The Most Unkindest Apostrophe

By Richard McCord

SFAOL Writer

 Like anywhere else, Santa Fe has its sports legends.

But this one deserves more respect.

Leaving, for the umpteenth time, my regular Tuesday-morning racquetball clash with my friend Chuck Poitras, I recently noticed for the first time a most distressing fact: There is a typographical error in the sign that identifies Santa Fe's premier sports and recreational facility.

"FT. MARCY/MAGER'S COMPLEX" the handsome wood-carved sign proclaims.  But in truth it should say "MAGERS."

Ah, the wayward apostrophe, bane of language purists.  Back when I was training copy editors, I had a standard rule for them concerning this troublesome little punctuation mark: "Whenever an apostrophe appears, it is wrong." (I also liked to cite the definition advanced by syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry: "The apostrophe is an indication to the reader that an 's' is coming up.")

Why the proper usage of this particular mark, among all the others, is so hard to grasp is puzzling.  Like the comma, the period and the exclamation point, the apostrophe has its rules.  But for some reason the rules elude most sign makers.

You see it every day on mailbox name plates: "The Jone's," "The Smith's," "The Ortega's," "The Martinez'"-not one of the apostrophes used correctly. When I was a schoolboy in Georgia, working at Jack Matthews' corner grocery, I remember how proud he was of his nifty new neon sign that said "Matthew's Market"-until I pointed out that it meant "the market of Matthew."

But back to the subject at hand: the "FT. MARCY/MAGER'S COMPLEX," and the man whose name is meant to be honored there. Although probably just a few of the facility's users, native Santa Feans and newcomers alike, know or think about it now, there actually was a man named Magers who left his mark on this site.  His first name was Brady, and he was a football coach.

From 1927 to 1939 Brady Magers directed the team at Santa Fe High School. He was hired sight-unseen while completing his studies at the University of Kansas, and arrived to take over a dispirited program that regularly got stomped by the teams from Roswell and Clovis-and sometimes even by the Santa Fe Indian School.

In those days football was not played below the high school level, so every year Magers had to instruct a new crop of freshmen in the intricacies of putting on their uniforms.  Yet out of this rawest of raw material he shaped at least one player who went on to become a college All-American at West Point.  And he won Santa Fe's first-ever state championship.

The year was 1935, and the squad that year had exceptional talent.  Yet it also was cocky and undisciplined.  After a miserable showing against the Indian School, Magers told his players he was so disgusted with them that he was quitting. 

When Monday practice came, the coach refused to take part.  Chastened, the players drilled harder than ever before on blocking, tackling and other basics. They begged Magers to return-and after he did, the team never lost again that year.

The state title game was played on Thanksgiving, in Santa Fe.  The night before, three inches of snow fell.  A scoreless tie seemed to be in the offing.  But one player's father was warden of the state penitentiary; and by kickoff time a crew of convicts had cleared the field.  The Demons scored and won.

Santa Fe's football field in those days was little more than a glorified pasture, with some bleachers for spectators. Magers felt his champions deserved more, so he made it happen. Like the rest of the country, this city was struggling through the Depression and was broke.  But somehow Magers got the surveying, the grading, the plumbing, the construction, the grass and everything else donated for an imposing rock-walled stadium, the finest in the state of New Mexico.  When it debuted in 1938, the players voted to give it his name.

Magers Field stood until the early 1980s, when it came down to make way for the new sports complex, which opened in 1984.  About that same time, as I recall, Brady Magers-still a resident of Santa Fe-died, up around the age of 90.

Today his memory has faded, and even his name is desecrated by an offending apostrophe.  Somebody should take a wood chisel and chip it away.  For the legacy of this notable Santa Fean, that would be the kindest cut of all.

To order Richard McCord's book "The Chain Gang," which tells the story of the weekly Santa Fe Reporter, visit Amazon.com .

 


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