Story by Gary Vogt
Mention the Massillon-Warren football series to a Harding fan and he is sure to bring up the infamous “1957 Clock Game,” where it was claimed by Warren that the Tigers won by virtue of having an extra minute of time added at the end. Here is that story.
The build up to the game was huge to say the least. And the outcome would certainly go a long way that year in determining the eventual state champion. The fact that the attendance that night was 21,322 fans attests to its magnitude.
Warren came into the game with a record of 6-0 and they were ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll, which was used to select the state champ at that time. The Tigers had a record of 4-1 having lost to Cleveland Benedictine 13-7 (they only played five games at that point in the season, as the contest with Mansfield was canceled due to a flu epidemic).
Massillon scored two first quarter touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead. Warren then fought back with two second half touchdowns to tie it up at 14. Then the epic drive and resulting controversy took place.
The Tigers had returned a punt to their 38 yard line with 2:38 showing on the clock to set up the drive. When it was over, the clock had expired and Massillon was celebrating a victory. Along the way, the Tigers used three different quarterbacks and converted on two fourth downs. The first conversion required a measurement, which the Tigers made by inches. The second occurred on the last play of the game with the Tigers on Warren’s 38 yard line. With just four seconds left, sophomore quarterback Joe Sparma tossed deep to end Clyde Childers for the game-winning touchdown. Childers snagged the pass between two Warren defenders and lunged across the goal line for the score. Pandemonium broke loose and the try for the extra point never did not take place.
According to the Warren Tribune Chronicle a Warren fan contacted Harding coach Gene Slaughter on the sideline after the game and claimed that a minute of time was added to the clock after it reached the 0:59 mark, obviously aiding the Tigers during their final march to the endzone. Thus began a detailed investigation conducted by both schools.
- The clock operator that night was Bill Archibald.
- The game was broadcast on WHBC radio.
- Referees – Stan Machock – Referee, Eric Calhoun – Umpire, Sam Hadnick – Head Linesman & C. W. Kupp – Field Judge.
- Warren’s head coach – Gene Slaughter
- Warren officials did contact OHSAA to ask if they could look into the clock operation that night. OHSAA assigned the investigation to an E. M. Ensminger, an OHSAA Commissioner. He later found in Massillon’s favor.
Without discounting this information, Coach Slaughter contacted Head Referee Stan Machock to inquire if his crew had noticed a clock malfunction. Machock stated that no one on the crew was aware of any such malfunction. Machock and Slaughter climbed the stands to the West Press Box where Bill Archibald, the clock operator, was wrapping up his evening’s work and was putting away his equipment. Machock asked Archibald if he had noticed any clock malfunction during the conclusion of the game. Archibald had not noticed any such malfunction. Machock asked Archibald to re-run the clock down to check it’s reliability. He re-ran the last four minutes three or four times for Machock. The clock performed accurately each time. Machock told Slaughter that there was nothing more he could do and they departed the Press Box.
The next day Warren school officials contacted the Ohio High School Athletic Association and asked if they would look into the Massillon clock situation from the night before. The OSHAA then contacted the Massillon school officials to inquire about the clock and its operation.
The following Monday, October 28th, Massillon officials obtained an audio rebroadcast of the game from WHBC. By replaying the tape they could determine if the time was properly gauged. The process was repeated three or four times and the clock appeared to be operating properly.
The worksheet below outlining the last four minutes of the game was believed to be generated by the Massillon officials as they replayed the tape and prepared their response to OSHAA. It shows a play by play account of the last four minutes of the game by displaying the start time, the time run off and the clock reading after the play. It also describes what happened on the play and the yards gained or lost. What is of tremendous significance is the red OK on the left edge of the worksheet. Then trace across the line with the red OK to the right edge. The pencil lead colored notes on the right edge justify the clock readings after the play in question. The notes read “TAPE”, “CAK” and “POWELL”. The term TAPE refers to the rebroadcast from WHBC, the term CAK refers to Massillon’s statistician Chuck Koch and POWELL refers to the Massillon Evening Independent’s sport writer Charlie Powell’s article on the game. These three sources verify that the times are an accurate account of what is displayed on the worksheet.
The first question to consider: why didn’t the Warren coaching staff bring the clock malfunction to the attention of the referees when it occurred rather than wait until the game was over? Either the Warren coaches were asleep at the switch or the clock had operated correctly. Were they not paying attention to the clock with one minute left in the game and Massillon driving for the winning score? The clock was probably the focus of everyone in the stadium at that time.
Let’s be clear. No Warren official claimed that the clock was purposely configured to add an extra minute. Again, how can someone reconfigure the clock without the Warren coaches observing the clock altering process? Surely someone would have noticed if Mr. Archibald had purposely tried to add a minute. No one did.
There is one possibility that cannot be proved or disproved. It is possible that the clock went from 1:00 minute to 1:59 and then immediately corrected itself. This may have occurred, but regardless it did not alter the timing of the game and no extra minute was added as some claimed.
The loss knocked Warren out of contention for the 1957 state championship, which was awarded to Cleveland Benedictine based on their victory over the Tigers and their 9-0 season record.
In conclusion, the evidence overwhelmingly supports that claim that the clock kept an accurate account of the time and no extra minute was granted to the Tigers. The scoreboard and clock mechanism were state of the art equipment for the 1950s and ran accurately during the post-game trials. The worksheet breaks down the final four minutes in detail and is supported by multiple sources. The WHBC broadcast combined with the clock rerun proved that the clock had accurately kept the time of the game. OHSAA investigated Warren’s claim and found in favor of the Tigers. With little or no evidence to the contrary it becomes obvious that the clock at Tiger Stadium performed accurately in timing the game that night.