Public League needs football Hall of Fame

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Public League needs football Hall of Fame

With all due respect to the ghosts of Walter Eckersall and George Halas and Knute Rockne and Buddy Young, it is difficult to fathom why the Chicago Public League hasn't found time over the last 100 years to create a Hall of Fame to recognize the great football players, coaches and teams that have been produced in the city.

In fact, a Public League Football Coaches Association hasn't even been organized to establish a Hall of Fame and nominate honorees. You'd have thought that somebody would have taken a hint from the very active Public League Basketball Coaches Association or the tradition-rich Chicago Catholic League Coaches Association's Hall of Fame.

Hubbard football coach Elton Harris said he was trying to organize an association for Public League football coaches that would include a Hall of Fame. Over the years, there just hasn't been enough interest in the project.

It's a shame because the Public League, like the rival Catholic League, is filled with history and tradition dating to the 1880s. The Hyde ParkEnglewood rivalry, the oldest in Illinois and one of the oldest in the country, dates to 1889.

All you need to know is it was a Public League player, the legendary Bill DeCorrevont, who attracted a record crowd of 120,000 to Soldier Field for the 1937 Prep Bowl. That's 120,000 as in more people than have ever witnessed a football game at any level, high school or college or professional, before or since.

For years, the Public League was every bit as competitive as the Catholic League. From 1934 to 1959, the Public League held a 14-10-2 advantage in the Prep Bowl rivalry. Then the Catholic League won 16 in a row until Vocational stunned St. Rita 13-6 in 1976.

"I guess God wanted to make me a (bleep)," said a shocked St. Rita coach, Pat Cronin.

From the 1930s to the early 1970s, before the Illinois High School Association introduced the state football playoff in 1974, the Prep Bowl was the most celebrated high school event in the nation. It annually attracted as many as 70,000, 80,000, even 90,000 people to Soldier Field.

Players such as DeCorrevont, Dale Samuels, Bill Gay, Buddy Young, Abe Woodson, Jack Delveaux, Mike Lind and Dick Butkus became icons.

In the last three decades, Public League football highlights have been few and far between. Robeson finished second in the 1982 state playoff, the only Public League representative ever to qualify for the championship game. Only three others have ever reached the semifinals.

Until basketball became the game of choice for youngsters in the city in the 1960s and 1970s, the Public League produced many players who went on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Football League Hall of Fame.

The distinguished list is headed by Walter Eckersall, George Halas, Knute Rockne, Fritz Pollard, Dick Butkus and Buddy Young.

It also includes DeCorrevont, Alf Bauman, Abe Woodson, Bill Fisher, Don Stonesifer, Tony Canadeo, Pete Pihos, Lou Rymkus, Hugh Gallarneau, Al Brosky, Bill Gay, Russell Maryland, Otis Armstrong, Darryl Stingley and Vic Schwall.

Don't forget Jim Grabowski, Al MacFarlane, Jack Delveaux, Rick Kreitling, Dale Samuels, Mike Lind, Rocky Harvey, Alex Rodriguez, Dempsey Norman, Ken Ferguson, Jack Sawin, Chris Zorich, Keena Turner, Mike Morgan, Tony Klimek, Chuck Ulrich, Corey Mays, Trezelle Jenkins, Kelvin Hayden, Nate Lyles, Walter Stanley, Fred Evans, Lou Gordon, Mike Schwager, Chuck Logan, Mack Herron, Cyron Brown, Mickey Pruitt, Corbin Bryant and Martez Wilson.

And what about the coaches? Bernie O'Brien, Chuck Palmer, Bill Heiland, Frank O'Keefe, Al Manasin, Chuck Harvey, J.W. Smith, Roy Curry, Glenn Johnson, Al Scott, Sam Bronswick, Carl Bonner, Sherman Howard, Joe Stepanek, Terry Lewis, Lexie Spurlock and Frank Esposito.

The best Public League team ever? Lots of candidates, including Austin 1937, Schurz 1949, Fenger 1954, Lane Tech 1959, Robeson 1982 and Julian 1989.

The 1937 Prep Bowl is perhaps the most celebrated high school football game of all time. DeCorrevont, one of the most publicized high school athletes in history, ran for three touchdowns, including a 47-yarder, and passed for another as Austin defeated Leo and Johnny Galvin 26-0 before a crowd estimated at more than 120,000. He also returned three punts for 67 yards and quick-kicked a 53-yarder. Other Austin standouts were tackle Alf Bauman and quarterback Sonny Skor.

In 1949, Schurz lost its opening game to New Trier but won 11 in a row, closing with a 20-7 victory over previously unbeaten Fenwick and Johnny Lattner. Ken Swienton scored two touchdowns and Bob Fudala ran 60 yards for another.

Fenger's 1954 powerhouse went 11-0-1 and featured three players who went on to play at Illinois--fullback Jack Delveaux, end Rich Kreitling and tackle Ron Nietupski. Delveaux rushed for 82 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 20-13 victory over Mount Carmel. Linemen Dick Calder and Ray Karczewski also stood out.

Lane Tech overpowered Fenwick 19-0 in 1959. It was the Indians' seventh shutout in a 9-0-1 season. The line was spearheaded by 250-pound Mike Schwager and end Chuck Logan. Quarterback George Bunda scored twice and fullback Pete Stamison rushed for 87 yards.

Robeson coach Roy Curry always called his team's loss to Rockford Guilford in the championship game of the 1982 state playoff "the most disappointing loss of my career." Robeson, led by Mickey Pruitt, Tim Spencer, Jimmie Spraggins, Tiffany Hamilton and Vincent Tolbert, led 12-9 and was attempting to run out the clock when Guilford recovered a fumble on its 38 with 2:35 left and scored the winning touchdown with 45 seconds to play. Robeson finished 11-2.

In 1989, Julian scored the most points in Prep Bowl history, crushing Fenwick 48-14 and marking the Public League's first victory in the series since 1979. Quarterback Torrance Garfield completed 13 of 26 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, three to Mike Griffin, as Julian finished 14-1.

Cubs conserving Jake Arrieta for October and see another Cy Young push coming

Cubs conserving Jake Arrieta for October and see another Cy Young push coming

SAN DIEGO – West Coast atmosphere, late August, almost no-hitter stuff for a Cubs team riding a wave of momentum. Jake Arrieta might be reentering the zone that made him the hottest pitcher on the planet last year. Get your onesies ready.

It felt that way on Tuesday night at Petco Park, where Arrieta shut down the San Diego Padres, allowing only two hits across eight scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory, making another statement in his Cy Young Award defense.

For all the questions about Arrieta’s fastball control and mechanical tweaks – and times where he’s admitted he’s felt a click off – this is still a top-of-the-rotation guy who leads the league with 16 wins and has a 2.62 ERA.

“He should be” in the Cy Young discussion, manager Joe Maddon said. “The only thing that’s been amiss is a little bit of command issues on occasion. Otherwise, stuff is the same. Numbers are fabulous. It’s hard to replicate what he had done last year, because he just nailed it.

“If he gets hot over these last couple weeks…”

It will be up to Arrieta to complete that thought in a World Series-or-bust season for baseball’s first team to 80 wins this year, one that’s now 35 games over .500.  

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This didn’t feel like a perfect game or create any no-hitter drama. The Padres are already 20 games under .500 and years away from being a serious contender. And Arrieta had to bounce back from last week’s ugly win over the Milwaukee Brewers – when he walked a career-high seven batters – and work around a first-inning walk to San Diego leadoff guy Travis Jankowski.

But the Cubs played spectacular defense behind Arrieta, with catcher Willson Contreras make a lightning-quick throw to pick off Jankowski at third base. The Cubs turned three double plays while a thunderous lineup led by Kris Bryant (33rd home run) and Addison Russell (fifth home run in his last five games) lowered the stress level. After Alex Dickerson’s single leading off the second inning, the Padres didn’t get another hit until Christian Bethancourt’s double with two outs in the eighth.

“I really wanted to let my defense work,” said Arrieta, who finished with six strikeouts against three walks. “When you have Addison and (Javier) Baez in the middle of the infield – two of the best athletes in all of baseball – you want the ball to go to those guys.”

At a time when Clayton Kershaw (back) and Stephen Strasburg (elbow) are on the disabled list, leaving potential playoff opponents like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals in scramble mode, the Cubs can see Arrieta building toward October.

The way Arrieta did with that Aug. 30 no-hitter last year at Dodger Stadium on national TV, walking into the press conference in a moustache-covered onesie, Maddon going with the pajama theme again for the flight home after this weekend’s series in Los Angeles.

But the Cubs ultimately paid the price for all that effort poured into the wild-card chase, which explains why Maddon pulled Arrieta after 99 pitches with a five-run lead (leaving Aroldis Chapman to clean up Felix Pena’s mess in the ninth inning and get the final two outs, giving him eight saves in a Cubs uniform).

“Yeah, I was mad at Joe taking me out,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, he came over to me and he said: ‘Hey, just remember last year and let’s conserve some things for October.’

“That’s our game plan. We want to be as strong and as dominant as we can be, but still in the back of our mind understanding that late September, early October, mid-October is really the most important time for us.

“Could I have finished the game? Yes. Does it play in our favor to maybe conserve that for later? Yeah. Joe’s a really smart guy. He knows what he’s doing. I feel like he makes the right moves in the right situations. And that’s why we’ve been playing as well as we have.”

No doubt, Addison Russell is becoming a star for Cubs

No doubt, Addison Russell is becoming a star for Cubs

SAN DIEGO – On a team bursting with MVP frontrunners and Cy Young Award candidates – and in a clubhouse with louder, flashier personalities – Addison Russell can emerge as an All-Star shortstop and not become the center of attention.

But here at Petco Park last month, Russell drew scrutiny for his spot in the all-Cub infield, patiently answering questions from reporters about whether or not he deserved to be the National League starter the fans voted for in that popularity contest.

Russell might actually be developing into a superstar now, a Gold Glove-caliber defender with legitimate middle-of-the-order power, someone absolutely essential to what the Cubs are doing now. Russell crushed the San Diego Padres again on Tuesday night, opening up a two-run game with a two-run homer in the fifth inning of a 5-3 victory.

“Just watch me over the course of a year,” Russell said. “My numbers may not be great or whatever, but I contribute to my team every single day. I play my heart out for my team.”

Super-agent Scott Boras, posted up at Petco Park to see clients and watch Jake Arrieta pitch, pointed out that Russell is now only one of five shortstops within the last 40 years to have at least 19 homers during his age-22 season, joining Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Seager.

Russell is the first Cubs shortstop to reach the 80-RBI mark since Ernie Banks did it in 1961. For all the comparisons to Barry Larkin, he didn’t make his big-league debut with the Cincinnati Reds until the age of 22, and didn’t exceed 12 homers in a season until five years later.

Russell has homered five times in his last five games, leads the best team in baseball with 23 multi-RBI games and exemplifies a no-panic approach that should translate in October.

“I’ve said all year, we have guys on our team that get on base and it’s my job to get them over or get them in,” Russell said. “I’ve taken that role to heart. It’s a lot of fun out there. I challenge myself whenever I’m in that situation.”

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Russell’s highlight-reel play during Monday night’s victory inspired manager Joe Maddon to give him a bottle of Justin Isosceles wine with a “6-3” written on it. Imagine the reward if Russell wins a Gold Glove.  

“Defensively, it’s as good as there is being played right now,” Maddon said. “It’s getting to the point where there’s nobody else like that right now.”

Whether or not Russell can stay healthy and remain productive enough to become another Mr. Cub – or come close to matching Larkin’s Hall of Fame numbers – you don’t get the sense he will be a one-time All-Star.

“I’m very happy for him, because I know prior to being selected, that was an issue,” Maddon said. “I’m so proud of him, how he came out and confronted it in his own way, very quietly, but in a distinguished manner. That’s who he is.

“Now he’s showing everybody how good he is. And I also believe that event has pretty much catapulted him to the point he’s at right now (with) the status that he felt by being here. In some ways, there was this negative dialogue going on. He’s turned it into a very positive one. Good for him.”

Preview: White Sox try to sweep Phillies tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox try to sweep Phillies tonight on CSN

The White Sox take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Wednesday’s starting pitching matchup: James Shields vs. Jerad Eickhoff

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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