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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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Grange just wants to see game on TV

Posted Jun 28, 2012 by

Updated Jun 29, 2012 at 11:14 PM

Just a simple story about a uncomplicated man, a great athlete, a great friend of Tom’s. Refreshing, isn’t it? But this was a long time ago, another age.

- Linda


Grange just wants to see game on TV

The man who gave pro football credibility and who played some and was an assistant coach in the first National Football League championship game in 1933 declined to make the 80-mile trip from his mid-Florida home to see the first Super Bowl in his neighborhood.

Instead, Harold “Red” Grange, 80, will watch the game on television, hopefully, he said, with wife Muggs and hopefully no one else.

“I don’t want them asking me a lot of questions I can’t answer,” laughed Grange.

“I think it is terrific that we got the game in these parts.  All the fellows involved should be proud.  And I’m glad my old friend Bronko Nagurski is coming to flip the coin, but I couldn’t take the crowds.”

His wife agrees.

“Oh, we went to New Orleans a few years ago, heard enough jazz to last us a lifetime and got so tired it took us months to rest up,” said Muggs.

“She’s right,” said Red, who has been retired 23 years, retired from the broadcasting career that followed his legendary football career.  “I have more important things day to day than following pro football regularly.  I have my yard to mow.”

Red Grange.

Galloping Ghost.

Wheaton Iceman.

Ol’ No. 77.

“None of that counts for much now.  I am sure few of the Oakland…I mean Los Angeles Raiders or Washington Redskins know who I am, or, who I was.  It was another time.  But, the game hasn’t changed that much.

“Why I haven’t seen a new play since my senior year in high school.  I mean that.  You can only do so much with 11 men at a time.”

Grange, acknowledges the players are quicker, bigger and better athletes, perhaps.  But, they are not better-coach, he maintained.

“Main thing is size now,” said the great running back of so long ago.

His Illinois playing days were 1923-25.

He signed a pro contract immediately and went on a national barnstorming tour with a stop in Tampa in January, 1926.

He was with the New York Yankees in 1927 and would end his career later with the Chicago Bears of George Halas and play in that first title game of 1933.

His agent was C.C. Pyle.

“We called him Cash and Carry Pyle.  Didn’t know his real name.  He was to get

10 percent of everything.  Well, I think he wound up getting about 50 percent. You know the game.”

It was reported that his first year beyond the campus he cashed in on his name for $400,000, including $300,000 on the spot from a movie corporation for his life story.  It was estimated that in 1925, ‘26 and ‘27 with Pyle as his manager, the two attracted $1 million at football gates.

“But, we would lose heavily trying to get the American Pro League going,” he said, one team of which was the Red Grange Yankees.

“Boy, we were broke at times, he said.  “I can remember we would go to the training room before a game and look out the window until a few tickets were sold so the trainer could get the dough, go across the street and by some tape and liniment.”

But, Grange gave pro football credibility.

“If I did, fine,” he said.  “At the time I was figuring a way to make some dough for Grange, like the fellows do today.”

“You see before the college coaches accepted pro football, and maybe I helped but what helped too was the rule to not sign underclassmen, they wouldn’t talk to a pro player.  When I signed, my old college coach, Bob Zuppke quit talking to me for a year.  We were scum.  Pros were dirt.

“Why I would have been more popular with them if I had signed up with the Al Capone gang around Chicago, rather than turning professional.”

He did make some dough, including $210.34 for his share of the first Bears championship game.  The winning team members departing Tampa Stadium Sunday can each expect a check for $36,000.

“Good for them,” said Grange.  “Me, I don’t remember anything about that first championship game.  I played a little, I know and in 1934 retired.”

He had a 13-year coaching career before becoming a successful broadcaster.

But now, “I fear the really big money, the owners fighting each other could kill it all.  It amy sound funny from me, but some of the figures I hear could mean the end.”

As a for instance, word about is that Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall’s agent is seeking a four-year contract for$2.6 million.

“The thing is, if leagues go under, others will form,” said Grange.

He knows about them going under, and about them forming.

But, he says he just doesn’t know enough about the Raiders and Redskins to make a judgment.

He call them even, ol’ No. 77 does.

He says the quarterbacking is even but likes the John Riggins style.

“He’s like Bronk.  Bronk-like.  Bronk was the greatest on and off the field.  Do you know when he came back to the huddle if he made 2 yards or 6 or 12, he’d slap his linemen on the back and thank them.  Never saw anybody else do that.  I didn’t.  I thought I earned the yards.”

He expects a lot of scoring Sunday.  I see them even.  That means a mistake will lose the game, or great punt, or a great play of some kind will win it.  Even he said, “a bounce of that crazy ball I chased so long.”

Then he made a confession, the Ghost did.

“I really had rather watch baseball than football.  If I had not gone straight into football for the money, I think I could have played professional baseball. Centerfield.  That’s what I liked.”

Red Grange, All-American - baseball player.

Come on, Red.

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