, six feet six inches, tall and weighing "over 200 pounds, says he got his greatest football thrill as a freshman in a game against Princeton.

"I found how to break up Princeton's flying wedge, in which 10 Princeton players formed a solid wall around the ball carrier," he recalled tonight. 'To reach him we had to smash this wall. I decided that if I couldn't get through their line, maybe I could get under it. I tried diving under the their legs to stop the runner, and it worked. I pulled the trick so many time, Princeton finally lost heart, and we won on two field goals.

Heffelfinger originate the practice of a guard pulling out of the line on defense to run interference.

He not only ran interference, but Coach Walter Camp frequently had him carry the ball.

"Playing in the line those days was more fun than it is now because we could carry the ball," Heffelfinger said.

"But there isn't much difference between football in those days and the game today--except for the passing.

"It's still a matter of being strong and fast and alert. A great lineman like Dick Wildung (Minnesota's all-American tackle) would have been just as great in those days.

Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, December 16, 1942

Heffelfinger Added to All-Time Eleven

Chicago, Ill.--W. W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, the Yale "Iron Man" from 1889 through 1891, Saturday was named the fifth member of the all-time football honor team. The eleven will assemble at Wrigley Field September 1 during half-time ceremonies of the Chicago Bears-New York Giants Services Benefits football game.

Other all-time stars are Don Hutson of Alabama, Duke Slater of Iowa, Willie Heston of Michigan and Bronko Nagurski of Minnesota.

Omaha World-Herald, August 25, 1946

Pudge Heffelfinger Lauded in New York

New York--William W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, Yale's three-time All-America guard and one of football's all-time greats, Tuesday was named winner of the Touchdown Club of New York award for 1953.

The award is presented annually to a person who has made "a wholesome, constructive contribution to football over the years."

Omaha World-Herald, November 18, 1953

All-Time Eli Great Guard, Pudge Heffelfinger, Is Honored At Bowl
Yale's All-Time Great, Heffelfinger, Honored Before Game

One of Yale's all-time greats, William W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger was honored in pre-game ceremonies, for selection to the Honor Court of the National Football Hall of Fame. Heffelfinger, a three-time All-America guard at Yale and who has gained recognition as the first running guard, was also recently named winner of the New York Touchdown Club's award for 1953 for his "wholesome and constructive contribution to football over the years." The Hall of Fame Citation, made by Dean C. W. Mendell, Yale director of athletes, was in part as follows:

The National Football Hall of Fame has honored five Yale men with placement upon their list of heroes: Walter Camp, Ted Coy, William Heffelfinger, Frank Hinkey and Alonzo Stagg.

Today we have the honor of presenting the certificate of his election on behalf of the Hall of Fame to a beloved son of Yale, our Pudge Heffelfinger. Three times All-American guard, with an incomparable record in the rugged days from 1888 to 1891, for all that you have done to give prestige and dignity to college football. The National Football Hall of Fame honors you today. For more than half a century you have stood as the embodiment of those qualities which we hope and believe are nurtured by this truly American sport; courage, alertness of mind, self-control and that fairminded chivalry which we call sportsmanship.

Springfield Union, Springfield, Massachusetts, November 22, 1953

Of Football Immortals

This Was Football By W. W. (Pudge) Heffelfinger. A. S. Barnes and Co. 192 pp. $3.

These are the reminiscences of Pudge Heffelfinger, Yale guard of 1888-91, who was still playing football in exhibition games against semipros at the age of sixty-five and who has been chosen on every all-time All-American team ever selected. He died last April at 86.

Here is a parade of all of the football immortals--if you believe footballers are immortal.

Several interesting conclusions are recorded: present-day line play is sissy; All-American selections are meaningless; the Army backfield of 1946 was the best ever assembled; the Mid-West consistently produces the strongest teams, the South the best ball-carriers and the Southwest the best passers.

The "good old days" are amply, but not exclusively, recorded; the days of fierce play without helmets or pads; of the flying wedge, which left the opposition strewn over the field and largely "People weren't so sensitive to blood and broken bones in those days." This member of the academic profession is impelled to admit (reluctantly) that perhaps collegiate football has improved over the years--in one or two respects.--Samuel W. Stevenson.

Richmond Times Dispatch, October 24, 1954

Heffelfinger Scholarship

New Haven, Conn. Oct. 27--A scholarship in the name of football great William W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger has been announced today by Yale University.

The scholarship is limited to students from Minnesota, Heffelfinger's home state.

Evansville Courier and Press, Evansville, Indiana, October 28, 1954

Pudge Heffelfinger Football Card



Pudge Heffelfinger Card



Pudge Heffelfinger Card




An Old-Timer Gives Grid Hints

NEW HAVEN, CONN.--Yale's "Iron Man," Four-Letter Winner and claimed to be the greatest of All-Americans, W. W. Heffelfinger, of Minneapolis, Minn., gives the Blues Captain, _____ Walker, a few hints on why no one was able to put him on his back when he played guard for Yale in the late 1880s. Heffelfinger, who was three-time All-American, also starred in baseball, track, field and crew.

October 24, 1945


W. W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, 65-year-old Minneapolis, Minn., business man, photographed recently as he played in an alumni game between two Minneapolis high schools. Heffelfinger knew all the tricks but there's a reason. He is an All-Time All-American guard, and won that title when he played at Yale. After the recent game Heffelfinger decided that he was too old for another one.



Amos Alonzo Stagg (left), Grand Old Man of football, grins up at his old Yale teammate William Walter "Pudge Heffelfinger, as they met at the railroad station here Dec. 19 [1946]. Stagg arrived to send his College of Pacific team (last he will coach them) against North Texas State College in the Optimist Bowl Dec. 21.



Walter W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, the famous All-American guard of the 1888 Yale university eleven, celebrates his 82nd birthday in a hospital here. Heffelfinger is recovering from an operation. He said he hopes to spend the holiday season on his ranch near Blessing, Texas. --December 1949



<---(ADVANCE FOR PM OF THURS., APRIL WITH ALL-TIME ALL AMERICA STORY) (NY14-April 4) FAVORED GUARD ON DREAM TEAM--Pudge Heffelfinger (above), indestructible Yale guard from 1888 through 1891, has been selected by the nation's football experts as a guard on the all-time All America eleven for Hall of Fame consideration. He polled 559 votes to lead 68 guard candidates as his nearest contender polled but 253. He is shown at left while at Yale in 1890, top right as he visited in California one year ago and bottom right as he prepared to participate in a charity grid game in 1933. 51


Playing football at 6[4?]  W. W. "Pudge" Heffelfinger, Yale Football Star in late 80's playing charity game.



William Walter "Pudge" Heffelfinger, Yale University All America football player of the 1880's, died today at his home in Blessing, Tex. 4-2-1954