MASSILLON – EPISODE TWO – LESSON OF THE WIDOW’S MITE
After 23 players died from playing football in 1905 (on the field or in the hospital), President Roosevelt used his bully pulpit to bring together the dignitaries of football, such as John Heisman and Amos Alonzo Stagg, to force revolutionary rule changes, including the addition of the forward pass, to make the game more safe.
Episode Two starts with Massillon and Canton team management scheming to outmaneuver each other to manipulate the press and sign players whose skills match well with all of the new rule changes. STEWART leverages his role as sports editor of the MASSILLON GLEANER to his advantage. He claims that the Canton football team is not only broke, but also finished as a squad. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that he needs Canton as a foil to achieve his goal of legendary superiority. H.A. CROXTON, owner of the local car dealership in town and a big investor in the team, says that the lopsided scores of football games have decreased fan interest. He pushes Stewart to stoke the Canton rivalry instead to draw fan interest.
WALLACE uses the Canton brass’s ambition to his advantage, even prodding WILLIAMS and ROMMEL by claiming that one of their own star players from the previous year may also have been on the take on Massillon’s payroll. Wallace wants complete autonomy or he’s leaving Canton. He gives them an ultimatum. He needs their checkbook and no questions asked if they want to win and make a profit. If so, he guarantees a championship. Otherwise, he’s done and returns to playing football back east. They grudgingly agree.
Wallace then goes on a recruiting trip back east. We get a glimpse of his past as he visits his hometown in New Jersey. He visits with his immigrant parents who don’t understand his passion for this game, and he stops by at old high school where he is a legend to spin stories and offer words of inspiration to the football team.
Blondy makes his way to Philadelphia to attends a party at the Colonnade Hotel, where he gathers together all of the best players from his alma mater at the University of Pennsylvania. He brings along his new Canton mascot, a BULLDOG named Tiny (in homage to Maxwell), and announces Canton’s new team name, THE CANTON BULLDOGS. While partying in the grand hotel, Wallace makes promises to all the players that Canton will not only beat Massillon in 1906, but they will be the best paid players in the world, and he will also provide them with extra “benefits” if they take him up on his offer and play for Canton.
The next day, he plays golf with JACK HAYDEN, another Penn alum, but Massillon’s QB from 1905. Wallace convinces him that, with the rule changes, Hayden’s game is more suited for Canton’s new open style of play. He needs to show loyalty and come over to Canton. LAMSON, also in the golf game and a current Canton player, has never liked Wallace’s style going back to the Swarthmore game in their college days. He’s disgusted by Wallace’s morals, and will eventually leave for Massillon.
The gamesmanship continues throughout Episode 2, as both Wallace and Stewart connive and jockey for position in the Wild West era of pro football without any rules to constrain them from hoarding the best players in the country.
Wallace visits Canton teammate, former U. of Michigan icon WILLIE HESTON, the player he suspects was bought by Stewart the previous year. Heston, a lawyer, is working with the new government agency, the FDA, in Chicago. Wallace lets Heston know that he is on to him and expects Heston to make a better showing for Canton in the coming season or he’ll expose the alleged ruse from the year before, true or not. As a gesture of good will, Heston buys Wallace a new Harley Davidson motorcycle, the first of its kind in the world.
Blondy heads back to Canton pleased with his work, and continues his romance with Cassie, including a spin together on his new Harley. Cassie lets him know she wants a relationship, but Wallace can’t bring himself around enough to commit to anything. He’s too focused on the task at hand.
Negotiations ensue amongst the heavy hitters from both towns and both teams at the Lakeside Country Club in Canton to schedule the next Bulldogs-Tigers matchup in the 1906 season, with the public anxiously awaiting the outcome. Industry giant CHARLES RUSSELL hosts Stewart and Wallace in a setting in which they are both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The parties all agree that having strong teams in both towns is good for business. They also agree to stop pillaging players from each other. With neither side willing to concede home field advantage, Russell proposes a two-out-of-three game championship series, like baseball’s World Series, with the deciding game to be played on a neutral field in Cleveland, if necessary. They realize that a best of three series would bring in the biggest gate the sport has ever seen. It’s now just a matter of negotiating the split of the gate receipts and when the games will be played.
Wallace then travels to Akron to recruit minor league baseball player/manager, and star multi-sport college athlete, WALTER EAST, who also has a dark past as a known gambler. Wallace knows that getting East on board is key to his new offense, but also knows that East can be bought, certainly by Stewart. East warns Wallace, “Be careful what you wish for….”
Back in Canton, Cassie is the lead of the local play, “THE COLLEGE WIDOW,” performing at the Armory. The play mirrors what is happening in the Canton-Massillon rivalry. It’s about a university president’s daughter who lures men into transferring to play football for her father’s school. In the audience is Wallace, as well as a few of the Massillon players. It triggers an idea. Wallace takes two of the players, JACK LANG & CLARK SCHRONTZ, backstage to meet Cassie. It is during this meeting that he puts Cassie in an awkward position with promises of entertaining these men over at her brothel if they would so decide to switch allegiances. Cassie’s feelings are crushed. She was hoping to be taken seriously as an actress with star qualities, and all Wallace cares about is their lowest common denominator. Nonetheless, the players stagger over to the brothel, and swap colors.
Stewart fumes and sees Wallace’s tactics as beneath him. He realizes that, with all of the rule changes, he needs to take the high ground and outwit Wallace on the field instead. So he and his two University of Chicago alum players make a visit to their old coach AMOS ALONZO STAGG in Chicago in hopes that Stagg can coach them up with a new game plan for the season ahead.