before it was time for a player to start the game by striking the
ball with his toe (the kickoff), the "side liners" (sports fans)
had already staked out their territory along the edge of the meadow
(the gridiron). The Johnny-Come-Latelies jostled each other for
standing room in the less desirable area (the cheap seats) behind
the scoring region (the end zone).
Yes, the lingo was confusing, but that was understandable since
most people who gathered that day in Fredericksburg had never seen
a football game.
Baseball was huge in those days. Most people could name the heavy
weight boxing champion. But football in the early 20th century was
an obscure sport played by Ivy Leaguers between the last game of
squash and the beginning of lacrosse season.
That all began to change in 1911 when a college freshman from Fredericksburg
named Louis Jordan made the football team at the University of Texas.
Four years later journalist Walter Camp listed Jordan on Camp's
All-American football squad making Jordan one of the first players
from below the Mason-Dixon line to be named All-American.
Louis Jordan sparked an interest in football in these parts. Friends
and relatives of the Jordan family began making the trek to Austin
to watch Jordan play. Each year the caravan got bigger, especially
when the Longhorns played the Aggies in Austin
on Turkey Day.
Slowly football crept into our collective consciousness. In August
1920 newspapers carried a story about a bunch of impoverished football
fanatics who met in the showroom at Ralph Hay's Hupmobile dealership
in Canton, Ohio and founded the National Football League.
Even money said the NFL wouldn't last til Christmas, but it outlived
the Hupmobile and then some. (Today an NFL franchise is worth between
$2 billion and $7 billion).
That fall the University Interscholastic League sponsored the first
Texas high school football championship. Cleburne and Houston Heights
pulverized each other to a scoreless tie.
The military played a key role in popularizing football. After WWI,
regimental squads from bases in San
Antonio played exhibition football games in surrounding towns.
Fredericksburg wanted to host an exhibition game for its Armistice
Day celebration in 1921, but the event never happened. Spanish
Flu was the likely culprit.
Meanwhile young people all over Gillespie
County played informal games on sandlots and school playgrounds.
Fredericksburg High School made plans to field a football team as
soon as it could scrape up enough money for a ball and some uniforms.
Then in October
1923 the Fredericksburg Standard announced "Sport lovers
of our town have the opportunity of witnessing the first game of
football played in the town of Fredericksburg."
| 1925 Fredericksburg
High School football team
Courtesy of the Gillespie County Historical Society
On October 21, 1923, a team of young men from Fredericksburg
played the Kerrville All-Stars on a field in South Heights - a section
of town across Barons Creek near Columbus Street.
Two weeks later, the Standard made another big announcement. "For
the first time in the history of our High School, our local High
School football team will play against the Kerrville High School
The two rivals battled it out on November 8, 1923 in Fredericksburg
on the field in South Heights.
For the record Kerrville
won both games, but Fredericksburg
was hooked on football.
The whole town got behind the local team. In 1925 Central Drug Company
of Fredericksburg bought the guys a new ball. The team treasured
that pigskin like Ebenezer Scrooge cherished a farthing.
Each year the team improved, and on November 27, 1925, FHS played
Brady High School for the district championship. The game ended
in a tie.
Then the news broke that Brady
used an ineligible player, so the league declared Fredericksburg
With help from the Works Progress Administration the school built
a football field with concrete bleachers on College Street. Local
businessmen raised money for lights.
The school dedicated the new lighted field on November 3, 1939,
before the Fredericksburg/Lampasas
football game. Clyde Littlefield, legendary UT football and track
coach and a Longhorn teammate of Louis Jordan, made the dedication
With football now played on cool evenings during non-working hours,
It's been soaring ever since.
"Fredericksburg Loses To Kerrville," Fredericksburg Standard,
October 27, 1923.
"Football News," Fredericksburg Standard, November 3, 1923.
"Tied For District Title," Fredericksburg Standard, November
"Fbg Hi Champion," Fredericksburg Standard, December 5, 1925.
"Hillbillies Limp In With 27-6 Victory Over Lampasas," Fredericksburg
Standard, November 9, 1939.