Everything that can be written on the life and death of Chick Hearn has been written. I thought he was a brilliant announcer, and the fact that he didnít mind calling the game honestly when the Lakers stunk up the place made him even more believable.
Story of the Week
For 50 years, George Halas ruled as one of the pioneers and pillars of professional football, the coach and owner of the Chicago Bears, the creator of the "Monsters of the Midway", the "Papa Bear."
Halas became one of the founders of the National Football League, its most successful coach, and the absolute baron of the sport in Chicago. He also was one of the men who kept football alive in the early days when players traveled by bus or trolley car, and were paid on a per-game basis.
Halas once punched the football out of the hands of the celebrated Jim Thorpe, recovered the fumble, and ran 98 yards. It was 1920, and Halas was the playing coach of the Decatur Staleys of the American Professional Football Association. He always felt that was his crowning achievement as a player; so would I.
As a coach, Halas was a fundamentalist in strategy, a master of the T- formation. In his 40 seasons of coaching, his teams won 321 regular-season games.
As a businessman, he started with little. The Bears lost $71.63 the first year they played. By the time Halas retired in 1968 at 73, the Chicago Bears franchise was worth millions. He was criticized as ruthless, dictatorial, and cheap, but he grew rich and powerful with pro football, coached seven of his teams to championships, and became one of the institutions of modern sports.
After World War I, he played minor league baseball, made it to the major leagues in baseball for a very short time, and semi-pro football. Then he accepted an offer from the A. E. Staley Company in Decatur, Illinois, to learn the business while continuing in sports. And the Decatur Staleys soon became the Chicago Bears of the N.F.L. Halas did it all during his typical 15-hour day; he played and coached the club, handled all administrative details, collected tickets, wrote publicity releases, and booked the games the team played.
The Bears turned the financial corner in 1925 by signing Red Grange, the famed running back from the University of Illinois. Four days later, in a game against the Chicago Cardinals at Wrigley Field, they drew the first sellout crowd in the teamís history.
For the next two months, Grange and the Bears barnstormed across the country, drawing 360,000 fans in 20 games, not bad for those days, and clearing a quarter of a million dollars. Red Grange was the box-office shot in the arm that pro football needed. The publicity established pro football as a national sport.
The NFL has come a long way since then (I am obviously the king of understatement.) Itís pioneers like George Halas who made pro football the "cash cow" it is today.
Last Weekís Trivia
Who is the first black pitcher to win a World Series game? In 1952, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Joe Black won Game 1 of the World Series. He was also National League Rookie of the Year. Joe Black passed away in May of this year.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only Division I college basketball player ever to score 100 points in a game? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.