We are pleased to announce that Chicago media personality David Kaplan will be inducted into The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame with our 2021 class on October 28th at Wintrust Arena.
Commonly known in Chicago sports fan circles as "Kap", the David Kaplan story is a great one. The Skokie, IL native never set out to be in the media. He was a coach and scout first and his tale has one important theme, "Be available."
In 1986 Kaplan was a young assistant basketball coach at Northern Illinois University under his mentor John McDougal. He was four years into the role when he learned that McDougal had been fired. Knowing his fate as a coach at NIU would be coming to an end, he scrambled and pivoted. With little money and determined to build a bankroll for law school at Lewis University, he started calling college coaches and offering to sell his Chicago area scouting reports and tapes. A lover of the recruiting process, Kaplan had extensive research and information on Chicago area high school players that most college coaches didn't. It was a desperate but wise choice. Within a few weeks he started getting checks in the mail from coaches asking for more. Some of the checks were backdated assuming that Kaplan's new enterprise was a monthly newsletter. It quickly became one and law school was scrapped for The Windy City Roundball Review. A few years passed and the newsletter had grown to 250 subscribers and Kaplan had made a name for himself among Chicago area basketball junkies and national college coaches. You can catch him briefly in the iconic Chicago based and 1994 Oscar nominated film Hoop Dreams.
The innovation of the newsletter led Kaplan to start pondering his next move. Confident in his approach and knowledge of the Chicago basketball landscape, he started reaching out to local media personalities to share his wisdom. One of them called. Fellow Chicagoland Sports Hall of Famer Chet Coppock. Coppock had a weekly radio show in Chicago called Coppock on Sports" and was light on guests when a cancellation happened. He asked his producer to reach out to Kaplan and a media star was born. Kaplan would become the "go to" guest when future cancellations occurred, and his upbeat personality and extensive basketball knowledge impressed Coppock. With time, the name "Kap" was catching on with Chicago sports fans and he was taking television gigs when other announcers cancelled to cover High School Game of The Week and DePaul basketball games in addition to featuring as a guest on Coppock's show. He was always available.
David landed his own show with WMVP Radio in 1993 with recommendation from Coppock. It was a basketball themed show to start, but his extensive contact list and ability to book prestigious guests quickly elevated him to the top of the talent pool and he soon found himself reporting on all sports. A defining moment in Kaplan's career came in 1995 by a twist of fate. Kaplan was sick and running a fever when his old friend and colleague Thom Brennaman called. David had just wrapped his afternoon show when his phone rang. Brennaman and David had become pals covering college basketball games in what is now the Horizon League and Thom was now the voice of the Chicago Cubs. He was looking for a buddy to hang out with at the Cubs Convention. WMVP didn't offer contacts at the time so calling in sick for his afternoon show hadn't been an option, but attending the convention was going to be rough for Kaplan. With some ribbing and prodding from Brennaman, Kaplan reluctantly agreed to meet him out. At the convention, Brennaman introduced David to Tina LaSorte who was the Program Director at WGN Radio. Unbeknownst to him, she was a fan of his show and wanted to know if he was "available". Chicagoland Sports Hall of Famer Chuck Swirsky was leaving WGN and Tina needed to find a fresh voice. It was Kaplan's dream job. David took it and remained at WGN for 22 years where he solidified his name as a Chicago media great.
Today David is the host of the Kap and J Hood Show on ESPN 1000 Radio that airs M-F from 7am-10am and The NBC Sports Chicago Football Aftershow. Kaplan has won three Emmy Awards for his television work including 2 at Comcast SportsNet and 1 for hosting the highly successful A Piece of the Game which is a sports memorabilia show that airs nationally and has received multiple awards for excellence. In addition, he co-authored the award-winning "Around Town" column in the Chicago Tribune with longtime writer Fred Mitchell from 2009 to 2011. He is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches (IBCA) Hall of Fame and the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and was inducted into the prestigious WGN Radio Walk of Fame in May of 2018.
David Kaplan is the only person in Chicago media history to host a daily TV show, a daily radio show and write a regular column in a major newspaper all at the same time. We reached out to David to let him know the news and he sent us a note, "Call me anytime!!! My family and I are over the moon and humbled. I'm honored and thrilled to be included in this great fraternity of men and women that I've not only grown up idolizing, but had the amazing privilege of covering and working with as well. I can't wait to celebrate with my amazing fans and family on October 28th."
Welcome to The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame David Kaplan!
Curtis Granderson is a Chicagoland Sports Hall of Famer. We are happy to announce that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at our awards dinner on October 28th at the Wintrust Arena. Curtis embodies just about every trait we look for in selecting candidates. A hometown hero, a stellar athletic career and a strong commitment to charitable endeavors, his work speaks volumes.
The son of two Chicago teachers, Curtis was born in 1981 and grew up in the south suburbs of Blue Island and Lynwood. He attended Thornton Fractional South for High School where he played baseball and basketball. An All-State selection his senior year on the diamond, he chose to attend college at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to play both baseball and basketball. An immediate impact player his freshman year, he led the UIC Flames with 7 home runs and 45 walks. Quitting basketball to focus on baseball, he continued his career at UIC hitting 304 as a sophomore leading the team in walks, home runs and total runs scored. In his junior season Curtis held a .483 batting average which was the second highest in the nation. He was named Second-Team All-American by Baseball America and USA Today's Baseball Weekly and a Third-Team Louisville Slugger NCAA Division I All-American. Curtis graduated from UIC with a double major in business administration and business marketing.
The Detroit Tigers selected Curtis in the third round of the 2002 MLB draft and he made his major league debut on September 13, 2004. He spent his first six of 16 total seasons in Detroit. In his career, Granderson played 2,057 games and totaled 1,800 hits, 344 home runs, 153 stolen bases, 937 RBIs and 1,217 runs scored. At retirement in January of 2020, he was MLB's active leader in triples, with 95. Granderson made it to the postseason eight times and played in two World Series, with the Tigers in 2006 and the Mets in '15.
His best seasons came in 2007 with the Tigers and 2011 with the Yankees. In '07, Granderson batted .302 with 23 homers, 26 steals and an MLB-best 23 triples. In '11, he hit 41 home runs, stole 25 bases, led the AL with 119 RBIs and the Majors with 136 runs scored while finishing fourth in American League MVP Award voting.
Curtis is well known for his contributions to his community. While still playing he was the 2016 winner of MLB's Roberto Clemente Award - given annually to a player who demonstrates Clemente's values of commitment to community and helping others - and he was also named the Marvin Miller Man of the Year four times by the MLB Players Association, including in 2019.
Granderson has served as an official ambassador for Major League Baseball International and has visited England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan to promote the game. He has also served as something of an unofficial baseball ambassador to the African-American community, often participating in and initiating dialogue about the lack of Black players at all levels of the sport. When he endorsed Nike, Inc., Louisville Slugger and Rawlings, he asked them to donate money to his "Grand Kids" foundation or equipment to inner-city baseball programs rather than pay him. Most recently Curtis provided the narration for a video that went across all ballparks commemorating Jackie Robinson Day on April 15th of last month and he donated 42,000 meals to the COVID-19 food bank partners in honor of Robinson's jersey number 42.
In addition to his work with the "Grand Kids" foundation, in 2013 he donated $5 million to the University of Illinois at Chicago for the construction of their ballpark, Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium. Welcome to the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame Curtis. You are most deserving!
The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame is thrilled to announce the confirmation of baseball great Andrew "Rube" Foster as our first member of the 2021 class. He will be inducted posthumously at our October 28th ceremony with a very special guest to be announced at a later date accepting on his behalf.
Often called the Father of The Negro Leagues and the first black baseball executive, Rube Foster was born in Calvert, Texas in 1879. The son of a preacher, he began his professional baseball career as a pitcher for the African American Independent Waco Yellow Jackets in 1897. After making a name for himself among white and black baseball fans as a premier player, he was eventually signed by Frank Leland's Chicago Union Giants as a player/manager in 1907 where the team finished with 110-10 record and won the Chicago City League Pennant. 1n 1910 the brash and confident Foster was able to wrestle legal control of the team from its founder, Frank Leland and then proceeded to put together a team he later considered his finest. He signed John Henry Lloyd away from the Philadelphia Giants, second baseman Grant Johnson, catcher Bruce Petway, and pitchers Frank Wickware and Pat Dougherty. Lloyd sparked the Lelands to a 123–6 record (with Foster himself contributing a 13–2 record on the mound).
The following season, Foster established a partnership with John Schorling, the son-in-law of Chicago White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey. The White Sox had just moved into Comiskey Park, and Schorling arranged for Foster's team to use the vacated South Side Park, at 39th and Wentworth. The Leland Giants then became known as the Chicago American Giants and they went on to claim the Western Black Baseball Championship for the next four years. In the years following, discrepancies began to emerge with other black clubs over the legitimacy of Championships and cross league play between other clubs. These discrepancies helped pave the way for the foundation of a National Negro League with Foster leading the charge in 1920 with the help of team rival C.I. Taylor of the Indianapolis ABC's club. Foster, Taylor and the owners of six other midwestern clubs met in the spring to form a professional baseball circuit for African-American teams. Foster, as president, controlled league operations, while remaining owner and manager of the American Giants. With the formation of the new league, a stable schedule and reasonably solvent opponents, Foster was able to improve receipts at the gate for the Chicago American Giants. It is reported that when opposing clubs lost money, Foster was also known to help them meet payroll, sometimes out of his own pocket. The American Giants won the National Negro League's first three pennants, before being overtaken by the Kansas City Monarchs in 1923.
In 1925 Foster was on the receiving end of a gas leak during a stay in Indianapolis that almost killed him. In the year following he began to show signs of mental illness as a result of the accident and was eventually institutionalized after relinquishing control of the team and league. The American Giants and the NNL lived on and the Giants won the pennant and World Series in both 1926 and 1927—but the league clearly suffered in the absence of Foster's leadership. Foster died in 1930, never having recovered from his illness, and a year later, the league he had founded sadly fell apart.
Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame President Charles Carey said, "Ryan Nilsson of The Chicago SunTimes wrote an excellent piece on Rube Foster last July during the lock down of the pandemic. After reading the piece and the discovery of all his achievements it was clear that he was a must for our next Hall of Fame class."
In 1981, Foster was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the first representative of the Negro leagues elected as a pioneer or executive. The induction of Rube Foster to The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame will happen Thursday night October 28th. Please follow us on twitter for more announcements and updates to the 2021 Hall of Fame class.
This Sunday's Super Bowl festivities marks 35 years since the Monsters of The Midway convincingly walked off the field as Super Bowl XX Champions and into history books as one of the greatest professional sports teams ever assembled. Pop culture, long standing records and larger than life personalities has propelled constant reminiscence today. It never seems to get old for us in Chicago. The famous Super Fans sketch on Saturday Night Live that debuted in 1991 amazingly still has legs and we've had almost all of our other Chicago teams win championships since 1985, but there is still something about that magic larger than life season of utter domination that still gets fans and former players giddy to talk. We caught up with CSHOF members and Super Bowl XX Champions Dan Hampton and Emery Moorehead to ask them what they remembered most from that weekend. Funny enough, neither memory has much to do with the game itself.
"So we show up and we start practicing on Wednesday morning and there is all this media hype erupting because a story was printed that Jim McMahon had used derogatory terms to describe the women of New Orleans. The story was later proven false, but it caused quite the stir. There were enraged people boycotting, standing in front of our hotel and yelling insults everywhere we went," said Hampton. "Thursday comes around and I'm back on the practice field with the team. The field was surrounded by tall apartment buildings on each side and nobody wanted to stand near McMahon because he was getting death threats. Myself and Steve McMichael walk up to McMahon and start chatting with him. Coach Ditka walks up right behind us and says, "Don't you guys know this guy has death threats out on him right now. Aren't you scared?" I said with a smile, coach no, we aren't. Steve and I have both personally already threatened to kill McMahon 4 times this year. Makes no difference to us! We all burst our laughing."
Emery Moorhead also mentioned the McMahon hysteria at first pass of the question. We informed him that Dan Hampton said the same thing and he quickly pivoted. "Okay. This is rather innocuous, but at one point in the game the ball was thrown out of bounds near me on a play on our sideline. I was off the next play. As my eyes follow the ball wobbling along, I look up and see the ball boy running for it. We lock eyes and I shake my head at him. He smiled and stoped dead in his tracks and nodded back. I picked up the ball and kept it as a keepsake. I still have it today. It's little stuff like that I remember most."
In honor of the 35th Anniversary we came up with some amazing facts to share again that made this team so special. In a season that moved at the speed of light with the assistance of over the top personalities, media hype and of course The Super Bowl Shuffle let us not forget these 10 amazing stats courtesy of yahoo sports:
10.) First time participants. Super Bowl XX remains the last time both teams made their first appearance in the Super Bowl. The only way this could happen again is if the Detroit Lions were to advance as they're the only NFC team to never make it to a Super Bowl. They'd then have to face any of the Browns, Jaguars, Texans in the game as they're the only three AFC teams to never qualify.
9.) Patriots set scoring record. After the Bears lost a fumble on the first possession of the game, New England took over with great field position. Despite being stopped on a three-and-out, a 36-yard field goal by Tony Franklin put the Patriots up 3-0 just 1:19 into the game, the fastest a team had ever taken a Super Bowl lead.
8.) Fewest rush yards allowed. We're all aware that the Bears defense dominated that afternoon but just how much? There will be a few different notes to follow but let's start with the run defense that allowed just seven yards all evening, a Super Bowl record. The Patriots being blown out led to a lot of passing but New England never had a run longer than three yards that day, either.
7.) Tony Eason's no good, very bad day. Patriots starting quarterback Tony Eason set a Super Bowl record that will never be broken, as long as the game is played. The University of Illinois product was benched for veteran Steve Grogan after starting the game 0-6 passing, being sacked three times, and losing a fumble. No starting quarterback will ever complete fewer passes in a game, that's for certain.
6.) Second fewest total yards allowed. In all, the Bears allowed just 123 total yards that afternoon, the second-fewest ever in a Super Bowl. Only the Steelers in Super Bowl IX held an opponent to fewer as the Vikings put up just 119 total yards in a game also played in New Orleans.
5.) Walter Payton's lack of a touchdown. Much was made of Walter Payton not getting in the end zone in Super Bowl XX, something Mike Ditka says he still regrets. However, Payton not scoring was the norm in his playoff career as the legendary back played in nine playoff games during his career but only scored two touchdowns - both against the Eagles in 1979.
4.) A Packers legend performed coin toss. Things haven't gone the Bears way against the Packers for the better part of the last three decades. On that January afternoon however it was Packers legend and MVP of Super Bowl's I and II, Bart Starr who performed the coin toss as all previous game MVP's were honored before kickoff.
3.) Richard Dent's MVP Day. On a day the entire defense shined, nobody shined brighter than game MVP Richard Dent who recorded 1.5 sacks and forced a pair of fumbles in the 46-10 win. Dent would win a second Super Bowl nine years later with the 49ers but played in just two games that season due to injury.
2.) Matt Suhey's Big First Half. With the Bears' defensive dominance, it's easy to look past offensive performances in the blowout victory but while the issue was still in doubt, no offensive player was more valuable than fullback Matt Suhey. Suhey ran 11 yards touchdown for the game's first touchdown that stretched the lead to 13-3 before putting up 35 more yards on the drive that made it 20-3, Bears. A second-quarter fumble seemed to earn him a spot in the doghouse a bit but Suhey's huge first half helped put the Bears in a position to impose their will the majority of the evening.
1.) Biggest Super Bowl blowout. The 46-10 domination was the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history at the time but would be bested just four years later when the 49ers routed the Broncos 55-10 in a game also played in the Superdome. The 36-point margin remains the second-biggest blowout in the history of the Super Bowl to this day.
Hall of fame member Kenneth R. Geiger passed away peacefully on Thursday, January 21st, while surrounded by his loving family in the tranquility of his own home at the age of 89. Ken was instrumental to the growth of our organization and his contributions and help over the years were invaluable to the continued success of our mission and charitable cause. Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame president Charles Carey said, “Not all of our members are nationally recognized names and Ken Geiger epitomized what makes our fraternity of members so special as his character, contributions and career as a Chicago area educator and coach are a great example of what we look for each year as we consider each new class of inductees. He was a great help to us and he will be greatly missed.”
Born and raised in Berwyn, Illinois, Ken graduated from Fenwick High School in 1949. He was a high school teammate and lifelong friend of fellow Chicagoland Sports Hall of Famer Johnny Lattner and he often credited Fenwick High School and his coach Tony Lawless for instilling his very best knowledge of the game of Football in him. Post Fenwick, Ken became an All-Conference guard at Monmouth College where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree and then went on to serve with the United States Army in the 101st Airborne Division during the Korean War. Post war he continued his education at the University of Illinois, earning a master’s degree and working as the freshman football offensive line coach. He then moved on to the University of Missouri where he obtained a doctorate in education and was the assistant varsity line coach. Returning to his alma mater Monmouth College in 1972, he helped lead the Fighting Scots to an undefeated conference championship as the varsity line coach. Following that magical season, he left Monmouth for his old hometown of Berwyn, IL to teach and coach at Morton East and West High Schools. He coached and taught at Morton for 34 years, as head football coach, wrestling coach, athletic director and department chair. Together with other Chicago suburban highs school coaches, Ken was instrumental in bringing about the IHSA football playoff system in 1974.
After retiring as an educator in 1982, Ken joined the Chicago Bears as a Player Personal Assistant. That position launched an 11-year career in professional football that also took him to the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints as a college scout and pro player evaluator. In the early ’90s, he served as one of the NFL’s first advance scouts. He also was a moving force in bringing American football to Europe, teaching the game to European youths and representing the National Football League as a clinician.
In addition to our Hall of Fame Ken is in the Monmouth College, Chicago Catholic League and IHSA Halls of Fame and is an emeritus member of the American Association of Football Coaches.
Former student and player Dennis Deegan said, “What a great man; who lived a great life; always giving of himself. Coach Geiger introduced me to Monmouth College, and coached me in High School Football at Morton West High, Berwyn, Illinois. He opened the door at Monmouth College for so many athletes and I credit him for earning my BA at Monmouth. You will always be a winner in my heart, Coach.”
Jimmy Gray played quarterback at Morton for Geiger. “Back in the "good 'old days" we had total respect for our all our coaches, Coach Geiger also was responsible for the Letterman's club which gave us more time with him and learn even more than sports. Coach was definitely a man you looked up to and was also a father figure for many. We were High School Team of the Week on WLS radio after beating our rival Willowbrook team. A TD run by John Parpet and TD receptions by Gary Zmrhal capped our victory. In one series I threw an 89-yard touchdown to Rich Brom. It was a 10 yd down and out pattern as Rich ran down our sideline. Coach Geiger was screaming at him "Brom, you better score!” I'm still not sure if Rich was that fast in his high-top cleats or if the fear of letting coach Geiger down took him to the end zone. Some of our linemen said Coach always was looking for his 5 blocks of granite. A phrase he repeated throughout his career. I was fortunate to live in the Chicagoland area when Coach arranged for the Bears to practice in the Morton East field house. Coach Geiger called me and offered to put mine and my son’s name on the pass list to watch them. What a thrill for my son! Not only did he get to watch, but Bob Thomas, the kicker, asked my son to catch his practice kicks and pass back the ball to the snapper. By far, this moment made my son a Chicago Bear fan for life! I am truly going to miss coach Geiger. A total class act and legend. I am forever grateful to have had him as a coach.”
Ken was the Beloved Husband of Sheryl J. nee Johnson for a loving 67 years. Devoted Father of Gary (Ana Maria), Kevin (Jeane Gentile), Joni (James) Russo, Susan, and Eric (Amy).
Family and friends are to gather for the visitation Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 from 3:00 PM until 9:00 PM. Words of Remembrance Service to be celebrated promptly at 7:00 PM at Russo’s Hillside Chapels, 4500 Roosevelt Road, Hillside, IL 60162 (Located between Mannheim and Wolf Road). Funeral to follow Wednesday, January 27, 2021 from Russo’s Hillside Chapels at 8:30 AM proceeding to St. Leonard Parish, 3318 S. Clarence Ave., Berwyn, IL. Mass of Christian Burial celebrated promptly at 10:00 AM. Interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery. For additional information call (708) 449-5300. Please visit Kenneth’s personal tribute website at www.russohillsidechapels.com and sign his guestbook.
The cigarette smoking, the outlaw mentality, the 40oz bat and the famous Sports Illustrated Cover. No player in MLB history ever epitomized the ethos of the Southside Chicago White Sox fan better than CSHOF member and 1972 MLB MVP Dick Allen. Dick passed away December 7th after a long illness. He was 78 years old.
Allen was born March 8, 1942, in Wampum, Pa., in a baseball-loving family. Two of his brothers, Hank and Ron Allen, also played in the major leagues.
He earned the National League Rookie of the Year award with the Phillies in 1964, when he led the league with 125 runs scored, 80 extra-base hits and 352 total bases. He finished in the top five that season in batting average (.318), slugging percentage (.557), hits (201) and doubles (38) while committing a league-high 41 errors in his first season playing third base.
As a 5-foot-11 and 187 pound rookie he carried a big stick. His 40-ounce bat was far bigger than the ones most of his peers used. Willie Mays once said Allen hit a baseball harder than anyone he ever had seen, and Allen’s 445-foot home run to center field at Comiskey Park off the New York Yankees’ Lindy McDaniel in 1972 was testament to that fact. “Nobody has ever hit a ball any further,” yelled Sox announcer Harry Caray, who was broadcasting the game from the bleachers.
Allen arrived on the South Side of Chicago after the 1971 season following a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers and quickly ignited Comiskey Park the place to be. Attendance at Comiskey had fallen below 500,000 in 1970 and was barely over 830,000 when Allen joined a team that hadn’t won a pennant since 1959 and finished 22½ games out of first place in ’71.
His presence helped spark the club on the field and at the gate in 1972 on his way to being named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. Allen batted .308 with a league-leading 37 home runs, 113 RBIs, 99 walks and a .603 slugging percentage, and he led the majors with a .420 on-base percentage, 1.023 OPS and 199 OPS plus.
The Sox remained in contention most of the season before finishing 5½ games behind the mighty Oakland Athletics in the AL West. They drew more than 1.18 million fans to Comiskey and stabilized the franchise, which had been rumored to be possibly moving to Seattle or St. Petersburg, Fla.
Allen was a seven-time All-Star with the Philadelphia Phillies and the White Sox. He also made stops with the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland A's. He finished his 15-year career with a .292 average, 351 home runs, 1,119 RBIs and a .912 OPS. Former Sox teammate Rich “Goose” Gossage called Allen “the greatest player I’ve ever seen play in my life” and said he belongs in Cooperstown. Other greats including Willie Mays have shared this sentiment as well.
We would be remiss to say that Allen's career didn't have some terrible and unfortunate bumps. He was a consistently subjected to racial injustices and prejudices during his time as a player and he has been quoted as saying that he "played angry" as a result. Allen began wearing a helmet while he played in the field in Philadelphia because fans, who were known to shout obscenities and racial slurs at him, began throwing batteries at his head. In 1967, Allen punched his right hand through a car headlight, almost ending his career. In 1969, the Phillies suspended him indefinitely and fined him $2,500 for failing to show up to a game.
Allen inadvertently played at role in the birth of baseball free agency. After demanding a trade following the 1969 season, Allen was sent to the Cardinals for Curt Flood, who refused to report to the Phillies, thus beginning the fight for free agency. The Cardinals traded Allen to the Dodgers after one season, and the Dodgers dealt him to the White Sox on Dec. 2, 1971, for Tommy John and Steve Huntz.
It was on the South Side that Allen’s legendary career took off again. Former White Sox third baseman Bill Melton said Allen wanted to quit the game after the way fans and front offices had treated him. But Chicago quickly adopted its new star, who now went by the name “Dick” instead of “Richie,” and he reciprocated by devoting himself to the team and the city.
After three All-Star seasons with the White Sox, Allen left the team with two weeks remaining in the 1974 season after a feud with third baseman Ron Santo, according to Allen’s autobiography, “Crash.” The Sox sold Allen’s contract to the Atlanta Braves for $5,000, but Allen refused to report and announced his retirement. He eventually played three more seasons, including two with the Phillies, before he left the A’s halfway through the 1977 season. While Allen played only three years in Chicago, he called it the favorite stop of his career. “It’s better than anywhere I’ve been my whole baseball career,” he told the Chicago Tribute in November in what would be his final interview. “I might say my whole baseball life. I’ve never been treated any better. You guys are the best for my money.” Allen has been quoted as saying that if he does make it into Cooperstown he would like to have the Chicago White Sox cap on his plaque.
We are just happy that we had the pleasure to induct him into our Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame first. Godspeed Dick the memories you gave us are treasured.
The Golden Boy has entered the pearly gates. University of Notre Dame and Green Bay Packer legend Paul Hornung passed away peacefully from dementia related complications last Friday November 13th. The 2012 Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame inductee was 84 years old.
Paul Vernon Hornung was born December 23, 1935 in Louisville, KY. Nicknamed the “Golden Boy” for his blonde curly hair and handsome good looks, he attended Flaget High School where he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track. Heavily recruited and coveted by a young Bear Bryant who was a coach with Kentucky at the time, Paul ultimately chose the University of Notre Dame at the urging of his mother Loretta, a devout Roman Catholic and his best friend and high school teammate Sherrill Sipes. Hornung credits the decision as the best he made in life. Sherrill Sipes went on to play for the Fighting Irish with Hornung and to this day they are the only two players from the same high school to ever start in a Notre Dame backfield at the same time.
Hornung lived up to the hype at Notre Dame becoming a national sensation and two-time All-American at quarterback and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1956. Often called the most versatile player in Notre Dame and NFL history he played every position in the backfield during his three-year varsity career spanning from 1953-56. As a senior, he led the Irish in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff and punt returns, punting, field goal extra points, passes broken up, and ranked second in interceptions and tackles. He was without contention the best player in college football, but it was something Hornung did at Notre Dame while not in uniform that would reap his greatest reward. As a student, he gave a tour of the stadium to a guy named John F. Kennedy, who at the time was a U.S. Senator. Years later, as a Green Bay Packer, Hornung got drafted into the military and was going to miss the NFL title game, until Coach Vince Lombardi told Hornung to call now President John F. Kennedy. "He said I'll get back to you. He didn't tell me who he was calling. He got back to me three hours later or maybe the next day and said 'You're gonna be ok to take the second two-week’s vacation for Christmas, which will enable you to play in the championship game and I'm going to have a plane come pick you up,'" said Hornung.
The Green Bay Packers drafted Hornung as the number one pick in the 1957 NFL Draft and he blossomed in the NFL as a Packer evolving into an all-pro halfback in the 1960s who could run, pass, catch, block and kick. The pinnacle of his colorful NFL tenure came during three exceptional seasons in 1959, 1960 and 1961 when Hornung led the NFL in scoring two of those years and finished second the other year by one point. In 1960, he capped a stellar season when he scored a record 176 points in 12 games on 15 touchdowns, 15 field goals and 41 extra points – a mark that would stand for nearly 46 years. He was the NFL’s MVP in 1961, and his Packers earned NFL titles in 1961, 1962 and 1965, and won Super Bowl I in 1967. Those years included the 1961 stretch in which Hornung was called to active duty in the Army to fulfill ROTC requirements from Notre Dame. He obtained weekend passes thanks to his friendship with President Kennedy to play in Packers games, including the 37-0 rout of the New York Giants in the 1961 Championship in which he scored a record 19 points. Hornung scored the winning touchdown in the 1965 NFL championship game against the Cleveland Browns, and suited up for Super Bowl I, but did not play because of a neck injury. He was the first player selected by the New Orleans Saints in the 1967 expansion draft, but never played due to injury and subsequently retired from football.
Post football, Hornung resumed a successful real estate and investment career with hometown friend and mentor Frank Metts, and launched a career as a sports radio and TV commentator and speaker. He was a college and pro football analyst for CBS, TBS, ABC Radio; a color analyst on radio for the Minnesota Vikings and Notre Dame; and along with Lindsay Nelson, in 1966 did tape delay broadcasts of Notre Dame games that aired Sundays. He authored multiple books, including, “My Private Collection: The Paul Hornung Scrapbook” published in 2014; and “Lombardi and Me: Players, Coaches and Colleagues Talk about the Man and the Myth,” published in 2006.
Outside of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame he was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 1985, Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, National High School Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2012, he was inducted in the inaugural class of the Louisville Catholic Sports Hall of Fame.
Fellow CSHOF member and former Chicago Bear Dan Hampton had this to say, “There was no one like Paul Hornung. When I first arrived in Chicago as a Bear we had a love hate relationship with the Packers. We loved to hate them. As my career progressed and I became closer with Bears of the generation before me like Dick Butkus and Ed O’Bradovich, I learned that they all actually truly loved and respected their peers from Green Bay. They respected those great Green Bay teams so much and always talked about the greatness of those middle 60s teams with Bart Starr and Hornung. When I first met Paul, I was struck by how gregarious, respectful, adoring and fun he was with all of us Bears. He was class and a lot of fun to party with as well! He will be missed by us.”
Hornung is survived by his wife of 41 years, Angela. Due to coronavirus restrictions, there will be a private funeral mass at St. Louis Bertrand Church in Louisville followed by a private burial. The Green Bay Packers have said a public celebration of his life will be held at a later date.
“The Lord is first; my friends are second and I am third.” – Gale Sayers
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Chicago Bear legend and Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame member Gale Sayers. Mr. Sayers, age 77, passed Wednesday, September 23, 2020 after a long battle with dementia. He was the personification of class in sport and in life. Because of Gale’s exemplary display of charity, class and football accomplishments, we hold an annual honor in his name. NFL great Desmond Howard was our most recent recipient of the Gayle Sayers Award in 2019.
Nicknamed the Kansas Comet out of the University of Kansas, the All-American halfback was drafted 4th overall by George Halas and the Chicago Bears in 1965 and went on to win rookie of the year honors amassing an NFL rookie record of 22 touchdowns and 2,272 all-purpose yards. The overnight sensation and immediate impact superstar was famously quoted, “Give me 18 inches of daylight. That’s all I need.” Following his dynamic rookie season, Mr. Sayers went on to earn the NFL rushing title in his second season and five consecutive first-team All-Pro honors. In a storied career that was ultimately cut drastically short by knee injuries, he retired in 1972 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 as the youngest inductee ever at the age of 34. A record that still holds today. Former teammate and Chicago Bear great Mike Ditka has said that Sayers was the greatest player he’s ever witnessed. High praise from a man that also coached Walter Payton. Sayers still holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game with six and his career kickoff return average of 30.56 yards is a record for players with at least 75 attempts. He is largely considered the best open field runner in the history of the game.
While his accomplishments on the field made him a name in football, it was Gale’s 1970 autobiography titled, “I Am Third” made into the 1971 television move “Brian’s Song” that made him a global star. The film starring Billy Dee Williams as Gayle Sayers and James Caan as Brian Piccolo documents the story of the two Chicago Bear teammates as Piccolo battles a terminal cancer diagnosis while they simultaneously break the color barrier together as the first interracial roommate duo the history of the NFL. A notable aspect of Sayers' friendship with Piccolo, a white man, and the first film's depiction of their friendship, was its effect on race relations. The first film was made in the wake of racial riots, escalating racial tensions fueled by Martin Luther King’s assassination, and charges of discrimination across the nation. Sayers and Piccolo were devoted friends and deeply respectful of and affectionate with each other. Piccolo helped Sayers through rehabilitation after injury, and Sayers was by Piccolo's side throughout his illness until his death in June 1970.
After his playing career ended, Sayers briefly worked as a television commentator and stockbroker and then for his alma mater, The University of Kansas. He was the athletic director at Southern Illinois University for five years before resigning in 1981.
He had several business ventures, including a successful computer supply company in the Chicago area named Sayers 40 Inc and was widely known for his philanthropy towards youth causes. He was a strong supporter of the Cradle Foundation an adoption organization in Evanston, IL and founded the Gale Sayers Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. The Gale Sayers Center is an after-school program for children ages 8–12 from Chicago's west side and focuses on leadership development, tutoring, and mentoring.
Sayers was married to Linda McNeil in 1962, during his freshman year in college; they were divorced in June 1973. That December he married Ardythe Elaine Bullard. She survives him. In addition to his stepson Guy, he is also survived by a daughter, Gale Lynne, and two sons, Timothy and Scott, from his first marriage; two other stepsons, Gaylon and Gary; two brothers, Roger, a former track and field star, and Ron, who played eight games as a running back for the San Diego Chargers in the N.F.L.; and two grandchildren.