We are thrilled to announce that NFL coaching legend Mike Shanahan will be inducted with our 2021 class on October 28th at the Wintrust Arena.
Born in Oak Park, IL the two-time Super Bowl winning coach was a high school football standout at East Leyden High School in 1969 where his success as a quarterback earned him the opportunity to play football at Eastern Illinois University. While practicing at Eastern, he sustained a life-threatening injury that cut his playing career short and his career as a coach started almost immediately. Post-graduation, Shanahan took assistant coaching jobs at Northern Arizona and then at the University of Oklahoma where he won a National Championship in 1975. He returned to Eastern Illinois in 1978 as their offensive coordinator and helped capture the Division II National Championship.
Shanahan entered the ranks of pro football in 1984 as a receivers coach for the Denver Broncos under Dan Reeves. During his time in professional football, he coached for five different organizations and became legend as an offensive minded genius. He won three Super Bowls and two back-to-back in 1997 and 1998 as a head a coach with Denver. He is the winningest coach in the history of the Denver Broncos organization and is one of only six coaches to ever win back-to-back Super Bowls. The others are Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Knoll, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Belichick.
Shanahan's NFL signature was the run-heavy variation of the West Coast offense he first developed as an assistant with the 49ers. He had the amazing knack for finding and drafting unheralded running backs and then turning them into league-leading rushers behind small-but-powerful offensive lines. Examples of this are running backs Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell, all of whom had at least one 1,000-yard season in a Denver uniform during Shanahan's tenure.
Mike is the proud husband to his wife Peggy of 44 years and is the father of current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. We look forward to welcoming him home and into our Hall of Fame on October 28th.
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.
by: MLSsoccer staff
Chicago Fire FC announced Tuesday that Frank Klopas, a servant of the club in several capacities since 1998, has been named to manager Raphael Wicky's coaching staff as an assistant.
“I’m very pleased to have Frank join our coaching staff,” Wicky said in a statement. “He has been an integral part of the Fire since its very beginning. His passion for the club and his knowledge of the league will be extremely valuable for our staff and players. I look forward to working with him.”
Klopas has served as a player, head coach, technical director, team ambassador and broadcaster for the Fire over the course of 22 years. His honors include helping the Fire win the double (MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup) during their inaugural season. He was inducted into the club's ring of fire as a player in 2004 and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
“My heart has always been with the Fire,” Klopas said. “I’m honored to join Raphael’s staff and I’m excited for the future of the Club.”
After concluding his playing career in 1999, Klopas served as the Fire’s assistant coach in 2000 and technical director from 2008-2011 before becoming the sixth full-time head coach in club history on Nov. 3, 2011.
Klopas was the first former Fire player to be named head coach, and he he helped guide the Fire to the U.S. Open Cup final and the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Klopas then spent two years as Montreal Impact head coach, leading the club to the 2014 Canadian Championship and the final of the 2014-15 Concacaf Champions League. In 2016, Klopas returned to the Fire to become the club’s broadcast color analyst.
If you had bet across the board on the lifetime success of Tom F. Carey, you would have won big. A giant in the business of horseracing and a Chicago Catholic League gridiron legend, Mr. Carey, 87 passed away peacefully Dec. 17th at his home in Florida after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. He is a 1998 inductee to Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
Tom, a native of Chicago’s Southeast Side was born Nov 11, 1932 into what is today one of the most recognizable families in all of horseracing. The Carey’s of Hawthorne Race Track. It’s rare to find a man with two destinies; one in football and the other in the business of horseracing, but Tom certainly did and made the very best of both.
A football star at Chicago Mt. Carmel and a lifelong contributor and champion of the school, he was the quarterback of coach Terry Brennan’s undefeated 1950 City Championship team that Chicago Sun Times prep reporter Taylor Bell heralded as the greatest Illinois high school football team of its era. Post-graduation he and five Mt. Carmel Caravan teammates headed to the University of Notre Dame where they joined fellow Catholic League legend and Fenwick High School alum Johnny Lattner. Tom played quarterback for the Irish from 1951-1953 under Frank Leahy and then again for his former high school coach and Notre Dame alum Terry Brennan for his senior season in 1954. He and Ralph Guglielmi were the QB’s the year Lattner won the Heisman in 1953 and he later called Lattner, “The greatest athlete he ever saw play.”
Tom returned to Mt. Carmel High School in 1956 to take over the football program as head coach and helmed the program from 1956-1960. As head coach of the Caravan he won 4 sectional titles and the 1960 City Prep Bowl Championship, with his younger brother Tony, also a future Notre Dame star, playing quarterback. The quarterbacking Carey’s along with the quarterbacking Lynch brothers of today’s modern era hold the unique distinction of being the only brother combinations in Mt. Carmel history to have coached each other to a championship win. Current Mt. Carmel head football coach Jordan Lynch coached his younger brother Justin to a class 7A State Championship win this past fall.
Foregoing an almost certain celebrated career in coaching, Tom elected to get a law degree from Northwestern and in 1969 joined his father Robert F. Carey in the century plus family business of owning and operating Cicero’s Hawthorne Race Track. He became president of Hawthorne in 1980.
Tom helped Arlington International Racecourse rebuild after a 1985 fire at the northwest suburban track that could have put Arlington permanently out of business. He offered to let Arlington run races at Hawthorne, which it did.
Without that, “You would have had a pause in racing in Illinois, and the horses may not have come back,” said Jim Miller, director of media relations for Hawthorne.
“Smoke was still coming out” when Mr. Carey arrived to lend a hand, said Dick Duchossois, chairman emeritus of Arlington. “He was the first one sitting on our doorstep to say ‘You can run the rest of your meet at Hawthorne.’”
“We went over there with all of our troops” to finish the season and many racing jobs were saved as a result, Duchossois said. Tom was a hands-on, highly visible figure at Hawthorne, which is now operated by his nephew Tim Carey.
“On racing day, he would be there in the winner’s circle,” Miller said. “He would be in the paddock as the horses were being saddled. He would eat in the food court with the patrons.”
During his era, top thoroughbreds that ran at the track included Cryptoclearance, Awesome Again and Black Tie Affair. If there is ever a horse to be named in Tom’s memory, “Double Destiny” has a nice ring to it.
Tom is survived by his wife Susan and six children. Services were held.