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The Galloping Ghost: Red Grange, an American Football Legend Hardcover – September 10, 2008
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"Puts Grange's great career in the context of its colorful time... Pays worthy tribute to a legend." Booklist, ALA
"Poole is eminently readable, and the accent on Pyle is a real bonus." Library Journal
"A lively, well-written biography of this towering figure. Grange revolutionized the game on the field and his business manager, C.C. Pyle, revolutionized it off it." -- Orange County Register
"...reveals how the game is played on the field, and how it resonates in the wider world." The Washington Post
"[Poole] recounts the rise and tragic fall of the first national star of the gridiron. Poole also lays bare the complex relationship between a prominent athlete and the nation's first real sports agent." -- (Chicago) Sun-Times News Group
"Poole gives us the first major biography of Grange." -- Time Out Chicago
"Football wasn't truly football until the coming of Red Grange" -- Chicago Magazine
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Grange is likely in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as much for what he did to bring recognition to pro football as he is for what he did on the field. In the 1920’s college football was very popular and seen as an honorable and “amateur” endeavor. Pro football was seen as grimy, violent, and filled with ne’er do wells and ruffians. Many did not want Grange to sully his name and reputation by playing professional football. But with what might be the first real football agent, C.C. Pyle and Chicago Bears owner George Halas, Grange signed a hefty contract to play with the Chicago Bears in 1925.
Grange brought immediate legitimacy to pro football and was a major draw at the gate. One of the most ridiculous although lucrative activities was a 19 game barnstorming tour in 67 days. That is on average a game every 3.5 days! Playing such a violent and physically demanding game on a schedule like that borders on insanity but Halas and C.C. Pyle were thinking about the gate receipts not the health of the players.
After a contract dispute C.C. Pyle and Grange formed their own league and Grange’s team was the New York Yankees. That lasted all of one year. And unfortunately in 1927 Grange suffered a serious knee injury, and of course back then sports medicine was crude. From the accounts in the book it may have even been an ACL tear but after sitting out a year Grange went back to the Bears and played through the 1934 season. But he doesn’t appear to be the same player as he was before and often played only a few downs in games just to appease crowds who came to see him play.
Grange’s was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1963.
After his career Grange did a variety of jobs including speaking engagements and sports broadcasting.
There are two very interesting aspects of this biography that the author does a good job of exploring.
One is the impact that Grange’s name recognition and image had on the reputation of pro football. It was very significant. The author reminds us just how famous Grange was in the 1920’s because of his football exploits. He was able to parlay that into a lot of endorsements as well. He was one of the most widely recognized sports figures of his era.
Another is C.C. Pyle. He clearly was a bit of a con man but played the role of Grange’s agent well and seems to have treated Grange fairly in their business dealings. It would appear that he is the first player agent in pro football but I am entirely sure of that. At the very least he was the first prominent one.
Overall this was a well done and very interesting biography of an iconic figure in professional football.
The importance of "The Galloping Ghost" to the gridiron is legendary, but author Gary Andrew Poole scrambles past the well-trodden turf to deliver a comprehensive biography on the man who made football professional. In Grange's first college game (1923) he rushed for three touchdowns against Nebraska, ultimately gaining 723 yards in seven games and notching a dozen TD's while leading Illinois to a "national championship."
But it was one year later - scoring four TD's in the first quarter versus Michigan - that solidified Grange's name in the "Golden Age of Sports." And in an era when college players were dissuaded by coaches in turning pro - even threatened with having to return their varsity letters - Grange signed with the National Football League's Chicago Bears one day after the end of the 1925 season and embarked on a 19-game barnstorming tour that earned him in excess of $100,000.
A salary dispute between Grange and the Bears led the player - along with his agent, C.C. Pyle, to form their own league - the American Football League - in 1926 to compete against the NFL, with the superstar playing for the New York Yankees. The upstart league lasted one year before folding, with the Yankees moving to the NFL for the 1927 and 1928 seasons, though Grange missed that second year due to a severe knee injury.
Though not the same player after the injury, Grange returned to the Bears (1929-1934) and helped the club to titles in 1932 and 1933. The iconic pop culture status was solidified through the marketing by Pyle; Grange appeared in two silent-films and a 12-part serial.
This "Ghost" was pure gold in a time when pro football needed a superstar. His name resonates today as signifying excellence and Poole delivers a great look into the incredible life and times of the "Ice Man."