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Sports Then and Now



Fiesty Football Legend Clarke Hinkle 8

Posted on January 04, 2015 by Dean Hybl

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete is an all-time football great who was the NFL’s career rushing leader at the time of his retirement.

Considering that the NFL career rushing yardage record today stands at 18,355 yards, it might seem strange to know that when Clarke Hinkle retired in 1941 he was top runner in NFL history with 3,860 yards. Read the rest of this entry →

What Would Clarke Hinkle and Bronko Nagurski Think of the Modern NFL? 4

Posted on April 10, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Clarke Hinkle played in an era before players wore facemasks and other protective padding.

If he were still alive today, you can bet that former NFL running back and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Clarke Hinkle would have some pretty terse things to say to both the players and owners in the current labor mess. Though Hinkle, who would have celebrated his 99th birthday on April 10th, passed away in 1988, words he wrote to me several years prior to his death are a great reminder of how different the NFL of today is from when he helped make the game popular in the 1930s.

As a teenager in the early 1980s, I sent letters to many former professional athletes expressing how much I thought of what they had done and asking for an autograph. Because this was in the days before autographs became such a big and lucrative business, I actually received many cards, pictures and letters back from former greats ranging from Otto Graham, Doak Walker and Bart Starr to Johnny Bench, Sparky Anderson and Happy Chandler.

In each letter I typically included a couple paragraphs talking about their career or something else that I thought was interesting.

In writing to Clarke Hinkle, I mentioned how I thought it was interesting that he had once been the NFL’s all-time rushing leader with 3,850 career yards. In fact, he held that honor from the time he retired in 1941 until being passed by Steve Van Buren in 1949. At the time I was writing to him, the record was held by Jim Brown with 12,312 yards and Walter Payton and Franco Harris were in competition to eclipse that total.

Usually what I received back from the athletes was a signed picture and occasionally a brief note or some other personal memorabilia (like a post card).

To my surprise, from Hinkle in addition to an autographed card I received a two page hand written letter in which he spent most of the time talking about how easy pro football players of the current era have it compared to players from his day. He said that the rushing records would be much less if those players had to play both ways (Hinkle played tailback and linebacker) and deal with players like Bronko Nagurski. Read the rest of this entry →

Clarke Hinkle 2

Posted on September 27, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Clarke Hinkle

Clarke Hinkle

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete is an all-time football great who was the NFL’s career rushing leader at the time of his retirement.

Considering that the NFL career rushing yardage record today stands at 18,355 yards, it might seem strange to know that when Clarke Hinkle retired in 1941 he was top runner in NFL history with 3,860 yards.

Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

      Read more »

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