Corsicana Tigers
1961 Bi-District Champions
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


1961 Corsican Extract || Corsicana High School Index || 1961 CHS Classmates || Sports Index

Ribbon from the 1961 Football Season
From the collection of  Edward L. Williams


8/25/2005 Field Generals


Several members of the 1961 Tigers — the first team to play on Tiger Field — still reside in Corsicana today, at the cusp of the final season at the stadium. Some of their photos in uniform, above, were featured in the 1961-62 Corsicanan yearbook. The former Tigers are, top row, left to right, Marc Maxwell, Dave Ralston, Billy Nelson, Phil Paschal, Danny Gordon, Jim Wood and Don Denbow; bottom row, Gary Roman and Tom Wilson. Not pictured is David Robinson.
Daily Sun photo/STEPHEN FARRIS

• Story written by Joel Weckerly, Staff Writer •

Tom Wilson stood among eight former teammates on the dew-stained grass of Tiger Field, the morning sun forcing the old friends to squint as they eyed their surroundings.

An onlooker couldn’t help but feel like a part of history. This group hadn’t been together on the Tiger Field sod in 44 years.

“Do any of you remember which part of the field you had to pick weeds out of?,” Wilson asked. “I think mine was over there, about the 30 to the 35.”

Indeed, these ex-Tigers did more than just play on the brand-new field in 1961; they helped landscape it. Oddly enough, it’s not the game memories that stick with Wilson today. Instead, it’s the image of him on his knees, yanking weed after weed out of the soil for second-year coach Jim Acree.

“There were about a million weeds,” Wilson says. “We all had a five-yard stretch on the field, and after we had worked out, we picked all the weeds out of it. There weren’t any weeds left after we got done; I know that.”

Wilson was a senior quarterback for the Tigers in ’61, and guided them to a 9-2-1 campaign and a regional quarterfinal appearance — their best season since 1934.

Wilson was joined on the field by several teammates who still reside in town: linebacker/end Danny Gordon, tailback Billy Nelson, running back David Robinson, linebacker Jim Wood, end Dave Ralston and end Phil Paschal.

Don Denbow, Gary Roman and Marc Maxwell were all sophomores on the B Team that year, while Frank Murchison was the varsity manager.

“I’ll tell you how old we are,” says Wood, who now sells insurance. “We still call it the new Tiger Field. I have about a million memories from playing there. Like it is now, it was a big part of a young person’s life.”

An especially big part of their lives was the first game ever played on Tiger Field Sept. 8, 1961, against Waco High. Corsicana and Waco battled to a 6-6 tie under the new lights.

“I think it was a full house,” Wilson recalls. “I don’t remember back exactly, but we had good followings back then. We pretty much had full houses every time.”

Tiger Field was constructed to seat 5,000 fans, although since then it has been expanded to seat 6,500. Prior to the first game, Baylor
University president Abner McCall led a ceremony to dedicate the stadium before the 5,000 in attendance.

An article in the Sept. 9, 1961 issue of the Daily Sun described the new facility in detail:

New dressing rooms, concession stands, restrooms and ticket booths were constructed and a new gridiron was carved out of the ground and seeded with bermuda to provide a field for football. A new, modern cinder track circles the field, a valuable augmentation to Corsicana High athletics. Stands and clock were moved from the old field site.

Moving to the State Highway 31 site was a welcome change from where the old Tiger Field resided, between Fourth Avenue and Collin Streets and 32nd and 34th Streets. Built in a residential neighborhood, the old field had limited parking and no fieldhouse to change clothes in.

“There was zero parking,” Wood said. “You might end up parking 10 blocks away. There was no fieldhouse. The visiting team changed in a big garage where we kept blocking dummies.”

Wilson had similar memories.

“We had to change in the dungeon of the old high school, which is Drane (Intermediate) School now,” he said. “Then we’d bus over to the old
Tiger Field. To be able to go into a new facility where the dressing rooms were at the same place, we thought we’d died and gone to heaven.”

According to Gordon, he was even a part of the construction.

“I helped build that sucker,” he said. “That summer before my senior year, the field itself was a bunch of holes. Jim Acree and I got an old tractor, we put an I-beam on it, then we just went around in circles.
Then we needed grass, and then we had to find a way to water the grass.

“(Acree) made us work like slaves, then he made us run the stands with dummies.”

The hard work paid off, especially for the future Tigers. The sophomores who were on the B Team that year — Denbow, Roman and Maxwell — returned as seniors in 1963 to lead Corsicana to a state championship.

“If Tom Wilson wouldn’t have led such a good team (in ’61), we wouldn’t have known how to get there in 1963,” Maxwell said.

Now, in its 44th year of existence, Tiger Field will play host to its final five Tigers games, as well as its last four Navarro games.

Since records were kept starting with the 1979 season, Corsicana is 111-19-3 in 26 seasons at Tiger Field. The Tigers have only lost nine district games at home in that span, and only two have come since October of 1999.

When Wilson coached the Tigers from 1993 to 1999, he compiled a 31-4 record and lost only one district game in seven years at the stadium.
From 1979 to 1992, Denbow also racked up quite a nice record, going 60-10-3 at Tiger Field for an .822 winning percentage.

“I always felt pretty comfortable there,” Denbow said. “Although it’s now outdated, I feel like there’s a piece of me still there.”

“Having a home field advantage is unbelievable in some communities,” CISD director of athletics Sam Thompson said. “Corsicana is one of those communities. We’ll pack the stands. It’s been a school and community effort to have high expectations and to win with class on Tiger Field.”

Thompson said the Tiger Field lot will be sold following the 2005-06 athletic season, during which many boys’ and girls’ soccer games will also be played. Ground work on the new football stadium — to be located at 45th Street and FM 744 — is slated for September, with an 11-month construction period “if all goes well,” Thompson added.

He hinted that some special events could also take place at the remaining home games.

When the final home game is played against Lancaster on Sept. 28, all the ex-Tigers admitted that feelings of sentiment will come out and the memories will grow more vivid.

But most of them also said that a change is necessary.

“It’s long overdue,” Wilson said. “I think with the success our program’s had over the years and with the field being used so much, it’s something this community deserves. Everybody’s excited about it; it’s going to be a nice facility.

“Hopefully, it will be one that lasts a little longer.”




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Edward L. Williams