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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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Tampa football all began at Phillips Field

Posted Aug 30, 2010 by Tom McEwen

Updated Aug 30, 2010 at 08:15 PM

Once in Tampa there was only one high school, Hillsborough High.

Then came Plant, and Jefferson, then Robinson, then Chamberlain, then King, and this season when there will be Steinbrenner, and Strawberry Crest, among the newish of this growing family, now at 27, under new Hillsborough Athletic Director under Lanness Robinson.

He worked his way up through the administrator ranks by way of Plant City and Wharton. Robinson is a proud young man to be number one.

Once the biggest high school game was Plant versus Hillsborough at old Phillips Field, then situated where now sits the proud Tampa Prep begun by farsighted Bill Krusen. Years ago, in one of those games, Hillsborough High kept going for two points at the east end of the field, though they had a big lead. Crockett Farnell, then the Superintendent of Schools, when asked why he went to two points instead of place kicking for one, he explained he only had one ball left and could not lose that one in the Hillsborough River.
T
his is the same Phillips Field where about that time, the University of Alabama had been beating the tar out of the Florida Gators to the degree that Gators supposed to be taking a handoff in the backfield from quarterback Bobby Forbes, declined to accept the handoff and would immediately hold their hands up to show that they had not taken the ball to avoid being hit further by Bear Bryant’s big lineman, like Bob Gain. And on the sidelines, Coach Bryant kept threatening the crowd that he would put his first string back in if they didn’t back off crowding his players on the bench.

Once promoter, Mac Mascoli set up an exhibition between the Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills and owners Ralph Wilson and Weeb Ewbank, raced down to the box office before the game ended to split up the take from They were both bent over on their knees picking up quarters when I went down to check on them.  It was a little early for pro football in Tampa but it was a trail blazer for this city of ours in the pro football business. That was Tampa’s first venture in pro football and it was impressive enough for the pros to come again to Tampa and they did to the point that Baltimore owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, impressed by a sellout of one of three Colt exhibitions at then new Tampa Stadium (west side stands only) punched me in the chest and said no one would get a pro team before Tampa, and no one did.

So, all that has happened and is now happening in our football progress traces to that Buffalo-Baltimore-game at old Phillips Field and that Bills-Colts football game where they split the quarters in the box office.

So now, here we are with a new Hillsborough Athletic Director, Lanness Robinson, overseeing a truly new era in football in this great place where we live. This weekend will mark the start up of another football season for 27 high schools, 700 coaches, and thousands of athletics and their supporters of their programs. AD Robinson said he could not be prouder to have been a part of this growth and now of this apex circumstance that includes the expanded involvement of Steinbrenner and Wharton High. Paul Wharton was a flawless administrator of athletics as Robinson says he wants to be. We all know that which Steinbrenner and his family has done for this community and how we all regret that he is not around for this proud circumstance.  Yes, Steinbrenner will have a statue in place and those involved in the sport this year will wear little buttons on their shirts saluting him. George would like that, or George likes that. No one knows better that his appreciation of youth and of athletics and of the successes this area has experienced mean to him, from afar.

“We, in this county, appreciate what Steinbrenner and his family, what Paul Wharton and his family have done for us,” said Robinson.

And what a season this one ahead can be with a marvelous player such as James Wilder (6-2, 220 running back) seems so likely to be. Those who know him well and those around him say he just may become the top high school football player in America, a proud, proud time for Steinbrenner and for Wilder’s dad, also James, and also as good as he could be.

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