Friday, August 23, 2013

An Erroneous Birth Certificate--Why Was it Never Changed?--My Dad's Detroit Lions NFL Contract

An Erroneous Birth Certificate--Why Was it Never Changed?

A couple years back I realized that I did not have a copy of my father's birth certificate.  There were none in family papers, so I sent off to the state of Missouri to obtain a copy. 

I was going through the mail a few weeks later and opened an envelope, glanced at the document and set it aside, not recognizing what it was.  After finishing opening all the mail, I went back through to throw out the junk mail and take action on the remainder.  Only then did I take a closer look and recognize this was the response from Missouri on my birth certificate request.  My dad's name is Delbert Bush Ritchhart,  the name on the birth certificate was Delmar Bush Ritchhart.  I have never once in my life seen or heard my dad referred to as Delmar!  

What really seems strange is that my grandparents never had the certificate corrected.  Could that have been the name they gave him and then they decided to change it?  Doesn't seem likely because Delmar is a very unusual name.  My dad must have had to use his birth certificate as identification several times in his life.  How did he explain the difference?  I tried to visualize how the name might have been spelled out and there was a copying error; but with both a "b" and "t" in Delbert, how could both have been missed?  People make mistakes with Ritchhart all the time, so I might have understood an error on the surname.

Delmar Bush Ritchhart Birth Certificate
Having wrestled with those thought for a few minutes, I then realized why I had set the document aside after glancing at it.  I didn't recognize it was my dad's birth certificate because I didn't recognize the name.

Unfortunately, my father had already passed away when I discovered this "error", as I would have loved to have heard his explanation.  

We all know to expect some errors in documents; but this should really reinforce that knowledge.  If they can foul up the baby's name on a birth certificate--they can make errors on almost any official document!

More About My Dad--His Detroit Lions Contract

While I am on the subject of my father, I thought I might show another document pertaining to him--his 1936 Detroit Lions contract.

NFL--Detroit Lions Contract
Unfortunately, the document is not very clear; mostly due to an oversight on my part.  I have the original  nicely matted and 
framed with his photo.  It wasn't until after my wife had this done professionally (photo below) that I realized I hadn't made a copy of the document!  Uggh--dumb!  So this is a copy that I scanned through the glass.  However, you can see the most amazing thing about this document--IT IS ONLY ONE PAGE!

Can you imagine the number of pages a current contract would have?  A couple other interesting facts contained in the contract.  
1.  The Club will pay the Player a salary for his skilled services during the playing season of 1936, at the rate of One Hundred and no/100 dollars for each regularly scheduled League game played.  For all other games the Player shall be paid such salary as shall be agreed upon between the Player and the Club.  As to games scheduled but not played, the player shall receive no compensation from the Club other than actual expenses.  
6.  This contract may be terminated at any time by the club giving notice in writing to the player within forty-eight (48) hours after the day of the last game in which he is to participate with the club .  

Additionally, in the accompanying letter, the following details were provided:
--During the playing season, while the player is in Detroit, he pays his own expenses . . . When the team is away from home, the Club pays all expenses.  The Club furnishes all playing equipment with the exception of inside pads.  Players are required to furnish their own practice equipment. . . . .Every player is required to pay his own expenses to Detroit at the start of the season, and from Detroit at the conclusion of the season.

It was a very different world in those days for athletes than today!  He played both offense and defense--center on offense and linebacker on defense.  $100 was a lot of money in those days; but he and most of the players had to have a second job during the off season.  In today's money that $100 would be the equivalent of about $1680; so he would have been making about $13,445 in today's money for 8 games.  There is absolutely no comparison to the millions and hundreds of millions today's athletes make.  

Delbert B. Ritchhart

In one of the newspaper clipping I have, it recounts the Lions beating the N.Y. Giants 38-0 and my dad intercepting a pass and running it back 98 yards for a touchdown.  In January 2010, I contacted the Lions and asked them how that compared to their all-time records.  They didn't have the information about that game and asked me to send them the article.  They later confirmed it as a 92 yard run back and told me it was the number 7th longest interception run back in their history.  Apparently, some of the newspaper articles did have the yardage as 98; but it was officially 92 yards.

One of the other amazing facts is that my dad weighed about 210 pounds--which was probably very average for his position in those days.  Today's centers would be a minimum of 280 in the pros and probably around 230-240 for High School.   

Just some of the changes we have seen in the last 75 years!