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 offense mostly quiet as bullpen blows late lead

Cubs offense mostly quiet as bullpen blows late lead

The Cubs offense had a quiet Saturday afternoon just 24 hours after putting 12 runs on the board against the Seattle Mariners in Game 1.

The Cubs only recorded three hits in their 4-1 loss to the Mariners on Saturday at Wrigley Field. 

The story for most of the game was Mariners pitcher Wade Miley, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up by Kris Bryant.

“He was painting that outside edge pretty well," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "Honestly from the first batter when Dexter (Fowler) takes two fastballs for a strike and then swings at a slider, something’s going on for me. That told me the guy was on. He was.”

Bryant added, "He was throwing right where he wanted to I thought. He was just hitting the catcher’s glove. Working quick, that kind of goes unnoticed sometimes, but as hitters, it kind of keeps you out of your rhythm.”

It was the second time this week the Cubs allowed a no-hitter through at least five innings.

White Sox pitcher Anthony Ranaudo took a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Wednesday before the Cubs poured it on and finished the game with eight runs.

Lost in the no-hitter was Arrieta, who had one of the best outings of the season. But the Cubs had nothing to show for it, losing their fifth straight game when the NL Cy Young Award winner takes the mound.

Arrieta finished the game allowing two runs on two hits and three walks, striking out four in seven innings.

After a scoreless six innings of play, the Cubs drew first blood in the seventh. Fowler opened with a leadoff walk. Bryant broke up the no-hitter with a single. Following a Ben Zobrist bunt that advanced the runners, Javier Baez hit a grounder to third. Fowler tried to score and was thrown out at the plate. But after a second look, Joe Maddon challenged the call and it was reversed, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

A couple batters later, Miley attempted to pick off Baez — who reached on a fielder’s choice — but Bryant stole home in the process. First baseman Adam Lind quickly relayed the throw over to catcher Mike Zunino, and Bryant appeared to slide under the tag. After being ruled safe, the Mariners won a challenge of their own and the call was overturned.

"That stunk," Bryant said. "I thought I had a good slide in there. Obviously looking back on it, I could have slid head first but that's one way to really get hurt. I thought I had my foot in there, but obviously (after) the replay, they overturned it."

In the eighth, the Mariners responded. Arrieta walked the first two batters and was relieved by Hector Rondon, who retired both batters he faced. Aroldis Chapman entered the game to try to get the final out of the inning. That happened, but not before the Mariners added three runs. A double by Leonys Martin scored two. Martin later stole third and scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-1.

"Didn’t see that one coming," Maddon said of Seattle's three-run eighth. "Just didn’t see that one coming."

The Mariners added another run in the ninth.

Slugger Anthony Rizzo didn't start, getting a day off to rest, but he came in to pinch hit for Chapman in the eighth, striking out. Willson Contreras started at first in Rizzo's place.

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

For Willie Young, Bears contract extension more than just a simple business transaction

BOURBONNAIS — Sometimes football is just a business. Sometimes it’s that and a lot more.

For Willie Young, the business side was taken care of late Friday night when the Bears added two years to his contract, projecting him as a Bear through the 2018 season.

The emotional side was still being taken care of on Saturday, when a former seventh-round draft choice was able to step back and realize what effectively a third NFL contract means to someone who was passed over time after time in the draft and never expected to be much.

“I’m slightly speechless right now but excited,” said Young, someone rarely at a loss for words.

“It means a lot,” Young said after a long pause, reflecting on how seventh-round picks rarely even make teams. “All the teams that passed me over ... My big thing is who I am and what the name on my back stands for.”

[MORE: Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension]

Young was able to call his family and give them the news, “We’re going to be in Chicago a little while longer.”

Just as his entry into the league was shaky, his tenure in Chicago was seldom secure before this weekend.

When Young signed with the Bears in the 2014 offseason, leaving the Detroit Lions, he did so assuming that he was coming in as a starting defensive end. That changed when the Bears landed Jared Allen to position opposite Lamarr Houston. That season ended nevertheless with Young leading the Bears in sacks (10) before suffering a torn Achilles late in the season.

Allen was traded away last season, giving Young a job opportunity as he was coming back from Achilles surgery. Trouble was, the defense Young was returning to had changed completely, and Young was now a linebacker, now with coverage responsibilities and playing in situations.

Despite that second major change from what he’d expected, Young still managed 6.5 sacks, second on the Bears. That, combined with his work through the offseason to date, convinced the Bears that he was more of a fit than even he perhaps thought once upon a time.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The result was a two-year contract extension agreed to late Friday night and added to the final year (2016) Young had from his initial Bears contract which locked him up only through the end of this season.

“It feels good to reward somebody that’s worked as hard as he’s worked and overcome the injury last year, and the leader that he is out there mentoring our younger players,” said GM Ryan Pace. “I feel really good about it. It’s good for our locker room, it’s good for our team.”

Where he once struggled to fit in – and was not reluctant to say so – Young now is securely ensconced as one of the starting outside linebackers in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme. When the Bears go to a 4-3 in nickel situations, Young lines up as the defensive end he had been for his career.

“There’s not a big difference [between 3-4 linebacker and 4-3 end],” said coach John Fox. “I think that [‘don’t call me a linebacker!’] was a little tongue-in-cheek. Some guys up to a point have had their hand on the ground, it’s a little bit of an adjustment. But there’s way more carryover They are involved in coverage a little bit more but I think he’s adapted to it quite nicely actually.”

Coach K, on Chicago welcoming back Tom Thibodeau: 'I'm proud of my city for doing that'

Coach K, on Chicago welcoming back Tom Thibodeau: 'I'm proud of my city for doing that'

Tom Thibodeau made his long-awaited return to the United Center on Friday, and the reception he received from the Chicago crowd pleased USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Thibodeau, who's been an assistant with USA Basketball since 2013, was the first coach introduced before the team's matchup against Venezuela and received considerable applause from the sellout crowd. It was Thibodeau's first visit back to Chicago in a coaching capacity since he was fired as the Bulls head coach following the 2014-15 season.

Both Krzyzewski and Jimmy Butler, who spoke at the podium following USA's 80-45 victory, were asked about the reaction from the crowd. Krzyzewski, a Chicago native, took the question and fired off a 90-second response about how the warm reception was warranted and how pleased he was to hear it.

He even joked that he and assistants Jim Boeheim and Monty Williams paid 5,000 fans to cheer when Thibodeau, now the head coach of the Timberwolves, was introduced.

"(Chicago's) an amazing sports town, loves its athletes and its coaches, and they should love Tom. Tom brought great basketball (to Chicago) when it was not going well," Krzyzewski said. "And then really injury-wise...especially with Derrick (Rose), if he had been healthy there could have been another (NBA championship) banner or two here. And the fans realize that."

Thibodeau arrived in Chicago in 2010, coaching a Bulls team that had advanced to the playoffs the previous season for the first time since 1998. He coached the Bulls to a 255-139 record in five seasons and won 23 playoff games. His team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, the same year the Bulls won 62 games and Thibodeau was named NBA Coach of the Year.

[MORE: Why Jimmy Butler wanted Dwyane Wade to sign with the Bulls]

In that five-year span Rose, who was named the league's youngest MVP in 2011, missed 213 of a possible 394 games, and the team dealt with myriad injuries to key players in Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. Irreconcilable differences within the front office led to Thibodaeu's dismissal, but Thibodeau said Thursday that he was grateful for the eperiences he had during this time in Chicago.

And Krzyzewski reiterated how pleased he was that the fans understood the successes Thibodeau acheived.

"He’s the best, as far as preparation and team player and whatever, and the fans appreciate that," Krzyzewski said. "It was great. I love the fact that my town gave the guy who gave them his heart and soul for the number of years he’s been here and acknowledged that. That’s a great thing. I’m proud of my city for doing that."