Fights and Forfeit: The 1928 Minersville-Shamokin Football Game

Note: This post was written by friend of the blog Shayne Schafer. Follow Shayne on Twitter for more Schuylkill County football history: @shayne_schafer. If you have an article you’d like to contribute to this site, send an email to pafbhistory@gmail.com.


On Saturday, October 28th, 1928, the Shamokin Greyhounds traveled to Minersville for an early-season clash. Minersville (2-1) had picked up shutout wins over St. Patrick’s and Pottstown. The Miners had multiple starters out after a rough Week 2 loss to Hazelton. Shamokin (0-2) hoped to take advantage and get back on the right track after two close losses to Mauch Chunk and Wyoming Seminary. Spirits were high and the Shamokin-Dispatch reported on the festive attitude of those supporters making the trek to Minersville.

M. A. A. Park
The setting for the matchup, M. A. A. Park was the home of Minersville High School athletics until 1935. Now Kings Village Plaza, Minersville Park was also the home of the Pottsville Maroons. | Photo courtesy of Ronald M. Coleman and Joseph E. Szeliga

Things didn’t go as planned; Shamokin forfeited with less than two minutes left in the game. The reports of this game would be wild, with stories of fans rushing the field, fights, cheating, dirty play, and inhospitable conditions created by Minersville and its supporters. Interestingly, depending on whose town’s newspaper you read, you would get a completely different account of what occurred.

If you were a Shamokin fan or a reader of the Shamokin Dispatch, the forfeit was due to unsportsmanlike play by the Battlin’ Miners and dangerous conditions caused by their fans. On the other hand, a Minersville supporter or the Pottsville Republican would claim it was merely the case of Shamokin being sore losers upset by officiating not going their way.

What actually happened? If we compare the Dispatch and Republican accounts, we may be able to piece the story together. The Dispatch‘s coverage of the game is more about Minersville’s misdeeds than the actual game. The paper claims there were issues at Minersville from the start. They asserted there was no police protection at the field, and “crowds of ruffians of all ages and sizes held full sway.” When Shamokin’s band arrived, Minersville attempted to charge them entry, and their players were given no accommodations, instead being “forced to dress in the coal bin.”

Newspaper Clip
Photo courtesy of Shamokin Dispatch. October 22, 1928.

Minersville scored early in the 1st half. After this, the teams traded possessions with neither getting back into scoring position. In the second half, the Dispatch claims Shamokin began moving the ball, and in response, Minersville began to play rough. The Dispatch claims no penalties were called for this rough play due to two officials being from Minersville.

The Greyhounds started building momentum until back-to-back passes were called back by the officials. At this point, the Dispatch claimed fans rushed the field twice. After that, an altercation occurred. Shamokin’s superintendent ordered his players from the field with a minute and a half left in the game. This fight may have happened when the fans rushed the field. In a weekly Shamokin High segment in the Dispatch, a comment was made highlighting a punch Betty Janaskie (Class of ’30) dealt during the fight.

Shamokin_News_Dispatch_Wed__Oct_24__1928_
Photo courtesy of Shamokin Dispatch. October 24, 1928.

There is also evidence of Minersville’s rough play. In the pregame story for Shamokin’s next game against York, the Dispatch commented that the Greyhounds would be without the services of their starting back Harris. He suffered internal injuries against the Battlin’ Miners.

If any of this occurred, you would have no idea reading the Republican’s telling of the game. The Republican states the Miners simply outplayed Shamokin in every department. In stark contrast to the poor treatment of the band claimed by the Dispatch, the Republican mentions the great reception the band received during their halftime performance.

No mention is made of fans storming the field or a fight. The Republican claims Shamokin walked off the field after “the referee failed to reverse his decision.” This decision is likely the long pass plays called back mentioned by the Dispatch. The Republican blames Shamokin solely, claiming it was poor sportsmanship shown by their coach and players. Minersville High School also commented, saying they “wish to regret their sorrow for the way Shamokin acted towards them.”

Following the Dispatch’s coverage of the game, a Minersville resident going by “J.S.” would write a rebuttal to their claims. His refutation would actually confirm some of the Dispatch‘s allegations and give a better idea of what happened.

Newspaper Clip 2
Photo courtesy of Shamokin Dispatch. October 26, 1928.

First off, J.S. admitted that Minersville did play rough, but it was only in retaliation for Shamokin’s own rough play. Pointing to the 441 yards of total offense Minersville had, J.S. remarked it was all the proof needed to show the Miners had no need to play dirty. He would continue to dispute the claim of biased officiating. First, mentioning the Miners accrued more penalty yardage. Second, he claims one of the timekeepers, a former Shamokin football captain, was flashing signs to Shamokin’s quarterback.

This led to what may have started the fight. According to J.S., Minersville’s captain (Albert Kazlusky) warned the timekeeper to stop and was promptly attacked by the man. This attack prompted the fans to rush the field and take part in the fray. J.S. then argues this is why the Dispatch curiously gave no reason why fans rushed the field. He would further state that during this skirmish, Shamokin fans broke windows, defaced school property, and injured the janitor.

J.S. would also dispute the claims of Shamokin’s band being charged an entry fee and the facilities offered to the players. Stating if anyone was asked to pay, it was someone who tried to pass as a band member. Furthermore, if the team did sit atop a coal pile, it was their own fault, as facilities were offered to them. J.S.contends the only reason Shamokin walked off the field was that they could not bear being defeated by Minersville, a smaller school. Rubbing salt in the wound, he makes a note of Shamokin recently being ejected from the Eastern Conference for fielding a lineup with ineligible players.

What’s left out of either paper is pretty interesting. There is obvious bias attempting to make the hometown team look much better. It is surprising that the Republican ultimately left out the fans storming the field and the fight.

1928 Team Photo
 The 1928 Minersville Squad. Photo courtesy of Minersville High School.

Comparing accounts definitely gives a better picture of what happened. It is confirmed that Minersville played rough – it was admitted by the Minersville supporter – and the internal injuries of Harris are also compelling. Was it in retaliation to Shamokin’s rough play? Possibly, but the 400-plus total yards of offense with only one score may also have led to frustration on Minersville’s side.

Shamokin_News_Dispatch_Tue__Oct_23__1928_
Photo courtesy of Shamokin Dispatch. October 23, 1928.

It is also apparent fans stormed the field and a fight occurred. What caused them is still hard to determine. The Dispatch does not give a reason for these actions while the Republican does not mention it. The way both papers try to manipulate who was at fault makes me believe this is evidence that it was both sides at fault.

Why Shamokin forfeited is also hard to determine. Both accounts give different reasons that are believable. It is not hard to see Shamokin’s superintendent calling his kids off the field after a fight. It seems the game overall was very tense and would be a smart decision. On the other hand, in a game this close with such an explosive atmosphere, it would not surprise me after the way this game went a team would walk off in protest seeing the contest as rigged.

Sadly, what actually went on that day is probably lost to time. The bad blood between these teams is unusual, they had only played 3 times before this, and the last time was 1921. Perhaps it was just a smaller school trying to make a statement against a larger squad. Whatever the reason was, Minersville and Shamokin wouldn’t meet again until 1962.

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