Born: February 10, 1923 (New York)
Died: January 3, 2015 (New York)
Member: National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (1995)
Allie Sherman was a former American college and professional football player who came north to coach the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1954.
Sherman, a left-handed quarterback as a player, liked an aerial offensive, so his daring style was suited to the three-down Canadian game. Sherman had a record of 36-26-2 as head coach over three seasons. He took the Blue Bombers to the Western Interprovincial Football Union playoffs in each season, compiling a record of 4-6-1. (In those days, some playoff series were determined by total points after two games, making possible ties.)
Sherman was succeeded as head coach in 1957 by Bud Grant, who took the Blue Bombers to the Grey Cup, where they lost to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sherman played quarterback and cornerback at Brooklyn College, covering his tuition by hustling neighbourhood joes at handball. His great collegiate triumph was an upset, come-from-behind 28-21 victory over crosstown rivals City College of New York.
The smallish athlete, who stood 5-foot-10, weighing 170 pounds, was overlooked in the 1943 NFL draft, unselected even though the 10 NFL teams picked a total of 300 college players.
NFL coach Earl (Greasy) Neale took a chance on the pint-sized lefty flinger. Owing to manpower shortage during the Second World War, the NFL’s two Pennsylvania franchises, the Steelers and the Eagles, temporarily merged for the 1943 season as the Steagles. Shibe Park in Philadelphia served as a home stadium. The Steagles, officially known as the Phil-Pitt Combine, finished in third place in the NFL East with a 5-4-1 record. Sherman played another four seasons with the Eagles as as a backup quarterback and holder on kick attempts. Despite his playing role, he showed skill at adopting football formations. “Allie is the smartest man in football,” coach Neale pronounced.
In 1949, Sherman became backfield coach for the New York Giants, a position he held until coming north to coach the Blue Bombers. He returned to the Giants as a scout in 1958, became offensive coach the following year and head coach after the 1960 season. He took the Giants to the NFL championship game in each of his first three seasons as head coach, losing twice to the Green Bay Packers (1961, 1962) and then to the Chicago Bears (1963).
He ended eight seasons as head coach with a 57-51-4 record despite having won 33 of his first 42 games as coach, including coach of the year titles in 1961 and 1962. The mid-1960s was a tough period for the Giants, whose fans serenaded the out-of-favour coach with the cry, “Goodbye Allie.”
In 2005, Sherman was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame at Commack, N.Y. He died at his home in Manhattan, aged 91.
Allie Sherman at Yankee Stadium.