Saturday, February 28, 2015

Joe McCarthy's 10 Commandments of Baseball

Joe McCarthy is one of the most influential managers in baseball history. He spent 20 years in the minor leagues as a player and manager. While managing in the minor leagues, McCarthy created a document called the 10 Commandments of baseball. It's a simple list of principles that may seem self-evident to those who were coached  kids playing Little League. But it's a great list of rules that make sense in baseball and life.  Many coaches use the principles, but have no idea where the came from. 

McCarthy never made it to the big leagues as a player, but managed the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in what some would describe as the Golden Era of baseball.  McCarthy was raised in tough time and his widowed mother thought he should be apprenticed to a local plumber.  A parish priest spoke to the mother and thought he had a chance to play baseball and might even go to college.  He did and Mrs. McCarthy was happy with the results.  No offense to plumbers--it's good honest work as well. 

Joe McCarthy still holds the record for the winningest percentage of all MLB managers. There were few managers as bright as McCarthy and few player managers as good.  He managed Hall of Famers such as Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams. He deserves much credit as one the chief architects of the Yankee dynasty. He managed against most of the greats in baseball history such as John McGraw and Connie Mack.

McCarthy is a conduit to great baseball memories and the classic book called The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne does just that.  Beside laying a brief history down of the great McCarthy's baseball life, Thorne illustrated McCarthy's baseball principles with stories of Thorne's amateur career and dozens of stories from the greatest days of baseball.  Right now you can get a copy at Amazon, but it may not be around for long as the author is about to featured on a popular sports radio program and the supply is limited. I once had a reader tell me that J.D.'s book is a perfect book for a long airplane ride---it offers greater entertainment.  We include many vintage photographs from the National Baseball Hall of Fame (it is sold there as well).

The photo above depicts depicts Babe Ruth with another legendary manager, John McGraw, (both are discussed).  Ruth was winding down his career as McCarthy was making a name for himself.  Photo from Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

Monday, February 23, 2015

NFL History for Lawyers: Pillars of the NFL

After I had worked for a company that provided information for lawyers and other professionals, I saw an opportunity to publish a sports book that would appeal to professional people.  Patrick McCaskley agreed with me and he followed a book model that would satisfy people who were looking for a good solid history of the ten coaches we covered in Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Won Three or More Championships.  We were trying to capture the football essence of these great men and presented their early football lives, their coaching careers, their contribution to the game and their football timelines.  It was a very difficult project.  For some coaches, there was more than enough books and other sources, but for others it was a struggle.  We stocked the book with end notes to show our sources and for enthusiasts who might want to continue their search for even more information.  I think for the real NFL enthusiasts, we have published a real legacy they can own.    

So if you want to know the story behind Halas, Chamberlin, Lambeau, Brown, Lombardi, Noll, Ewbank, Gibbs, Walsh, and Belichick--you can pick up Pillars of the NFL.  

Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jim Thorpe Remembered

The sons of Jim Thorpe have advanced a court fight the last few years to exhume Thorpe's body from a town in Pennsylvania and bring it back for burial on American Indian land in Oklahoma.  One ruling sided with the sons, but has been reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals.  The original ruling had applied the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, a law that requires museums and federal agencies possessing American Indian remains to return them when requested by a deceased's family or tribe.  The appeal said that the Judge had misapplied the act. 

Thorpe died at his trailer home in Lomita, California at 64 years old.  Thorpe's third wife did not bury him in Oklahoma after the governor there would not pay for a monument to the athlete.  Two Pennsylvania towns agreed to merge, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, and built a memorial and named the new town Jim Thorpe. He has been buried in a beautiful roadside mausoleum there since his death in 1953.  Thorpe's grandsons are on record as agreeing that the town has done right with the body and have sided with the Poconos town.  While the Thorpe's disagree on the burial site, this dispute does not seem money related as other high profile burial disputes can often be.

Many consider Thorpe to be the best athlete of the 20th Century.  Thorpe was a football, baseball, and track star who won the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics.

 At the Olympic Games of 1912 in  Stockholm King Gustaf V of Sweden called Thorpe the greatest athlete in the world and no one disagreed. A short time later, the  Amateur Athletic Union accused him of receiving pay for playing summer baseball and sent back the gifts and medals.  It was common for young athletes particularly college students to play a little ball on the side to help with expenses.  Evidence from 1912 showed that Thorpe's disqualification had occurred after the 30-day time period allowed by Olympics rules, in October 1982, the IOC Executive Committee approved Thorpe's reinstatement.

From 1913-1919, Thorpe played major league baseball  He played mostly for the New York Giants.  He played outfield and had a lifetime batting average of .252.  The next decade, he went on to play professional football and moved around from team to team.  He started playing in Canton for the Bulldogs when it was still a semi pro team and was a player/coach. The Bulldogs were owned by Ralph E. Hay who owned a dealership in town that sold Jordan Hupmobiles and Pierce-Arrows.  Hay would be remembered for his work with George Halas and others to establish the NFL itself. 

Thorpe built his team around three leading offensive players in the backfield from the Carlisle Indian School: Joe Guyan, Pete Calac, and Thorpe himself.  In 1920, the Canton Bulldogs and several other teams started professional football. Next year, Thorpe played for the Cleveland Indians and then he moved on to a famous Indian professional football team, the Oorang Indians.  Jim Thorpe’s Oorang Indians team of Larue, Ohio, had a competent group of players, but owner Walter Lingo had many interests.  Lingo’s Oorang Kennels was the largest mail order dog breeding business in the country specializing in Airedales. Lingo had a love for his dogs as well as American Indian lore, and he concocted a show that he put on at games to promote his interests.  It is said that the show was so elaborate that the players felt like the game itself was of secondary importance.  Thorpe continued to move around and finished out his NFL career in 1928. 

Thorpe was married three time and had eight children.  He is remembered with great affection by his fans, including many who witnessed his athletic feats in film. 

Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sports Can be Used to Teach Kids Good Lessons

We've had a bit of come down recently over the Little League ruling against a team that been placed in high esteem by media and the man/woman on the street.  So regardless of how people look at that situation, it might be a good time to reinforce the fact that sports offers many lessons that can be applied to life. Sports as a metaphor for life hit me squarely between the eyes when I started working on our first book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) by J.D. Thorne.

It seems to me that almost everything that's important for us to pass down to our kids cannot be accomplished strictly by lectures or what I would call a frontal assault on kids brains. From our ideas on character to our desire to see our kids learn the benefits of hard work, from our faith to our valuing a good sense of humor, most everything we deem important cannot be passed on to another generation by simply touting it.

You hear a lot about learning through the use of games today in school--like this is something new because much of it will be done on computers. Good teachers have known from the earliest days of education that you have to work some fun, some culture, some real life experiences into those lesson plans. In the new testament, Jesus told parables to get His lessons across. The Old Testament is full of songs, stories and poetry for the same reason. Even the most profound and valid ideas the world has known need interesting stories or experiences to get them across.

Rather than conflict with studies and other pursuits, we believe sports can help motivate kids and be used to teach principles that will be helpful in all walks of life. Sports lessons can be life lessons. But it's going to take some effort. From the PE instructor to the coach, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to connect the dots for kids. For example, if kids are not taught the connection between teamwork on the field and teamwork off the field, they may miss it altogether. If players are taught to look out for their teammate in the game, but someone is not there to enforce the same principle to help kids look out for others who are being bullied, a great opportunity is missed. If an student learns not to deride a fellow player who makes a mistake, that same student ought to be told that the same principle holds true in the classroom.

At Sporting Chance Press we are doing our bit to help connect these lessons through our books, but a coach, a teacher, an aide, and a parent can make a greater contribution. Competition is a key ingredient in sports and it is one of those things that will be with us until the end of time in life as well. Most people in sports and physical education believe that without competition, sports lose much of their attraction and power with kids. But schools need to build in other goals for their sports and PE programs--and be serious about those goals. And kids and coaches need higher priorities than competition.

A ten minute pep talk on fighting bullying is going to help...a little. But the values we want our kids to embrace need to be emphasized and acknowledged by those who run the programs repeatedly, just like drills that are used for skill building. But the one thing we all should never forget is that in sports, lessons can be fun and engaging.

In soccer for example, there are drills that show how three players who are working as a team can pass the ball back and forth to frustrate a two-man defense. A coach might simply ask the kids at the end of a practice if they can see how this kind of teamwork may help in other areas of life to get kids thinking about the power of helping each other out. It can be that simple, but repetition is key. Values must be built into all programs and never let go.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life).  This book  is an mix of professional baseball principles that are illustrated by the baseball experiences of athletes. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager.

How Halas Saw the Promise in Pro Football

Magnificent Jim Thorpe
After starting a new engineering job for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad,
George Halas tried out and made a semipro football team, the Hammond Pros in 1919.  In his first game, he saw celebrated athlete Jim Thorpe and Hammond teammate Gil Falcon repeatedly go after each other like a couple of charging bulls.  Thorpe ended up winning the game on a touchdown run that was followed by a fine play on defense.  Thorpe was impressive in many ways—he was a one-man sports franchise who might play on several different teams in a single week.  Halas was awed with how football could attract a crowd, even at a semipro level.  He also remembered something his college coach Bob Zuppke from the University of Illinois said to his players:

"Just when I teach you fellows how to play football, you graduate, and I lose you."

Halas saw firsthand how men, who were past their college years, could get bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher—taking the sport to a new level. It's hard to imagine a world without pro football now.  As good as the college game is now, who would even give a moment's notice to the college career of Tom Brady.  Even the great running backs college careers are often forgotten outside their home state.  The pro game gives  players an opportunity to shine years after their college careers and gives us something to carry us through at least part of these long winters.

George Halas and a  few other visionaries saw the promise of pro football long ago.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

George Papa Bears' Early 1930s

In 1930, Halas and co-owner Dutch Sternaman hired Ralph Jones, who was athletic director at Lake Forest Academy, to coach the Bears.  Halas believed it was a good step to take to resolve the differences that had crept up in the owners’ relationship.  They both knew Jones from his days at the University of Illinois.  Jones made innovative adjustments to the Bears’ offense that gave the team a more mobile attack.  The Bears also added University of Minnesota standout, Bronko Nagurski, who gave the team one of the greatest power-runners of all time as well as a bone-crushing tackler.  With Red Grange and several other excellent players on the roster as well, the Bears were a formidable power.  

However, the Bears were almost derailed in 1931.  Dutch Sternaman needed money and decided to sell his stake in the team.  Tough negotiations between the two partners were followed by some desperate financial moves by Halas to raise the money at a time when many of the banks had gone out of business.  A few good friends and some last-minute maneuvers saved Halas’s stake in the Bears.

Overall, the Bears would continue their winning ways.  In the first 5 years of the 1930s, the Bears would win, place, or show in each of those seasons.  The number of teams were much more tightly controlled in the 1930s and the competition got tougher.  The Bears would continue in the first three places again, but within their smaller conference.  

Bears’ 1930 and 1931 Seasons

In Ralph Jones’s first season in 1930, the Bears recovered nicely from 1929.  For the season, the Bears scored 169 points and allowed 71 from their opponents.  They finished 9–4–1 for the season for third place behind the first place Green Bay Packers and the second place New York Giants.  Two of the Bears’ losses were to Green Bay.

Added to the 1931 Bears’ roster was halfback Keith Molesworth.  The Bears finished 8–5–0 in 1931 for another third place finish.  The Packers were winding up a three year championship run under Curly Lambeau.  The Portsmouth Spartans took second place.  The Bears scored 145 points and allowed 92 from their opponents. 

Bears’ 1932 Championship

Back George Corbett and Hall of Fame end Bill Hewitt were added to the Bears’ roster in 1932.  The season did not start out well for the Chicago Bears as they tied their first three games and then lost to the Green Bay Packers in their fourth.  The Bears turned things around after that and won 6 while tying 3 to give them a 6–1–6 record for their regularly scheduled games.  The Portsmouth Spartans ended the season at 6–1–4, which put them in first with the Bears.  Tied games were not considered in the standings.  It was determined that a championship game would be played in Chicago.   

Horrific weather sent the teams indoors to the Chicago Stadium, where the game was played on an abbreviated field with modifications.   Halas made the case that the game could be played there like the Bears had played an exhibition game.  

The field was only 80 yards long and 15 feet less that the 160 feet width.  The single goalpost was moved in place as needed.  The crowd was sitting a few feet from the playing field border above a wall.  For the first time, when a ball went out of bounds it was placed ten feet in from the border of the field.  This was the precursor to the hash marks arrangement in future years.

In Richard Whittingham's book, the Chicago Bears: An Illustrated History, Whittingam points out that the sounds of battle in the indoor arena gave the fans a true sense of the violence of the game--men crashing together in a way that could not be compared to an outdoor stadium. 

The Bears triumphed, 9–0, in a game that featured a Nagurski to Grange touchdown pass after the Bears brought the ball downfield on an interception.  Nagurski had moved the ball from the 7-yard line down to the 2-yard line on the first down, but was stymied in two successive rushes.  He lined up again, but rather than run for the score, he pulled up and backpedaled before flipping it to an open Red Grange in the end zone.  Potsy Clark, the Portsmouth coach, howled at the referee that Nagurski was not a full 5-yards back of the line (the rule at the time), but it was to no avail.  Bears won.  

Oddly enough, the Bears had an indoor championship game win in1932.  And despite the comfort of playing indoors at home, an indoor Bears stadium has yet to exist since. 

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL. 

Joe Gibbs Professional Football Career

Joe Gibbs would also spend time as an assistant coach in the NFL before he got a head coaching position. His college coach, Don Coryell, would play a key role in Gibbs’s career movements. As he developed his own approach, Gibbs was a tireless coach who expected everyone around him to work until the job was done regardless of the hours. In his coaching rooms, there would be no clocks.  Gibbs’s assistant coach Joe Brugel once said, "It's like Las Vegas.  Time doesn't matter."

St. Louis Cardinals

After Coryell had moved to the St. Louis Cardinals in the pros, he hired Gibbs in 1973, this time as offensive backfield coach. Gibbs stayed in St. Louis through 1977. The Cardinals record for those years was 42–27–1. During this time, Gibbs became engrossed in competitive racquetball and won the nationals senior title in 1976.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gibbs moved on to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach, John McKay, in 1978. Gibbs and McKay had worked together at USC.  Gibbs served as offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers.

San Diego Chargers

Once again, Gibbs met up with Don Coryell who had moved to the San Diego Chargers. Gibbs was set to take up the job of backfield coach in 1979, but Ray Perkins, the current offensive coordinator, left for the Giants so Gibbs was given the coordinator position.  The Chargers won the AFC West in 1979 and 1980 with Gibbs as offensive coordinator and Coryell as head coach. They lost the AFC Championship in 1980 to the Oakland Raiders who were on their way to win the Super Bowl. 

Washington Redskins

Gibbs left San Diego for the head coaching job for the Washington Redskins in 1981.  The legendary Washington Redskins’ General Manager, Bobby Beathard, supported Gibbs as a candidate when the Redskins were looking for a new coach. Washington Redskins’ majority owner, Jack Kent Cooke, considered to be an excellent judge of talent himself, signed Gibbs. Cooke worked out a fairly general contract that Gibbs shook on without counsel and in time Cooke generously rewarded Gibbs financially in a way that perhaps no formal written contact would have stipulated.

In Gibbs’s first 12-season stretch as Redskins’ coach, he led his team to three Super Bowl victories and four NFC Championships.  His Redskins made the playoffs an incredible 8 times in 12 years.  His .683 winning percentage was third best behind Vince Lombardi and John Madden.  Gibbs holds an overall NFL head coaching record of 171–101–0. Gibbs was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. He was named AP Coach of the Year twice, Sporting News Coach of the Year three times, Pro Football Weekly Coach of the Year twice, and UPI Coach of the Year once.

Gibbs took stock of his talent and put together a program to win that was based on existing personnel.  His high-energy, tireless approach to creating game plans consumed long hours well into the night, but the effort was visible on the playing field. And regardless of his lofty success, Gibbs always respected and appreciated his players, his coaches, his fans, and his owners.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL.