Jack Dorman fondly recalls getting skunked

Jack Dorman receives a Christmas present commemorating his winless 1944 football season at Whitman — an experience of which he has only good memories..

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Jack Dorman with the framed newspaper clipping detailing the game from 1944 in which Washington downed Dorman's Whitman Missionaries, 65-6.

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The Seattle Times page detailing the Whitman-Washington football game in 1944.

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A photo showing Jack Dorman (No. 39) moving in on Washington's Bob Gilmore during the game.

WALLA WALLA - Living life as an officer and a gentleman is a tough combination.

So, too, is playing football and learning calculus.

And for a while in 1944, Jack Dorman tried to juggle all four labels.

Dorman, now 85, spent the '44 college football season at Whitman, where he was also in the V-12 Navy College Training Program.

The Missionaries football team didn't win a game, but that doesn't shade Dorman's memories of the gridiron.

And to celebrate Dorman's memories of that season 66 years ago, his son Gary Dorman, a Touchet teacher and coach, gave his father a special Christmas gift.

Gary Dorman dug up the Oct. 1, 1944 Seattle Times sports section, which included a picture of Jack Dorman defending in Whitman's Sept. 30, 1944 loss to the University of Washington. He blew it up, framed it and presented it to his father on Christmas morning.

"The game was terrible," Jack Dorman said of the smashing Whitman took, 66 years later. "We got skunked!"

Skunked they did. Whitman managed one touchdown against the Huskies, and lost 65-6.

Dorman was an offensive guard and defensive linebacker.

He tipped the scales at 160 pounds, he said.

"I got the heck beat out of me every time I played, but I enjoyed every minute of it," he said.

And Gary and his siblings - two brothers and a sister - grew up with Jack's stories.

"We used to hear stories from the time we were old enough to put on helmets and shoulder pads, when we were 10 or 12 years old," said Dorman, now a football and softball coach in Touchet. "We heard how small he was, and how size didn't matter. He always related back to that - playing football at Whitman."

Jack Dorman said the Missionaries didn't win a single game in the season - they lost to Washington again, a 71-0 beating two weeks later - but it didn't matter.

"That I remember playing football more fondly than I remember the girls is quite remarkable," he said, mostly joking.

The picture shows, in grainy newsprint, young Jack Dorman guarding against Husky Bob Gilmore, who was later drafted by the Green Bay Packers.

"I got food poisoning the night before the game," Dorman remembered. "I had a bloody noise, I was throwing up and I was sick all night, and the next day I played through the whole game against the University. It's just good memories - playing through the pain."

Although the Missionaries had no chance at beating Washington, they did score the first touchdown against the Huskies that season.

"At halftime, some of the student body on the UW side moved to the Whitman side, because we were working so hard and doing so little," Dorman said with a chuckle. "They felt sorry for us.

"But we did score, and it was the first one scored on them all year," he continued. "The paper was real nice in congratulating us for being stalwart and hardworking. ... We got lots of good press but no good score. We tried hard."

Gary Dorman worked hard to track down the image and the article. He'd heard that it existed, but since his father had never even seen it and didn't know what publication it came from, Gary didn't know where to start.

"He mentioned something about it last spring and wanted to know if I'd go online and see if I could dig it up," Gary said.

The simple request turned into quite a process. Gary started with the print-defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which now publishes only online. Jack Dorman thought the article was from that newspaper, but the P-I sent him elsewhere.

Then, Gary e-mailed a sports reporter at the Seattle Times, who responded that they didn't keep copies of photos that old.

And the goose chase began.

Finally, four or five calls down the line, someone advised Gary Dorman to try the University of Washington libraries.

"They found it for me," Dorman said, then joked, "it's about the only thing I'd ever thank the Huskies for."

And on Christmas Day, as his father opened the gift memorializing a day from so long ago, Gary knew the effort was worth it.

"For one of the few times in my life, he was pretty speechless," Gary said of his father. "He told us, ‘I can feel it, I can smell it, I can hear it.' He was reliving it. It was pretty emotional for us, my sister and our families, watching him and knowing what a big deal that was."

Jack Dorman hadn't planned on playing football at Whitman. He was studying to be a naval officer during World War II, but caught the attention of football coach Ben Dobbs. Dobbs and his wife had recently had a baby, and welcomed Dorman into their home.

"I spent a lot of time on the sidelines because I was such a small kid, but when I finally got noticed, they had me over for Sunday dinner and we got to be close friends," Dorman said.

Whitman got "whopped" by Willamette and UW and took an ugly loss to the Second Air Force Superbombers service team, which was service members - with any level of experience - playing against college teams.

"I learned more football that day (against the Second Air Force) than the rest of my life," Dorman said. "I had to! I was getting beat to death by these bigger guys, and this one flattened me a couple times. He picked me up and threw me down the field like a javelin. I came back in the huddle and the quarterback told me, ‘You better block for me or I'll be killed.' I told him I just had to walk 15 yards back to the huddle."

But it wasn't just about the games.

After the Second Air Force game, which was in Boise, the Missionary team rode the rails back to Walla Walla, where they had to walk from the train station back to campus.

"I'll never forget it," Dorman said. "It was 4 or 5 a.m. and we players had to pack our gear from the railroad station up to Whitman. I think it must've been a mile or so, but it was a long ways with all that gear on our shoulders and all of us whipped bad, anyhow. It was a long, hard walk."

Dorman lasted just one season at Whitman before calculus ended his career.

"My grade level wasn't bad until I took calculus," he said. "Calculus and football didn't go well together. I had to get through cadet training, taking calculus and playing football at the same time. I enjoyed football, and I didn't enjoy calculus, so I flunked out shortly after the last football game."

Football didn't flatter the V-12 program, either.

"I didn't plan on playing football, but when I did play, that finished up my career as an officer, and a gentleman," he said, chuckling again. "I was trying to be both, and I failed miserably."

After Whitman, Dorman graduated from Washington State College (now Washington State University) in 1950, then returned home to Lacrosse, where he married and raised four children on a wheat farm.

Now retired, Dorman lives in an assisted care community in Pullman. Two of his children are wheat farming in Lacrosse, Gary Dorman teaches in Touchet and his lone daughter is a teacher in Sprague.

He's also suffered knee injuries, and has had three knee replacement surgeries.

"I'm not sure they're all due to football, but I just wasn't big enough and took an awful whopping," he said. "But I wouldn't have traded those memories for anything. It's some of my best times."

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