Pillars of the FWAA: Dave Campbell (1925-), Waco Tribune-Herald

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 16th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Dave Campbell was the 1988 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

For a guy who worked 51 years in the newspaper business, Dave Campbell will be remembered longer, at least in his own state, for starting a magazine. Campbell founded Texas Football in 1960 and more than a half a century later the magazine is still going strong.

Dave Campbell, 1988 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Dave Campbell, 1988 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

In the summer of 1959 Campbell, who was already sports editor of Waco Tribune-Herald, picked up several college football annuals at a local newsstand.

“I was struck by how many errors there were,” Campbell said of the magazines. “I was covering the Southwest Conference and it was pretty abbreviated coverage. One magazine left Baylor out entirely, and that was my alma mater.”

Football was extremely popular in Texas, particularly high school football. Campbell figured he could certainly do a better job covering the college teams in his state than the other magazines.

With the help of Tribune-Herald staffers Al Ward, Jim Montgomery and Hollis Biddle, Campbell got down to business. They started by mailing out questionnaires to the high school coaches in the state. They visited all the coaches in the Southwest Conference after spring practice.

“I never worked harder in my life,” said Campbell. “(The magazine) had a great reception. It was an artistic success, but not a financial one.”

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Pillars of the FWAA: Si Burick (1909-1986), Dayton Daily News

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 15th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Si Burick was the 1984 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Si Burick liked to say that he became sports editor of the Dayton Daily News at 19 and never received a promotion. He never retired, either.

Burick was still working when he died of a stroke at age 77.

Si Burick, 1984 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Si Burick, 1984 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Born in Dayton, Burick began writing for the Daily News at age 16, serving as correspondent for Stivers High School. The pay: $2 a week. He received his first byline Aug. 26, 1925.

Burick, the son of a rabbi, enrolled at the University of Dayton with grander plans. He wanted to become a doctor. Monetary problems forced him to withdraw from school.

In 1928 he was summoned to the office of James M. Cox, the publisher of the Daily News, three-time governor of Ohio and a presidential candidate in 1920. Cox offered him the job as sports editor. His first “Si-ings” column appeared Nov. 16, 1928.

Dayton may never have been home to major league teams, but Burick soon became a major league columnist. He covered his first Kentucky Derby in 1929. Over the next 50 years he missed only two Derbys.

Burick, who served as president of the FWAA in 1972, began covering the World Series in 1930. He became a regular at the Cincinnati Reds’ training camp beginning in 1937. He worked the first 20 Super Bowls.

But Burick’s columns weren’t limited by the borders of the United States. He wrote about Wimbledon and even traveled to Japan with the Reds in 1978.

“He was from another, glamorous generation when he would travel the country, and the world sometimes, covering all the major events,” said Ralph Morrow, who served as Burick’s executive sports editor for years.

Burick was well connected. He developed such a close relationship with heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano that he would meet Marciano for breakfast after many of Marciano’s fights.

Morrow handled the administrative part of the sports department, but Burick was still the boss, the final word on everything.

“When I made a major change or assignment, I always consulted Si,” said Morrow.

Hal McCoy, the Hall of Fame baseball writer for the Dayton Daily News, worked with Burick for years.

“Outside of the office he was one of the nicest, funniest, most humorous persons you’ll ever met,” said McCoy. “Inside the office he was a demon, a real taskmaster. If there was an error in the paper, he went nuts.”

Burick’s influence around Dayton went well beyond the newspaper. He became the first regular radio sportscaster in the state at WHIO in 1935. He began a side career on television in 1949 and worked in radio until 1961.

Dayton may have been 40 miles north of Cincinnati, but Burick made sure his newspaper competed with the Cincinnati papers when covering the Reds and Bengals.

Baseball was probably his favorite sport. He lived at 714 Otterbein Ave., the house number matching Babe Ruth’s career total in home runs. When Hank Aaron passed Ruth’s record, people asked Burick if he planned to move. He was elected to the writers’ section of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

Although he never graduated from Dayton, he did receive an honorary doctor of humane letters in 1977.

It was an appropriate acknowledgment for a man who took the written word very seriously. Morrow often edited Burick’s columns, but usually found himself as busy as the Maytag repairman.

“He was an immaculate writer, often not even needing a comma,” Morrow said of Burick.

He wanted everything done right.

“Everybody (else) tried to avoid handling his column, because if there was a mistake, you were going to catch hell,” said McCoy, who began covering the Cincinnati Reds in 1972 and was inducted into the writers’ wing at Cooperstown in 2002. “You didn’t make a change in his copy without going to him, showing it to him and convincing him.”

McCoy said when he was young he used to ride to Reds games with Burick just to learn the profession.

“I learned more in one month from him than I did in four years of journalism school,” said McCoy.

Pillars of the FWAA: Bill Lumpkin (1928-), Birmingham Post-Herald

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 14th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Bill Lumpkin was the 1997 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Bill Lumpkin learned early in his career that working for a newspaper would not make him rich. He started working for the Birmingham Post at age 15 for $16.50 a week, including overtime. And then, while a student at Alabama and stringing for the Post, he was asked to cover the opening of a rubber plant in Tuscaloosa.

It cost Lumpkin 20 cents to ride the bus to the rubber plant and back, plus 5 cents to buy the newspaper the next day. The Post paid him 5 cents an inch. After he turned in a 15-inch story on the rubber plant, the paper ran only two. He lost money on the deal.

Bill Lumpkin, 1997 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Bill Lumpkin, 1997 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Lumpkin’s mother, Clara, worked at the Post, first as a switchboard operator and later in the business office.

“You’re not going to sit on your butt all summer and play softball,” Clara told her son in the spring of 1944. “Get down to the paper. They’re looking for an office boy.”

Bill began as a copy boy. His duties included calling the weather bureau and writing two paragraphs for the front page. “I couldn’t put a sentence together,” he said. Later he started writing a radio column called “Timely Tips for Nightly Dial Twisters,” which amounted to pasting up the releases that the radio stations mailed to the paper. He also filled paste pots, went out for coffee, ran copy to the composing room and did other “go-fer” jobs.

Oddly, Lumpkin also had a paper route, delivering the competition, the Birmingham News. “I don’t know if they knew,” he said of his bosses at the Post. “They probably didn’t care.”

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Pillars of the FWAA: Pat Harmon (1916-2013), Cincinnati Post

ffaw_redesign

The Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 13th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Pat Harmon was the 2004 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Pat Harmon of the Cincinnati Post, 2004 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Pat Harmon of the Cincinnati Post, 2004 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Bill Koch covered the Cincinnati Reds for only half a season for the Cincinnati Post. Wherever he traveled around the National League, a similar scene would unfold. Other writers would ask Koch about Pat Harmon, the columnist/sports editor at the Post.

“He knew everybody,” said Koch. “When they found out I was from the Cincinnati Post, they wanted to know how Pat was. Jim Murray (the legendary columnist from the Los Angeles Times) even asked how Pat was. I found out what a big deal he was.”

Most sports columnists become well known in their own market. It seemed that Harmon was well known in every market.

“I was always amazed how many sports personalities he knew around the country,” said Barry Cobb, who worked for the Post for 38 years. “He knew everybody. He knew all the big athletes, owners, coaches.”

Harmon built his reputation as a gregarious guy with wavy red hair who enjoyed a beer or two, occasionally with his old baseball announcing buddy, Harry Caray.

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Pillars of the FWAA: Edwin Pope (1928-), Miami Herald

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 12th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Edwin Pope was the 2001 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

It seemed like a logical endeavor to 11-year-old Edwin Pope. Listening to the 1940 Orange Bowl game between Georgia Tech and Missouri, Pope decided to type every word that Ted Husing said on the radio, commercials included.

Pope had learned to type in first grade when he hung around his father’s cotton warehouse, practicing on a used typewriter that his father had bought for $10. “I don’t know where the $10 came from,” said Pope. “Those were tough times in the cotton business.”

Edwin Pope, 2001 winner of the Bert McGrane Award

Edwin Pope, 2001 winner of the Bert McGrane Award

The day after the game, Pope rode his bicycle to the Athens Banner-Herald and proudly delivered his typed out report. In those days newspapers often ran long stories of football games that amounted to little more than play-by-play accounts.

The people in the newsroom passed young Pope along from one person to another until he finally met the editor.

“This is not a running story,” the editor told Edwin. “This is a radio account. We can’t use this. But I want to get a little information on you.”

Instead of printing Pope’s story in the paper the next day, the paper ran a story about Pope. For more than half a century later that framed story hung on Pope’s wall.

The young boy had squeezed his foot through the door and into the newspaper business. The editor asked him to cover stories at the YMCA.

“We can’t offer you any money, but you’ll learn a lot,” said Pope. “He was right on both accounts.”

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Pillars of the FWAA: Maury White (1919-1999), Des Moines Register

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 11th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Maury White was the 1980 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

 By Gene Duffey

Marc Hansen was a young columnist for the afternoon Des Moines Tribune. He and Maury White, the veteran columnist of the Des Moines Register, were friendly rivals, often riding together to college football games.

“They were like being in a seminar,” Hansen said of the drives to college campuses at locations such as Lincoln, Neb., or Champaign, Ill. “I learned how to be organized. (Maury) said the last thing you want to be doing on deadline is flipping through a bunch of papers. He was very professional in the way he went about his job.”

Maury White, 1980 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Maury White, 1980 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Hansen recalled one of those trips to Nebraska when the two columnists attended the Cornhuskers’ Friday afternoon practice. Coach Tom Osborne interrupted practice to come over and say hello to White. White introduced Osborne to Hansen, who was impressed by the respect that the Nebraska coach showed the veteran columnist.

“Maury was as fair as they came,” said Forest Evashevski, the successful Iowa football coach during White’s prime writing days. “He had great respect for the truth.”

Maury White was a very good writer. If you didn’t believe it, just ask him.

“He was almost as good as he said he was,” said a laughing Hansen, who teamed up with White when their papers merged in the early 1980s. “And he would be sure to let you know about it. Maury did not lack self-confidence. He thought he knew everything, and he pretty much did, and he told you that.”

White’s ego never made him aloof to his colleagues. “He couldn’t have been more helpful to me,” said Hansen.

White had covered most of the major sporting events, including the 1968 Olympics in Mexico and the 1976 Games in Montreal. But when the Olympics were staged in Los Angeles in 1984, Hansen received the assignment, not White.

“He could have taken that very badly,” said Hansen. “(But) he went out of his way to help me.”

Track was one of White’s favorite sports, along with college football and golf. He developed a close friendship with Bruce Jenner, who came out of Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, to win the gold medal in the decathlon at Montreal. “The first time he came up to me, I felt like I was talking to a legend,” said Jenner.

The outstanding male athlete at the annual Drake Relays now receives the Maury White Award.

White was a good athlete himself. He played football in high school, scoring 128 points his senior year at Manilla High School in western Iowa. He went on to play at Drake.

He scored both touchdowns to help the Bulldogs upset Iowa State 14-13 in 1941. White took umbrage when a newspaper reported that he had caught the Cyclones “off guard” considering his outstanding high school career.

White served in the Navy during World War II, then joined the Register. The newspaper game was part of the family legacy. His father, grandfather and great grandfather had all worked in the business. Maury described himself as “an ink stained ragamuffin.” He became a columnist full time in 1965 and president of the FWAA in 1967.

Winning the Bert McGrane meant something special to White because McGrane had also worked at the Register.

He gained respect wherever he went.

“I never saw a better interviewer than Maury White,” said Joe McGuff, former sports editor and columnist at the Kansas City Star.  “He always asked all the right questions as well as questions no one else would think of asking.”

White usually managed to find a different angle for his columns. “He did not write what everyone else was writing,” said Hansen. “He looked for the story within the story, that little nugget that nobody else had. He took pride in writing what nobody else was writing.”

White wrote for the Register for 41 years before retiring in January 1988.

“He had opportunities to go elsewhere,” said Hansen, who is now retired. “There was no other paper as far as he was concerned. He could have written for any section in the paper. He knew what was going on beyond the outfield walls.”

One year at the Rose Bowl, White thought another writer was taking far too long to finish his game story. To make a point, White set the guy’s copy on fire. When a security guard hurried over to investigate, White confronted him: “Don’t you know who I am?”

That was Maury White.

Pillars of the FWAA: Tom Siler (1909-88), Knoxville News-Sentinel

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 10th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Tom Siler was the 1979 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Tom Siler probably liked Jack Webb on the old “Dragnet” television show. Webb’s trademark line “Just the facts, Mam. Nothing but the facts.” personified the low-key way Siler approached his newspaper reporting.

Tom Siler, 1979 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Tom Siler, 1979 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

“He wrote in plain English,” said Marvin West, who worked for Siler for 20 years and succeeded him as sports editor at the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “By today’s standards, he was rather a vanilla writer. He was an excellent reporter and good interviewer. He got the story told very nicely.”

“He was organized,” said Roland Julian, another veteran of the News-Sentinel sports department. “He made sure he had his facts right. Tom was always objective. Some people didn’t like it when he criticized the University of Tennessee, but sometimes it was needed.”

“He wasn’t a cheerleader,” said West. “He was a patient teacher.”

In those days sports editors would run the department as well as write columns. Siler knew how to get along with people.

“He delegated and let you do (your job),” said West. “He would have been a great editor of the newspaper. He had a great feel for news and how to deal with people. He could talk to bank presidents or the guy who swept the field. He could go with kings or commoners.”

Siler had a knack for being there when momentous events occurred in the sports world.

He covered Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees in the World Series. He was there for Hank Aaron’s record 715th home run. He interviewed New York Yankees star Lou Gehrig changing trains in Chicago after returning from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

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Pillars of the FWAA: Paul Zimmerman (1903-96), Los Angeles Times 1

ffaw_redesign

The Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will, over the next few months, publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:   http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the ninth installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Paul Zimmerman was the 1976 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

There are no official records of the press corps from the 1932 Olympic Games, but Paul Zimmerman is believed to be the only man to cover both the ’32 Olympics and the 1984 Games, both held in Los Angeles.

Zimmerman covered the 1932 Games for the Associated Press before joining the Los Angeles Times. He became sports editor of the Times in 1939 and held that position until he retired in 1968.

Even though he was retired and in his 80s, Zimmerman wrote several stories for the Times special section previewing the 1984 Olympics and covered the Games for a Japanese newspaper.

Zimmerman covered six other Summer Olympics from 1948 to ’68 and also the 1960 Winter Games, held in Squaw Valley, Calif.

He was best known for his coverage of college football, particularly in the days before all the pro teams began arriving in Los Angeles.

Paul Zimmerman, 1986 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Paul Zimmerman, 1986 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Zimmerman played a part in that, too, particularly with the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. He received a commendation from the city for helping bringing Walter O’Malley’s baseball team west.

USC opened the 1966 football season at Texas. The Longhorns were led by a heralded sophomore quarterback (when freshmen were not eligible for the varsity) named Bill Bradley. Zimmerman made it to Austin the Thursday before the game to write previews.

Bradley turned out to be a better punter than a quarterback. USC won 10-6 and Bradley ended up playing defensive back before his college career ended. Zimmerman was so well connected that he attended a buffet at Texas coach Darrell Royal’s house after the game.

Zimmerman covered most of the big events in the Los Angeles area for several decades. He wrote about Seabiscut’s win in the Big Cap Race at Santa Anita in 1940. He covered the first Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, played at The Coliseum in 1967, before it was even known as the Super Bowl.

He died Jan. 28, 1996, the day they played Super Bowl XXX.

Zimmerman, who won the Bert McGrane Award in 1976, showed his true talents as a sports editor with everything that went on behind the scenes at the Times.

“Paul was noted for his editing,” said Furman Bisher, a contemporary of Zimmerman’s and the 1982 Bert McGrane winner. “Writing wasn’t one of his leading qualities, but organizing and producing a sports section was. He’d make these present day sports sections look like wrapping paper, which most are.”

“The writing was the part I liked,” Zimmerman once said.

He was a 1927 graduate of the University of Nebraska before heading for Los Angeles.

“Zimmerman typified the old-time sports writer and editor who emphasized the nuts and bolts of a sports section and was straightforward in his writing style,” said Murray Olderman, the 1991 McGrane winner. “There was still a lot of Nebraska in him in his approach to sports.”

He gained the respect of others in the business. Pete Rozelle was once publicity director of the Los Angeles Rams, beginning in 1952, and   became commissioner of the NFL in 1960.

“I wanted to take his job away someday,” said a young Rozelle, who worked weekends at the Long Beach Press-Telegram while in high school in Compton, Calif.

Zimmerman also served as Director of Charities for the Times and as a director for the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame, which began in Los Angeles in 1936.

He was no relation to the Paul Zimmerman who wrote for the New York Post and Sports Illustrated.

Paul Bechler Zimmerman watched Los Angeles grow into a major metropolis. The city is home to two NBA teams and at one time hosted two NFL franchises when the Oakland Raiders moved there in 1982 to join the Rams.

But the Rams left for St. Louis in 1995 and the Raiders returned to Oakland the same year. USC and UCLA took over the town, at least in terms of football. Zimmerman probably would have liked it that way.

“He was particularly fond of college football,” said Olderman.

Zimmerman was named to the National Football Foundation Honors Court in 1951. He was named winner of the Jake Wade Award (CoSIDA), given to a media person who has made an outstanding contribution to intercollegiate athletics, in 1968. The first winner of the Jake Wade Award, in 1958, was Bert McGrane.

Pillars of the FWAA: Tim Cohane (1912-1989), Look Magazine

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America  is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will, over the next few months, publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders—all Bert McGrane Award winners.    

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:   http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the eighth installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Tim Cohane was the 1987 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

College football used to be a big deal in New York City. Fordham University was one of the top teams in the country and a young Tim Cohane was in the middle of the action. After graduating from Fordham in 1935, he spent the next five years as the school’s sports information director.

Fordham, which played its home games at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, went undefeated in 1937. The Rams played in the first televised football game, professional or college, in 1939.

The 1936 and ’37 Fordham teams were led by an outstanding line, featuring Alex Wojciechowicz, who went on to become an all-pro with the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Vince Lombardi, who would become one of the greatest coaches in football history, was another member of the Fordham line.

Tim Cohane, 1987 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Tim Cohane, 1987 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Cohane discovered a newspaper clipping from a 1930 Fordham game that referred to the line as “The Seven Blocks of Granite.” He revitalized the nickname and it stuck forever.

He left Fordham in 1940 to join the sports staff of the New York World-Telegram. He covered college football and the Brooklyn Dodgers and wrote a column called, “Frothy Facts.” He also developed a friendship with Army football coach Earl “Red” Blaik. Cohane even suggested that Blaik hire Lombardi as an assistant coach.

“Tim Cohane was a big, gregarious Irishman who never gave up his allegiance to Fordham,” said Murray Olderman, the 1991 Bert McGrane Award winner.

Blaik and Cohane later co-authored a book titled, “You Have To Pay the Price.” Cohane also wrote “The Gridiron Grenadiers,” a history of Army football, and “The Yale Football Story” among his five books.

One of Cohane’s classmates at Fordham was Wellington Mara, who would become the owner of the New York Giants. “He urged Mara to hire Vince Lombardi away from Army as an assistant coach for the New York Giants,” said Olderman.

Lombardi was godfather to one of Cohane’s daughters.

Look Magazine started in 1937, a competitor of the Saturday Evening Post and Life, which was part of the Time Inc. empire. All three were large size weeklies that emphasized photos. Cohane moved to Look as its sports editor in 1944.

He stayed true to his newspaper roots, writing news stories as well as features. He broke the story in Look that Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson planned to retire after the 1956 season.

He never steered away from controversy.

Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis once sued Look for half a million dollars over a Cohane article that claimed Louis was broke and owed $175,000 in back taxes. In 1964 Cohane was found guilty of criminal contempt for failing to reveal his source for a baseball story he wrote for Look.

One of the best known features of Look was the FWAA All-America team it published from 1946 to 1970. “He was a great supporter of the FWAA,” said Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the 1982 McGrane winner. “He had the All-American voters as Look’s guests in New York each year.”

Cohane’s son, Tim, became a basketball coach. As an example of the strong loyalty that Cohane had built among those he covered, his son received a letter of support after resigning as the coach at Dartmouth following a 7-19 season in 1983. Tim had been arguing with the administration over recruiting policies.

The letter came from Earl “Red” Blaik.

Cohane founded the  FWAA’s Grantland Rice Trophy that was presented annually to the national college football champion through the 2013 season. UCLA claimed the first Grantland Rice Trophy in 1954 and Florida State the last one after the FWAA determined it was no longer necessary to crown a champion in light of the new College Football Playoff.

Cohane left Look in 1965, six years before it folded.

In 1968 he took a job teaching business writing at Boston University’s School of Public Communications, finally retiring in 1978.

Cohane suffered a stroke in January 1987. His wife and son accepted the Bert McGrane Award for him in Dallas.

Pillars of the FWAA: Blackie Sherrod (1919-), The Dallas Morning News

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America  is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the personal histories of those in the organization, we will, over the next few months, publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders—all Bert McGrane Award winners.    

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:   http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the seventh installment of the Pillars of the FWAA  series. Blackie Sherrod was  the 1985 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

When Blackie Sherrod finally retired at the age of 80, he put his life ahead of him in perspective for his readers. “Retirement is like a steam bath,” wrote the man of wonderful words. “Once you get to it, it’s not so hot.”

Sherrod did it all in the newspaper business. He wrote stories and he wrote columns. He worked as an editor. He wrote op-ed pieces and finished his marvelous journey by writing a notes column called “Scattershooting.”

Blackie Sherrod, president of the FWAA in 1963 and winner of the Bert McGrane Award in 1985.

Blackie Sherrod, president of the FWAA in 1963 and winner of the Bert McGrane Award in 1985.

“I always thought he was as great an all-around newspaperman as he was a columnist,” said Dan Jenkins, who Sherrod hired at the old Fort Worth Press and went on to become one of the top writers at Sports Illustrated and a noted author.

Sherrod worked as an assistant managing editor at the Dallas Times Herald, outside the sports department. He conducted writing seminars for the reporters. He was so well respected as a newspaperman that the paper sent him to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to cover the 1969 moon shot, although he had never been a science writer. He also covered the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

William Forrest Sherrod, the son of a barber in Central Texas, began his odyssey playing quarterback in high school, making the all-district team as a senior. He enrolled at Baylor on an academic scholarship in 1937, where he enjoyed much less success in football than in high school. He transferred to Howard Payne, in Brownwood, Texas, where he played wingback for a year to little acclaim. Wisely, he spent his last two years there studying journalism.

He graduated from Howard Payne in 1941 and served as a tail gunner and radio man on a torpedo bomber in the Pacific in World War II. He served on the USS Saratoga and USS Santee and was stationed on Guadalcanal.

He landed his first full-time newspaper job in 1946 with the Temple (Texas) Telegram. He didn’t stay there long before joining the Press, the afternoon paper in Fort Worth.

Sherrod covered only one beat in his life. That was the Fort Worth Cats baseball team, at the time part of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm system. The Cats gave him an avenue to the Dodgers spring training camp, where he became friendly with some of the top sports writers from New York City, including Red Smith.

He joined the FWAA in 1950 and served as President in 1963.

When Sherrod became sports editor in Fort Worth, he built an outstanding staff of writers, including Jenkins and Edwin “Bud” Shrake. Jenkins and Shrake were students at TCU, Jenkins recommended his friend to Sherrod.

The writers often needed to be in the office by 6 a.m. to help put out the P.M. paper. And you better be on time.

“Blackie kept us all scared to death,” said Shrake. “We liked him, and we hung out with him, but it wasn’t (ever) considered that you’d be a minute late. And God forbid if you got something wrong.”

“I always thought I was a better editor than a writer,” he said. “I was never a very confident writer,” which is like Willie Mays saying he was a better hitter than an outfielder. He was pretty good at both.

After 12 years at the Press, Sherrod moved over to the Times Herald in Dallas, where he worked for 26 years.

In 1962 Sports Illustrated invited Sherrod and Jenkins to come up for a tryout. “I wasn’t going to audition for anybody,” said Sherrod.

He recognized the impact of television before most in the print industry. If there was a major sporting event on TV that night, Sherrod would put the time and channel in a box in the sports section. “My approach, even then, was that you’d better make it work for you,” he said of the fledgling TV business.

While many sports writers of his quality pen book after book, Sherrod wrote only two, one about Texas football coach Darrell Royal and the other with Longhorn Freddie Steinmark, a member of the Longhorns’ 1969 national championship team who died 18 months later of cancer.

Sherrod switched to the Dallas Morning News in 1984. He finally said goodbye in 2008.