Staley’s Bears 1920-1921
Henry Stanley Shank
Height: 5’9 Weight: 180
Born: 2/18/1892 Chicago, IL
Died: 3/19/1962 Chicago, IL
High School: Hyde Park (Chicago, IL)
College: Illinois; Christian Brothers; Maryland
Little is known about Henry Shank including how and why he came to Decatur to play football for Staley. At age 28 he was one of the oldest players on the team. He was used at right half back and subbed in all three games played in Decatur in 1920 and the one game played in Rockford. His best game was against the Hammond Pros on November 21 when he gained 28 yards. Staley records indicate that he received an $880 end-of-the-year bonus for his football work.
The son of German-speaking immigrants, Shank grew up on Chicago’s south side and played tackle for several years at Hyde Park High School. In the fall of 1913, he entered the University of Illinois as an agriculture student and played in the backfield on the freshman football team in Zupke’s first year of Illini coaching. In 1914 he switched to Christian Brothers College in St. Louis where he won his varsity letter playing right tackle. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Shank was an “aggressive style of player who always carries the play to the opponents. By many critics, he was regarded the best lineman in the collegiate circle the past season.” At the end of the year, his fellow lettermen elected him captain for the 1915 season. Shortly thereafter the school announced that due to financial problems it was canceling its collegiate athletic programs. In January 1915 the Post-Dispatch reported that many of the former CBC players were being recruited by Big East teams and that “Henie” Shank informed them that he had been approached by alumni from Pennsylvania University to play there.
Instead, “Dutch” Shank went to the then Maryland Agricultural College and lettered in football in 1915. The 1916 “Reveille” school yearbook pictured him with a football group captioned “The Big Four,” so it appears he was once again a member of the backfield. He does not appear on the Maryland football team rooster in 1916. In the summer of 1917, he worked for his sister on a farm in northwest Michigan and that November he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Shank served as a private in the Headquarters Company of the 58th Infantry, 4th Division through the duration of the war and was not discharged until August 26, 1919. The following fall he played football for Staleys in Decatur. In 1930 he was back living with his parents in Chicago and working as a “tally man” for one of the many railroads there. When the 1956 Staley team reunion was organized the Staley Company could not locate Henry and he did not attend. The National Football League reported that he died in Chicago on March 19, 1962. He was buried in a veteran’s gravesite at Wood National Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Copyright@2016 Mark W. Sorensen