“DID YOU KNOW”
The Philadelphia PGA and the Maxwell Award for football have a connection!
The Philadelphia PGA held its first Section Championship on June 12, 1922, with the winner having his name engraved on the Evening Public Ledger Cup. The cup, a silver old-English urn, had been donated to the Philadelphia PGA through the efforts of the newspaper’s sports editor Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell and his golf writer, Percy Sanderson, who wrote under the penname Sandy McNiblick.
Maxwell, who stood six foot-four and weighed 270 pounds, had been an All-American football lineman at the University of Chicago, playing for the famous coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg. After two years at the U of C, he showed up at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, where he was again named to an All-American team. Swarthmore lost only one game in 1905 and that was to the University of Pennsylvania (11 to 4) in what was later remembered as one of the most brutal games in the history of college football.
President Theodore Roosevelt demanded changes be made to college football to make it less dangerous. Eighteen college players had died that year. The forward pass was made legal, and the yards required for a first down were doubled from five to ten.
The next year Maxwell played on Philadelphia’s Jefferson College football team, which was his fifth year of varsity college football.
After college he found employment writing sports for a Chicago newspaper and played some pro football. Then he turned to officiating football games. Due to his integrity and football knowledge, he found himself in demand for the most important games, mostly college but some professional.
Maxwell began writing about sports for the Evening Public Ledger in 1914,and within two years he was the sports editor for the Public Ledger newspaper. As the sports editor he was a stalwart promoter of all Philadelphia sports.
On June 26, just 14 days after the Philadelphia PGA Championship, Maxwell along with Sanderson, Sanderson’s wife, and another couple were traveling in Maxwell’s $6,000 vehicle. They were on the way home to Philadelphia from a social visit west of Norristown. Sometime after midnight, with Maxwell at the wheel, they came upon a vehicle stalled in the highway near the intersection of Egypt and Trooper Roads. Maxwell swerved to pass the stalled vehicle, crashing into an oncoming six-ton truck, before he was able to apply the brakes. The truck was transporting 23 Boy Scouts who had been attending a dance and were returning to their campsite near Betzwood.
All of the passengers in Maxwell’s automobile were injured, some critically. Sanderson appeared to be the most serious, with a fractured skull. Maxwell had a broken leg, fractured ribs, and broken hip. They were taken to Montgomery County Hospital in Norristown. None of the Boy Scouts or other occupants of the truck were hospitalized.
Maxwell contracted pneumonia four days later and died later that day at age 38. The Maxwell Football Club was founded in his memory. Each year the Maxwell Award is bestowed on a college football player the club members deem to be most deserving.
Sanderson, who was still unconscious when Maxwell died, recovered to write about golf again, but it was a slow process. Leading golf professionals played exhibitions to assist with Sanderson’s hospital bills.
For more than 35 years the Philadelphia Section members competed for a one-year possession of the Evening Public Ledger Cup.