One of my favorite characters of the NFL, Art Donovan died Sunday at age 89. I have enjoyed Donovan’s storytelling since I can remember, mostly through NFL Films, but also his book “Fatso” which I used to own before lending it to someone who didn’t give it back. I later learned he had been a regular on David Letterman’s shows which got him the book deal. As for his autobiography, he “never read it.” I also remember seeing footage of him in tears when his Baltimore Colts left for Indianapolis in 1984.
Here’s a clip of him on Letterman from 1988:
Donovan, a son of the Bronx, was a Marine, serving in World War II. He was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Area Ribbon and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon. He also stole a case of spam and to avoid being sent to the brig, he was forced to eat all 30 pounds of it, which he did in 9 days. When his time had come, he wanted to go under a tree at his country club eat too many kosher hot dogs and drink a case of Schlitz and then explode. Based on the obituary in The Sun, that didn’t see to happen. Make sure you read that obituary too, it is a great one. Check out the NFL.com obit too, it has a great video tribute (which isn’t embeddable).
The D.C. portion of the Battle of the Beltways has concluded with a split. The Washington Nationals lost game 1, badly, and then rocked the Baltimore Orioles last night 9-3. In other words, the Nats are playing about the same as they always do this season.
Nate Karns debuts, can’t go 5 for a win, but shows promise. 4 home runs, 2 from Adam LaRoche and back-to-back by Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina. Is Moore finally hitting? Seems like it. VIDEO RECAP
I did not bother with my annual “why rooting for the Orioles is like rooting for Iran” or something along those lines post. How many times can I write the same thing? If not for the ridiculous “compensation for Peter Angelos” the Nats being kept off most D.C. area cable systems for most of 2 seasons and the awful coverage we’re forced to endure on MASN, I’d be pretty ambivalent about Baltimore’s baseball team. Their fans on the other hand, will not be missed. Enrico Pallazzo pays the national anthem more respect than they do.
There have been annoyances during the series, like the combination of both team’s broadcasters (does anybody like it?) and MASN incompetence (Nats Enquirer). You get the feeling for a lot of D.C. sports media the previous two games were their favorite of the year, because they get to see their team visit D.C.?
Oh and Bryce Harper is probably still out, so don’t count on him hitting the warehouse at Oriole Park tonight or tomorrow. One columnist, whose paper cuts sports in about 2 days, was hyping that up. Reluctant superstarJordan Zimmermann is on the mound tonight.
I’ll pay Bob Carpenter’s remarks about Nats fans as much attention as I pay him in the booth. Nice guy, mediocre play-by-play man at best, completely replaceable. It certainly does feel “fashionable” to get down on the Nats this week.
Lastly, RIP Lewis Yocum, who performed Tommy John surgery on Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann and prospects Lucas Giolito and Sammy Solis. The Hall of Fame really needs to start a “doctor wing” to honor Yocum, Frank Jobe, James Andrews, etc.
Lastly, taking 2 of 3 from the Phillies over the weekend was nice.
The Town of Vienna, Va.’s preeminent historian Mayo Sturdevant Stuntz, aged 97 years, has died. Stuntz was a lifelong resident and co-author of the book “This Was Vienna, Virginia” that was published in the late 1980s. He visited my social studies class and shared with us his memories of the town.
My brother Christopher, who provided a photograph of the book included here added “the town of Vienna will owe him a debt of gratitude for generations to come.”
FROM VIENNA PATCH Remembering Vienna’s ‘Unofficial Historian’
Another great voice has left us — Pat Summerall, who for so many years handled play-by-play for NFC football games along side John Madden on CBS and then FOX. Prior to my time, it was Tom Brookshier working with Summerall. It seemed every autumn Sunday, Summerall and Madden would be in some NFC East city or maybe Chicago or San Francisco doing the 4 p.m. game which we watched by a roaring fire. As television memories go, they were some of the best.
Summerall was a rather restrained in his play-by-play, mostly letting the picture tell the story. His smooth voice added excitement and gravitas that somebody like Joe Buck could only dream of having. Summerall also knew that he was the straight man, setting up John Madden‘s excitable and thorough analysis. In their prime, they were the best and it wasn’t close. The pairing was the measuring stick for how important the game was — when the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys had a Sunday game without Summerall and Madden, it was a story in D.C.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who can still hear Summerall winding down a broadcast with “Stay tuned for “60 Minutes” followed by “Murder She Wrote” and the CBS Sunday Night Movie… (EXCEPT ON THE WEST COAST)” He was a natural. In addition to football, Summerall also did golf and tennis for CBS.
When FOX shocked everybody by taking over the NFC rights, Summerall and Madden moved over to the fourth network, lending more credibility to its coverage than it deserved. As much as I may have liked the Simpsons, it was still a bit grating to hear Summerall promote “Married…with Children, the Simpsons, etc.” It wasn’t long after the switch to FOX that Summerall began a decline, mostly due to age.
Before becoming a sportscaster, Summerall was a kicker in the NFL, mostly with the Chicago Cardinals, but most famously with the New York Football Giants. In fact, one of the surprising things about long-time Yankee Stadium p.a. announcer Bob Sheppard was that when asked about his favorite moment it wasn’t about the Yankees:
Mara recalled how Phil Rizzuto once asked Sheppard on TV during a rain delay for his fondest Yankee Stadium moment.
“Much to The Scooter’s dismay, Bob replied, ‘The day Summerall kicked the field goal in the snow to beat Cleveland in 1958,’” Mara said.
Darrell Green’s punt return touchdown against the Chicago Bears in 1987-88 playoffs
Green again, one week later. Maybe not the best example, but I don’t think many Washingtonians will complain…
Week 15 of the 1983 season opener between the Redskins vs. Cowboys
The beginning of the last CBS broadcast, the 1993 NFC Championship Game. The pool halls scene is nothing special , but what follows is perfect Summerall narration and a subtle, but appropriate sendoff.
Jack Pardee, the head coach of the Washington Redskins between George Allen and Joe Gibbs, died recently at age 71. He had been a member of the “Over the Hill Gang” under Allen and was a head coach within five years of retirement.
DC Sports Bog has a great feature on Pardee with excepts from original Post coverage of his hiring and dismissal. Pardee was coach of the year in 1979, but missed out on the NFC East title and playoffs by one point following Roger Staubach’s final comeback as Dallas Cowboys quarterback. A year later, Pardee was out of a job after a season that John Riggins held out. Two years later, Joe Gibbs won Super Bowl XVII as a second year coach.
Pardee later coached the Houston Oilers. In 1991, the Oilers came into RFK Stadium to face the undefeated Redskins. The visitors nearly upset the hosts too, but the Houston kicker missed, claiming athletic supporter malfunction. I chronicled that a while back in this blog post: Redskins vs. Texans prediction and remembering Ian Howfield.
Pardee also coached the Chicago Bears before the Redskins, the USFL’s Houston Gamblers and the University of Houston before the Oilers. He was one of the “Junction Boys” at Texas A&M under Bear Bryant, surviving brutal training conditions in a brutal west Texas drought. As a member of the Los Angeles Rams, he survived melanoma and resumed his career.
Shelby Whitfield, former Senators broadcaster, dies at 77 – The Post
The alumni of the Washington Senators, on and off the diamond, just got smaller again. Shelby Whitfield, who broadcasted the Senators with Ron Menchine on radio and television for the 1969 and 1970 seasons died. Though his tenure in the RFK Stadium press box was brief, Whitfield wrote a book about the end of the Senators at the hands of owner Bob Short called “Kiss it Goodbye. (Amazon)”
He described Short, who died in 1982, as “an intimidating, domineering person” who was slow to pay his bills. Short asked announcers to inflate crowd numbers, Mr. Whitfield wrote, and to say the weather was always sunny, “even if the floodwaters were lapping the sides of RFK Stadium.”
The book helped prompt the Federal Communications Commission to launch hearings into the ethics of sports broadcasting. In 1974, the FCC passed a regulation — since rescinded — requiring announcers to disclose during games whether they were employees of a team, a league or a broadcasting company.
After leaving the Senators beat, Mr. Whitfield worked for WWDC-AM as the host of “Sports Roundtable,” one of Washington’s first radio sports talk shows. Mr. Whitfield later spent seven years as the Washington-based sports director of Associated Press Radio before going to New York in 1981 as sports director of ABC Radio.
I’ll have to add that to my reading list.
Whitfield’s career also included co-authoring a book with Howard Cosell.
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) was formed in 1982 in order to promote the game of baseball, raise money for charity, inspire and educate youth through positive sport images and protect the dignity of the game through former players. A nonprofit organization, the MLBPAA establishes a place where a player’s drive for excellence and achievement on the field can continue long after they take their last steps off the professional diamond.
Hinton was present at the “baseball is back” announcement at the City Museum in September 2004. I don’t know why the Washington Nationals did not bring Hinton into the fold. From all indications, Hinton was a credit to the sport. It is unfortunate he was not as well known as he should have been.
‘Walking Man’ Yost passes away at 86 – nationals.com
The “walking man” Eddie Yost, perhaps the greatest #1 in D.C. baseball history if not all D.C. sports history, died yesterday three days after his 86th birthday. A third baseman, Yost led the American League in walks four times during his playing days with the 14 seasons he played for Washington Senators. His on-base percentage with the Nats was .389. He never hit above .300. He finished his playing career with the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels.
I think it was 1997 when I first became aware of college football commentator Beano Cook. ESPN chats were how I was introduced to the historian and his histrionics. I suppose in a sense, he was a little refreshing from the cocoon of Penn State coverage. He was actually critical of Penn State and Joe Paterno from time to time, (which wasn’t the norm in the late 90s, though I’m sure some will protest that observation) not overly so, but generally fair. As I followed him, I learned of his prediction of Ron Powlus winning two Heisman Trophies (Beano overestimated by two) and some of his other witticisms, such as reacting to MLB’s giving hostages free lifetime passes to games with “haven’t they suffered enough.”
Beano was a publicist at Pitt, his alma mater, in the 1950s and 1960s and then most prominently a television executive before turning analyst. The rise of college football on TV is due in part to Beano.
Overall, I think I respected Beano because he realized the history of college football was more than the current top 25. He even talked about the Ivy League from time to time.
Years later, with what started out as a Tailgate Advisory and Newsletter, I started a feature called “Beano Watch.” Basically, I grabbed what ever he said about the Nittany Lions and usually included some mock outrage and the observation that the opposite of his prediction always came true. I even got the ESPN Insider subscription so that I could read his chat. It later became part of my blogging. The Beano schtick became part of tailgates with friends.
I was following Beano as closely over the last couple of years because the joke went about as far as I could go and there weren’t too many times we all tailgated together to tell them. After last November, I pretty much tuned out college football in general too (I might address that this week), but I’d occasionally listen to his podcast. He was more fair about Penn State than most and I appreciated it. His podcasts with Ivan Maisel were some of the few I listened to over the years.
Joe Posnanski puts it quite sufficiently in this passage from his SportsOnEarth column Masterpiece Theater:
Before Steve Sabol, mud was mostly a nuisance for a pro football game. Players slipped in it, slogged in it; mud covered their bodies so you could not even tell which player was on which team. After Steve Sabol, mud became something ennobling; it became the canvas to paint Gale Sayers’ grace, Jerry Rice’s precision, Jack Lambert’s force of will, Johnny Unitas’ high-tops.
Before Steve Sabol, snow and ice made football boring and miserable to watch. Nobody could complete passes in that stuff, nobody could gain traction. Heck, you couldn’t even see the yard markers. After Steve Sabol, football in the snow and freezing cold separated meek from mighty; you could not forget seeing Dallas’ Bullet Bob Hayes trying to shove his hands inside his pants just to warm them, and you could not forget seeing Bart Starr push his way into the frozen end zone.
Before Steve Sabol, pro football was a game without mythology. It was a good game, one gaining popularity all the time, but it lacked the poetry of baseball, and it lacked the history of boxing, and it lacked the soul of college football. What was pro football anyway? What did it even mean to be a pro football fan?
A big part of the greatness of NFL Films was that Sabol found the right voice, John Facenda, to narrate them. I don’t think it is a coincidence that NFL Films, while still good peaked in the 1970s with Facenda reading Sabol’s copy. Then again, part of that might be my own nostalgia for the NFL Films that were around when I was younger (even if they predated my time watching football/breathing). Another strength of NFL Films was incorporating the local radio broadcasters instead of the national ones. The local flavor and theater of the mind aspects of radio complimented the slow-motion film well and certainly raised the profile of the radio teams.
I pulled up a few videos, including the first NFL Films production with Facenda. Sabol wrote and produced “They Call it Pro Football” which is credited as the breakthrough for NFL Films:
Sabol also wrote “The Autumn Wind” poem about the Oakland Raiders: