|Born:||May 29, 1918|
|Died:||May 23, 2006 (aged 87)|
|1951||Philadelphia Eagles (DB)|
James W. Trimble (May 29, 1918 – May 23, 2006) was an American gridiron football coach who served as head coach in both the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL), but his legacy is more connected to football products, thanks to his "slingshot" goal posts. In the NFL, he spent four years leading the Philadelphia Eagles, before spending the next decade in the CFL, most notably with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Early life and career
Trimble grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He worked in the steel mills dragging slag off the steel melts in the furnaces; this caused him to develop a huge upper torso and very strong arms. In 1936 he was left tackle on the football team of Elgin Academy (a private school) in Elgin, Ill. The Hilltoppers lost no games in 1936 and 1937.
Later, he played tackle at Indiana University for three years beginning in 1939. After graduating in 1942, he entered the U.S. Navy, spending the next three years in the service during World War II. Upon the end of the conflict, he was named a line coach at Wichita State University, then became the school's head coach at the end of the 1947 season. Trimble held that position for three seasons and his overall coaching record at Wichita State was 13 wins, 14 losses, and 3 ties.
After three years with the Shockers, a time in which he also served as the school's athletic director, Trimble accepted an assistant coaching position with the Eagles in 1951. Bo McMillin, the man who had hired him, was diagnosed with cancer early in that first season and resigned in favor of Wayne Millner. When Millner himself resigned on September 8, 1952, Trimble was promoted to head coach.
During his first three years, Philadelphia finished second in each season to the Cleveland Browns, with Trimble awarded a three-year contract after the team's second straight runnerup finish in 1953. Entering the 1955 NFL season, the Eagles were expected to strongly challenge the defending champion Browns, but when the team fell to 4-7-1, Trimble was fired on December 12. During his four years with the Eagles, he had compiled a mark of 25-20-3.
Canadian Football League
Trimble was not out of work long, accepting the head coaching position of the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats on December 29, signing a one-year deal. After that first season, Trimble was a candidate for the head coaching job at his alma mater, Indiana, but remained north of the border. That decision would prove to be a wise one as the Tiger-Cats battled their way to a Grey Cup title in 1957. They capped the season with a 32-7 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who were led by Trimble's former player, Bud Grant.
That victory would sow the seeds of a rivalry when Trimble's team scored a meaningless touchdown in the waning moments of the contest. Angered by Hamilton running up the score, Winnipeg got its revenge one year later when they upset the Tiger-Cats, 35-28. Using the previous season's contest as motivation, the Blue Bombers also were aided when Trimble said days before the contest, "We'll waffle 'em. We'll leave 'em with lumps on the front and the back." The waffle would become a notorious symbol of Trimble's career, with Winnipeg fans jokingly presenting him one the following year.
After losing out to Vince Lombardi for the Green Bay Packers head coaching job in January 1959, Trimble endured continued frustration in three of the succeeding four CFL campaigns when Hamilton lost in the Grey Cup, each time to Winnipeg. In early 1963, Trimble left Hamilton to take the reins of the Montreal Alouettes, but after three losing seasons, he was unable to recapture the magic and was fired on November 18, 1965. Shortly after his dismissal, Trimble allegedly assaulted Montreal Star sportswriter Ian McDonald, but was able to avoid any trouble by apologizing to the journalist.
During his CFL career, he gained a nickname, "Jungle Jim", in part for his reputation in making controversial statements that spurred his running feud with Winnipeg. He later noted that his comments were made to draw attention to the league, and thus make it more marketable. His efforts succeeded in Hamilton, where by 1962, attendance had risen to 23,000 per game.
Out of football during 1966, Trimble remained in Hudson, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal. Here, he and a Montreal friend began to market a new type of goal post that was supported by only one post, instead of the two that had been the standard since the game began. The so-called "slingshot" goalposts, named because of their "Y" shape, were adopted by CFL in 1966 and by the NFL in 1967, just after Trimble returned to coaching as an offensive line assistant with the New York Giants. Trimble had been offered the job by head coach Allie Sherman while attempting to sell the team his innovative goal posts.
When Sherman was fired during the 1969 preseason, Trimble was transferred to the scouting department, where he would spend the next two decades before retiring. During the latter portion of this era, he earned a Super Bowl ring. He then spent his retirement in Indianapolis, Indiana before dying in 2006, six days before he would have turned 88, of emphysema.