Stories from Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium, Part 1: “It’s Hard to Compare”

EPISODE 17   (16:09)

lagn001This episode correlates to a current gallery exhibition at Hill Memorial Library’s Lecture Hall that is open to the public until December 21. “Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium” celebrates both LSU’s football program, which has been in existence for 120 years, and the 25th anniversary of the LSU-Auburn “Earthquake Game” in 1988.  This exhibit, presented to you by LSU Libraries Special Collections, showcases many of the players, the games, the facilities, and football culture that have made Tigers football history.  
Episode 17, “It’s Hard to Compare,” is about the continually growing importance of university athletics, which over the past half-century have shaped LSU in the eyes of the media, alumni, prospective students, and especially student athletes. LSU has become a destination for football prospects, and in turn for students who are attracted to that success and want to be a part of it. The clips in this episode highlight the connection between education and sports, and how the focus and intensity of the relationship between the two has increased over the years. 

The oral histories featured here are from the Williams Center’s University History Series, and while we are grateful to have the current content, this series is by no means comprehensive.  So if anyone out there listening or reading knows someone who ought to be interviewed, or wants to be interviewed themselves, please contact Jennifer A. Cramer at  Also, if you’d like to make a donation to help the Center document University Athletics, please contact Jennifer or visit our donation page.



ABE MICKAL is the key excerpt.  *For full transcription see below.



Abe Mickal, legendary LSU Tigers running back, ca. 1935

* Abe Mickal:  No, I think we . . . We were very blessed that we didn’t have too many things to distract us.  Go down my football team, my first team.  Pete Burge, in the end, graduated on schedule.  [Justin] Rukas graduated in Geology. Bert Brown graduated in Education.  Moose [Marvin] Stewart graduated and went and became a colonel in the Marines . . . lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.  [Osborne] “Butch” Helveston graduated in Education.  He was Superintendent of Schools in Baton Rouge.  “Jeff” Barrett graduated in Geology.  Junior Bowman graduated in Geology.  [Ernest “Son”] Seago graduated in Education.  [Jesse] Fatheree graduated in Education.  I graduated pre-med.  I mean, we had a few, but certainly I would say our college graduation, I would just estimate would be in the eighty-five, ninety percent range because things were entirely different. 

And you went there to get an education. Today, most athletes go to college to go to professional football, so the incentive is towards athletics and not towards education. It’s hard to compare and I don’t think we should compare the past with the present because we each have different obligations and different parameters that we had to live by or travel by, and it’s hard to say.  Just like, a lot of people have asked me, “Do you think you could play in today’s football?”  I don’t know.  Things were different in my day. 

I weighed one hundred and eighty pounds.  Today, the pros, they’d just pick you up with one hand, throw you away [laughs].  But things were different.  We played offense and defense.  We had different equipment.  When I had on my equipment, I weighed two hundred pounds.  I had twenty pounds of equipment because we had leather.  We didn’t have plastics.  We didn’t have foam.  We didn’t have a lot of things they have today, they make.  We had high top leather shoes, leather cleats.  Today in the athletics, the football equipment would be eight and a half, nine pounds.  In my day, it was eighteen to twenty pounds because of orthopedic felt and leather and . . . You perspired and the felt absorbed the moisture, so it got wet and heavy. You see, things were so different, it’s hard to compare.

Mickal, Abe, interview by Jennifer Abraham, audio recording, 1998, 4700.1051. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.



Gaynell Tinsley, All-American for LSU in 1935 and 1936

Gaynell Tinsley:  Yeah, they had offered me a scholarship before, and I told them I was going to Tulane.  I guess I got here . . . Jess Tinsley, a cousin of mine, had played about four or five years before at LSU and had been a good lineman for them.  So they got to talking to me about how great he was and all that stuff, how I should stay here, so I just decided to stay at LSU.

Scott Purdy:  So when you came, your scholarship, did it pretty much pay all your bills or was there . . . were there extra expenses?

Tinsley:  No, there was . . . it paid all . . . all the bills, I mean, room, board, and tuition, and all that stuff.  And we usually got jobs in the summertime to help buy clothes and things.

Purdy:  What kinds of jobs around here?

Tinsley:  All the way from working on the highway to oil field jobs.  Anything that was open.  And they . . . Of course, they usually helped us to find them.  I’m sure it came through the, you know, the Highway Department here in Baton Rouge.  And they would tell the people in that particular parish if they had a job or if they’d like to, for them to help out the football players.  It was just a normal salary that you would have gotten for that work if you hadn’t been a football player.  But I do not remember.  I have no idea what it was.

Purdy:   What I’m wondering about is how did the Depression affect . . . I’m wondering if that affected your ability to come to LSU and stay or if it made it more of a struggle?

Tinsley:   No, I . . . like I say, I don’t guess that it really did.  I mean, I guess it affected everybody, you know, some.  But so far as what we . . . The real necessities of life during the stay at LSU, we . . . we got that all right because as I say, the scholarship covered almost all of it.  See, our scholarship covered room, board, laundry, books, and all that kind of stuff.  So we didn’t just . . . Actually the only expenses that we had were mainly clothes and just personal expenses, you know, that we had to pay for.

Tinsley, Gaynell, interview by Scott Purdy, audio recording, 1993, 4700.0223. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Merle Schexnaildre

Merle Schexnaildre

Merle Schexnaildre: Well, I don’t know that I settled on football as such.  I went to high school and participated in all four of the senior team sports:  football, baseball, basketball, and track at Terrebonne [High School].  As a matter of fact, I was the only four year letterman at my high school.  So I did it all.  I guess had enough ability that LSU, or . . . you know, and I did well in football as well.  That’s where the scholarships were, and we were talked to by a number of schools, in the state the state and a few outside of the state for interest.  And that’s where the scholarships were.  And if you remember my background, you know, my parents were humble people who had no means, who did not go to college.  And, it was the way to go to advance yourself.  But, predominantly, I have to admit, Scott, it was the fulfillment of the athletic dream, okay.   That was as much a motivation as the academics.

Schexnaildre, Merle, interview by Scott Purdy, audio recording, 1993, 4700.0314. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.



Billy Cannon (left), Paul Dietzel (second from right), and others, ca. 1959

Roger Ogden: And 1959 was even more exciting because that was the Billy Cannon Halloween run against Ole Miss.  And I was there with my dad and my mom.  I mean, that was the most unbelievable sight!  You never saw sixty-seven thousand people — except for the few thousand that were Ole Miss fans — act as one.  And you know, I mean, for one fleeting moment that whole stadium was one.  I mean you could have gotten any reform in Louisiana done, you know, in that one moment.  I mean, the poor Cajun mechanic from Napoleonville [Louisiana] was hugging the banker from Homer, Louisiana, in north Louisiana.  I mean, people were just . . . I mean, it was unbelievable!  And everybody was crying.  I mean it was just unreal.  So, Billy Cannon became a major hero.  Well . . . And was before that night, from the time he was like a freshman or sophomore, I had big scrapbooks and everything.

We went on a field trip up to Baton Rouge; I think it was our freshman or sophomore year in high school.  I can’t remember when it was.  But we went up to the [State] Capitol [Building] and did all the stuff, and I had asked that we go out to LSU.  We did, and they let us go into Tiger Stadium and damned if Billy Cannon wasn’t coming either to or from practice and stopped with a number of us.  Of course all of the kids were saying, “Oh, Roger is just going bananas!” you know and . . . And I had my . . . still have somewhere in the scrapbook, a little Instamatic photograph that one of my classmates took of me and Billy Cannon.  Billy Cannon up here and me down here.  He was an All-American for like three out of his four years and I think this was like his sophomore year.  So he was my great hero and LSU football was my love of, you know, of hero worship kind of stuff.

Ogden, Roger, interview by Pamela Dean, audio recording, 1994, 4700.0519. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


This podcast was co-authored and produced by Jennifer A. Cramer and co-authored by William Mitchell.  The audio engineer is Kyle Tanglao.  Special thanks  to contributors Leah Jewett, Erin Hess, Barry Cowan, Wyatt Winnie, Louise Cheetham, Gabe Harrell, Emily Nemens, Michelle Melancon, and Germain Beinvenu.



Abe Mickal, LSU Photograph Collection, RG #A5000, Louisiana State University Archives, Baton Rouge, LA.

Gaynell Tinsley, LSU Photograph Collection, RG #A5000, Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

Merle Schexnaildre, detail from Chinese Bandits Sugar Bowl Program, 1959 GV 958 .L65 L66 LLMVC

Billy Cannon, Paul Dietzel, and others: Charles East Papers, Mss. 3471, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.



King, Freddie, interview by Tatiana Clay and Eric Julien, audio recording, 2008, 4700.1921.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


This podcast is copyrighted by LSU Libraries Special Collections.

For a full transcript of the podcast, please contact Jennifer Abraham at


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