The first officially recognized use of eye black in sports dates back to Andy Farkas, who donned burnt cork in 1942 as he helped lead the Washington Redskins to an NFL Championship. While eye black has long been popular in football, the product has been an anchor to success in many other sports, most notably baseball.
By the end of the 1930s, Farkas was so good that one sportswriter, Vincent X. Flaherty of the Washington Times-Herald, was bold enough to elevate him above legendary Hall of Fame running back Red Grange.
On Sept. 2, 1940, Flaherty wrote:
“And though in years to come Andy’s name may be long forgotten when Grange is yet riding the magic carpet of immortality across the years, we firmly believe Grange never saw the day when he could carry Andy’s shoes as a ballcarrier, perhaps Andy’s touchdown record in professional football may support our argument.”
Andrew Geza Farkas was born in Clay Center, east of Toledo in Ottawa County, in 1916 and was adopted as an infant by Geza and Rose Farkas.
As a kid, Farkas would watch older boys in the neighborhood play football on a vacant lot, but was never picked for a team. One day, one of the big kids had to leave, so he got in the game to even up the sides. Figuring they could discourage him from coming back to bug them the next day, they handed young Farkas the ball. He took off like a blur, nobody laid a hand on him, and he never sat on the sideline again.
Andy was a star from Day 1 at the old St. John's High School near downtown Toledo, but the Jesuits were forced to close the school during the height of the Great Depression after Farkas' sophomore year. The Jesuits were so concerned about losing the great football player, that they transferred him to the brand new University of Detroit Jesuit High School for his final two years of high school. From there he went to U of D for college.
In 1939, Farkas' second year with the Redskins, he led the NFL in rushing attempts (139), receiving average (27.3 yards per catch), scoring (11 touchdowns), and was second in rushing yardage (547) while making the All-Pro team. That was the same season he set a record for the longest pass reception, a 99-yard pass play; it can be tied, but never beaten.
He went on to spend nine years in the NFL - as a running back, receiver, punt returner, kickoff returner, and defensive back. He touched the ball 774 times and lost only one fumble. That came late in his last season, 1945.
Farkas had another All-Pro season in 1942. The same year he became the first NFL player to play in a game wearing eye black