Charles Sumner "Cy" Sherman (March 10, 1871 – May 22, 1951) was an American journalist and is known as the "father of the Cornhuskers" after giving the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team the name "Cornhuskers" in 1899. At his suggestion in 1936, Associated Press (AP) sports editor Alan J. Gould created the first AP Poll for ranking college football teams. Sherman began his career writing at the Nebraska State Journal in Lincoln, spent a short time at the Red Lodge, Montana Pickett before returning to Lincoln and the Lincoln Star where he spent most of his career. At his death he was called by the Star the "Dean of American Sportswriters".
Charles Sumner Sherman was born in Villisca, Iowa on March 10, 1871 to Charles Wheelan Sherman and Orilla (Groom) Sherman. His father was a civil war veteran and newspaper publisher and editor. He was born in Richland County, Ohio on June 6, 1841, and died in Los Angeles, California in January 1921. His mother was born in Marion County, Iowa on August 26, 1842, and died in Plattsmouth, Nebraska on May 31, 1900. Sherman first attended schools in Glenwood, Iowa, before his family moved to Plattsmouth, where he attended Plattsmouth High School. In Plattsmouth, his father was the publisher of the Plattsmouth Tribune, and Sherman spent time in its shop in where he learned printing. Sherman married Nancy Ada Moore in Davenport, Iowa on August 16, 1893. Nancy was born in Davenport on October 31, 1870.
Origin of the Cornhusker name
During the 1890 through 1899 seasons, the Huskers had been called multiple names including Treeplanters, Rattlesnake Boys, Antelopes, Old Gold Knights and Bugeaters. The school was changing its school colors to scarlet and cream in 1892 and the Old Gold Knights no longer made sense. By 1892, the team's most commonly used nickname was the Bugeaters, possibly named after the insect-devouring bull bats or possibly as a teasing reference to the only food an East Coast reporter believed was left for residents to eat after an 1870s drought. Sherman attended a Thanksgiving 1893 game between Nebraska and the University of Iowa and when he saw the team called the "Bug Eaters" in the papers after the game, he decided the team should have a better name. Sherman thought the name Bugeaters was unglamorous and was tired of referring to the Nebraska teams with that name.
Sherman was writing for the Nebraska State Journal starting in about 1898, and in 1899 was the first to use the name Cornhuskers to refer to Nebraska. He did so frequently in his columns and University journalism professor Alvin Watkins Jr. made a push for its adoption on campus. It was a successful effort and Cornhuskers would become the only used name for the team starting in 1900. The student yearbook changed its name to the “Cornhusker” in 1907. When the Nebraska legislature passed a bill naming Nebraska the Cornhusker State in 1946, Sherman received the pen used to sign the bill.
In 1916, Sherman refereed a professional wrestling match in Baltimore, Maryland between Nebraska's Joe Stecher (who won) and Baltimore's Gus "Americus" Schoenlein for the title of world's heavyweight champion, which had been vacated upon the retirement of the previous title holder, Frank Gotch, who was in the audience. Sherman played a role in advocating Stecher's career, which increased the wrestler's prominence. Later in the year, Sherman was credited with discovering Earl Caddock from Anita, Iowa after Caddock defeated Mort Henderson. In February 1917, Sherman criticized Jim Londos for wrestling in Nebraska under assumed identities, a tactic known as "ringing in" which meant that gamblers and Londos's small-time Nebraska opponents would not know who they were fighting. Sherman refereed a match between Caddock and Stecher in April 1917 in Omaha. Caddock won the match, and Sherman's work was controversial when he disallowed a fall when Caddock had nearly pinned Stecher but had his feet off the mat.
Later that year Sherman organized athletic shows in Lincoln to raise money to support Linoln's Western Baseball League team and to support John L. Griffith's cantonment gymnasium fund. At one show Fred Fulton boxed, while Caddock wrestled at the other. Boxers Mike and Tommy Gibbons were also part of the affair.
College football and the AP poll
In 1935, AP sports editor Alan J. Gould declared a three way tie for national champion in football between Minnesota, Princeton, and Southern Methodist. Minnesota fans protested, and a number of Gould's colleagues led by Sherman suggested he create a poll of sports editors instead of only using his own list, and the next year the AP Poll began. As an writer, Sheman's column in the Star was for a time called "Brass Tacks". He was known as an advocate for sportsmanship and opposed commercialization and excess recruiting in the college game.
Western League Baseball
As early as the 1910s, Sherman was involved in minor league baseball in Lincoln. During World War II, the Western Baseball League disbanded and in 1946, Sherman was one of six owners of franchises which organized a reconstituted league which began play in 1947. Sherman's team was the Lincoln Athletics, and they played on a field named for Sherman. In 1947 the president of the league was US Senator from Colorado, Edwin C. Johnson, and Sherman was treasurer. The Lincoln A's disbanded in 1952, the year after Sherman died, and the Western League closed in 1958.
He retired from the Star on July 1, 1946 after nearly 60 years as a sports writer.
Other activities and death
Sherman was active in Lincoln society. He was a member of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln University Club and the Nebraskana Society. The “N” Club, usually reserved for Husker letter winners, made Sherman an honorary member in 1933. He also had an honorary lifetime membership in the University of Nebraska Alumni Association and was a member of the Elks.
At his death on May 22, 1951 in Lincoln, he was survived by his wife, Nancy, and three brothers and two sisters. Two of his brothers were also in the printing business. He is buried at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln.
- Cy Sherman Dies; Dean of American Sports Writers, The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) May 23, 1951, page 1 and 2, accessed October 17, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7061146// and https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7061235//, obituary was widely republished, for instance, see Cy Sherman, Noted Nebraska Sports Editor, Dies, Northwest Arkansas Times (Fayetteville, Arkansas) May 23, 1951, page 8, accessed October 22, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7126792//
- Christopherson, Brian, Deep Red: The story behind the name ‘Cornhuskers’, Lincoln Journal Star, June 20, 2009, accessed October 25, 2016 at http://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/football/deep-red-the-story-behind-the-name-cornhuskers/article_2fa80a93-6d8f-5800-8223-772a759ff5a0.html
- Baldwin, Sara A. Mullin, and Robert Morton Baldwin, eds. Nebraskana: biographical sketches of Nebraska men and women of achievement who have been awarded life membership in the Nebraskana Society. Baldwin Company, 1932. page 1084, accessed October 26, 2016 at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ne/topic/resources/OLLibrary/Nebraskana/pages/nbka0244.htm
- Babcock, Mike. "Husker Football History" (PDF). Huskernside.com. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- "Origin of Cornhusker Nickname". Huskers.com. July 26, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- Charles Sherman Leaves Lincoln Newspaper Work, Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska) August 20, 1913, page 3 accessed October 17, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7070227//
- [No Headline] Lincoln Daily News (Lincoln, Nebraska) November 4, 1913, page 8, accessed October 17, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7061429/no_headline_lincoln_daily_news/
- Joe Stecher wind Match, The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) April 29, 1916, page 6, accessed October 26, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7187203/joe_stecher_wind_match_the_baltimore/
- "Cy" Sherman Digs Up Second Frank Gotch to Tickle Wrestling Fans, The Seattle Star (Seattle, Washington) December 26, 1916, page 7, accessed October 26, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7187240//
- Steven Johnson, Greg Oliver, Mike Mooneyham, J. J. Dillon, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes and Icons, ECW Press, Jan 11, 2013,
- Caddock is Given Decision in Match with Joe Stecher, The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa), April 10, 1917, page 1 and 4, accessed October 26, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7187301// and https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7187307//
- Plans to Save Ball Club, The Des Moines Register, (Des Moines, Iowa) December 19, 1917, page 8, accessed October 26, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7187362/plans_to_save_ball_club_the_des_moines/
- Halberstam, David. Breaking news: how the Associated Press has covered war, peace, and everything else. Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. p150-151
- Attempt to Revive Baseball League, Waukesha Daily Freeman (Waukesha, Wisconsin) October 24, 1946, page 8, accessed October 22, 2016 at https://www.newspapers.com/clip/7126838//
- Lloyd, Tony & Cindy (Aug 10, 2011). "Charles Sumner "Cornhusker" Sherman". newspaper editor. Find a Grave. Retrieved October 26, 2016.