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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Hottest Typewriter in Football: The 'Drop Kick' Who Lived the American Dream

Frank 'Tricky Dick' Hyland ...
*All-American football star*
*Olympic Games rugby champion*
*Called the "Babe Ruth of rugby"*
*Sub-even time 100-yards sprinter*
*Admired by peers from Damon Runyon to Jim Murray*
*Threatened with death by Brooklyn gang boss Little Augie Pisano*
*John Wayne's first technical director*
John Wayne
*Forced changes to the rules of American football*
*Ace angler, golfer, baseballer, you name it*
(He used to go fishing at Shasta Lake with California Governor Earl Warren)
*Singer, movie scenarist*
*Booze buddy to the stars*
*Husband of THREE Hollywood beauties*
*Dubbed by one "The Man Who Never Came Home for Dinner"*
*Another wife was "The World's Greatest Girl Reporter"*
*Father-in-law of Paul Gallico*
*Often mistaken for actor George Raft*
(Once signing a forced autograph, "George Raft per Richard Hyland")
George Raft
*US Marines lieutenant colonel*
*Highly fractious LA Times sports columnist*
(He wrote lines like, "Picture if you will a Fred Astaire dancing on a stage with a rival wearing fishing boots" and "Battering up the middle, driving off tackle, scooting around end, and tossing the ball for nine touchdowns here today, the Bruins of UCLA bettered point-a-minute football for the second straight game as they beat Oregon State, 61-0." )
*Author, broadcaster, literary agent, artist*
*Known to be "famously immodest"*
The "Tom" on a hot tin typewriter
What more could a man ask for?
Oakland Tribune, November 29, 1927, announcing Hyland's selection in the Pacific Coast All-Star American football team.
"Dick" Hyland was dubbed as hammering "the hottest typewriter in footballin an article by author Keith Monroe in The Saturday Evening Post of November 13, 1948. The line stuck for the rest of Hyland's life.
Covina Argus, September 19, 1952
Santa Ana Register Sun, Christmas Day, 1927
Actor John Gilbert (1896-1936)
He was an Olympic Games rugby union gold medallist (Paris, 1924) who more than just mingled with the stars - he regularly got drunk with close pal John Gilbert at Malibu, played beach ping-pong with Charlie Chaplin and Bebe Daniels, and married THREE Hollywood lookers (and had one other wife)!

Mrs Hyland No 1: Journalist, novelist and screenwriter Adela Nora Rogers St Johns (1894-1988). They had a son, Richard Rogers St Johns (1929-2006), who was educated through a $25,000 trust fund set aside for him in the $407,453 estate of actor John Gilbert, followed his father to Stanford, was a founder of SBS Broadcasting and in 1979 became president and chief executive officer of the film-making subsidiary of the Guinness Brewery
For a brief period in 1934, Dick Hyland was fellow sports writer Paul Gallico's (step?) father-in-law, as Gallico, at the age of 36, got a quickie divorce in Reno and married Adela's 17-year-old daughter Elaine St Jones. That marriage didn't last very long either.
"Son-in-law" Paul Gallico
When Dick Hyland's own marriage, to Adela, turned all pear-shaped and nasty in 1934, Adela's good pal, Brooklyn gang boss "Little Augie Pisano" (Anthony Carfano, 1895-1959) sent two hoods around, offering to "take care" of our hero, "Tricky Dick". Happily, Adela knocked back the offer.
Oakland Tribune, October 19, 1934
Mrs Hyland No 2 was Louise (Lou) Mathews Lansburgh (1913-1973), who Dick married in Queen Liliokalani's Gardens at Kahala, Oahu, Hawaii on July 22, 1937. They had a son, Lanric (Ricki) Hyland, born September 23, 1938, himself later a promising sportsman - he transferred from Honolulu and was a quarterback at Drake High in 1955. The marriage didn't last long. Lou continued to call herself Mrs Lou Hyland until 1954, when she married future California State Senator Alvin C. Weingand, also in Hawaii. 
Mrs Hyland No 3: Ann Staunton (real name Virginia Ann Koerlin, 1920-1994) is seen seated on her bottom. left, with the cittern (or is it a rebec?). This "Sexy Sextet" of starlets appeared as Lana Turner's handmaidens in Diane, "set in the 16th century" [!!!]. The others charmers are Ann Brendon, Fay Morley, Alicia Ibanez. Bunny Cooper and Barbara Darrow. Anne and Dick got engaged in May 1943, while Dick was with the Marines, and married soon after. Their daughter, Patricia Ann, was born on May 21, 1944. Anne and Dick soon separated and were divorced in 1946. In 1948 Ann was calling herself Virginia Ann Hyland and renting the Laurel Canyon house where Robert Mitchum was caught smoking dope. Interestingly enough, in 1922 Adela Rogers St Jones had dismissed stories of "hop and dope" parties in Hollywood as myths.
Mrs Hyland No 4, the glamorous Rochelle Elizabeth Hudson (1916-1972). "Tricky Dick" didn't find her attractive enough, however, and 18 months after the wedding, in late July 1950, Rochelle was to dub him "The Man Who Never Came Home For Dinner". So seldom was he home by bedtime, indeed, she kicked our Dick out altogether.
NOTE: You will find many claims online that Adela Rogers St Johns and Rochelle Hudson were married to and had children by movie writer and producer Richard Irving "Dick" Hyland (1906-1976). This is completely and utterly untrue. The two women married OUR Dick Hyland, not some other Dick. The other Dick was married to just one woman, she was called Janet Stein Hyland (1907-1963), and they had a daughter called Brooke Barbara (born July 17, 1944; later Barbara Hyland Horgan).
A Los Angeles Times sports columnist (his column was called "Hyland Fling") for almost 40 years from 1928, our Dick Hyland was a World War II US Marines captain with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, which contributed to 83 South Pacific combat operations in major battles or campaigns at Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Midway, Saipan, Tinian, Guam and Okinawa. The Battle of Okinawa included the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War and was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific.
Described by US newspapers in the mid-1920s at the "world's  best rugby player", Hyland sparred with legendary gridiron coach Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner at Stanford, and in Paris in 1924 was compared to the world's greatest all-round athlete of all-time, Jim Thorpe.
"Thorpe never had my swerve," Hyland quickly responded. Warner said Hyland was as stubborn in not following coaching instructions as Thorpe had been at Carlisle. Warner in turn greatly annoyed Hyland by calling him "Frankie Merriwell" (Merriwell was the hero of dime novels of the day.)
Dapper Frank "Dick" Hyland at Stanford
Because of his football field resilience, Frank Hyland was nicknamed "Tricky Dick" Hyland by St Ignatius Preparatory School classmates in the Sunset District of San Francisco in 1915. (It has often been suggested that he gained the nickname when he started playing American football in 1925, but he'd had it for 10 years by then.) The "rechristening" was in fact in honour of the hugely popular Californian lightweight and featherweight boxer of the day, "Fighting Dick Hyland" (aka "The Human Autograph"*, real name Willian Uren, 1885-1965), a world title contender pug who got his brain so badly scrambled in 86 pro fights over 18 years that he became permanently punch drunk (and drink drunk) and had to face the Californian lunacy commission. (*This "Dick Hyland" had 408 names and 15 images, many of opponents, tattooed on his chest. Hyland mixed it with the like of Battling Nelson, over a scheduled 45 rounds, Harlem Tommy Murphy, Kid Corbett and Cyclone Johnny Thompson. He was arrested more than 50 times for drunkenness.)
Punched to a pulp - the original "Dick Hyland", right. The second "Dick" Hyland would later do much the same to his typewriter. But, to be best of my knowledge, he never tattooed the machine.
According to syndicated columnist Gerald Raftery in 1972, "Tricky Dick" was a label Hyland handed on to President Richard M. Nixon.
All-round athlete "Tricky Dick" Hyland, aka "The Galloping Ghost", aka "The Line Smasher", allowed the world to think he had been christened Richard William Hyland or Richard Francis Hyland, but in fact his real name was and remained throughout his long life Francis William Hyland. In his early sporting career, newspapers put quotation marks around the "Dick", but in time these disappeared. Even his obituary in the Stanford Magazine listed him as "Richard Frank Hyland". But when it came to official business, such as passport applications and wedding certificates, he was always Frank William Hyland:
Frank "Dick" Hyland's 1924 passport photo
Frank Hyland was born at 102 Oak Street in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, on July 26, 1900, the son of New Jersey-born Frank William Hyland Sr (1875-1951), a solicitor for and later owner of a street construction company, and Ellen (also known as Helen and Emily) Loretta Swett Hyland (1872-1951), a Stanford-educated editor. In 1918 his father was a captain in the 23rd Engineers Battalion highway regiment, which served in France toward the end of World War I, when Frank Jr also signed up for service.
Dick Hyland's mother Helen at Stanford, where rugby union was introduced in 1905. She encouraged Dick to take up rugby union at Santa Clara.
After attending St Ignatius, in 1918 Frank Jr did his prep at Santa Clara University before entering Stanford. He worked his way through college as a surveyor for his father's company. It was at St Ignatius, aged 15 in 1915, that he started to play rugby union. At this time, rugby still held sway in Californian universities and schools. Frank's mother, who was involved at Stanford when rugby was introduced there in 1905, decided her son should play the 15-a-side game.
Frank Hyland wrote the Ignatian yearbook rugby and basketball notes.
Frank Hyland continued to play rugby for the next nine years, until early 1925, when he switched back to the American version. The conversion back to gridiron was not an easy one, and there are many parallels with this year's much-publicised bid by Australian rugby league player Jarryd Hayne to "make it" in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. (Hayne is not the first rugby player to join the 49ers, by the way - that was Matt Hazeltine, a 49er from 1955-68, whose father, Matt Sr, had played rugby with Frank Hyland). Like Hayne, Hyland had to learn not to carry the ball in front of him, and like Hayne, Hyland was renowned as a brilliant open field runner.
At Stanford University in 1923, Frank Hyland was tempted to return to gridiron, but in December of that year he joined the renowned Stanford rugby team and with Stanford's Olympic Games gold medallist sprinter from the 1920 Antwerp Games,  Morris Kirksey, nominated for trials to select the United States team to defend the Olympic rugby title at the 1924 Paris Games. (NOTE: Contrary to a widespread misconception, Kirksey DID NOT win a rugby gold medal in Antwerp.) One of the four men preparing the 1924 US Olympic Games rugby squad for its title defence was former New Zealand All Black Jim Wylie.
Hyland was one of nine Stanford players to make the team:
The French Press had dismissed the US team as nothing but “street fighters and saloon brawlers". But Frank Hyland so impressed his French rugby hosts at the 1924 Games (one reporter described his “disconcerting foot changes”) that they nicknamed him "Buck" and he was asked to stay on and coach and play for the famous Stade Français Club Athlétique des Sports Généraux in Paris. For reasons which remain unclear, the Fédération Française de Rugby found it necessary to issue Hyland with an "amateur licence". However, five months after the Olympic final, Hyland was accused of being a "slave driver" by his French charges, after leaving them "dead on their feet" at a training session. In the unexplained absence of its star Test winger Adolphe Jauréguy, Hyland had also been given the team's captaincy. On December 6, the Fédération Française de Rugby, following a long investigation, charged Hyland with being a professional. Stade Français' Paris rivals Racing Club de France claimed it had first approached Hyland after the Olympics in May, and he had asked for money to join Racing Club. With the publicity these accusations received back home in the Oakland Tribune, Hyland's father, Frank Sr, wired his son saying, "You come home and get back to college."
Hyland did just that, but by the time he returned, in January 1925, rugby union was already all but dead in the US. He decided to concentrate his future sporting efforts on the track and on the gridiron. For all his enormous successes in both arenas, however, Hyland's name was put forward to join a bid by the US to defend its Olympic Games rugby union title a second time - in Amsterdam, in 1928.
Harry Maloney
Henry Wilfred "Harry" Maloney (1876-1967), the Irish-born Stanford PE and military science teacher who had been largely responsible for organising the first two US Olympic Games rugby teams, proposed in January 1927 to send a third team to Europe. But Maloney was already aware the best that could be hoped for was to have rugby as an Amsterdam Olympics demonstration sport, which was proposed by the Delftsche Studenten Rugby Club. The Dutch Games organisers soon knocked back that idea, as rugby wasn't a Dutch sport. Following the appalling French crowd behaviour when the US beat France 17-3 in the 1924 final, the International Olympic Committee and the International Amateur Athletic Federation had voted, even before the Paris Games had ended, to exclude rugby from future Olympics, on the grounds that it attracted “limited interest and entries”. IOC meetings in Prague in May 1925 and in Lisbon in May 1926 confirmed there was no longer room for rugby at the Games. The US will finally get the chance to defend its rugby title in seven-a-side form in Rio de Janiero next year.
By the winter of 1925, Hyland had successfully made the conversion to American football, to the delight of Stanford's legendary coach "Pop" Warner ("Card", by the way, is short for Cardinals, as in Stanford University; there is reference to "using" interference, which is not allowed in rugby; as for holding the ball in front of him, see second image above):
Hyland went on to play left halfback for Stanford for three straight seasons, 1925-27. He was a member of the 1926 team that went undefeated and shared the national championship with Alabama after playing to a tie in the 1927 Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Hyland also played in the  1928 Rose Bowl Game, and was elected to the Stanford Hall of Fame in 1961.
On the track Hyland had sharpened his pace, running 9.9 seconds for the 100 yards against the great Olympic Games 100 metres champion Charley Paddock (while copying Paddock's famous leaping finish, which had won the American the 1920 gold medal in Antwerp):
As soon as his football career had ended, in May 1927 Hyland was co-opted by Oscar-nominated actor Richard Barthelmess to be technical director on a movie called The Drop Kick (it was called Glitter in Britain). Barthelmess, who produced the film - one of John Wayne's first movies (he was a player and a spectator) - worked closely with Adela Rogers St Johns, and it was while employed on the set of The Drop Kick that Hyland and Adela got together. Hyland's life would begin to change drastically after that. He was in amongst the money, the madness and the magic of Hollywood.
Barthelmess with Adela, right, on the set of The Patent Leather Kid in 1927.
Hyland joined the sports writing staff of the Los Angeles Times in September 1928. He also started radio work in 1932, the same year he published a book, The Diary of a Line Smasher. Ten years later he enlisted with the US Marines.
While still in the Marines, Hyland challenged 1920 Olympic Games 100 metres sprint champion Charley Paddock to a race between two 42-year-olds over 50-yards. A day later, on July 21, 1943,  Paddock died in a plane crash near Sitka, Alaska. It was claimed that in their sprinting heydays, Hyland regularly beat Paddock to 50 yards. Hyland thought he'd lost another sporting friend in September 1944:
After he had almost been scalped in a car accident in Ontario, California, in April 1942, Hyland declared he'd suffered worse injuries on football fields. He also probably felt safer on football fields and battlefields than he did in divorce court rooms. His bust-up with Adela Rogers St Johns had been a nasty affair. The pair exchanged unpleasantries as Hyland labelled Adela an "improper person" to care for his then six-year-old son Richard, as using "improper language" and destroying the love of Richard for his father. Eventually, in August 1936, Hyland won a $7335 settlement for money he claimed he was owed (Adela had tried to have his car seized) but not custody, not even over the movie scripts he said they'd written together. Using Adela's payout, Hyland quickly high-tailed it to Hawaii, to avoid any further flak, and decided older women were no longer for him. In Honolulu he met wife No 2, former Stanford student Lou Lansburgh, in October 1936. But Hyland had to depart Honolulu in 1937 after being exposed for alleged "spying" on Filipino workers on Maui for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association.
Back in the US, Hyland started to hit the bottle and in September 1940 he and fellow Californian footballer and Olympic athlete Albert Bryan "Pesky" Sprott (1897-1951) were briefly jailed for disturbing the peace after abusing a police officer (for punching Hyland "in the brisket"). Upon his return from the Pacific Theatre of War, and back at his desk at the LA TimesHyland married Ann Staunton. That didn't last any longer than his previous marriages and in October 1946 Hyland became embroiled in a greyhound racing scandal in Los Angeles. His divorce from Rochelle Hudson was much less messy than the Rogers St Johns break up, especially given Hyland was spending so such much time away from home and only returned to his wife "in the wee small hours". But when he drove home to West Hollywood in January 1955, Hyland had to use his old rugby skills to make a diving tackle on a gun-toting would-be robber. Hyland copped another bang on the head, this time from the .45 automatic. Later that year he started to get his life back on the rails, enrolling for disaster relief training.
As a sports columnist Hyland had consistently railed against racism in Californian sport, including in 1939 supporting a young Jackie Robinson and in 1955 Primo Villanueva, both as footballers at UCLA. After his sports writing career ended, in 1966, he moved to Palm Desert and became sports editor of the Palm Desert Post, as well as a literary agent. One of his clients was a San Diego schoolteacher called Geri Turner Davis, who wrote a hugely controversial play call A Cat Named Jesus, for which she received some vicious racial abuse. 
Geri Turner Davis and her black cat
Hyland remained active by playing golf off a 16 handicap into his old age. On July 16, 1981, 10 days shy of his 81st birthday, he was playing in a pro-am celebrity tournament at the Wawona Yosemite National Park course in California. He died of a heart attack in his sleep at the Wawona Hotel that night.  


Unknown said...

Your article on Dick Hyland is extensively detailed and researched. Finding information on four short marriages and resulting children of a person 80 years ago is not easy. I believe Dick is related to me, his father should be my great great grandfathers half-brother, though its possible they were step brothers with no blood relation. Amos Elliott, a cal football star, was Dick's first cousin through half or step siblings also. How did you come to research Dick Hyland in such detail. Is there some biography or did you just search newspapers? Did you have a personal connection?

Frederic Humbert said...

Hi Robert

I was willing to « tweet » a few word about Tricky Dick Hyland this morning... how could I have missed this incredible post before !!??!!

Let me add a small « rugby » line to his biography : after 1924 Olympics, Hyland - like many young American sportsmen, I suppose - did stay for a while in Europe. He started to play with Stade Français at the beginning of 1924-25 season, before returning home for Christmas.

I’m away from my office (lockdown in Paris!) and can’t check the details => my reference book about Stade Français explains how much he was appreciated by the other players and gives copy of a telegram sent by Hyland from LeHavre with warm farewell words!

Hyland was honoured by a full page in the « Champions’ Gallery » in French monthly sports magazine « Très Sport » (again, can’t remember the exact date...) (not exactly Stade Français kit, I agree...)

For the context : « Très Sport »
« Très Sport »

Frederic Humbert said...

Frederic again...
please disregard my previous message... i don’t how, but I’ve missed your paragraph about Hyland playing in Paris (and now also remembering this conflict with Racing Club!!)... I should have read more carefully !