Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Heisman and Hinsdale

Jay and Philomela Berwanger at home in Hinsdale, Ill., in 1951.
Jay Berwanger, winner of the first Heisman Trophy, was a long-time resident of Hinsdale, Ill., a western suburb of Chicago. In his later years, he resided in nearby Oak Brook.

The folks at the Hinsdale Public Library have invited me to present my slideshow on Berwanger's life at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Copies of First Heisman: The Life of Jay Berwanger will be available for sales and signing.

The presentation is free, but the library asks for RSVPs. 

If you live in the Chicago area, I hope you'll stop by for the hour-long

Friday, September 13, 2013

The biography is here!

I'm excited to announce that First Heisman: The Life of Jay Berwanger is published and available for sale.

In Dubuque, River Lights Bookstore, 11th and Main streets, is carrying the book. Thanks to owner Sue Davis for hosting my initial booksigning event Thursday, Sept. 12.

Watch this blog for announcements of other sales locations and booksignings.

The book may also be ordered through Crestwood Publishing's  website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

September date for Berwanger/Dalzell dedication

Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, will be a special day.

That's when Dubuque Community School District and district foundation officials will dedicate the statue of Jay Berwanger and the commemorative wall honoring Berwanger and his high school coach, Wilbur Dalzell, at the newly rebuilt Dalzell Field.

The statue is being created by Arizona artist Vala Ola. I've seen the model, and I'm impressed.

So too with the memorial wall, designed by the school district's Tricia Pitz.

Details on the event are being finalized, but the early plan is for an afternoon ceremony.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cover story

Just realized that I failed to post the cover for the Berwanger biography. It was designed by Carmen Goedken, former neighbor and a 2012 graduate of Wartburg College.

The book will be published by my Crestwood Publishing and distributed by Cardinal Publishers Group, Indianapolis.

Release date is August 2013 -- just in time for football season!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Connecting in Dubuque

I was pleased to spend time this past weekend in Dubuque with Cuyler Berwanger, son of first Heisman Trophy winner @Jay Berwanger. Jackie Berwanger accompanied her husband on their drive from the Chicago suburbs.

Activities included a tour of the Dalzell Field construction site, where a Berwanger statute is planned, with school officials, plus a meeting with Doug Horstmann, schools Foundation president. Mr. Berwanger (left) donated a ball autographed by his father and 11 other Heisman Trophy winners.

It was a super Saturday morning.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Looking for title help

I am in the home stretch of completing the first full biography of Jay Berwanger, Dubuque native and winner of college football's first Heisman Trophy.

Please help me decide the title of the book.

 Take my two-question survey.
Replies are anonymous, so if you have any other suggestions or comments (such as "Don't bother me with this!") there is room for them on the form.

Monday, December 26, 2011

6 myths about Jay Berwanger

Each December, before and after the Heisman Trophy is presented, the name Jay Berwanger, the first recipient of the trophy, shows up in newspaper articles and blogs.

Those articles and blogs perpetuate many of the same inaccuracies. As Berwanger's biographer-to-be, here are the Top Six myths concerning Berwanger:

1. It is Berwanger’s likeness on the Heisman Trophy. Though publicity photos captured Berwanger in a stiff-arm pose similar to that found on the trophy, sculptor Frank Eliscu’s model was actually New York University’s Ed Smith.

2. Berwanger did not play in the National Football League due to a salary dispute with Chicago Bears owner George Halas. Whether this is a "myth" depends on one's definition of a "dispute."

When Berwanger and Halas bumped into each other on the way to separate social occasions, Papa Bear asked the college star what it would take to have him join the Bears. Berwanger’s reply -- $25,000 for two seasons and a no-cut contract – was Berwanger’s way of saying that he was not interested in the NFL, where the going rate was 10 times less than his “demand.”

Halas and Berwanger never "negotiated" again.

Berwanger noted he could make as much money as an NFL player just by giving speeches – and that didn’t involve getting hit.

3. Berwanger was a Big Ten champion in the 100 yard dash.

His highest finish in a conference meet was second in the 220-yard low hurdles in 1934, his sophomore season.

4. Berwanger was a lock to make the 1936 U.S. Olympic team in the decathlon.

From the time he entered the University of Chicago in 1932, Berwanger had a goal to compete in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He was considered a contender, having placed fourth as a sophomore (1934) and third as a senior (1936) in the Kansas Relays decathlon, but his place on the team far from certainty.

He considered temporarily dropping out of college in 1936 to concentrate on preparation for the Olympic Trials, but university officials discouraged that course of action by its Senior Class president and most famous athlete. Nonetheless, Berwanger was still expected to try out for the U.S. team. However, Berwanger did not report for the Trials. Instead, he started his first full-time job as a management trainee for a sponge rubber manufacturer.

5. Berwanger’s Heisman Trophy weighed 60 pounds.

UPDATE: The Heisman folks advise that the earliest trophies had a heavier base than contemporary models, which weigh about 45 pounds. So that 60-pound figure might be accurate. Not a myth. My bad.
Though it might have felt that heavy to Berwanger after lugging it around New York and taking it back to Chicago in December 1935, the trophy actually weighed 25 pounds. It is 14 inches long and 13½ inches high.
6. Berwanger’s coach at the University of Chicago was the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Berwanger was a member of Chicago’s freshman squad, and ineligible for varsity competition, in 1932, Stagg’s final season before his forced retirement. Stagg moved on, and Berwanger played his entire varsity career for Clark Shaughnessy, a Hall of Fame coach in his own right.