75 for 75: The Touchdown Machine

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"75 for 75" is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting legendary moments in 49ers history as part of the team's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.

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1946-1949

Alyn Beals caught 14 touchdown passes in 1948, the most by any 49ers player in a single season until 1986 when the incomparable Jerry Rice recorded 15.

During the All-America Football Conference's four-year run, Beals led the league in touchdown receptions each season and was the AAFC's all-time leading scorer with 278 points. Remarkably, 26 percent of his 177 catches resulted in touchdowns (46).

"Alyn wasn't big or exceptionally fast," said Jesse Feitas, a 49ers quarterback in 1946-1947, and Beals' teammate at Santa Clara University. "He just knew how to get open." 

Beals' road to the 49ers began in San Francisco, where he was a well-known prep athlete at Polytechnic High School. Poly played its home football games at Kezar Stadium, which was located directly across the street from the school and later became the 49ers first home field. At Kezar, Beals' gridiron exploits caught the attention of Santa Clara's Buck Shaw, who recruited him to play for the Broncos before becoming the 49ers first head coach. 

At Santa Clara, Beals completed ROTC training then was thrust into World War II. He advanced through the officers ranks and saw action at the Battle of the Bulge. After Germany surrendered, Beals served on General George Patton's security team at the Nuremberg Trials. 

"I got recruited to the 49ers while I was in Germany," Beals recalled in an interview before he passed away in 1993. "The war had just ended. I was a captain in the Army with a field artillery unit making about $275 a month. I got letters from George Halas and Buck Shaw. Buck sent me a contract asking me to play for the 49ers. I hadn't really heard of the 49ers. There was no such team when I left for the war. But the contract was for $4,500 so I signed it immediately. That was good money back then."

Three days after Beals returned from his military obligation in the summer of 1946, he was at the 49ers first-ever Menlo College training camp.

"Buck was the right man for the job," Beals said. "He was a calming influence. Kind of soft spoken but he knew football. He was offensive minded, a great innovator. I believe Buck was one of the first coaches to move the ends out at the line of scrimmage. We used to have the ends set up to block."

With Shaw spreading the ends off tackle, he opened up the passing game. That small adjustment proved to be a boon to Beals' career.

"Buck wasn't afraid to wing the football," Beals said. "Playing for him was a pleasure. I felt like I was back in college.""

Shaw also signed a proven quarterback to deliver the pigskin. With Frankie Albert under center, Beals saw plenty of action.

"Frankie Albert was really something," Beals recalled. "He was probably the most famous athlete in the area because he'd come from Stanford and got a lot of publicity there with the 'Wow Boys.' What made him so effective was that he could do just about anything. He was a dangerous runner and scrambler who could pass or kick the ball. Frank might start to run then suddenly he punts the football, a quick kick. I know he drove defenses crazy."

Like most good passing-receiving duos, Beals and Albert had an uncanny relationship. If the blocking broke down Beals knew where to go.

"Whenever Frank was under pressure I knew what he would do," Beals said. "He was left-handed and he liked to roll out and throw in that direction. Whenever he started to scramble I would break off my pattern and go to his left. We completed a lot of passes that way.

"When I think back, my biggest thrill wasn't any one game or play; it was just being part of the team, building the team. It was exciting. Not many people get a chance to be a part of something like that. We helped get the 49ers started."

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