Posts Tagged 'Sports'

Chicago Trivia Quiz #3—Answers

1985 Chicago Bears—Super Bowl XX champions

1. Bronko Nagurski’s real first name was __________.

(B) Bronislau

2. How many touchdowns did Walter Payton score in Super Bowl XX?

(A) none

3. Whom did the Chicago Cardinals trade in return for nine Rams players?

(D) Ollie Matson, in 1959

4. When the Bears decided to leave Wrigley, what was their first choice for a new home?

(D) Dyche Stadium, aka Ryan Field

5. What NFL record did George Halas (as a player) hold for nearly 50 years?

(D) longest run with a fumble, 98 yards on 11-4-1923 (Halas said he ran so far so fast because Jim Thorpe was chasing him.)


Chicago Trivia Quiz #3

1985 Chicago Bears—Super Bowl XX champions

With the regular season getting under way, a quiz on Chicago football history—

1. Bronko Nagurski’s real first name was __________.

(A) Bronkovich   (B) Bronislau   (C) Vladimir   (D) Bruce

2. How many touchdowns did Walter Payton score in Super Bowl XX?

(A) none   (B) one   (C) two   (D) three.

3. Whom did the Chicago Cardinals trade in return for nine Rams players?

(A) Bob Waterfield   (B) Jim Brown   (C) Crazylegs Hirsch   (D) Ollie Matson

4. When the Bears decided to leave Wrigley, what was their first choice for a new home?

(A) Soldier Field   (B) Comiskey Park   (C) Rockne Stadium   (D) Dyche Stadium

5. What NFL record did George Halas (as a player) hold for nearly 50 years?

(A) most touchdowns in one quarter

(B) most safeties in one season

(C) longest punt return

(D) longest run with a fumble



Night Baseball Comes to Wrigley Field (8-8-1988)

The first night game in major league baseball was played in 1935.  By 1950 all the teams played night games—except the Cubs.  Longtime owner Phil Wrigley said the national pastime was meant to be enjoyed in daylight.

When the Tribune Company bought the Cubs in 1981, management began talking about putting lights in Wrigley Field.  The neighborhood didn’t like that, and pressured politicians to pass laws banning night games at the ballpark.  But night games made more money, and now it was only a question of time until the Cubs installed lights.  A compromise was reached, where the number of night games would be strictly limited, and non-resident parking would be prohibited on nearby streets.


On August 8, 1988, the Cubs met the Phillies in the first night game at Wrigley Field.  Naturally, the park was a sellout on that historic 8-8-88.  Just as naturally for something involving the Cubs, things didn’t work out as planned.  A major storm drenched the area, and the game was called after three innings.

Unlike a few hundred thousand Cubs fans, I can’t claim to have been present at Wrigley’s aborted first night game.  I was in San Francisco on vacation with my family that day.  When I finally did get to a Wrigley night game later in the season, the whole experience seemed surreal.  Even now, I still prefer going to the park for day games.  It’s probably a generational thing.

By the way, in the first official night game at Wrigley Field on 8-9-88, the Cubs beat the Mets, 6-4.


Joe Louis’s Home

Joe Louis was born in Alabama and grew up in Detroit. He spent his later life in Las Vegas.  But during the twelve years he reigned as heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he lived in Chicago.

Born Joseph Louis Barrow in 1914, he dropped his last name when he began amateur boxing as a Detroit teenager, so his mother wouldn’t find out what he was doing. As Joe Louis the kid fighter attracted the attention of John Roxborough.  Roxborough, one of the city’s gambling kingpins, became Louis’s manager.

In 1934 Louis turned pro. Roxborough began grooming him for a shot at the heavyweight championship, and that meant a move Chicago, where Louis could train under Jack Blackburn. Local promoter Julian Black joined Roxborough as a partner.  He found Louis an apartment on 46th Street off South Park Way (King Drive).

Joe and Marva

Louis quickly rose through the ranks with a string of knockouts. During one of his gym sessions he noticed Marva Trotter, a secretary at the Chicago Daily Defender newspaper. They started dating.  On the morning of September 24, 1935 Joe and Marva were married in New York.  Joe then went off to Yankee Stadium, knocked out ex-champ Max Baer in four rounds, and went back to his hotel and Marva.

The new couple settled in at the Rosenwald Apartments at 4648 South Michigan Avenue. The 454-unit complex had been built by white philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to provide decent housing for the city’s African Americans.  Louis later said that the Rosenwald “was the most fabulous building black people could live in at the time.”  Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, and other prominent Chicagoans were also residents.

Louis continued winning in the ring until Max Schmeling stopped him in June 1936. Louis then rebounded with a new string of victories.  On June 22, 1937, he knocked out James J. Braddock at Comiskey Park to become the new heavyweight champion.

Marva was not at the fight. According to the Tribune, she listened to the action on the radio in their apartment at 4320 South Michigan Avenue.  After the fight, Louis had trouble driving back the few blocks home through the crowds.  “I thought all of Chicago was standing outside my house,” he wrote in his autobiography.  “Marva and I had to come out, I don’t know how many times, and wave at the people.”

Joe Louis’s Chicago Home

Exactly when the Louises relocated from the Rosenwald is unclear. According to the 1940 Census, Joe had purchased the three-story apartment building for $7500—about $140,000 in today’s money.  Their personal flat had five rooms.  At that time the tenants in the other five units paid rents ranging from $40- to $65-a-month.

One year to the day after he’d won the heavyweight title, Louis took care of his old nemesis, Max Schmeling, in just over two minutes. In the course of twelve years Louis would successfully defend his title 25 times, more than any other boxing champion.  Some critics scoffed at his challengers as the Bum-of-the-Month Club.  More likely, Louis was just too good for anyone.

Louis served in the army during World War II, mostly fighting exhibitions. When he came out of the service, his skills had noticeably deteriorated.  He won a few fights, but the magic was gone.  In October 1949 he announced his retirement from the ring.

Meanwhile, Louis’s marriage had also deteriorated.  Joe liked the ladies, and the ladies liked Joe.  Joe and Marva divorced in 1945, remarried in 1946, then divorced a final time in 1949.  Marva kept the two children and the apartment building on Michigan Avenue.

The rest of Louis’s life was not happy. He had trusted too many people with his money, and the Internal Revenue Service came after him for back taxes, which he couldn’t pay.  A boxing comeback was an embarrassment.  He had health problems and battled substance abuse.  His final years were spent as a greeter in a casino.

Joe Louis died in 1981. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  A few years after his death, his favorite local golf course—Pipe O’ Peace in Riverdale—was renamed Joe Louis the Champ Golf Course.  The apartment building he owned on Michigan Avenue during his glory years remains a private residence.


Jack Johnson Sentenced to Prison (6-4-1913)

Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was sentenced to 366 days in the Joliet penitentiary and fined $1,000 today.  He’d been convicted of violating the Mann Act by transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.

The law was supposed to curb prostitution.  But for the federal government of 1913, the big problem was that Johnson was black, and the woman he’d brought from Pittsburgh to Chicago was white.

“This defendant is one of the best known men of his race,” the judge said.  “His example has been far reaching.”  Johnson was allowed to remain free on $30,000 bail while his conviction was under appeal.  Rather than take his chances with the appeal, he jumped bail and left the country.

Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard in a 1915 bout.  In 1920 he returned to the United States, served his prison time, and was released.  He died in an auto accident in 1946.

Recognizing the injustice done to Johnson, President Donald Trump granted the boxer a posthumous pardon on May 24, 2018.


Going Stagg

Amos Alonzo Stagg did not invent football.  But during his 41 years at the University of Chicago he developed much of the modern game.

Stagg was born in New Jersey in 1862.  He began making his football headlines while a divinity student at Yale University.  Playing end on the varsity squad, he was named to the very first All-American Team in 1889.

Young Stagg

After graduating from Yale, Stagg wanted to remain connected with football.  Coaching offered the best opportunity—there was no NFL in those days.  So when the brand-new University of Chicago asked him to take charge of its athletic program, Stagg headed west.

The year was 1892.  Stagg was given an ample budget and also faculty rank, something no full-time coach had ever had at any college.  His title was Director of the Division of Physical Culture.

Though he never did become a minister, Stagg felt he could promote the Christian ethic through football.  “The coaching profession is one of the noblest and most far-reaching in building manhood,” he once said.  Of course, that didn’t mean he had to field a losing team.

And Stagg’s teams were winners.  The University of Chicago Maroons won seven Big Ten championships between 1899 and 1924.  The undefeated 1905 and 1913 teams were ranked #1 in the nation.

Stagg was an innovator.  He invented the huddle, the direct pass from center, the lateral, the man-in-motion, the backfield shift, and cross-blocking.  Wanting his players to develop stamina along with strength, he introduced wind sprints.  He was also the first to put numbers on uniforms.  “All football comes from Stagg,” Knute Rockne declared.

Stagg Field (original), University of Chicago

But at the university, football wasn’t Stagg’s only responsibility.  He ran the entire athletic program.  At different times he coached baseball, basketball, track, and swimming.  Oh—and while he was at it, he also invented the batting cage.

Stagg led a sedate life.  He didn’t smoke or drink, went to church, raised a family, and stayed married to the same woman.  That didn’t mean he shied away from publicity, or that he wouldn’t express his opinions.  Stagg didn’t like college fraternities.  And he thought that pro football was a “menace” to amateur athletics.

Old Stagg

In 1929 Robert Maynard Hutchins became U of C president.  His vision of a university didn’t include high-powered football teams.  When Stagg turned 70 in 1932, Hutchins forced him to retire.

The Grand Old Man of Football wouldn’t go quietly.  Stagg told the press he was leaving the university against his will.  Moving to California, he signed on as head coach at College of the Pacific.

In 1946, at 84, Stagg retired from the Pacific job.  He had 314 wins to his credit, the most for any football coach.  Still refusing to obey the calendar, he then went to work for his son, as an assistant coach.

He celebrated his 100th birthday in 1962.  Asked by a reporter about his future plans, Stagg quipped: “I may go on forever—statistics say that very few men die after the age of 100.”

He almost made 103, dying in the spring of 1965.  Today he is memorialized by a number of athletic fields in various cities.  There are also two Amos Alonzo Stagg High Schools, in Palos Hills and in Stockton, California.



Chicago’s Forgotten Baseball Team

In the early twentieth century, America’s cities were growing. Baseball was popular.  The country already had the National and American Leagues.  Surely there was room for a third major league.

In 1913 a group of entrepreneurs organized the Federal League. At first the new league did nothing to challenge the NL/AL monopoly.  The Chicago team, known as the Chifeds, was headed by local businessman James A. Gilmore, and played its games at the De Paul University baseball diamond.  Operating on a tight budget, the Federal League got through the 1913 season.

James A. Gilmore and Charles Weeghman

Now the league began to attract some deep-pocket investors. For 1914 the Feds declared themselves a full-fledged major league.  They immediately began trying to sign players away from the two established majors.  Gilmore was named the new league president.  That opened the door for Charles Weeghman.

Weeghman had made his money running a string of low-cost lunch counters around Chicago. A few years earlier he’d been rebuffed in a bid to buy the St. Louis Cardinals.  Now he took over the Chicago Federal League franchise and immediately started operating.

“Going Major” meant the Chifeds needed a better ballpark. With the White Sox playing on the South Side and the Cubs on the West Side, Weeghman staked out territory on the North Side.  In December 1913 he secured a 99-year lease on a parcel of land at Clark and Addison Streets.  He hired Zachary Taylor Davis, architect of Comiskey Park, to design the new Weeghman Field.  Work immediately began erecting the steel-and-concrete stadium.

1914 Chifeds

That same month Weeghman pulled off a coup by signing Joe Tinker as the Chifeds manager and shortstop. The onetime Cubs’ star was the first “name” player to throw his lot with the new circuit.  Tinker’s signing gave notice that the Feds meant business.  Over that winter a bidding war broke out as the Feds tried to entice more players away from the two established majors.

The Chifeds opened their new stadium on April 24, 1914. A capacity crowd of over 18,000 people was on hand.  Bands played, school children marched, and the ladies’ auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic displayed a giant American flag.  The home team capped the day with a 9-1 victory over the Kansas City Packers.

“Baseball Magazine” April 1915

Throughout the season, the Feds battled the NL/AL monopoly in the courts. On the field the new league held its own.  In Chicago and in other cities where they faced off against the older leagues, the Feds cut heavily into ballpark patronage.  Federal League owners said they were willing to put up with a few seasons of red ink.  They were playing a long game.

And in Chicago, the Cubs and Sox were having mediocre seasons. Meanwhile, the Chifeds were battling for the league pennant.  The 1914 season ended the team with the team in second place, only one game behind the champion Indianapolis Hoosiers.  Pitcher Claude Hendrix led the league with 29 wins.

For 1915 the Chifeds were given a new name, the Chicago Whales. But the big news came when the team announced it had signed the great Walter Johnson away from the Washington Senators.  Alarmed that baseball’s best pitcher would be drawing more fans away from his team, Sox owner Charles Comiskey quietly paid Johnson $10,000 to stay in Washington.

The renamed Whales opened their season before another capacity crowd on April 10. Newly-elected mayor William Hale Thompson threw out the ceremonial first ball.  Once again, the team was in the thick of the pennant race.  But now some of the Federal League owners were growing tired of the baseball war.  Peace talks began with the two established leagues.

Big Bill Thompson at the 1915 Whales opener

The 1915 Federal League pennant race turned out to be one of the closest in all major league history. The Whales squeezed out the championship over St. Louis and Pittsburgh.  Spitball ace Slats McConnell topped the league’s pitchers with 25 victories.

That December the Feds signed a peace treaty with the two older major leagues. The Federal League was dissolved.  Weeghman bought a controlling interest in the Cubs, bringing with him Tinker, McConnell, Hendrix, and the best Whales players.  He also moved the Cubs to the ballpark at Clark and Addison, where they remain to this day.