Born: December 21, 1902
Died: May 26, 1956
Norman Parker Strader was born December 21, 1902 in Newton. His family moved west to Modesto, California when he was an infant. Quick, muscular and coordinated, he was a standout in baseball and football in high school as a catcher and running back. His teammates called him Red for his shock of bright hair and the name stuck. In 1922, he earned a football scholarship to St. Mary’s College, located a couple of hours away, in the San Francisco Bay area. The lure of St. Mary’s was its coach, Slip Madigan—one of the most admired football minds in the west. Red was a standout fullback for the Gaels. As a senior in 1925, he was named a third-team All-American. The 1925 squad went 8–2 and won the Far Western Conference championship. The two Gaels’ losses were close games with USC and Cal.
Red also played for the Gaels’ varsity baseball team. He tried out as a catcher with the Cleveland Indians in the spring of 1926 and played in the minors in 1926 and 1927, and again in 1930 and 1931. In the autumn of 1926, Red played for the Chicago Bulls of the American Football League, a circuit built around Red Grange and a couple of other stars. The league folded and in 1927 Red played for the Chicago Cardinals. In the third game of the year, he scored the lone touchdown in a 7–0 win over the Dayton Trinagles.
Red knew the money in sports was in coaching. He was an intense and highly organized team leader who was perfect for the profession. In 1928, he quit baseball and football and took a job with Regis College in Denver. He coached the school’s baseball and football teams for four seasons. The Rangers’ football team went 14–14 with Red at the helm. In 1932 he took a job as an assistant to Madigan at his alma mater. In 1938, the Gaels—who played their home games in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium—were invited to play Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl and won the game, 20–13. Red became the team’s head coach in 1940. He coached two years and brought in the T-formation before enlisting in the Navy, where he coached baseball and football at various bases during World War II.
In 1946, Red was hired by the Ray Flaherty to coach the backfield for the AAFC New York Yankees, who reached the championship game twice. He also scouted for the baseball Yankees. Red became head coach in 1948 when Flaherty was let go after a 1–3 start in 1948. The Yankees went 5–5 under Red and were 8–4 in 1949. The Yankees made the playoffs that year but lost to the Cleveland Browns, 17–7. The team had used a single-wing offense under Flaherty; Red introduced the T-formation to the club.
After the AAFC was absorbed into the NFL, Red followed a number of Yankees players to the New York Bulldogs. He coached the team to a 7–5 record, but was fired the next spring after being hospitalized with heart problems.
Red returned to the NFL as Buck Shaw’s assistant with the 49ers in 1952, and served as a scout for the team in 1953, while also working construction. When Shaw was fired after the 1954 season, Red was named San Francisco’s head coach. Despite the presence of quarterback Y.A. Tittle and running back Joe Perry, the team went 4–8 and Red clashed with players and home team fans much of the year. The following spring, Red died in his sleep at the age of 53, of an apparent heart attack. His wife sued the 49ers for his 1956 salary and they eventually reached an out-of-court settlement.