Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Might Have Been

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 16: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers passes against the Buffalo Bills on September 16, 2007 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

I love history, especially sports history. The Pittsburgh Steelers are celebrating their 75th season, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reminiscing. In a recent article on the Steelers of the 1940's, Robert Dvorchak writes:

What's in a name?

They could have been the Pittsburgh Wahoos, Condors, Pioneers, Triangles, Bridgers, Buckaroos or Yankees, or something steely such as the Millers, Vulcans, Tubers, Smokers, Rollers, Ingots or Puddlers -- all of which were fan entries in the contest to rename the football Pirates.

So maybe THAT'S why they're my favorite football team! Anyway, Mr. Dvorchak continues:

The winner became the brand name of an industrial city, and it is no small irony the team now practices on the site of a bygone mill. The name Steelers first appeared in a headline on March 3, 1940, in The Pittsburgh Press. And the back story is that the name almost disappeared into oblivion within the year.

After seven years of losing and being confused with a baseball team, owner Arthur J. Rooney asked fans for their input. Several thousand entries were received by mail at the team headquarters in the old Fort Pitt Hotel off Grant Street, some coming from as far away as Two Rivers, Wis., where the team had trained the previous summer.

Former coach Joe Bach, one of the Notre Dame lineman known as the "seven mules," headed a panel that chose the winner. A total of 21 people -- including one woman, Margaret O'Donnell of Pittsburgh -- submitted the winning name, with each receiving two season tickets for the 1940 season when a season ticket cost about $5. (There were no seat licenses.)

As documented by the postmarks, the first entry suggesting Steelers came from Arnold Goldberg, sports editor and later managing editor of The Evening Standard in Uniontown.

The reaction wasn't as vocal as it was for, say, Steely McBeam. But Havey Boyle, sports editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote that he preferred Puddlers, a nod to specialists in the early days of the iron-making industry. "Our own suspicion is that the whole thing was just another Rooney scheme to give away free tickets for his enterprise," he opined.
The rest of the article is here.

By the way, not for nothing (never understood that phrase) but the Stillers are 3-0. Yes, the opposition hasn't been great, but the bottom line is that 3-0 is still three wins and zero losses. They play at Arizona next Sunday, against their old offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt - the man who many thought should be the current head coach. That should be an interesting battle, to say the least.

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