Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: Five-Yard Fuller

For quite a few years I’d been keeping an eye open for a book called Five-Yard Fuller, which I probably last read when I was around 10. I finally found a copy through Amazon’s associates program and ordered it. As soon as I opened it up and saw the interior illustration of a tall young man in overalls running through a crowd of football players with the ball over his head, the memories came flooding back. I just had to reread it.

Five-Yard Fuller was written by Bob Wells. It features a young man named Clarence Fuller who decides he wants to play football for the Knights, a professional football team very much down on its luck. In fact, their rather hapless abilities reminded me a lot of the New Orleans Saints in their heyday of mediocrity. Fuller has never played organized football, only sandlot ball, but he tells the coach of the Knights that it looks pretty easy. You just “take that little ball in your hand and move it down to where them two posts are standing.”

The coach decides to teach Fuller a lesson and lets him try it. The result is that Fuller scores a touchdown by running over the entire defensive unit. And thus a star is born.

I first discovered Five-Yard Fuller in my local small town library. I don’t know exactly what year I read it but it was published in 1964. To my amazement, and some slight irritation, I found there were actually some sequels to this book. I sure would have liked to have read those too back in the day. One was called Five-Yard Fuller and the Unlikely Knights. Another was Five-Yard Fuller’s Mighty Model T, and yet another was Five-Yard Fuller and the NY Gnats, which, from what I’ve been able to glean on the net is actually about Fuller playing baseball. All were published in the sixties.

I had not realized, until I reread the book, that the Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy was apparently based pretty closely on the Wells book, although the book is much, much better. There are just too many similarities to be a coincidence, although I never heard of any acknowledgement from the movie folks that this was the case. Maybe Wells should have gotten some of the $160 million that movie was supposed to have earned. I don’t know if Wells is still living but my guess is not. I couldn’t find out much about the author on the net. The problem seems to be that there are too many folks named Bob or Robert Wells who have been authors. If anyone knows anything about this Bob Wells I’d appreciate you letting me know.

This is definitely a young adult/kid’s book. It’s probably not the cup of tea of many of you out there, but it sure did bring back some pleasant memories.


JR's Thumbprints said...

My wife's cousin knows the two main writers for the television show "Supernatural" and they don't fit the typical Hollywood writer's mold--both are in their fifties, whereas most of your rising stars in La-La land cap-out in their mid-thirties. It wouldn't surprise me that someone stole the storyline from "Five-Yard Fuller." BTW, what happened to the convenience of that Kindle of yours? I thought it was going to save you space.

writtenwyrdd said...

There are a few books from my childhood that I loved enough to read several times over. Besides the Walter Farley books, there was "Vulpus the Red Fox" (about a red fox), "Crazy Kill Range" (about a horse), E. Nesbitt's stories, Dr. Doolittle and Mary Poppins (original versions and multiple volumes of each)and the Narnia books.

Oddly, most of them are still quite enjoyable to me now.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

It's amazing how a book, like a song, can bring back memories.
You may not have realized at age 10 to check for sequels!
It sounds like The Waterboy may very well have been modeled after these books. If so, it's a shame the author wasn't given credit, if that's the case.
I'll check my library to see if these books are there, I'm sure my 12 year old son may enjoy them.

BernardL said...

Very interesting post, Charles. i liked 'The Waterboy' a lot. The fact Adam Sandler in the the movie hit people so hard they avoided him like the plague probably changed the plot line from Fuller's running back character to get Hollywood off the hook.

Scott D. Parker said...

A few years ago, I helped my parents move out of a farmhouse they had out in Giddings. Among the boxes of childhood stuff were most of the books I had read back in the day. Now, I have them and I gaze upon them every now and then and enjoy the waves of nostalgia. I didn't know this book but I can appreciate the hunt you made and the re-read. Thanks.

Charles Gramlich said...

JR., Good to hear about the Supernatural writers. I may have to start watching that show. I'm still using my kindle. I've got 44 books stored on it right now, and another 30 or so on my computer that I can transfer easily to it. It just allowed me to have More books. I am addicted.

Writtenwyrdd, oh I loved the Walter Farley books. I've still got most of them.

Kathleen Ryan, I bet your son would. They've got quite a lot of humor in them. Thanks for dropping by.

Bernardl, yes, Five Yard didn't do any tackling. Although there's a piece in the book about how his brothers accidentally run into him and hurt him badly enough to keep him out of a few games.

Scott Parker, I've got a couple of shelves of my bookcases currently that are dedicated to those old books. Five yard is now prominently displayed.

jodi said...

Charles, the books sound charming and they certainly would not have to stretch far to be better than Adam Sandler's version! Read on!

X. Dell said...

First off, saying that an Adam Sandler movie isn't as good as the book it's based on seems redundant.

Second, This seems like an incredible series of books. I'll now be on the lookout for them. Like your Saints, my Bengals haven't really lit up the NFL. So I can relate on that level.

With respect to your previous post, I don't think a bad first line or second is going to keep me from reading a book. I confess, I struggle with opening lines. But just in general, I like to read more actions and thoughts than descriptions of surroundings.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This is a book my son would have loved around ten. He couldn't get enough of this sort of book.

laughingwolf said...

sounds like a fun book, charles...

did a google canada search for robert w. wells, and found no more than you have....

Rick said...

You know, Charles, I'm gong to go broke if you keep recommending these books. Sounds very cool, and my son loved "The Waterboy." Wait til he hears they stole the plot!

Donnetta said...

Never heard of it before, Charles. But isn't it neat to read these books that made us happy in previous years. Brings back memories, feelings--makes you young again. D

Randy Johnson said...

I read lots of these sports oriented young adult titles in those ancient days of my youth. This one rings no bells though.
Good job.

Charles Gramlich said...

jodi, I agree. And the first is at least quite charming.

X. Dell, you're correct in your first statement. Maybe if they'd stayed exactly true to the book it might have been better. The Bengals have definitely stunk it up quite a few years but I think the Saint's still hold the records.

pattinase, I know. I loved 'em too at that age. Wish I'd had more humorous ones like this. Maybe my sense of humor wouldn't be so stunted.

laughingwolf, yeah, I doubt I'm gonna find much out about him. There's a little blurb in the back of the book but it gives no personal info.

Rick, well, I'm not sure you'd like em, but your son might still. There are different elements to the Waterboy too, but the picture of the naive boy (Sandler), the mother, and the coach are almost dead on from the book. Plus the overal plot.

Donnetta Lee, yeah, I've read more old books like this the last couple of years than ever before and it's been quite an enjoyment.

Randy Johnson, I did too, by the likes of Tex Maule and dick Friendlich.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, You can get the other 3 books in the Fuller series via interlibrary loan from your local public library. I've looked on a nationwide database and here are the results:

Five-yard Fuller of the N. Y. Gnats,
Author: Wells, Robert W.; Eldridge, Harold,
Publication: New York, Putnam 1967
Document: English : Book : Fiction : Juvenile audience
Libraries Worldwide: 76

Five-yard Fuller and the unlikely Knights,
Author: Wells, Robert W.; Eldridge, Harold,
Publication: New York, Putnam 1967
Document: English : Book : Fiction : Juvenile audience
Libraries Worldwide: 69

Five-Yard Fuller's mighty Model T,
Author: Wells, Robert W.; Eldridge, Harold,
Publication: New York, Putnam 1970
Document: English : Book : Fiction : Juvenile audience
Libraries Worldwide: 50

76 libraries have the first one, 69 the second and 50 the third. They shouldn't be too difficult to get, though of course you'll have to return them when you're done.

Wells passed away in 1995. I'm going to cut and paste and article in here that lists his publications for kids and adults. He co-authored Ray Nitschke's autobiography, "Mean on Sunday." Lots of copies of that are available. The following comes from the database "Contemporary Authors." Sometimes it pays to know a librarian! Best, Don

Robert W(ayne) Wells


Nationality: American

Year of Birth: 1918

Place of Birth: Greene, OH

Year of Death: 1995

Place of Death: Mexico

Genre(s): Nonfiction, Children's fiction, Fiction

Table of Contents:
# Personal Information
# Career
# Writings
# Further Readings About the Author

Personal Information: Family: Born June 16, 1918, in Greene, Ohio; died of kidney failure, January 2, 1995, in Mexico; son of Anthony W. (a salesman) and Maude (Dennison) Wells; married Edith V. Jersin (a speech clinician), February 20, 1945; children: Richard, Nancy (Mrs. Jeff Byers), John, Robert G. Education: Ohio State University, B.S., 1940. Military/Wartime Service: U.S. Navy, 1944-46. Memberships: Council for Wisconsin Writers, Milwaukee Press Club. Addresses: Home: 10029 Highway 60, Cedarsburg, Wis. 53012. Office: Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201. Agent: Larry Sternig, 2407 North 44th St., Milwaukee, Wis. 53201.

Education: Entry Updated : 12/07/2000

Career: Canton Repository, Canton, Ohio, copyreader, 1940; Warren Tribune-Chronicle, Warren, Ohio, reporter, 1940-41; Columbus Dispatch, Columbus, Ohio, reporter, 1941-43, assistant city editor, 1943-44; Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, Wis., reporter, 1946, assistant city editor, 1947-48, New York correspondent, 1949-56, columnist and feature writer, 1957-77, book editor, 1978--. Lecturer at University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee, 1972-73.

Gold medal from Boys Clubs of America, 1968, for Five-Yard Fuller of the New York Gnats; Wisconsin Historical Society award, 1969, for Fire at Peshtigo; Council for Wisconsin Writers book awards, 1972, for Vince Lombardi, 1978, for Daylight in the Swamp.


* Fire at Peshtigo, Prentice-Hall, 1968.

* This Is Milwaukee, Doubleday, 1970.

* Vince Lombardi: His Life and Times, Wisconsin House, 1971, second edition, Prairie Oak, 1997.

* (With Ray Nitschke) Mean on Sunday, Doubleday, 1973.

* Yesterday's Milwaukee, Seeman, 1976.

* Daylight in the Swamp, Doubleday, 1978.

Juvenile fiction; all published by Putnam, except as indicated:

* Five-Yard Fuller, 1964.

* Five-Yard Fuller of the New York Gnats, 1967.

* Five-Yard Fuller and the Unlikely Knights, 1967.

* Saga of Shorty Gone, 1969.

* Mad Anthony Wayne, 1970.

* Five-Yard Fuller's Mighty Model T, 1970.

* The Horse on the Roof, Lippincott, 1970.

* Fire and Ice: Two Deadly Wisconsin Disasters, Northwood, 1983.

* Papa Floribunda: A Biography of Eugene S. Boerner, BBG, 1989.


* Milwaukee Journal, January 4, 1995, p. B1.

Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.

Cloudia said...

Yes, It's a wonderful experience re-living our young days through a book, or music......
Aloha & Happy 4th, Charles

Comfort Spiral

Charles Gramlich said...

Don, thanks so much for this info! I'm beaming. Much appreciated. I'm saving this to a separate file so I can keep the info handy.

Cloudia, for me it has to be books. We didn't have much music in the house when I was growing up, except for some grand old opry and Lawrence welk.

Erik Donald France said...

That's a nice review. The team may be even closer to the hapless Detroit Lions, at first ;->

ivan said...

We just had Canada Day here.
Happy Fourth of July!
I don't think you'll spend all that day reading.

BIBI said...

I love books that are made into a movie. But of course, the books are most of the time 100% better than the movie.

In my opinion anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so what does that say about me if I would be interested in reading it at 41 years old?


Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, yes, maybe so, in that they won no games for the last year. But still, I'll put the Saints up against any team for a record of mediocrity.

ivan, I don't know, since it's far too hot to get outside here right now.

BIBI, I often find them intersting, to see why some books are and others aren't.

Wil, that you are a discerning and imaginative person. Oh wait, that comment was for Bibi. ;)

Barrie said...

Very interesting. I should revisit some of my childhood favorites. Maybe there are sequels as well!

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, that's the fifth time that I've found out that books I loved as a kid had sequels that I'd never heard of.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm sports challenged, so I usually don't generally enjoy books about sports, but I know what you mean about rereading books you've enjoyed. I reread one of my favorite childhood books recently -- Old Yeller -- and I was transported. Reading can take you back like very little else can.

Chris Eldin said...

Nathan Bransford was just talking about sports books! Didn't really see too much in common between the two of you until this post...

Re your post about beginnings--wasn't there a contest recently about the *worst* opening lines? I remember clicking on it and laughing myself silly, but I didn't save the link.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Chris, indeed, there was and is every year - the Bulwer Lytton Bad Fiction contest: examples of horrible opening lines here.


Charles Gramlich said...

Mary Witzl, I love football but I've never read a lot of sports books. I read more when I was a kid because I wanted to play football.

Chris Eldin, Don answered your question about the worst opening contest. I entered once upon a time.

Don, I entered once, but I see most years the winning entries are pretty long and my entry was just a shortish sentence.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, yes, they have a penchant for sentences wherein the head, middle, and end seem blissfully unaware of a mutual existence.

Charles Gramlich said...

Don, you phrased it better than I could. But that's what I mean. yeah, yeah, that's the ticket. ;)

Scrub said...

I've been looking for the book on and off for a few years now. I read it in the 70's when I was 10 or 11. There was also another book in our library by Bob Wells about a kid that was too short to play basketball, but could shoot from half court because he grew up on a farm and had to shoot over the pig pen to the basket attached to the side of the barn. I can't remember the name, but think it had Shorty in it.

I loved both books, and want to get them for my son who is getting to that reading level a few years ahead of me.

Unknown said...

Hi Charlie,

I'm the author's granddaughter.
Came across your site by coincidence.
I'd be happy to answer any question you have.
Jenna Wells.

Charles Gramlich said...

Scrub, I haven't met many who remember the book. You might try ABE books. They have a lot of older stuff.

Jenna, wow. Cool. So nice to meet you. I will contact you.

cloudsplitter9 said...

I loved the Five Yard Fuller novels when I was a freshman in high school. The library had all four of the series. I read Five Yard Fuller first and was surprised there were four more. I now own three of the them, and they are worth a lot to me. I wouldn't ever sell them.

Unknown said...

Great info.

Zombeezy said...

I am in my mid-50's, and still re-read Five-Yard Fuller every so often. The drawings add a great deal to the enjoyment of just a fun book to read - watch out for Ma Fuller!

In many ways, perhaps a great deal to do with the way small-town people are characterized, the people in Bob Wells Five-Yard Fuller series remind me of those in Ethelyn M Parkinson's Ruper Piper books, and Bertrand R. Brinley's Mad Scientists Club books.

I have all 4 of the Five-Yad Fuller books, as well as The Saga of Shorty Gone. Heck, even Mad Anthony Wayne & The Horse on the Roof. Search out these books as libraries often sell off these older but still loved books to make room for newer books.