57 + 57 Football – Detroit Lions Regular Season Week 8

Detroit Lions LogoThe art of deception, and solid defensive play backed up by key performances by the offense, helped the Lions narrowly beat the Saints on Sunday, 24-23. The deception – by defensive secondary partners James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin – involved a sudden switch in roles, baffling Saints quarterback Drew Brees into a mis-judged pass intercepted by Quin. The turnover sparked a recovery. Two touchdowns were quickly on the scoreboard and the Lions roared into the locker room with the win. Golden Tate, with a career-high 10 catches for 154 yards, chalked up 73 of those yards for the first recovery touchdown. A Matthew Stafford to Corey Fuller pass deep in the end zone put the Lions over the top with only 1:54 left in the game. In the field goal department, newly-signed kicker Matt Prater put his sole attempt of 21 yards through the endposts. So far, so good.

“These games build character in your team,” Quin quipped. “When you’re in games like this, worrying about a No. 1 defense or stats or all that stuff, none of that matters, you’re just trying to win the game. Great offenses come through and make plays like they did, and great defenses come through and make big plays like we did and that’s how you get the win.”

We’re 5-2,  still tied with the pesky Packers for the NFC North, and headed on Sunday to Atlanta, home of the free, the Braves, and the 2-5 Falcons. The Falcons were thoroughly trashed by the Baltimore Colts Ravens last weekend. We’ll just sweep up after.

On October 20, 1957 another come-from-behind win played out in Detroit. The Baltimore Colts came to town, with their “Golden Arm” (quarterback Johnny Unitas), for a rematch following the Lions’ loss in Baltimore three weeks earlier. The Arm quickly went to work: 1st quarter 15 yard TD pass to Jim Mutscheller; 2nd quarter 72 yard TD pass to Lenny Moore, 66 yard pass to Jim Mutscheller; and 3rd quarter 4 yard pass to Lenny Moore. Then the Lions woke up. In the fourth quarter, Detroit quarterback Bobby Layne displayed his “arm and a foot”: a 26 yard TD pass to Howard Cassady, a hand-off to John Henry Johnson for a 1 yard TD run, and another 29 yard TD pass to Cassady (Layne also kicked all three points after). Final score: Detroit 31, Baltimore 27.

Fullback John Henry Johnson. Photo: Pro Football Hall of Fame

Fullback John Henry Johnson. Photo: Pro Football Hall of Fame

John Henry Johnson, a 6′ 2″ fullback out of Arizona State, was a new face on the Lions team in 1957. His two previous years in the NFL were with the San Francisco 49ers as part of their “Million Dollar Backfield,” which included future Pro Hall-of-Famers Johnson, Hugh McElhenny, Y.A. Tittle, and Joe Perry. During the 1957 season, John Henry was the Lions leading rusher with 621 yards. On retirement in 1966 he ranked fourth in rushing yards behind only Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, and Joe Perry. In addition to his career 6803 rushing yards, he had 186 pass receptions for 1478 yards, scoring 330 points on 55 career touchdowns.

Up next for the 1957 Lions – a trip to sunny Los Angeles and another opportunity to shut down Norm Van Brocklin and his Ram crew. Is there a trip to two-year-old Disneyland in the cards?

October 23, 1957 – Christian Dior and Fifties Fashion in France

Designer Christian Dior and models in London, April, 1950.

On October 23, 1957, one of France’s foremost couturiers passed his haute torch to a young prince who would come to dominate the houses of Paris’ eighth arrondissement. The dying monarch was Christian Dior and the coming king was Yves Henri Donat Matthieu-Saint-Laurent. Dior’s father, a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer, hope his second son would become a diplomat, but uncooperative Christian loved art. During the years that father Maurice’s business flourished, Christian managed a gallery and exhibited works by the likes of Pablo Picasso. After the onset of the Great Depression and the loss of his subsidized gallery, Christian went to work for designers Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong. At the end of World War II and the French Occupation, Dior opened his own atelier in 1946. His first collection was presented in February, 1947.

Harper’s Bazaar then-editor-in-chief Carmel Snow captured the essence of Dior’s creations with the phrase, the “New Look.” With wartime fabric shortages becoming a thing of the past, Christian produced voluptuous styles, shapes, and silhouettes. Smoothly-fitted bodices, narrow waists, and flaring skirts gave society’s style-setters a most feminine and curvaceous appearance.

The house of Dior was highly successful through the 1950’s. Young, upcoming designers would join the atelier to learn and contribute their vision and skills. One such young man came to Paris in 1953 as the winner of the International Wool Secretariat designer contest. He stayed on in Paris to study at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and won the Secretariat competition again (beating out, among others, a young Karl Lagerfeld). On the strength of his sketches, and his shared sensibilities about fashion, Yves Saint Laurent was accepted into the Dior studio and began careful tutelage as a new apprentice.

Over time, more of Saint Laurent’s designs found their way into each season’s offerings at Dior. By August, 1957, Christian had decided that young Yves was the man to fill his slippers when the time came for a successor. He revealed his choice to Saint Laurent’s mother, who found the revelation confusing, since Dior was only 52 at the time.

Then, on October 23rd, Christian Dior passed away on holiday in Italy. Several conflicting reports as to the cause of his death have never been fully resolved. At 21 years old, Yves Saint Laurent took the reins at the grand house of Dior. His highly successful early collections were described as a softer version of Dior’s New Look, including the famous “trapeze dress.” Toward the end of the 1950s, Saint Laurent became interested in his world’s version of street style, the “beatnik” look. The press was not amused. After conscription and a brief stint in the French army, Saint Laurent came back in the 1960s and 1970s with his own atelier to become one of Paris’ powerhouse designers, with accomplishments and innovations almost too numerous to list. He was a bona fide member of the international jet set and a force to be reckoned with in haute couture for decades.

“Les Annees 50: La Mode in France” (The Fifties: Fashion in France, 1947-1957) opened last July 12th at the Palais Galliera in Paris. The multitude of pieces on display – basques, petticoats, corolla skirts, pointed shoes, bright floral prints, wasp-waisted or straight suits, strapless sheath dresses, cocktail, dresses, crystal embroidery, feathered hats with veils – “retraces the evolution of the female form through the decade 1947-1957: from the birth of the New Look to the death of Christian Dior and the advent of Yves Saint Laurent.” French fashion dominated the fifties closet-scape not only because of Dior and Saint Laurent, but also due to the contributions (included in Les Annes 50) of Jacques Heim, Chanel, Shiaparelli, Balenciaga, Jacques Fath, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Griffe, Hubert de Givenchy, and Pierre Cardin. Mary Hawthorne, writing for The New Yorker in their September 16th issue, contrasted the fashion on display with the clothing choices she observed among the exhibit-goers and the hijab-wearing demonstrators on the streets. If you are a fashion-loving fifties fan, plan to attend Les Annees 50 soon. The exhibit closes November 2nd.

October 23, 1957 – Vanguard’s TV-2 Launched From Cape Canaveral

Vanguard Rocket Launch. Photo: United States Navy

On October 23, 1957, the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Vanguard program successfully tested a three-stage rocket designed to send an American Earth satellite into orbit.  The recent launch of the Soviet Union’s rocket bearing the first Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, created a sense of urgency for the U.S. to catch up with their Cold War nemesis, and the original timetable for American satellite deployment was put on a fast track.

In 1955, the United States government announced plans to create and successfully place an Earth satellite into orbit during the International Geophysical Year, running from July, 1957 through December of 1958.  Consequently, three branches of the armed services – the Army, Air Force, and Navy – all independently pursued their own rocket-development programs.  The Army’s Redstone project and the Air Force’s Atlas ballistic missiles were military in nature and of a top priority.  The NRL was always viewed more as a scientific organization and Vanguard was emphasized as a non-military project.

Two NRL program launches took place before October 23rd’s blast-off.  TV-0, launched December 8, 1956, tested telemetry systems, and TV-1 on May 1, 1957, tested the separation and subsequent second-stage ignition capabilities of the two-stage rocket design.  Several abortive attempts occurred over the summer of 1957, before TV-2 was able to test the 75 feet tall, 3.74 foot diameter, 22,156 pound, three-stage version.  TV-2 successfully demonstrated Vanguard’s ability for first-second stage separation and “spin-up” of the third stage.  Stages 1 and 2 were steered by gimbaled engines.  The third stage was “spin-stabilized, the spin being imparted by a turn-table on the second stage before separation”.  The engines worked, the turn-table worked, the telemetry and separation systems worked, but American rockets were still incapable of packing a satellite aboard.

Fast-tracking the Vanguard project in response to the threat posed by Sputnik resulted in disappointments and set-backs before achieving its ultimate goal.  Next test reservation date for Cape Canaveral’s LC-18A pad would be December 6th.  The suspense was mounting.

October 22, 1957 – Francois Duvalier Haiti’s New President

Haitian President Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in 1965

On October 22, 1957, a second ominous October launch occurred; Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was sworn in as President of Haiti.  Although Sputnik 1 would fall out of orbit in three months, Duvalier became President for Life, “serving” the unfortunate populace of the Caribbean island nation until his death in 1971.

Born the son of a justice of the peace (father) and a baker (mother), and with a university degree in medicine, Duvalier was the rare educated man in a country where rampant illiteracy and repression of the Afro-Haitian majority by a small, mulatto elite were facts of life.  Rampant and devastating tropical diseases were also facts of life during Duvalier’s early years, and he earned his “Papa Doc” nickname for his work through a United States-sponsored campaign to control the spread of typhus, malaria, and yaws (a destructive bacterial infection of the skin, bones, and joints).  Also, early in his career, Duvalier began pursuing political and spiritual agendas: the negritude movement of Dr. Jean Price-Mars (a literary, Marxist-style movement promoting Afro-Haitian solidarity to fight French colonial racism and domination); and vodou (the island’s syncretic religion combining elements of West African beliefs and practices and Roman Catholicism).

In 1946, Papa Doc began serving as Haiti’s Director of National Public Health under the government of President Dumarsais Estime, but when Estime was ousted in a coup by General Paul Magloire, Duvalier went into hiding until amnesty was declared in 1956.  Magloire’s rule ended in December of that year, and a series of provisional governments controlled Haiti until September 22, 1957, when Papa Doc was elected President over Louis Dejoie, a mulatto landowner and industrialist.  Duvalier’s populist campaign called on Haiti’s rural Afro-Haitian majority to throw off control by the mulatto elite.  After his landslide victory, he exiled Dejoie’s supporters and established a new constitution.

Over the following years, Papa Doc would consolidate his power base in the military, take control of Haiti’s Catholic churches, revise and then ignore the 1957 constitution, commit massive voter fraud to install himself as “President for Life”, use murder and expulsion to repress political opposition, decimate Haiti’s businesses with extortion, bribery, and theft, intimidate educated leaders to abandon the island, misappropriate millions of dollars in international foreign aid, and create a vodou-laced personality cult for himself to further consolidate his power.

Was Papa Doc sane?  A massive heart attack in 1959, possibly due to an insulin overdose (Duvalier suffered from heart disease and adult-onset diabetes), left him unconscious for nine hours.  Associates speculated that his mental health was affected by neurological damage resulting from this period.  Over the following years, Duvalier’s life was increasingly marked by paranoia and delusions.  He once ordered the head of an executed rebel to be delivered to him packed in ice (so that he could commune with the dead man’s spirit), and also portrayed himself as personally chosen by Jesus Christ to lead the Haitian people.

October 21, 1957 – Army Captain Hank Cramer First U.S. Combat Death in Vietnam

United States Army Special Forces Captain Harry G. Cramer, Jr. Photo: Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall

United States Army Special Forces Captain Harry G. Cramer, Jr. Photo: Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall

On October 21, 1957, United States Army Captain Harry (Hank) Griffith Cramer, Jr., of the newly-formed 1st Special Forces Group stationed at Camp Drake in Japan, became the first combat fatality (of many to come) in Vietnam.  Activated on June 24, 1957, the 1st Special Forces Group was responsible for operations in the Pacific.  The unit went on to hold the tragic distinction of having both the first and last Vietnam combat fatalities – Sgt. Fred Mick was killed on October 12, 1972 –  as well as the first Afghanistan combat fatality, SFC Nathan Chapman, who died in country on January 4, 2002.  Captain Cramer’s name was initially left off of the Vietnam Memorial due to the secretive nature of his mission.  After an appeal filed by his son, it was added to “The Wall” in 1983.

Army Special Forces units, also known as the Green Berets, have six primary missions: unconventional warfare; foreign internal defense; special reconnaissance; direct action; hostile rescue; and counter-terrorism.  They also perform combat search and rescue, security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, counter-proliferation, psychological operations, manhunts, and counter-drug operations duties.  Counter-proliferation activities are defined as “diplomatic, intelligence, and military efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons, including both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction” – in other words, arms control.

Capt. Cramer with his father, Captain Harry G. Cramer, Sr. Photo: Ancestry.com

Captain Cramer had been deployed to South Vietnam on June 25, 1957.  He led the first Special Forces team in place, with a mission to train a cadre of nationals into what would become the fledgling Vietnamese Army Special Forces.  Cramer was killed by an explosion while leading a patrol of combined American and Vietnamese troops near Nha Trang.  Although officially listed as an accident, an American eyewitness at the time claimed instead that the incident was a Viet Cong ambush.  Captain Cramer followed in his father’s footsteps in military service to his country.  Captain Harry G. Cramer, Sr. commanded an infantry company in France during World War I.

October 20, 1957 – NYC Mayor Robert Wagner’s Coney Island Campaign Stop

The Mayoral Debate: Catsup or Mustard? Photo: Eddie Hausner, The New York Times Photo Archives, available at the New York Times store

On October 20, 1957, incumbent New York City mayoral candidate Robert F. Wagner, Jr. stopped for a classic Coney Island treat – a All-American hot dog.  On his way to a second-term landslide victory, Democrat Wagner’s alignment with Carmine DeSapio’s Tammany Hall machine during his first election in 1953 instigated a intra-party feud between DeSapio and Presidential Widow Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband Franklin had previously stripped the long-standing political society from federal patronage.  Tammany Hall’s 140-year influence over the city had begun to wane in the 1930’s, with the election of Republican Mayor Fiorello La Guardia on a Fusion ticket.  The 1953 DeSapio-Wagner alliance resulted in a brief resurgence of machine politics in the 1950’s.

Mayor Wagner, a Yale graduate and Scroll and Key member, was born in Manhattan in 1910, the son of U. S. Senator Robert Ferdinand Wagner, Sr.  During his tenure in Gotham he was instrumental in building public housing and schools, creating the City University of New York system, establishing the right of collective bargaining for city employees, and barring housing discrimination based on race, creed or color.  He is said to be the first mayor to pro-actively hire a significant number of people of color into city government positions.  The city’s performing arts jewel, the Lincoln Center, was developed while Wagner was in office.  The Public Theater’s New York Shakespeare Festival (now known as Shakespeare in the Park) also took shape during his tenure.  His administration’s inaction led to the out-of-town migration of the Giants and Dodgers baseball teams, although a subsequent commission he formed led to the birth of the New York Mets.

Wagner broke with DeSapio and Tammany Hall during his third-term mayoral campaign in 1961.  His victory set a milestone in New York City, and local machine politics thereafter entered a decline.

October 19, 1957 – Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip Attend Football Game

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip: Honorary Terrapins for the Day. Photo: University of Maryland Library Archives.

On October 19, 1957, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip took time out from a busy diplomatic schedule of visits during their United States tour to take in a “typical American sport”, college football.  College Park played proud host to the royal couple as the University of Maryland Terrapins played the visiting Tar Heels of University of North Carolina.  Adding extra zest to the day, the Terrapins “thrashed” the Tar Heels (and their coach, Jim Tatum, formerly at the helm at U of M) by the score of 21 – 7.  University President Wilson Elkins and Maryland Governor Theodore McKeldin joined Elizabeth and Philip for the brisk fall afternoon rite.

Elizabeth’s whirlwind tour of the East Coast included visits to Virginia’s historic Jamestown and Williamsburg settlements, tea at the College of William and Mary, a New York City ticker tape parade aboard U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s limousine, a view of Gotham from the top of the Empire State Building, an address to the United Nations General Assembly, and an occasion-calling-for-a-diamond-tiara banquet atop the Waldorf-Astoria.  At Williamsburg, the Queen graciously acknowledged the common heritage and fraternity of the United States and Great Britain:

“Here, at a great period in your history, [the descendents of your forefathers and my countrymen] proclaimed their faith in certain great concepts of freedom, justice, law, and self-government.  Those concepts have had a profound influence on the political development, not only of the United States, but all freedom-loving countries.  This magnificent restoration of Colonial Williamsburg is a constant and vivid reminder of  those principles.  That is why we regard it as a major contribution to understanding between us.  If it inspires us all to closer cooperation in the fulfillment of these common ideals, then Williamsburg will have done more than dramatize history and rebuild the past: it will have helped to build the future.”