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1940s / College Football Hoax 1941
In the autumn of 1941 many football fans began following the exploits of Plainfield (NJ) Teachers College. Too bad the school and its football team didn't really exist. It was an elaborate hoax that fooled hundreds of newspapers--even the New York Times' sports department--and thousands of college football fans. Stockbroker Morris Newburger and radio announcer Alexander (Bink) Dannenbaum concocted the idea of a mythical college football team. Using the name 'Jerry Croyden,' Newburger telephoned the New York City newspapers while Dannenbaum phoned the Philadelphia papers with fantastic stories of Plainfield's lopsided victories over nonexistent schools. With the newspapers printing Plainfield's scores week after week without question, Newburger and Dannenbaum got bolder. They began writing creative press releases about the new football powerhouse. One release praised Plainfield's star runningback, a 'full-blooded Chinese-American' sophomore named Johnny (The Celestial Comet) Chung. Chung's amazing abilities on the gridiron were credited to the handfuls of wild rice he ate during huddles. The Teachers' offense operated out of an innovative 'W' formation in which all the linemen but the center faced backwards. Colorful Hopalong Hobelitz was named as Plainfield's coach. Six weeks of spectacular Plainfield victories raised speculation that the team might secure a bid to a coveted bowl game. Curious journalist Red Smith of the Philadelphia Record journeyed to Plainfield to find the college. Of course, there wasn't one. Their fraud exposed, Newburger and Dannenbaum confessed--but only after Jerry Croyden issued one final bogus press release. It announced Plainfield was forfeiting its remaining games because Chung and several other players were declared academically ineligible after flunking their exams.