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Old 06-25-2017, 05:57 PM
 
20,938 posts, read 39,282,681 times
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Before the 2017-2018 season starts we have time to delve into the topic of BOOKS on the GAME, the LEAGUE, the TEAMS, or the PLAYERS. Your pick, what book or books do you recommend? Here’s my favorite.

Having grown up in the 1950s in Baltimore there is only one team that matters to me and that is the Baltimore Colts.
Having grown up a Baltimore Colts fan there is only one player who matters the most to me and that is Johnny Unitas.

Thus I recommend the book “Johnny U.” by Tom Callahan. Amazon listing here.

Tom Callahan’s Preface of the book is titled “It was the player’s game then.” He then opens with: “On black and white televisions, in a black and white time, men played football for something less than a living and something more than money.”

Boy, did he ever get that right. His first sentence instantly transported me back to when as a 10-year old kid I watched the 1958 Championship Game on a B&W TV set and saw Unitas and the Colts beat the NY Giants. It's still considered the Greatest Game Ever Played and it brought the NFL into full maturity. We know the rest.

What really sets this book apart for me is the portrayal of Pittsburgh in the era when Unitas was a kid. It was a hard-nosed, hard-assed steel town that gave rise to many great players. The story of Johnny U’s father is most telling of what it was like trying to survive in the economic disaster of the Great Depression.

Johnny’s father was Francis J. Unitas. As a kid Francis’ mother died and Francis' father (Johnny’s grandfather) farmed all six kids out to various orphanages. Francis and a set of twins went to one facility where the twins died (one of the Flu and the other run over by a train while trying to escape - must've been a lovely place). At age 16 Francis was discharged from the orphanage and tried to find his siblings in WV at a community of Lithuanian miners. He found a wife instead, and thence sprang Johnny U.

Francis was working multiple coal delivery and shoveling jobs to make ends meet during the Great Depression, got pneumonia, and died in 1938 at the age of 37, leaving Johnny U. fatherless at the age of 5.

Can you imagine that harsh era…..a crucible of tough times in a tough region that gave rise to some of the finest players ever seen in the NFL. Unitas was but one of many who came out of there…key word OUT of there.

For me, it’s this book’s trove of insights into the origins of Johnny Unitas, and the work ethic that made him tick, which makes this book such a fabulous read. It’s a story of the times and places of Johnny Unitas, not just the players who surrounded him, that create such a compelling picture of old number 19.
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Last edited by Mike from back east; 06-25-2017 at 06:51 PM..
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Old 06-26-2017, 09:37 AM
 
16,537 posts, read 21,026,342 times
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Excellent choice regarding that book Mike-and excellent post! I bought that book a decade ago-still have it!

Probably the part of that book that really shows the determination that Unitas had was his last couple years in college and coming into the pros.

Imagine one of the greatest players in NFL history playing semipro football for $6 a game. That's where Unitas was at in 1955. He was not a celebrated player out of college (Univ. of Louisville) but was happy that his hometown team at least drafted him-in the ninth round. Here's a couple quotes from ESPN's Sports Century one hour bio of Unitas, from 2000.

Myron Cope (referring to Dan Rooney)-"Dad, the best quarterback out here is Johnny Unitas, but the head coach will only let him throw the ball to the ball boys on the sidelines."

Nick Skorich- assistant coach of the Steelers (talking of Unitas being cut) "They (Steelers) offered him ten dollars and told him he can leave. He instead put the ten dollars in his pocket and hitch hiked home. His wife was about to have a baby and he needed ten bucks."

"He was hurt, disappointed. He wanted to play for his hometown team."

Otto Graham--"I was brought into camp by the Colts and worked with John. John looks me right in the eye and he was immediately absorbing what I was telling him. It was obvious to me that he had the raw material to be a great quarterback."

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 06-26-2017 at 09:58 AM..
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Bel Air, California
21,442 posts, read 22,000,772 times
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True Hearts and Purple Heads: An Unauthorized Biography of a Football Team
by Jim Klobuchar

wore out my only copy of this book many decades ago which details the start up and first few seasons of the expansion team the Minnesota Vikings. Klobuchar was a great newspaper writer in the 70's and 80's in the Twin Cities and humorously captured the nonsense of an expansion NFL team that developed quickly into a great NFL team in a few years, starting with Norm Van Brocklin and Fran Tarkenton.

https://www.amazon.com/True-Hearts-P.../dp/B0006C0JTE
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Old 06-27-2017, 01:22 PM
 
16,537 posts, read 21,026,342 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghengis View Post
True Hearts and Purple Heads: An Unauthorized Biography of a Football Team
by Jim Klobuchar

wore out my only copy of this book many decades ago which details the start up and first few seasons of the expansion team the Minnesota Vikings. Klobuchar was a great newspaper writer in the 70's and 80's in the Twin Cities and humorously captured the nonsense of an expansion NFL team that developed quickly into a great NFL team in a few years, starting with Norm Van Brocklin and Fran Tarkenton.

https://www.amazon.com/True-Hearts-P.../dp/B0006C0JTE

Thanks Ghengis, I'm going to have to check that one out!


Back in the dark ages (1970 or so) I belonged to the Sports Illustrated Book Club. One of my monthly picks was Fran Tarkenton's first book--"Broken Patterns-the Education Of A Quarterback." I remember parts of that book well, particularly one quip from Norm Van Brocklin>>>"When it's 3rd and 45, I let Francis draw up his own play."


IIRC, 1967 was their last year together as Vikings and the screaming matches they would have on the sidelines were epic! The Dutchman never believed in running with the football when HE played and he cringed when Tarkenton would go off on one of his scrambles. Back in the early 60's IMO scrambling, especially to Tarkenton's level, was just unheard of.


ADD>>> I just looked it up to be sure. Van Brocklin quit as Vikings coach after the 1966 season and shortly after that Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants.
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Old 06-27-2017, 05:14 PM
 
Location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin
11,736 posts, read 11,580,337 times
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I'm going to check it out. I've read books on the Bears and Packers so this sounds like a good read! This way I can be a well read NFC North fan, and know a little more about another team. I'll probably wait on the Lions though!
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Old 06-27-2017, 08:32 PM
 
1,591 posts, read 993,974 times
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The Ones Who Hit the Hardest.
Good read on the 7os Steelers, and how their success helped in some way to uplift a city in economic decline.
Conversely, it covers how the city of Dallas was economically thriving, while their Cowboys were starting to fade entering the early 8os..

I also used to like NFL trivia/activity books as a kid. Stuff like The Great NFL Fun Book II.
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Old 07-03-2017, 01:48 PM
 
Location: West of Louisiana, East of New Mexico
2,536 posts, read 2,038,990 times
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A really interesting book that makes you realize the 90's Cowboys had about 5 SB's in them if not for all the distractions.

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Old 07-03-2017, 02:48 PM
 
Location: AriZona
5,230 posts, read 3,146,222 times
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The No-Name Defense
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (Larry Csonka & Jim Kiick)
Perfect Backfield Trio (Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris)
Super Coach (Don Shula)
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