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Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game Paperback – September 11, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"A brilliantly reported and written work that will not only teach you things about one of football's greatest innovators, it will tell you things you never knew about one of football's greatest times. This book is as memorable as the man who inspired it." --Mike Freeman, author of Undefeated: Inside the 1972 Miami Dolphins' Perfect Season

"Gillman’s incredible football journey is, for the first time, closely chronicled in Josh Katzowitz’s welcome and much-needed biography, Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game. These days, it doesn’t happen often that a sports author brings to light a truly historical figure whose story has somehow gone untold. Katzowitz, however, has accomplished that.

His book not only rolls through more than half a century of football’s evolution, but makes it personal. Gillman’s obsession with the game is presented, to a large extent, through the loyal eyes of a wife and four children equally steeped in love and tolerance. From sitting at his side as he studied film in the garage every night, decade after decade, Esther Gillman understood more about passing schemes than . . . well, certainly more than most sportswriters. So did the Gillman sons and daughters. The great innovator’s unconventional family life is treated in the same thorough fashion as the casual Judaism that sometimes blocked his career path." --Lonnie Wheeler, New York Times Best-selling author whose works include I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story

From the Inside Flap

Excerpt – Enemies Chapter

But the person who really made Gillman’s players feel at home, the one who made them feel a part of the family, was Esther. That began when Gillman coached under Francis Schmidt at Ohio State, and he and Esther started inviting the players to their home for dinner. Not just one or two players at a time, but a dozen here and a dozen there. By the time the Gillman’s reached Oxford, the family had to set up tables in the basement because that was the biggest room in the house and it was the only place they could fit such a huge squadron of hungriness. The players, their wives or their girlfriends, and their tremendous appetites showed up throughout the night, wave after wave. It wasn’t just a dinner; it was a party. The food was good, and it certainly was plentiful.

“I never learned to cook well,” Esther said. “I learned to cook a lot.”

At first, she didn’t have the kitchen equipment to undertake such a huge project. Eventually, Esther maintained a nice collection of cooking utensils, but at the time, when money was still relatively tight for the Gillman family, Esther and Sid were forced to come up with clever ideas, forced to audible their original plans. One day, as she prepared for a dinner party, Esther baked a few hams, made salad in a dishpan and cooked spaghetti in another. When the pasta was nice and soft, she realized she had nothing big enough to strain out the water. Gillman looked around the kitchen, spotted their saving grace and asked why they couldn’t just use a window screen instead.

“So,” Esther said, “we took it out, poured boiling water over it to sterilize it and drained the spaghetti.”

Sometimes, it wasn’t the sheer size of the clientele waiting to be fed. Sometimes, nature provided a roadblock that forced the Gillmans to seek alternate solutions. One night, while preparing a meal for 60 Denison athletes, Esther baked six pies and set them on the back porch to cool. She went outside later and was horrified to discover that birds had picked away at all the crusts. Gillman, though, came to her rescue. He rushed to the corner drugstore, bought ice cream, smeared it over the missing pieces of pie crust and yelled, “Look kids, pie a la mode!”

By the time the Gillmans made it to Cincinnati, Gillman’s Bearcats players took to calling her creation “Jewish Spaghetti.” The Gillman’s would host a dozen athletes at a time, and as Shundich recalled, “It was the hottest stuff in town.”

It didn’t necessarily have to be. The food could have been only average, and the Gillmans still would have had scores of football players trampling through their home in order to suck down Esther’s window-screen strained spaghetti. But Esther’s recipes also weren’t spontaneous. They couldn’t be. Not when she had half of a hungry team to feed.

Her spaghetti sauce didn’t only have to taste good when it was dumped on the pasta. There also had to be gallons of it. And how do you make gallons of what Esther called “Big Batch Spaghetti Sauce?” After years of experimenting, here’s the recipe Esther developed.

Ingredients: Pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a big kettle and heat before adding the following: six onions diced, one whole bud garlic, three large cans tomato juice, nine cans tomato paste, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, sugar, two pounds of lean ground beef, mushrooms.
Preparation: Sautee the onions and garlic only until they change color. Add ground beef and brown gently. Add the tomato paste, tomato juice, seasoned mushrooms and simmer very gently, stirring occasionally for at least 3 hours. If desired, add a batch of meatballs to the sauce, one hour before serving on a bed of thin spaghetti topped with parmesan cheese.

Serves: 25-30 people.
Esther proved to be one of Gillman’s biggest allies when it came time to make peace with some of his players. Even when he insulted them at practice, he could always make up for it by inviting them to Jewish Spaghetti the next night. Their feelings might have been hurt, but at least their bellies were full.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Clerisy Press (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578605059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578605057
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tom on September 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I became a San Diego Chargers fan after watching John Hadl, Lance Alworth, Gary Garrison, and Dickie Post beat Joe Namath and the World Champion New York Jets 34-27 on September 28, 1969 (NBC's Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis announced the game). Dapper Sid Gillman (with bow tie) had been the Chargers' head coach and general manager beginning with their debut 1960 season in Los Angeles. The Chargers' salad days were over by the time I began following them but they were still considered one of the few AFL teams that could compete with the best of the NFL. There wasn't much news about the Chargers coming to Western New York in those days but I did pick up enough to know Gillman was a tough, no-nonsense coach and an offensive innovator who stressed the passing game.

The Chargers finshed the 1969 season with a respectable 8-6 record although Gillman had handed over the coaching reins to Charlie Waller on November 14, 1969 but remained as general manager. Gillman returned as head coach for the 1971 season but resigned after a disappointing 4-6 start. He would return as head coach of the Houston Oilers and in various functions in the USFL and NFL.

Josh Katzowitz's "Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game" is an interesting biography of one of football's greatest offensive minds. Katzowitz traces Gillman's rise from college athlete to college and professional coach. There are plenty of interviews with coaches, players and members of the Gillman family. Sid Gillman influenced countless NFL coaches with his innovations and changed the course of the game although he has not received the credit he deserves. Old-time Chargers fans will certainly enjoy this book as will anyone interested in football history.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Todd Tobias on October 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Having written my master's thesis on Gillman, and having known him reasonably well, I thought this book did a great job of not sugar-coating Gillman's flaws, while additionally giving praise where it was deserved. I reviewed it for my blog, Tales from the American Football League.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lisa G. Malkoff on December 22, 2012
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This book is a wonderful depiction of the man and coach who is Sid Gillman. And though I was very, very young for most of his career (or not even born yet as I was born in 1965), I have so many fond memories of Coach Gillman. I recall my Mother hollering and jumping up and down feverishly each and every Sunday when Coach Gillman's team was playing on the television. This is because Coach Gillman is my maternal Grandfather. In fact, my middle name is Gillman - my Mom's maiden name... which I am so very proud to have.

My happiest memories are of those frequent visits to their home in La Costa, enjoying family time together, bar-b-q's and swimming in their pool. Their pool was extremely unique as it was shaped like a football sitting on a tee. The steps down into the pool were the tee and on the back side of the pool were little tiles that were painted to reflect the "laces". It was certainly a novelty to say the least...

Over the years, the articles I've read, the stories I've heard, the interviews I've seen depict a man of true integrity and greatness ... a truly beloved expert and fan of the game. I also always heard him being referred to as "the father of the passing game" which later in life I discovered was a huge part of the history and development of the game as we know it today.

I recall as a small girl parties at my home with members of the San Diego Chargers. Not only because my Grandpa was part of the coaching staff, but because my Father was the team physician for 13 years as well, far after my Grandpa moved on to other teams. And, the year the Philadelphia Eagles went to the Superbowl was certainly one of the most special for our family - even if they didn't win.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H. Christoff on January 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I think it was an honest depiction of a man who had many who loved him and some who didn't but, everyone agrees that his contribution to the game of football is undeniable and lasting to this day. I loved reading about the man and learning about his family. I love the beautiful love story of Sid and Esther and the tight family that surrounded him in his incredible life. I am sorry there is not more to celebrate the contributions that Sid has made and continues to leave his fingerprint on!! absolutely about time this story was told!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By football girl on November 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
It is evident that the author did extensive research and interviews with Gillman's family. Interesting read and gives you a full picture of Gillman as a man, coach, father, husband, etc. A must-read for those who want to learn more about football history and the development of the modern offense!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JoshKitchens on November 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is exactly what I was looking for in a Sid Gillman biography. Josh Katzowitz is a talented writer, and really shines when writing about sports. Buy it!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Terence Jon Troup on April 26, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Josh Katzowitz fails in his feeble attempt to explain why Sid Gillman was successful and a master at understanding the strategy of the modern passing game. Katzowitz had so many games in Gillman's career that could have been detailed to give the reader an in-depth look at this successful coach.
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