Who’s That Under the Blanket??

One of my colleagues in the Woodson was scanning some photos the other day and came to me with this tantalizing image:

Edward Herting c1926 045

We knew from the label that the student athlete was Edward Herting and the picture was taken circa 1926. But who’s the guy all cozy under his blanket? And why “S”?

There’s not much of his face showing but I was pretty sure I recognized him anyway. And I was even more confident that I recognized the hat. Indeed, here he is wearing it at far left with the 1926 football squad and head coach John Heisman:

Football team 1926 with Heisman

His name was Joe Bedenk and he was an assistant football coach here in the mid-twenties. The reason there’s an “S” on his blanket is that he had been an All American guard at Penn State, where the letter winner’s club is called the Varsity S. The reason he was fooling around with one of the players was probably that he was only a few years older than they were.

After a couple of years at Rice, Bedenk went back to Penn State where he was most famous as a fantastically successful baseball coach. He continued as a football assistant too, interrupted by a season as head coach in 1949, until 1952.

Which means that he coached with both John Heisman and Joe Paterno.

Here’s a great story about him, well worth your time especially if you’re interested in the history of college baseball.



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5 Responses to Who’s That Under the Blanket??

  1. almadenmike says:

    Re: Bonus photo — Speakman, a plumbing supply company that now concentrates on shower heads and bathroom fixtures, started in Wilmington, Delaware (“WIL.DEL”) in 1869 (http://speakman.com/about-us/heritage).

    Speakman was the assignee for Leo Simmons’ patent (1,958,867; issued May 18, 1934; http://www.google.com/patents/US1958867) for a shower head very similar to the one in the photograph.

  2. almadenmike says:

    Bedenk was introduced to the Rice community in several articles (on pp 1, 4 & 5) published in the Sept. 18, 1924, issue of the Rice Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65106/thr19240918.pdf?sequence=1):

    p.1 (two articles on the new coaching staff):

    Bedenk, All – American.
    Bedenk is the new one He weighs 193. He was at Penn State last year, and chosen All-American guard by Walter Camp, Grantland Rice, Percy Haughton and R.C. Zuppke. Which is a tolerably good recommendation.
    – – – – – –
    p. 1 (by Coach Heisman):
    Assisting me we have F.J. Bedenk, J.P. Nicholson, F.D. Ashcraft, Nicholas and Rafferty. Mr. Bedenk, All-American Guard last fall, as a result of his wonderfully fine playing with the Penn State
    team, hails from Elmira, N.Y. In his Freshman year at Penn State he played on the football and baseball teams, and his last three years he played on the Varsity in both sports. He will do the bulk of the Varsity line coaching.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    p. 4 (an article about Coach Heisman’s inventions):
    … (Heisman) is the inventor of a shoulder pad which is by far the best on the market. Coach Bedenk, All-American guard at Penn State last year, recommends the pads highly. They are used exclusively at Penn, he says. He also recommends the Heisman knee pad and hip pad, all patented inventions of the head coach.
    _ _ _ _ _ _
    p. 5 (OWL SPORT HOOTS):
    The grid squad weighs around 6,500 pounds. Not so Lilliputianish, is it? Weight is a bigger factor in football than any other sport. Coach Bedenk says he was next to the lightest man on the Penn team last year, and he weighs 193. Rice’s heaviest weighs 235, her lightest weighs 135.
    * * *
    Coach Bedenk is no namby-pamby. Warning—if you go to shake hands with him, get your feet firmly planted, and try to get the protective grip. He can squeeze. Accent his name on the last syllable, thus—Bee-DINK. He’s an All-American, and that’s an honor for any man. And co-eds, this
    is still Leap Year!
    * * *

  3. almadenmike says:

    Bedenk’s signing a three-year contract was reported in a front page article of the May 22, 1922, Thresher. (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65137/thr19250522.pdf?sequence=1):


    Popular Coach Will Be
    First Assistant
    to Chief

    Coach Heisman announced the past week that Coach Joe Bedenk has been signed to a three-year contract. Bedenk will have full charge of the varsity baseball, and will be assistant football coach.
    In addition to these duties it is probable that Smilin’ Joe will handle the Freshman basketball quintet, since Coach F.D. Ashcraft will hold sway over the varsity quint.
    Heisman was very muchly elated over the signing of Bedenk. During the months that the sturdy coach-athlete has been at Rice he has become very popular, while his coaching wo(rk) has been of the highest calibre.
    Bedenk will be assistant athletic director, filling the place left vacant by the resignation of John P. Nicholson last week.
    “I am very happy to get his ‘John Henry’ on the dotted line, although it would take an expert to read it,” Heisman stated.

  4. almadenmike says:

    Then there’s this well-told tale in the Jan 21, 1927, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65183/thr19270121.pdf?sequence=1)

    Is It Penn State Or State Pen?

    _ Joseph Bedenk, line coach at Rice Institute, formerly of Penn State, now State pen. … Such was the way our hero’s mail would have to be addressed by now if he hadn’t decided to compromise and sign his way to freedom last Wednesday.
    _ It all happened because Joe refused to autograph a “ticket” granting him admission to the next matinee at the police court after one of the speed Sherlocks on Main Street demonstrated that a motorbike could do 41 and a little better. Bedenk was sailing merrily down the boulevard When he became suddenly aware of that disagreeable popping sound which every motorist recognizes as being caused by a stuck accelerator.
    _ “All right, Mr. Milton, you won the race .If you’ll pull up here just a moment I’ll give you your prize.”
    _ “You’ve got the wrong feller, officer. My name’s Bedenk, football coach out at the Institute. We all make mis—”
    _ “Bedank? Sure it’s not De Paolo?” asked the cop, who by this time was setting down some data on a card held in his hand. “Now, Mr. Bedenk, if you’ll be so good as to sign your name here I’ll give you this little Invitation.”
    _ For a moment, the veteran of the gridiron was dumbfounded. He must do something quick. No, he didn’t have a courtesy card, nor could he think of any cronies in the police department. Fie upon such hackneyed devices! He would be original.
    _ “Sign h-ll! As far as I’m concerned, you ain’t nothing but a big old overgrown messenger boy, only about half as innocent and twice as ugly. Sign my name to something that Will be used
    against me? You bet not!”
    _ After a lengthy and rather warm conversation, the recalcitrant prisoner was persuaded to
    accompany the discourteous policeman to headquarters. Joe’s determination was yet unshaken. He was taken on a tour of inspection of what the judge promised him would be his future residence unless he would sign his name to the ticket. He would be a martyr to the cause of persecuted motorists. The Jailbirds— his companions soon—no, not a bit worse than East Hall. And the grub? Excellent to one who had become hardened to mess hall fare. But alas! all of the brave coach’s resolutions were in vain. He stopped suddenly In his tracks. A shudder passed over his massive
    frame. Pulling a pencil from his pocket, he snatched the ticket from the officers fist, and with trembling hand scratched his flowing signature on the much disputed cardboard. A strong man’s
    will had been broken.
    _ Shielding his vision from the hateful sight the stalwart hero of many fierce bridge games rushed from the dining room of the jail inmates, moaning over and over “Is it possible! My God, can It be possible! A tablecloth dirtier than that in the Commons!”

  5. almadenmike says:

    Bedenk’s departure from Rice was noted in a short report in the editorial column (p. 2) of the April 8, 1927, Thresher (https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65192/thr19270408.pdf?sequence=1):

    Coach Bedenk came in with this Senior class, that is he coached his first team when we were first eligible for varsity work, and he is leaving with us.

    Coming here straight from college, he was quick to pick up the ways of coaching and was always striving to do his best. Hard boiled at times, but always understanding and willing to listen to both sides of the case.

    Rice is losing a splendid coach and gentleman when Coach Bedenk packs his grips and heads that Dodge toward Florida.

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