Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here in Washington, a lot of sports fans will be following the Coolidge High School football team very closely this fall. That’s because Coolidge will be coached by – gasp! – a woman. Her name is Natalie Randolph, and she will make her head coaching debut tomorrow (Friday, August 27). (Click here to read a Washington Post article about her.)

But Ms. Randolph is not the first woman to coach a high school football team. As I recount in my book Last Team Standing, World War II labor shortages allowed women to make inroads in many previously all-male fields - including the resoundingly virile world of football:
In the fall of 1943, Bell Township High School in rural western Pennsylvania, apparently unable to find a qualified and willing male, hired a 22-year-old gym teacher named Pauline Rugh to coach the football team. Rugh was a recent graduate of Penn State, and she returned to her alma mater for a quick tutorial.”

“It is physically impossible to teach you all about football in three days,” Penn State coach Bob Higgins lectured her, “but we’ll get you started and then depend on you to ask questions as new problems arise.” In newspaper stories Rugh was invariably described as “comely.” Typical was what Red Smith, later a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist, wrote in the Philadelphia Record: “As far as local records show, Miss Rugh is the first she-coach of a recognized team of males in the history of the sport. What’s more, she is reliably described as a tasty dish, a blonde with a couple of eyes like this, O O, and a throbbing contralto voice.”

Rugh seemed uncomfortable with all the attention. She did her best to avoid the reporters and “picture men” who camped on her doorway. Yet her attempts to shun publicity only stirred more interest in her story. “This,” noted the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Havey Boyle, “probably, is a technique that works in other feminine adventures, too, marriage being one of the more notable.”

Bell Township High School’s wartime experiment, however noble, failed. The team lost all eight games it played and was outscored 219-13 in the process.
Let’s hope Natalie Randolph’s season ends more happily!

UPDATE: When I was writing the book back in 2005-6, I searched high and low for Ms. Rugh but was unable to locate her. I just Googled her name and it turns out she passed away last year. Here's a very nice obituary.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thanks to the blog Surrounded by Books for a very nice review of HTEA.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The book is done! At the moment it is titled The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dares Expose the Truth. It's due to come out next spring. Over the next several months I'll be working with the publisher on typesetting, cover design, and other production issues. I'll also be working on a website for the book, and looking for promotional opportunities. I'm thinking about setting up a Facebook page for Grover's tumor, too.