Philadelphia Bell

Jimmy Corcoran's "Tales of a Ball Boy"


I had been trying to get my fathers Philadelphia Bell game helmet since 1974 when I tried it on for the first time after I cleaned it and hung it up in the equipment room. I used to help clean the helmets with the equipment manager and I noticed all of the Bell players wore the fancy blue dungard facemasks which were a lot sharper than what the NFL was wearing in 1974.

But my father was still wearing the gray BD9 double bar that he had been wearing since college. I asked him why he didn’t switch to the royal blue DB style facemask that looked much better but he said he couldn’t because he wouldn’t be able to see his receivers. I said if that was the case why didn’t he wear the single bar like Billy Kilmer was wearing with the Redskins? He said “Are you crazy? And mess up this face?” I forgot he wanted to go to Hollywood after he was done playing football.

I had seen all the WFL helmets in the programs before the season started but sometimes there were changes done before the actual games were played and I used to see if I could pick them out while I was standing on the sideline.

One helmet that lived up to its hype was the Chicago Fire, though I thought that was a very cool looking helmet in the programs, it was even more impressive when I saw them in person for the first time. I was standing at the Bell 30 yard line next to a photographer, a Fire WR caught an out pattern and was hit late as he went out of bounds. He landed on top of the football and he made kind of a groaning sound as he hit the ground right at me feet. As he was lying sideways still holding the ball, the Fire trainers were coming over to him but they still had a way to go, it sounded like he got the wind knocked out of him because he couldn’t catch his breath.

I wanted to get a better look at that huge flame on his helmet so I walked up right next to him, it was a huge decal, and it took up the entire side of his helmet. As he rolled over on his back our eyes met, he gave me this surprised look like “What the hell is this kid doing here?” When the Fire trainers arrived they told me to beat it kid, but by then my investigation was complete, it was a thorough investigation for a 10 year old.

In 1977 Ron Waller had a free agent tryout camp in Chicago, he had Sid Gillman, and Rams coaches Ray Malavasi and Jack Faulkner there to work with him.  I got assigned to be Sid's ball boy for the day, I just had to carry his clipboard around, make sure he had enough footballs and write the times down when he timed guys in the 40. I thought Sid was one of the nicest coaches I had ever met, he reminded me of my grandfather but the players seemed pretty scared of him. He never yelled at anyone, when someone didn't dive for a pass he looked at him and said "I wonder how bad you really want this" that seemed to be enough.
After the day was over I carried Sid's stuff back up to his hotel room, he said "kid you did a great job for me today I have something for you!" he reached into his bag and gave me one of his Chicago Bear t shirts. This was before you could buy this stuff, I put it on right away and wore it on my way back down to the lobby.   When the elevator opened Ron Waller, Ray Malavasi, and Jack Faulkner were all sitting in the lobby talking. When they saw my t shirt Ronny Waller said "where did you get that?" I said Sid just gave it to me.  Ray Malavasi said "Sid must have really liked you, he throws around nickels like they are man-hole covers!" then they all started laughing. I didn't get the joke at the time but apparently the father of the modern offense was a little thrifty according to his fellow coaches.



Another one of my favorite helmets were the California Sun, actually I liked their whole uniforms. Even my father and some of his teammates were checking the Sun players out in pre game warm-ups and saying “Those are some wild looking uniforms!”

During the game I wanted to get a better look at the Sun uniforms. I walked around the back of the gold posts to the Sun sidelines. I was wearing my Bell ball boy shirt and my laminated sideline pass so no one bothered me. As I got back to the Sun sidelines there were a bunch of helmets on a table next to the big Gatorade jugs. The decals were already filthy on them since JFK stadium was almost all dirt. I could hear all the Sun players yelling “Kill that King!” while my father was on the field. I never realized how much the other team hated my father until I stood on their sideline.

Just then I hear a voice yell “Little man, give me a Gatorade!” it was #42 James McCalister. I guess he thought I was working his sideline? I poured him a drink and handed it to him even though to me he was the enemy wearing a very cool uniform!

As I made my way back over to the bell sideline my father came off the field, the Sun offense was now back out there. When my father made eye contact with me I said “dad I just met James McCalister, he was cool!” My father gave me a look like “what is he talking about?”

Jimmy continues to hand down the stories and the love of football to his nephew as his dad did for him.

 When John Matuzack's was with the Texans, my father told me about how the sheriff was serving an injunction on the sidelines. They heard the coach was so desperate to keep the Tooz for one more series that he offered the sheriff Tooze's game helmet if he let him play next series. They were laughing because only in the WFL did you find this type of craziness.  Matuzack played one more series and then was served with papers and a cool cup of water. 

When the WFL folded I wasn’t able to get my fathers helmet and didn’t think there was a very good chance I would ever get one. In 1998 I got a new Pro line helmet with a royal blue thin style facemask that had Philadelphia Bell decals, it really didn’t look very good but it was the best I could do at that time.  It was featured in the background during the interview I did for “Pottstown Revisited”. The funny thing was when that movie came out people started asking me “where can I get a WFL helmet like that?” But I told them if you saw it up close, it doesn’t look anything like what they wore in 1974.

For The World League Football movie I did the next year they didn’t use that helmet, instead I had all 12 WFL mini helmets on a table in my living room. At the time I felt these helmets would be the closest I ever come to getting some WFL helmets, then fate intervened and I met the guys from Helmet Hut.

They were trying to be nice and didn’t want to put down my Bell pro line helmet but he asked me if I was happy with it? At this time I still had no idea that they build 100% accurate helmets from any football era.  So I said, well I would like to get the gray BD9 style face mask that my father wore, could you get me one?  With a straight face they said let me get this straight, you want us to put a 30 year old face mask on a new Pro line helmet that is supposed to look like your fathers 1974 bell helmet? Do you think that will look good Jimmy? I said yea, isn’t that a great idea?

They then told me their plan, to provide Helmet Hut with some pictures of my father playing for the Bell and they would then build a custom made TK Bell suspension helmet from scratch that looked exactly like my fathers. When I finally got it I couldn’t believe how accurate it was, it looked like it came right out of the equipment room after the 1974 season!

Over the years people who have seen my fathers’ helmet featured on Helmet Hut have asked me how they can get that helmet. Though it was possible to commission a custom built helmet from scratch, it could get very expensive. Helmet Hut decided to address this and started to do research on how they could provide 100% accurate WFL helmets and make them available to all the fans.

They are finally here! The 1974 WFL suspension collection exclusively from Helmet Hut. In the WFL film Steve Sabol calls me a one man WFL repository, well I can say these are the real deal. You will not find a better WFL helmet anywhere. When I saw these I felt like I was 10 years old again, quick someone get me a towel so I can clean the facemask! I don’t want Ron Waller yelling at me because I didn’t do a good job getting the helmet ready.

 NFL Films presents "The King"  Episode #19 

Each time Jimmy goes on NFL Films, his possy gets larger.  In order to tell the complete story about Jimmy's dad "The King" Jim Corcoran, the entire family gets involved.   Donnie Marx and Peter Frank of NFL Films pay the Corcorans another visit.  The combination of this incredible story and the production work of NFL Films made this piece one of the highest rated ever.  Make sure you catch it on the NFL Network,  A MUST SEE!

 "I hope the WFL fans and former players from the league will enjoy these helmets and the great memories they bring back as much as I do.  --Best wishes  Jimmy Corcoran Jr."

If interested in any of these or more WFL helmets please click on the photos below.