Thursday, June 26, 2014

1946 Chicago Bears: A Great Post War Year

1946 Bears

World War II ended in 1945.  Following the German surrender on  May 7, 1945, the Japaneese surrendered on August 15 with the surrender documents signed aboard the USS Missouri on September 2. Much work would be done to heal wounds and more conflicts would surface in what would come to be called the Cold War.  Yet, Americans were certainly anxious to return to what they opined as "normal." Certainly, the NFL was poised to give the fans some relief from the post war stress.

Papa Bear  returned from his military service and the Bears' coaching roster included George Halas, Luke Johnsos, "Hunk" Anderson, and Paddy Driscoll.  The Bears had revolutionized offensive formations in the NFL with the modified T Formation that stunned the nation in the 1940 Championship match between the Bears and the Washington Redskins.  The Bears had won three NFL Championships in the 1940s heading into the 1946 season.

In 1946, the Bears racked up an 8–2–1 record.  Sid Luckman had returned to the Bears full-time along with others coming back from military service.  For the season, the Bears scored 289 points and allowed 193 points from their opponents.  They beat the Packers and Lions twice and won single meetings with the Eagles and the Redskins.  They split with the Cardinals and tied the Rams in their first meeting and beat them their second.  The only team that beat the Bears without receiving retribution from the Monsters of the Midway was the New York Giants who won 14–0 on October 27.  It would be these Giants that the Bears would face in the post season. 

1946 Championship Game

The Bears battled the New York Giants in the Polo Grounds on December 15, 1946 for the NFL Championship.  After a Giants’ fumble was recovered by Ed Sprinkle of the Bears at the Giants’ 31-yard line, the Bears’ backs pounded the line on three straight runs that set up the defense for the pass.  Luckman’s tossed a 21-yard scoring pass to Ken Kavanaugh.  A few series later, Dante Magnani picked off a pass thrown by the Giants’ Frankie Filchock and ran it in 40 yards out for another Bears’ score.  The Bears led 14–0 when Filchock hit Frank Liebel on a 38-yard touchdown pass.  After the extra point, the Bears’ lead was cut to 14–7 as the first quarter came to a close.  The second quarter was plagued by a series of untimely penalties and mistakes that killed off scoring opportunities for both teams.  

In the third quarter, the Giants recovered a fumble on the Bears’ 20-yard line.  After moving the ball to the five yard line, Filchock struck again on a touchdown pass to fullback Steve Filipowicz.  After the extra point, the score was tied at 14–14.  When the Bears drove down field to the Giants 19-yard line, Luckman faked a handoff to the very dangerous George McAfee whom the Giants were keying on, and then the crafty quarterback bootlegged in the opposite direction for a score.  A Frank Maznicki field goal late in the game gave the Bears a 24–14 lead, which they held to the end. 

The Bears could look back at one of the most remarkable runs in sports history: four championships in 7 years.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guy Chamberlin Gaining Fans

Guy Chamberlin
One of the greatest coaches in NFL history is Guy "Champ" Chamberlin who coached from 1922-1927.  He won four NFL championships, but he is rarely recognized as one of the greats by modern sports reporters, analysts, and writers.  The fact that Chamberlin played and coached in the first decade of professional football is likely the cause of the consistent lack of attention. He was also from Nebraska (no NFL team today) and the championship teams that he coached no longer exist. Yet, based on championships won, Guy Chamberlin is in the top ten. 

In Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey, Chamberlin  is one of 10 coaches featured.  

Pro Football HOF Chamberlin Display
There was no published biography on Guy Chamberlin and we worked with Lesa Arteburn from the Gage County (Nebraska) Historical Society and Janet Roberts of the Wymore Public Library for background information.  We were also helped out generously by Rob Sherwood from Virginia, who is Guy Chamberlin's grandson.  Official records and other sources were checked as well. As we continued to work with these outstanding people, the chapter on Chamberlin really became a labor of love for our author and work to shine light on the great Guy Chamberlin started to feel like a "mission."   The author's grandfather, George "Papa Bear" Halas played and coached Chamberlin himself and his praise for Chamberlin is immortalized in the book.  In the end, the Chamberlin chapter offers an excellent biography of the great man from Blue Springs.

Our book is new and I think I can say that 99% of Americans have no idea it exists, but I think it will help draw attention to the great coach from Nebraska.  The University of Nebraska has kept the coach's memory alive in the Cornhusker state with its Guy Chamberlin Trophy that honors a top senior football players at the school. The award has existed since Guy Chamberlin's death.  The Gage County Historical Society has featured materials on Chamberlin for some time.  Now it sells Pillars of the NFL and will host a signing and dinner with author, Patrick McCaskey, on December 7, 2014.  Details will follow on the Society's web site as we get closer to the date.  This week, the Beatrice Daily Sun reported in an Austin Buckner article that Blue Springs has been raising money for a Guy Chamberlin memorial to honor the great coach.   Pillars of the NFL is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum Store so thousands of football fans will be able to see the book first hand each year.  

Slowly, but surely, the word on Guy Chamberlin is being renewed by such efforts.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pillars of the NFL: Three Published Reviews

Pillars of the NFL by Patrick McCaskey
Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships now has three published reviews.  

Here they are:

1. Thomas Loarie's Review on Amazon

2. Phil Angelo's Review in the Daily Journal

3. Dolores Madlener's Review in the Catholic New World

London Olympic Stadium Kicks Off Modern Development

Chobham Manor House (Computer Illustration)
London's Olympic Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is promising to become more than just another great venue for sports and entertainment events in the future.  It is the seed of a housing development that is propelling Stratford, East London into modernity.  It all begins in now!

Build the stadium, build the housing, build a new environment for city living.

Developers have been given the green light to begin building the first new homes at Chobham Manor, the first new neighborhood to be built on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  Chobham Manor will feature a mix of one to five-bedroom apartments and houses which are expected to go on sale soon, with residents moving in by late 2015.  Work also begins on the first phase of the new neighborhood itself which will feature tree-lined streets, clean-modern architecture, and landscaped areas.

Most of the original homes will be family homes with three or more bedrooms although they are essentially city buildings with connected units.  For most Americans, the buildings look like what we would think of as city condominiums.  A third of the units will be very affordable housing.  The homes will also feature modern environmental features and comforts.  

The Park-wide master plan calls for five new neighborhoods with up to 6,800 new homes to be built on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  Chobham Manor will comprise of up to 850 homes, with new local schools, the world class sporting venues and picturesque parklands of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park right on their doorstep. Shops, restaurants and entertainment are a short walk away, with new shops and community facilities being built. 

London was able to build the Olympic Stadium and create the new environment for housing development.  In the Unites States, many sports developments are fraught with conflicts, politics, and fighting so fierce it’s hard to imagine anything of this scope being done in most any large US city.  A positive outcome from this London development may help inspire US city development of sports properties.


Our goal at Sporting Chance Press is to provide entertaining books that can give readers a lift in sports and in life. We publish books that give readers insight into the hero within each of us. When sport is at its best, there is a payoff constantly taking shape – a payoff "at work." We are improving—whether it is building self esteem, improving health, developing strong social skills, or learning the habit of achievement. There is a discipline needed in preparing for sports contests and life contests. Getting our bodies and minds in shape for the competition is critical. If we can approach sports training and life with enthusiasm, the contest is pure joy. If we can approach sport and life with passion and not pressure, we can achieve and release that fearless hero within.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Samardzija Coming or Going?

Vineline Samardzija Cover
This year a common thread in Chicago sports media stories is that Jeff Samardzija will be traded to free up money needed to build the struggling Cubs who seem to be years away from contending.  

Samardzija is 2-6 so far this year, but his 2.77 ERA, his 90 strikeouts, and his 1.206 WHIP puts him squarely in the company of the 10 top pitchers in the National League.  He's getting a lot of work, approaching 100 innings pitched, but losing games with a very poor Cubs team.  It's ironic of course that the Cubs originally paid Samardzija for his potential in his first few seasons even though he struggled mightily and the word on "the street" seems to be saying that he will be traded just as he is coming into his own.  

In his early years with the Cubs, many fans wondered if Samardzija chose the wrong sport.  After all, he was a terrific Notre Dame football player. When Samardzija played, he was always the most competitive guy on the field. He looked like he had great career potential in football. As a big 6'5" 215 lbs. receiver, he broke a number of records for the Fighting Irish football team. Samardzija played his last two years during Charlie Weis's ND coaching tenure. As a Junior in 2005, Samardzija had 77 receptions for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch. Samardzija set ND records for receiving yardage and touchdown receptions. He was named by the NCAA as a consensus football All-American for 2005. In 2006, as a senior he caught 78 passes for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged 13 yards per catch. Once again, he was named by the NCAA as a consensus football All-American. 

Samardzija played baseball at ND as well. He was an excellent pitcher with the Irish baseball team. In baseball, Samardzija saw plenty of playing time during his college days. He had a 3.82 ERA and he pitched to a  21-6 career record.  Samardzija chose baseball over football. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs coming out of college and received a generous contract. Known for his intense play in college, he struggled some in Major League Baseball for his first few years. Some thought he just needed to settle down and relax. Others thought he needed to develop more pitches and gain seasoning. Some pundits wrote off Samardzija's baseball career after a few years. Things changed for the better during the 2011 season when Samardzija as a reliever improved to post an 8-4 record with an ERA of 2.97. In  2012 he was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA on the fifth place Cubs.  In 2013, he was 8-13, with a 4.34 ERA on the fifth place Cubs.  He looks very strong this year except in the win-loss record.  

Athletes like Samardzija who have talent in both football and baseball sometimes chose baseball as a safer bet--safer in terms of a sport that might offer a longer career. Pitching however, offers a set of unique physical challenges that pose perhaps more risks. 

The latest news on Samardzija is that the Cubs are discussing a multiyear deal with him. He's set to be a free agent after the 2015 season. There is a lot for the pitcher to consider.  Chicago is a beautiful place to play ball and if the current Cubs' management build a winner, Samardzija will be part of something that will sail off the charts of Chicago sports history.  A Cubs World Series Win would be like five Stanley Cups or three Super Bowls.  But the competitive Samardzija likely wants to be part of winner as he approaches the prime of his career.  Can the Cubs make a solid offer and convince Samardzija that he will be part of winning program?  Are the Cubs likely to make a good faith offer or are they doing what teams do when they go to trade a fan favorite--make it look like they want him, but position the offer knowing that he won't take it and move on. 

One thing remains constant in Samardzija's Cubs career, nothing remains certain and nothing seems clear.
Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of  The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.  For more information.

Noll and Lombardi Had Similar Ideas

Pillars of the NFL
On the surface, Chuck Noll and Vince Lombardi were very different coaches.  Lombardi was hard as nails on his players and he motivated his team with emotional talks and take your breath away rants and raves on the practice field.  Noll was direct and a man of few words.  When Noll did elaborate, sometimes he lost the thread of his message and his players lost the meaning.  Mostly, he kept it simple.

But both coaches spent endless amounts of time to reach the same two objectives: 1. Creating the toughest team in  the NFL.  2. Creating the most fundamentally sound team in the NFL. 

Who could argue that Noll's Steelers and Lombardi's Packers were both tough and fundamentally sound.  

Lombardi's catch phrase, "winning is everything,"  has often been misunderstood to mean that winning by any means is acceptable.  But his players would likely tell us that the "any means" had more to do with their training than things they would do to opposing teams.  By sacrificing their bodies and routinely using every ounce of energy in practice, they became a formidable team on the field.  Lombardi sought to have his players better prepared than any other team.

Noll's catchphrase was "whatever it takes." Again, it's easily misunderstood.  Noll expanded on the notion to say that "whatever it takes"  to become the best team  was his meaning.  For Noll, like Lombardi, it was all about sacrifice for the team, work for the team, playing your role for the team.  

For both Lombardi and Noll, their objectives of toughness and fundamentals was demonstrated and forever remembered in two of pro football's greatest highlights.  

Packers' 1967 NFL Championship Game

Ice Bowl Program
The Packers played the Dallas Cowboys for the NFL Championship on the last day of the year in 1967.  The Packers had a secret weapon—Mother Nature.  Few NFL games have been so well celebrated and memorialized.  The Packers had seen plenty of cold weather before this game, but the so-called “Ice Bowl” was the start of much of the lore and legend surrounding Lambeau Field.  From this game forward, Green Bay fans would not just tolerate the cold at Lambeau, they would relish their “frozen tundra.”

The Cowboys were leading, 17–14, on the Packers’ frigid home field in the fourth quarter.  With only 4:50 on the clock, Lombardi’s offense looked 68 yards downfield to the goal and began a 12-play drive for the win.  They would need almost every second.   

A determined Starr completed a pass out in the flat to Donny Anderson for a 6-yard gain.  Chuck Mercein found enough running room outside for a first down.  Starr tossed one down the middle to Dowler over the 50-yard line and Cornell Green who was struggling with his footing was able to grab and throw Dowler down hard on the tackle to the frozen ground.  It was nip and tuck all the way.  Anderson received a handoff from Starr, but was tackled in the backfield.  It was second down and 19 yards to go for a first on a field that was quickly becoming an ice skating rink.  Starr looked around and tossed Anderson an outlet pass that the halfback turned into another 12-yard gain.  Starr followed with another short pass to Anderson who gained the first down.  Chuck Mercein was targeted next and after the catch he ran the ball down to the Dallas 11-yard line.  Mercein had the hot hand and took a handoff from Starr and ran it up the middle to the 2-yard line.  Anderson rushed to within inches of the goal and a first down.  The tough, determined Cowboys’ defense stuffed two Donny Anderson drives.  Starr went to the sideline and told Lombardi since the backs were slipping, he would take the ball himself on a wedge play, which normally goes to the fullback.  Lombardi famously responded, “Then do it and let’s get the hell out of here.”  As Starr jogged back on the field, the tension in the stands was almost unbearable.

Starr stood behind center with 13 seconds remaining at the 1-yard line with no time outs.  He raised his hands to quiet the crowd and the ball was snapped on a quick count.  Jerry Kramer jumped out at Jethro Pugh, hitting him low, followed by Packer center Ken Bowman hitting Pugh high.  Cleats scratched on ice and Pugh was driven backwards.  Starr shadowed Kramer and plunged into the end zone for the score.  Mercein, who thought Starr was going to hand off to him, trailed the play and raised his arms in the air so the officials knew he was not pushing Starr into the end zone—an infraction that might have caused the Packers the game.  Millions watching thought Mercein was signaling a score! The fans realized that Starr had scored and in the midst of an arctic field of dreams came the deafening roar of the crowd.  Chandler kicked the extra point. 

Defining Moment for Noll’s Steelers

Immaculate Reception Commemorative Football
The defining moment that ended the string of frustration and put the Steelers into a new winning way came at the very end of the divisional playoff game on December 23, 1972.  Pittsburgh had the ball on its own 20-yard line with just 1 minute 20 seconds to go trailing the Oakland Raiders 76.  Bradshaw was no miracle worker in those days and five plays later, the Steelers were still 60 yards from pay dirt with only 22 seconds remaining.  Bradshaw threw over the middle to “Frenchy” Fuqua, but Raiders’ defensive back Jack Tatum crashed into Fuqua and the ball with such force that the ball flew backward like it had been redirected by some unknown hand.  Franco Harris grabbed the ball off his shoelaces in stride and eluded tacklers on his way to the end zone for the score and the win.  The play was called the “Immaculate Reception.”  Although the Steelers went on to lose the AFC Championship to the Dolphins, they made an impression with football fans, their competitors, and most importantly, themselves.  They had arrived.  Noll’s Steelers were winners and now with the Immaculate Reception, it seemed like they had fans in high places.

Harris personified what it meant to play fundamentally sound and give it everything he had.  Although he was apparently out of the play, he kept his head in it and when the ball bounced off Tatum  he was able to pick it up and run for the score.  The extra point gave the Steelers a 137 victory.

In the waning moments of both games, the players took stock of themselves and played solid fundamental football as a team. 

Chuck Noll, the great Steelers' coach and one of the greatest coaches in NFL history died this past week. 

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships that is available at select bookstores, Amazon, and the publisher's web site.