In the Beginning
Instant Love, Instant Greatness
By William Gildea
The expression on the face of the team's general manager was in keeping with his surroundings. The Redskins, opening business in Washington after five years in Boston, had moved into an office on 9th Street N.W. Boxes were stacked, furniture was being rearranged, and a black telephone was on the floor. Jack Espey, the general manager, glanced about the room, his chin cupped in his right hand, his tie open at the collar. It wasn't the disarray in the room that troubled him. It was August 16, 1937. The Washington Redskins' first practice, in the Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast Washington, was scheduled in eight days. Where was the coach?
Ray Flaherty was missing. Espey didn't know where he was. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who had inherited the Palace Laundry headquartered at the corner of 9th and H streets, N.W., hadn't heard from Flaherty in weeks. Even though it might cost more than a dollar, Espey took it on himself to get the long-distance operator to put in a call to Flaherty's parents in Spokane, Washington. But no one answered.
Ray (Red) Flaherty had been a broad-shouldered, 6-foot end at Gonzaga University in Spokane and then a regular for the powerful New York Giants, where he had absorbed the thinking of renowned coach (Stout) Steve Owen. Flaherty began thinking like a coach himself. In the National Football League's 1934 championship game, played on an icy surface at the Polo Grounds, he suggested using basketball shoes. Donned at halftime, the shoes offered the traction the Giants needed to upset the heavily favored Chicago Bears.