Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another research trip to Chicago

The first Heisman Trophy, on display in the Ratner athletic building.

Jay Berwanger's University of Chicago uniform and Hall of Fame certificate.

I used a couple of vacation days Tuesday and Wednesday to travel to Chicago for more research on Jay Berwanger, the subject of my next biography.

On Tuesday, after a 4 a.m. wake-up call, I was on the campus of Berwanger's alma mater, the University of Chicago by 9:30. I visited with Athletic Director Tom Weingartner and Sports Information Director Dave Hilbert, both of whom worked with Berwanger on special events. In the library, I found in the Special Collections research center an interesting letter from Amos Alonzo Stagg to his newly named successor Clark Shaughnessy in which Stagg describes some of the players Shaughnessy would inherit, including Berwanger. I also spent a couple of hours in the campus library, poring over newspaper microfilm. I then took the commuter train back north, to the Chicago Public Library, where I reviewed the Chicago Herald-Examiner's coverage of Berwanger's sophomore season (1933), until about 7 p.m. It was a full day, to say the least.

Wednesday morning found me back at the same microfilm reader-printer at the Chicago Public Library, where I reviewed the Herald-Examiner's coverage of the 1934 season, Berwanger's junior campaign. By 1:30, I had lunch and decided I had had enough for this trip. I have learned that when one gets too tired while reviewing microfilm, one (meaning me) tends to cut corners -- and that can be a problem later, when it's time to write. I walked back to Union Station, caught the commuter train back to Elgin, and drove back to Dubuque.

All in all, it was a productive trip. I got dozens of articles and verified certain facts (such as Philomela Baker Berwanger's graduation date). But more research treasures await my next excursion to the Windy City.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alma mater plans Berwanger night

The late Jay Berwanger, Dubuque High School Class of 1932, will be honored at his alma mater's football game against Dubuque Hempstead on Friday, Oct. 2.

I'm not sure of the occasion, but it might be the 30th anniversary of his donation of a Heisman Trophy to Dubuque Senior High. The trophy is on display in the school's trophy case.

There is occasional discussion and debate whether the trophy is the one Berwanger accepted from the Downtown Athletic Club in New York in December 1935, but most indications are that the first trophy went to the University of Chicago and the duplicate Berwanger received later went to Senior High.