The Mystery of Dolly Gray – An NFL Impostor

Impostor

He only played in three games, but Jack ‘Dolly’ Gray has cemented himself in sports history for pulling off one of the greatest trick plays the NFL has ever seen.

We have to go back to the early days of the NFL. Ollie Kraehe was the owner and player-coach of the St. Louis All-Stars. In 1923, a player named Dolly Gray approached Kraehe about playing for his team. Gray was rumored to be an All-American end on Princeton’s unbeaten 1922 team. Seeing an opportunity to bolster his squad, Kraehe signed Gray to the All-Stars.

Gray’s first two games for the All-Stars were terrible, however, and after witnessing such poor quality play, Kraehe released Gray to Curly Lambeau and the Green Bay Packers in exchange for cash that was desperately needed to keep the All-Stars operating. On the surface, it appeared that Kraehe was giving up one of his best players. He was an All-American at Princeton the year prior, after all.

Lambeau, on the other hand, was elated to be gaining such a great player. The Green Bay Press-Gazette celebrated the news with a headline that read: “Dolly Gray, Famous Princeton End, Joins Packers.” The Press-Gazette identified him as Jack ‘Dolly’ Gray, who had scored three touchdowns for Princeton in its big victory over the University of Chicago the previous fall.

In his first game for the Packers, Gray played extremely poorly. Then suddenly, when the Packers were supposed to board a train for a game in St. Louis, Gray mysteriously disappeared.

What Happened to Dolly Gray?

In St. Louis, Lambeau approached Kraehe and questioned him about the enigmatic Dolly Gray. Kraehe was forced to come clean. He told Lambeau that the deal between the two clubs was a joke. Prior to trading Gray, Kraehe had discovered that he was lied to. The man claiming to be Dolly Gray was actually an impostor, who had conned his way onto the All-Stars roster. Kraehe said the trade was just in good fun, and that it had been his intention to give Lambeau his money back (though we suspect he might have just wanted to backtrack after getting caught).

Furthermore, it turns out that there was never even an All-American named Jack ‘Dolly’ Gray who played for Princeton. There was only Howard ‘Howdy’ Gray, who later became a noted surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. Also, no records exist of any player named Dolly Gray scoring three touchdowns against Chicago, as the Press-Gazette claimed.

There were a couple people named Dolly Gray in the sports world at that time, but it is unlikely either of them was the impostor.

William Denton ‘Dolly’ Gray pitched for the Washington Senators from 1909 to 1911. He would have been 44 years old in 1923.

Laureston W. ‘Dolly’ Gray was a star halfback at the University of Chicago in 1914. Gray would have been 30 in 1923, but he was known to have been suffering from Tuberculosis and living Denver in 1922, dying from the disease four years later.

So Who Was the Impostor?

To this day, people aren’t sure who Jack ‘Dolly’ Gray was, or if that was even his real name. After disappearing in Green Bay, he never popped up on any other teams. Though his career was short, Dolly Gray remains an odd footnote in NFL history. He conned his way onto two NFL teams, and even has stats listed on Pro Football Reference. Now that’s a trick play anyone can appreciate.

Mark Heald

Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.

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Mark Heald
About Mark Heald 146 Articles
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.