When I wrote the book “Football Country” in 1981, the first chapter was titled “Overview,” detailing football’s introduction to Shreveport in 1895.
At that time, the name of Shreveport’s evening newspaper was “The Judge.” It was later changed to the Shreveport Journal.
Shreveport was flexing its muscles in December of 1895. For the first time, it was host to the State Democratic Convention. “Foot ball,” whose popularity had been snowballing across the nation since Rutgers defeated Princeton six goals to four on Nov. 6, 1869, would be introduced to Shreveporters at the Shreveport baseball park on the day after Christmas.
Two weeks earlier, an account of the first meeting of the Shreveport Football Association was printed on the fourth page of “The Judge.”
“Balls were telegraphed for,” the story noted, “and will arrive Wednesday morning from New Orleans, and it is expected that the first practice will be held that afternoon at 4 o’clock at the baseball park. The day of the game here will be a holiday, and everybody will get off to see it.”
The following day, Dec. 17, the story was on Page One, Under the headline “Great Progress,” a reporter wrote that the first week’s practice sessions “were very well attended, quite a large number of sturdy young fellows being out every evening, and from 4 until dark they were hard at work. The old men have very quickly and naturally fallen back into practice and they show that they have lost none of the science and skill they used to display on the old college fields, while the beginners evidence great aptitude for the game and are learning rapidly.”
By that time, a field 330 feet long and 160 feet wide had been marked off. On Dec. 22, 1895, another advance story on the front page of The Judge announced, “The rooters will be out in full force, well provided with team yells and songs. The spectators will be highly entertained and delighted with this feature”
The story about the first game started with the yells by the fans of both teams.
Shreveport beat Monroe 16-4 in the first game. The Shreveport yell was “Razzle Dazzle! Whoosey Hazzle! Sis! Boom! Bah! Let ‘er go, Shreveport, Rah! Rah! Rah!”
Monroe fans came back with, “Hobble! Gobble! Razzle! Dazzle! Sis! Boom! Baah! Monroe! Monroe! Rah! Rah! Rah!”
Louisiana Tech fielded its first football team in 1901, and Northwestern State (which was then called Louisiana Normal) joined the parade in 1907. The 1907 season also started the state’s most famous high school rivalry when members of the first Homer High team posed for a picture before climbing into a horse-drawn wagon for the 18-mile trip to Haynesville, where they would settle the Claiborne Parish championship and start North Louisiana’s oldest high school football rivalry.
Robert (Cal) Hubbard was the star of those early Centenary teams. He literally manhandled opponents, tossing 200-pounders out of his path with a sweep of his arm, and was later a three-time All-Pro with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.
Hubbard was later a three-time All-Pro with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, and had an equally brilliant career as a major league umpire. He became the first man ever to be named to both the pro football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio, and the pro baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York.
Centenary’s ability to embarrass Southwest Conference opponents was a major factor in Texas A&M selecting former Centenary coach Homer Norton as its head coach in 1934.
Hubbard wasn’t the only product of those early Centenary teams to enjoy a successful NFL career. Tackle Conway Baker anchored the Chicago Cardinals’ line for 10 years, and center Lee Stokes spent three seasons with the Cardinals and Detroit Lions.
Jerry Byrd is the former sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and an award-winning columnist. You can contact him by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org