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Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game Paperback – September 11, 2012
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"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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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.
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. Grandpa wore that Superbowl ring so proudly and was such an asset to the overall game of football - really, until the very end of his life.
Even through his late 80's, teams would send Grandpa film to review and would call on him regularly for advice. He had a fantastic little film room upstairs in their home that was wall-to-wall reels of film with an old time projector (probably high-tech for the times). I was far too young to truly appreciate what it all meant at the time, but I still have the vivid pictures of it all in my mind.
And I have such great memories of what I refer to as "the football room" (the family room) where we spent so much of our time during our weekend visits (of course in the off season) ... This is where we watched television (mostly football games), ate informal snacks and meals and visited with one another. I clearly remember that the room had an entire wall lined with shelves filled with so many game balls - many of which were signed by players, or specially inscribed by teams made just for Grandpa. And all of the other 3 walls were entirely covered with many plaques of the stories and articles written about my Grandpa over the many years of his storied career. One of the most special items that I remember in that room is a Walter Payton framed used game jersey that hung on the back wall, which you saw right when you entered the room. And, below it was a beautiful plaque of an article/photo of my Grandpa on the shoulders of his players after a big win. Also, when you entered their home, right there in the foyer was Grandpa's Hall of Fame bust, displayed prominently and proudly - as I felt it should be.
After Grandpa passed away, I remember listening, long into the night on several different sports radio stations, calls from so many of the former players and coaches that worked with Grandpa over the years telling their many wonderful stories and how he touched their lives in such impactful ways. I also remember the many articles, published in the sports section of newspapers all across the country, paying tribute to this great member of football lore.
Another thing I thought was so special and recall so clearly were the many football greats incredibly fond of my Grandpa who stayed in very close contact with my Grandma Esther after Grandpa passed away. Grandma was also truly loved by many who were fortunate enough to know her, especially in the football world. I was told that she was often at my Grandpa's side during his coaching career, almost always traveled with the team and served as sort of a "Mom" on the road for the players - keeping them in good spirits and out of trouble, I'm sure. One thing that I specifically remember her telling me is that on the morning of many Superbowls, many of the coaches who were in the big game would call Grandma, my guess is for "good luck". She always got such a kick out of that...
Grandpa gave my Grandma Esther the most beautiful pin, at some point over the years, that she wore constantly throughout her life - especially when she was "going out on the town". It was made of fine yellow gold, molded into the shape of a football (of course) and trimmed along the bottom with a row of beautiful tiny pearls. She wore that pin at each and every special occasion that I can ever remember ... And, she will wear it always, as my family placed it on her sweater after she passed away, to wear for all eternity.
This book isn't a technological resource that reveals his game diagrams or playbooks, but is more of an account of the life of Sid Gillman, the man and football innovator who touched many lives with his toughness and great knowledge of the game. I am very lucky to have had Sid and Esther Gillman as Grandparents and if you are a football fan, especially of the older era or of the San Diego Chargers, and want to know more about a man who left his prominent mark on this American past time, you will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful recount of one of the most cherished football legends of all time...
R.I.P. Papa Sid & Grandma Esther...