THE THIN THIRTY
The Thin Thirty is a remarkable book written by Shannon Ragland published by Set Shot Press in 2007. It is an historical book about the University of Kentucky Football tragedy in 1962, untold and hushed until this book publication.
The Thin Thirty, by Shannon Ragland tells an accurate Tragic Football History that had been hushed, covered-up, and not reported until 45 years afterwards, when published by Set Shot Press in 2007.
After Coach Blanton Collier was fired. Charlie Bradshaw was hired as head coach of the University of Kentucky Football Wildcats. He was a deciple of Bear Bryant, having played for him at UK in the late 1940’s. Bradshaw began total comando, brutal, abusive, brain-washing football. But his modus operandi failed.
Charlie Bradshaw won 38.6% of his games, his record was W-25 L-41 T-4, he was shamed and unsuccessful. He buried many excellent football careers in a mass grave with the help of the UK Administration. Bradshaw “run-off” many athletes who became Pros, won Conference and National Championships elsewhere, while UK didn’t, and others who excelled in business and professional careers apart from Football, partly motivated and driven by his Maltreatments, Assaults, Physical and Emotional Abuses and Ignorance.
Many who “pulled out” from Bradshaw’s horrifying, gruesome style produced successful families taught not to act like the Bradshaw’s of this world.
TTT also birthed our National Movement for the Prevention and Awareness of Child Athlete Abuse Syndrome, a “New Disease” not defined and recognized until TTT. developed like the Blanton Collier Sportsmanship Foundation.
The moral to the story is don’t Abuse Athletes, particularly vulnerable, susceptible Children (<18) and Youth (15-24). Instead, revere the real heroes of this world like Clarkie Mayfield.
Yes, I count Shannon Ragland and his family my friends and am so thankful for my reconnection with my beloved Teammates and others not seen for 45 years until our “Reunion” because of TTT. Thank you, Shannon and Denise
The complete Earl Cox review from the Voice Tribune, August 28, 2007
Here’s a UK football story that may be hard to believe
If I hadn’t lived through the University of Kentucky’s shameful Thin Thirty Days, I would swear that a new book, “The Thin Thirty,” is a work of fiction. But you couldn’t make up what a Louisville author, Shannon Ragland, has written about the shameful period when Charlie Bradshaw coached UK and so brutalized the UK football players that all but 30 quit the team.
Shortly after Bradshaw returned to Lexington to coach his alma mater, I had a conversation with him in front of the Wildcat Bowling Lanes next to Memorial Coliseum. He said that Dr. Ralph Angelucci, the team physician and a member of the UK trustees, told him that the first thing the coach had to do was run off the gays, including actor Rock Hudson, who were dating some of the football players.
You read that right.
Can’t win with mules
And Bradshaw went to work. He ran off the homosexuals. The party sites switched to Richmond and involved some of the Eastern players. Hudson helped one of the EKU players, Harvey Yeary, make it big in Hollywood with a new name: Lee Majors!
But Bradshaw also ran off most of his UK football players. All but 30 – thus The Thin Thirty.
I think it was a high school coach named Jim Pickens who told Bradshaw that he had run off the thoroughbreds and was left with mules – “and you can’t win on Saturdays with mules.” He also told him that Bradshaw shouldn‘t ever bother to recruit Bowling Green players again because he had run off Dale Lindsey, probably the best player Bowling Green had ever produced. Lindsay finished at WKU and was a star linebacker in the NFL.
Bear Bryant Jr.
I walked with Bradshaw one day from the Coliseum across the Avenue of Champions to Stoll Field. I told him I was worried about him and I thought what was wrong with him was that he was trying to be someone else – Bear Bryant Jr.
He objected violently to that.
That first season I flew on the UK team plane to a game with the University of Detroit. I have never seen such a beaten-down group of individuals.
Actually there were only 29 on the trip. I was the last one on the plane and I couldn’t see an empty seat. But Junior Hawthorne, a big tackle, made his teammates squinch up in the back to make room for me.
Homer Rice, a friend who turned Fort Thomas Highlands into a football powerhouse, was a mild-mannered man who was a Bradshaw assistant. He called one day at The Courier-Journal. He said things were so bad that he had told Bradshaw that he would quit if the mistreatment of players didn’t stop.Rice stayed.
Gambling on Xavier?
Earl Ruby, the legendary Courier-Journal sports editor, and I flew on the team plane to Knoxville for the season-ending Kentucky-Tennessee game in 1962. UK won 12-10 and the Wildcats finished the season 3-5-2. Bradshaw lasted six more seasons before he was replaced by the luckless John Ray, who did make a major contribution to UK by being the catalyst for the building of Commonwealth Stadium.
In addition to the sex, Shannon Ragland discovered something I had never heard. He writes that some of the Wildcats tried to throw the Xavier game (the week before Tennessee). Xavier upset the Cats 14-9.
Ragland has done thorough research. I told him that his book could be a good textbook for use by colleges. It should be required for football players planning to be coaches.
Ragland played in two state tournaments as a member of the Eastern High team led by Felton Spencer. He is a graduate of WKU and also of UK’s law school.
University of Kentucky Football, Exploitation of Players
‘Thin Thirty’ Details Scandals
Mike Mooneyham The Post and Courier Sunday, September 30, 2007
Southeastern Conference football, exploitation of players, game fixing and a gay sex scandal involving a legendary pro wrestling promoter and a Hollywood film icon. How’s that for a tease?
And it’s just the tip of the iceberg in one of the best books on college football to come down the pike in quite some time. Shannon Ragland’s “The Thin Thirty” is a disturbing yet fascinating look at the 1962 University of Kentucky football team and its first-year coach Charlie Bradshaw, a Bear Bryant disciple, whose team was thinned from 88 to 30 players by his brutal conditioning tactics.
Bradshaw desperately wanted to replicate the Bryant magic, restore the Kentucky football program and lead it to rightful gridiron glory. Preaching family, God, football and academics, he intended to build a national champion on the football field, but his flawed vision rendered his preaching hollow when he stepped onto the practice field and brutalized his players.
The book, which delves into the heartbreaking experiences of a group of players who endured that shameful period, also tackles some revealing off-the-field issues, including a gay sex scandal that involved longtime pro wrestling power-broker Jim Barnett and film star Rock Hudson, along with allegations that some UK players may have tried to fix a game that season against lowly Xavier.
Although the events occurred nearly five decades ago, “The Thin Thirty” ($18.95, Set Shot Press) paints an ugly portrait of college football at its absolute worst — a collection of young men exploited and brutalized by a coach and a university with warped priorities — and is bound to give many readers a new perspective on big-time college football. It also conveys an inspirational story of a team, many of whom were traumatized for life, that overcame the darkest chapter in the history of Kentucky athletics, to become a part of football history.
Ragland, with extensive chapter notes on sources and more than 100 interviews, does a stellar job in researching this dark period.
Of particular interest to wrestling fans is the book’s claims of a three-year period in Lexington, Ky., in which the erudite Barnett is purported to have provided numerous members of the team with perks in return for sexual favors. Barnett’s posh residence, according to the book, became a home away from campus for a number of players and a place where the mat matchmaker could do his own “recruiting.”
An entire chapter, titled “Predators in Their Midst,” is devoted to the sex scandal.
Barnett, who died in 2004 at the age of 80, was a man of diminutive stature who wore stylish three-piece suits and horn-rimmed glasses. A worldly man of old money, the flamboyant promoter’s passion for fine art, Mozart and penthouse living would lead a fellow Georgian, President Jimmy Carter, to appoint him to the National Council for the Arts during the 1970s.
Barnett’s relationships with the movers and shakers of society helped him immensely with his wrestling business, to the point where few would challenge him.
“He had a lot of political connections,” recalled one former associate. “He always maintained a working relationship with the police department, which was very important, and he always made sure that certain judges got very nice gifts, along with senators and state reps. That’s why he was so successful all these years keeping the athletic commission out (of wrestling).”
Despite being gay and effeminate in a business run by ex-jocks, it was in the world of professional wrestling where James E. Barnett enjoyed a far-reaching scope of influence. One of the most powerful and influential men in the industry over the past half-century, Barnett was an integral part of pro wrestling’s national television boom in the ’50s, oversaw a boom period in Australia during the ’60s, and worked with Ted Turner in the ’70s in bringing the sport to a new cable audience. Brokering some of the biggest transactions in wrestling history, including the sale of Crockett Promotions to Turner in 1988, the always-behind-the-scenes Barnett also was in on the grand floor of Vince McMahon’s national expansion in the mid-’80s.
But in 1959 in Lexington, writes Ragland, Barnett and longtime companion Lonnie Winter, with their fine clothes and deep pockets, cut quite a swath cruising the streets of the Kentucky town, looking for talent, in their fancy convertible Cadillac. It all started just that simple with a chance meeting between a gay wrestling promoter and a group of freshmen-to-be-footballers at the University of Kentucky, according to Ragland, and the following question posed by Barnett in a Southern drawl with perfectly strung-out diction: “Any of you boys want to go for a ride in my Cadillac?”
Barnett and Winter soon moved from an expensive hotel in downtown Lexington to an extravagant home on Lakewood Drive. Barnett, Ragland notes, would routinely send his car to fetch Hudson from the Cincinnati airport and bring him to the residence.
Hudson, whose homosexuality was well-closeted at the time, would become a regular visitor at the home, where Barnett would invite the football players to lavish parties that would include all the steak, lobsters and delicacies they could eat, along with a bartender supplying ample amounts of liquor and sometimes even women serving as a backdrop.
“What better draw for Lakewood was there than Rock Hudson? If he called and invited a player to attend a party, who could resist such an invitation? He was a movie star, a worldly and virile bon vivant … As remarkable as it was, Hudson quickly became involved with the UK football team and engaged in sexual relationships with them.”
Mixing money, booze, food and persuasion, a number of impressionable and vulnerable players succumbed, writes Ragland. The stars were on the payroll, and each year a new group of players would be introduced to the home on Lakewood Drive. Many of them were naive and considered it a game. But the free money, free trips, free clothes, free gifts didn’t come without a price.
The scandal had actually started during the tenure of coach Blanton Collier, before Bradshaw took the helm of the Kentucky program, although the book makes it clear that Collier never knew what was happening right under his nose.
Ragland also names former Atlanta Falcons head coach Leeman Bennett, an assistant under Bradshaw at the time, as having known about the Barnett connection to the team, suggesting he kept quiet assuming it was “boys being boys.” Bennett and other assistant, says Ragland, “had neither the will nor the power to end it — the scandal was viewed by them as just something that a few college boys were doing but that fundamentally it didn’t affect what happened on the field.”
Kentucky had been hit with a basketball points-shaving scandal a decade earlier and, to Bradshaw’s credit, he made it go away quietly when the sex and gambling incidents came to light. Fearing that another scandal could destroy the school’s athletics program, Bradshaw put an end to the practice.
According to the book, Barnett and Winter, whom Ragland claims enjoyed some level of police protection prior to the gambling scandal, left town quickly in 1963, “almost overnight, halfway around the world, and took their wrestling promotion to Australia.”
It was in that virgin territory where Barnett, who along with business partner Johnny Doyle sold their wrestling companies in the U.S., would oversee a period known as the “Golden Age of Wrestling.”
Praise for Hawpe the Sports Journalist. Billy Reed Says, June 18th, 2008 by Billy Reed ·
If you read David Hawpe’s column in today’s Courier-Journal, you may have been surprised to learn that he received an inscribed football from the members of the 1961-’62 freshman football team at the University of Kentucky. Why the surprise? Well, suffice it to say that in his long and distinguished editorial career, David has exhibited a far deeper affinity for politics, the arts, and history than for sports.
Knowing David, I know that he doesn’t dislike sports. In fact, going back to the days of Adolph Rupp, he has long been an avid UK basketball fan. It’s just, like me, he’s uncomfortable with how big college sports have become relative to the university as a whole. The tail often wags the dog. A large segment of society seems to believe that universities exist mainly to sponsor sports teams – and that’s disturbing.
So why would Hawpe be getting an award from a bunch of old football players?
Because, as a callow young journalist, he demonstrated courage and wisdom beyond his years by exposing and criticizing the brutality that existed in UK football coach Charlie Bradshaw’s program, but that was largely ignored – even condoned – by the state’s largest newspapers.
After graduating from Louisville Male High in 1961, David joined a UK freshman class that included four scholarship football players from Male – Jim Bolus, Lindsey Able, Tommy Hedden, and Joe Blankenship.
They all had signed up to play for Blanton Collier, the erudite, hard-of-hearing coach who had succeeded Paul “Bear” Bryant in 1954. But before they could ever play a second for Collier, he was fired after the 1961 season and replaced by Bradshaw, a Bryant disciple who had the coldest blue-gray eyes that anybody had ever seen.
Publicly, Bradshaw preached the Baptist religion and talked about the need to recruit players who had “good mamas and papas,” a message that resonated favorably throughout Lexington and the commonwealth’s small rural communities.
Privately, however, he believed that UK’s poor recent records had been because Collier was too “soft” on the players, a situation that he intended to correct by instilling brutal offseason workouts – illegal under NCAA rules – that were designed, as the saying goes, to “separate the men from the boys.”
Bradshaw knew he could get away with mayhem, literally, because Lexington’s newspapers, the morning Herald and the afternoon Leader, had long been in bed with UK athletics. Why, heck, Stoll Field, where the Wildcats played their home games in those days, was named for Judge Richard Stoll, whose family had some ownership in the Herald-Leader Company.
At the time, Ed Ashford and Winfield Leathers were sports editors of the Herald and the Leader, respectively. Leathers had only recently replaced Larry Shropshire, who had been sports editor of The Leader for years, and, as a former cityside reporter, Winfield brought a new perspective into the sports department.
Leathers quickly came to admire Collier’s integrity and knowledge of the game. They were both professorial in nature and they hit it off well. So when Collier was fired, Leathers took a much different position than did Ashford and his assistant, Billy Thompson, Herald assistant sports editor and author of the popular “Pressbox Pickups” column, a must-read for fans throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky.
Maybe Leathers’ support of Collier cost him his job, and maybe it didn’t, but he soon left the Leader to take a job with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Collier also had re-located in Cleveland as an assistant coach of the NFL’s Browns (he replaced Paul Brown as head coach after one season.). With Leathers gone, Kentucky’s media lined up solidly behind Bradshaw.
Except, that is, for David Hawpe and the Kentucky Kernel, the university’s independent student newspaper.
Because of his friendship with Bolus, Blankenship, Able, and Hedden, Hawpe was getting information about what was really happening inside Bradshaw’s program — and the reality was a far cry from what was being fed to the public throughout the Herald, the Leader, the Courier-Journal, and other mainstream outlets.
Bradshaw’s idea of instilling discipline into his players was to routinely abuse them both physically and mentally. He and his staff were cruel to the point of being sadistic. And the players began leaving in such numbers and with such regularity that it became a story impossible to ignore.
But only the Kernel got the truth and printed it because the “quitters” either wouldn’t talk truthfully to the mainstream media, for fear of reprisal, or else weren’t even approached for interviews by the writers who had, in effect, become Bradshaw’s accomplices in the coverup. Today it would undoubtedly be called “Charliegate” or some such.
The Kernel’s reporting drew the attention of Sports Illustrated, which sent investigative reporter Mort Sharnik to Lexington to sniff around. Writer Robert Creamer’s subsequent story, “Rage to Win,” should have set off alarm bells across the commonwealth. Instead, it was dismissed as a case of nothing more than a bunch of outsiders coming in and trying to stir up trouble.
By the start of the 1962 season, Bradshaw was left with only 30 able-bodied players available for duty, so somebody – Thompson, probably – dubbed UK’s team “The Thin Thirty.” Gone was the guts of the 1961 freshman class, including such highly recruited players as Paintsville’s Mike “The Missile” Minix, Bowling Green’s Dale Lindsey, and Male’s Bolus. All had been first-team All-Staters.
Of the 46 players listed as freshmen in the 1961 media guide, only half were listed as sophomores in the 1962 guide. And of those 23, only six were still on the varsity as juniors in 1963.
The Courier-Journal belatedly joined Bradshaw’s critics when Bolus, a journalism major, transferred to the University of Louisville and was hired to help cover high-school sports and horse racing. He told Earl Ruby, then the paper’s sports editor, what had really happened behind the scenes in Lexington, and Ruby wrote about it in “Ruby’s Report,” easily the most influential sports column in the state.
When the remnants of the 1961 freshman class were seniors in the fall of 1964, Bradshaw’s third varsity team went to Jackson, Ms., and upset top-ranked Ole Miss, 27-21, the program’s biggest football victory since the Bryant days. Gloating, Bradshaw posed the question, “Was it worth it?”
Most UK fans, flushed with victory and apparent vindication, answered in the affirmative. But Hawpe answered Bradshaw’s question with yet another scathing editorial indictment of the coach’s methods. He argued that the ends did not justify the means. Around the state and beyond, Hawpe and The Kernel were condemned as long-haired hippy freaks who didn’t have the right values.
But that ’64 season quickly turned sour for UK and the team that shocked Ole Miss finished with only a 5-5 record and no bowl invitation. The only coach who earned vindication that season was Blanton Collier, who coached the Cleveland Browns to the 1964 NFL championship. In the player draft after that title, Collier picked Dale Lindsey from Western Kentucky, where he had transferred after leaving UK, and Lindsey became an All-Pro linebacker with the Browns.
That’s right. The same Dale Lindsey whom Bradshaw and his staff had labeled a “quitter.” He wasn’t the only one to show up Bradshaw. Bolus became a nationally respected journalist and Kentucky Derby historian. Minix became a successful ophthamologist. Others excelled in the military, business, medicine, and education. Some never got over the “quitter” stigma, but almost to a man, to their undying credit, they didn’t let it define or defeat them.
“Throughout my years-long confrontation with Bradshaw, he insisted that those who left rather than accept his program’s savagery – and, more importantly, the personal abasement it involved – were quitters. He said if they quit the team, they would be lifelong quitters. These guys prove him wrong.”
The story of the “Thin Thirty” was finally told in a 2006 book by lawyer Shannon Ragland. It was a good read, marred only by Ragland’s erroneous assertion that UK’s 1962 loss to Xavier may have been “fixed.” Besides providing some historical perspective for modern fans, the book finally provided some closure to some of the players who have been unfairly forced to carry the “quitter” tag through life.
Hawpe was never an athlete, yet journalism taught him the same qualities of character and courage that players are supposed to get from sports. University administrators would be well-advised to remember this the next time they start talking about cutting funds for the student newspaper or the marching band or the drama club.
We have some history, David and I.
After Hawpe graduated from UK in the spring of 1965, he was hired to assist Bob Cooper at the Associated Press bureau in Lexington. It was a job that required Hawpe to make regular treks up to the sports department to get scores and other information. When his hiring was announced, Billy Thompson instructed us – I was covering the state colleges for the Herald then – to give him the cold shoulder.
That didn’t last long.
I liked David from the git-go and soon he was an honorary member of the sports department “gang.” After hours – and, yes, sometimes during hours – we played gin rummy and “eraser ball” in the sports department. Hawpe even won over Billy Thompson, who was too good-hearted to dislike anybody for very long.
Over the years, David and I have shared many good times and glorious moments. We’ve also had some serious philosophical disagreements that have tested us both. But I’ve always admired David and given him the benefit of the doubt because of what he did during the “Thin Thirty” era. Even when I disagreed with him, I knew him to be a man of character.
At a tender age, David was thrust into the crucible of journalism and public opinion. He trusted his friends and his instincts. He did the right thing, even though it cost him friends and probably a fraternity invitation or two, and he never backed down.
It’s nice to see that, after all these years, he has been recognized by the champions he championed. Had I been there, I would have led the applause
The Thin Thirty is a remarkable book written by Shannon Ragland published by Set Shot Press in 2007. It is an historical book about the University of Kentucky Football tragedy in 1962, untold and hushed until publication.
Micheal B. Minix, Sr., M.D. was included in the book subject matter after an extensive interview by the author, Shannon Ragland, who, until the interview, was unknown to the interviewee.
MBMSrMD had no performance in the work’s origination, writing or publication and has no financial benefit. The only contact was the interview history. The book accurately reflects the interview and tragic preseason practices. There were many other incidences at the time, No book could include all the events of the tragedy. Ragland’s research was very through, from 4 corners and within. For some of the other events included in the book MBMSrMD had no knowledge. This is a must read for everyone. ____________________________________________________________