A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 05, 2014
The Turk (person to cut a player from the team)

"The Turk” is the Grim Reaper of the National Football League—the team official that tells a player to take his playbook and speak with the coach because that player has just been cut (as if with a Turk’s scimitar). As mentioned in a newspaper story in 1961, other names included Hatchet Man, blackjack artist, axe and shaft man. “The Turk” has been cited in print since at least 1955.

According to a 1981 account by Paul “Tank” Younger” (1928-2001), Los Angeles Rams running back from 1949-1957, the term “the Turk” originated in 1949, his rookie year. Clark Shaughnessy (1892-1970), Los Angeles Rams head coach from 1948 to 1949, liked to cut players at night. Don Paul, a Los Angeles Rams linebacker from 1948 to 1955, said, “The Turk always strikes at night,” coining the name.

[This entry was prepared with research assistance from Ben Zimmer.]


NFL.com
The Turk
(video)

5 August 1952, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “In the WAKE of the NEWS” by Arch Ward, pg. B1:
When a Rams rookie is cut from the squad and is missing at the breakfast table, the players nod knowingly: “He left the door open last night. The ‘Turk’ got him.”

23 July 1955, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. B2:
20 ROOKIES REMAIN
Rams Clash Tonight
in Scrum at Redlands

BY FRANK FINCH
(...)
The Turk, a legendary maneater who pays an occasional visit to camp and vanishes into the night with a player or two under each arm, is certain to be calling here again soon—possibly after tomorrow night’s scrimmage.

14 August 1955, Dallas (TX) Morning News, pt. 2, pg. 1, col. 5:
Turk Starts Rounds Among
Hopefuls in Pro Grid Camp

By TEX MAULE
The Turk is making his rounds in 12 professional football training camps about now.

The Turk is a gentleman who calls in the middle of the night to inform the unfortunate aspirants for a berth on one of the major league grid clubs that they have failed.
(Sportswriter Tex Maule worked in the Los Angeles Rams’ front office; he would later write for Sports Illustrated,—ed.)

16 September 1957, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. C7:
THE TURK DUE
Rams to Cut Player From Team Today
BY JACK GEYER
(...)
The Turk is the legendary figure who cuts the squad.

Sports Illustrated
Originally Posted: November 2, 1959
Survivors of the Turk
Many are called, few chosen in the selection of pro football teams. Here is the ‘59 crop

BY TEX MAULE
Sometime during the second week of training at most professional football camps, the Turk calls. The Turk is the most dreaded visitor of the year. He calls after dinner, and his victims disappear before breakfast the next morning. The Turk is the epithet pro football uses for the man who informs aspiring players that they are not talented or big or smart enough to make the grade.

15 September 1961, Boston (MA) Herald, pg. 35, col. 1: 
Cutting Players Hardest
Part of Coaching—Saban

By BUD COLLINS
“Pull in your neck—here comes the Hatchet Man!”

This cry of alarm is familiar to the professional football player. He sounds it or hears it in good humor, but with a trace of uneasiness, too, for he knows that sooner or later he may be on old Hatchet’s mind.

Hatchet Man Breaks Sad News
The Hatchet Man is one of the coaches who informs an expendable player that he has been cut from the squad. He makes his gruesome rounds frequently at this stage of the season as the clubs reduce to the limit and become stabilized.

“The guy who gives you the bad news goes by many names,” said Butch Songin, a Boston Patriot quarterback. “I oughts know. I’ve been tapped a few times. Besides the Hatchet Man, he’s called blackjack artist, or axe, or the Turk, or shaft man. Mostly we call him a . . . but you couldnt print that.”

24 August 1964, New York (NY) Times, “Pruning Time at Football Camp To Reduce Giants’ Squad by 7” by William N. Wallace, pg. 32:
The Turk will stalk the corridors tonight and tomorrow at Loyola Hall, the residence of the New York Giants at their training camp at Fairfield (Conn.) University. The Turk is an ethereal, symbolical fellow who appears at pro football training camps when squad cuts are to be made. When a player says, “The Turk got Jones,” everyone knows what he means. Jones was cut.

The Turk does his cutting with a stained scimitar, which, according to apocryphal history, was first used by George Halas to divide player shares for the Chicago Bears in the nineteen-twenties. The present Giant squad numbers 54 and must be down to 47 by tomorro evening. Al Sherman, the coach, said yesterday that he may cut even deeper. It can be presumed that those Giants eligible for the scimitar include the famous and the not-so-famous.

27 November 1966, Boston (MA) Sunday Herald, “Paper Lion Hears Them: Night of Squeaky Shoes” by George Plimpton, pg. 10C, col. 2:
THAT EVENING, in their rooms, the players were reminiscing about “Squeaky Shoes,” or the “Turk.”

Google Books
Football Lingo
By Zander Hollander and Paul Zimmerman
New York, NY: Norton
1967
Pg. 121:
TURK: Also called The Man with the Squeaky Shoes. The most despised character in football camp is the Turk, traditionally the one who cuts players from the squad. The origin of the term is somewhat vague, but it suggests a Turk with a great scimitar, used for cutting. The job of cutting, or Turking, generally falls to an innocent assistant manager. He is the one who comes to the player’s room with the message, “Coach ... “

Sports Illustrated
Originally Posted: July 24, 1972
Would You Buy A Used Playbook From This Man?
Better not. Most pro football coaches say you would only get a lot of Os and Vs that would be worth few if any $s. Nonetheless, ex-Ram Quarterback Karl Sweetan tried to sell one for $2,500, and a federal case has been made of it

BY TEX MAULE
(...)
And when the Turk comes to call at training camp the playbook is the invariable symbol of dismissal. If an assistant tells a rookie—or a failing veteran—to see the head coach and adds, “And bring your playbook,” that means the player is being cut.

Google News Archive
22 June 1979, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), pg. 42, col. 3:
Alouette cuts this morning
Turk comes with his axe

By HERB ZURKOWSKY
(...)
THe Turk, also referred to as The Hatchet Man, The Grim Reaper and Dracula, but better known as John Harrison, the Als’ director of operations, says, “I don’t always have the greatest feeling in my stomach when I tell the players the coach wants to see them.”

18 August 1981, San Diego (CA) Union, “In Pro Football, The Mystical Turk Is Bigger Than Life” by Barry Lorge, pg. C-1, col. 2:
The Turk is football’s executioner—as merciless as the barbarous Asian hordes who plundered Europe starting around 450 A.D., swooping out of the night to rape, pillage, and lop off heads with their scimitars.

The historians are fuzzy, but Paul (Tank) Younger, assistant general manager of the San Diego Chargers, is reasonably certain that he knows when and how football became the only sport with an individual Angel of Death.

“When I was a rookie with the Rams in 1949, the coach was Clark Shaughnessy. he never cut in the daytime. He always mae his cuts at night, and you never saw anybody leave camp,” recalls Younger, who has spent 33 years in the National Football League as a player, scout and administrator. “Don Paul, a linebacker, noticed that. He said, ‘The Turk always strikes at night.’ As far as I know, that’s the first time anybody ever used that term, but it caught on immediately. It caught on faster than streaking.”

Google News Archive
26 July 1995, TimesDaily (Florence, AL), “Players try to avoid the ‘Turk’” by Andy Friedlander (NYT Regional Newspapers), pg. 3C, col. 1:
The origin of the name “Turk” is unclear, but it dates at least back to the early ‘50s. Panthes president Mike McCormack said the term was in common usage when the entered the league with the New York Yanks in 1951,

The imagery is obvious—the Turk with his scimitar poised to lop off the poor player’s head. But nobody is sure who was the first to use it.

One theory is espoused by Tank Younger, the Rams’ great fullback of the ‘50s and currently the team’s director of player relations, who says the name was invented his rookie year of 1949 by linebacker Don Paul. That year, the Rams’ coach was Clark Shaughnessy, who had a particularly cold-hearted way of telling players they were cut: he would have a coach go into a player’s room late at night, wake him and tell him to gather his belongings and leave. “And don’t wake your roommate,” the coach would say.

New York (NY) Times
ON PRO FOOTBALL; In Era of Kinder Cuts, The Turk’s Time Is Up
By Bill Pennington
Published: August 27, 2001
(...)
Every N.F.L. team used to have someone called the Turk. It is a decades-old term, of inexact origin, for the team employee whose assignment it was to go to a player’s training camp dormitory room, knock on the door and say: ‘’The coach wants to see you. And bring your playbook.’’

They are the most dreaded words of any training camp, an explicit message that the player will be released. A dream is dying. The grim destiny confronting rookies and veterans alike is that they will someday go off with the Turk, who arrives at dawn, and may never again be seen by their teammates.

NFL.com
Beware the Turk: Cutdown day is never easy
By Thomas George NFL.com
Published: Aug. 29, 2008 at 07:35 p.m. Updated: July 26, 2012 at 08:20 p.m.
(...)
Most teams use someone from their personnel department to go into the locker room and ask players to report to the head coach or general manager and bring their playbooks. This messenger is called the “Turk.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame
September 4, 2009
Coach wants to see you. And, bring your playbook!
by Jon Kendle
(...)
“The Turk” is the NFL’s version of the Grim Reaper. He is the individual assigned by the team who is responsible for tracking down players and explaining to them that they are being released. “Coach wants to see you, and make sure you bring your playbooks” are the famous last words that no player wants to hear come from “The Turk.”

In years past he was known as “Squeaky Shoes.” Players said they could hear his shoes squeaking down the halls of the dormitories during training camp as he made his way from room to room cutting players that didn’t make the final roster. It wasn’t until the 1950s in Los Angeles that the name “Turk” became synonymous with the man given the distasteful duty of releasing players.

Don Paul, a former linebacker with the L.A. Rams from 1948-1955, reportedly came up with the name. His coach, Clark Shaughnessy, had a specific method of releasing players. He would send someone in the organization to wake the player in the middle of the night.

That way the individual would be less apt to get angry since he would still be trying to wake up. The player would be told to grab all of his stuff because the coach wanted to see him.

The player would then have an exit interview with the coach, turn in his playbook and be gone by breakfast.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Tuesday, August 05, 2014 • Permalink