Friday, April 20, 1990

Ed Podolak--Hall of Fame, April 20, 1986

Ex-Chief Podolak to Register's Hall of Fame

Register Staff Writer


Ed Podolak says he'll be watching television at home, and occasionally one of the networks will show some film of the 1971 Christmas Day game the Kansas City Chiefs played against the Miami Dolphins.

"After watching for a few minutes," Podolak says, "I wonder how I ever ran that far. Now I can't even run to catch an elevator."

Just kidding, of course. At 38, Podolak -- former Chiefs running back, former University of Iowa quarterback and tailback, and former Atlantic, Ia., High School athletic standout -- still gets around pretty well.

Today, the man who lives in Carbondale, Colo., and owns a real estate and gas and oil business 20 miles away in Aspen, becomes the 112th member of the Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

Although Podolak displayed some brilliance as a rare double-position player at Iowa in 1966, 1967 and 1968, the Hawkeye football program in that era was considerably less than brilliant.

Indeed, those were part of football's Dark Ages at Iowa. The Hawkeyes had 19 straight non-winning, and Podolak played in three of them.

He participated on teams that had records of only 2-8, 1-8-1 and 5-5, but his 286-yard rushing day against Northwestern as a senior is still a school record.

Podolak led Iowa as a rusher that season with 937 yards, and was the team's No. 1 passer the two previous years. He threw for 1,041 yards as a sophomore, 1,014 as a junior.

He was a Hawkeye captain, the team's most valuable player and a first-team all-Big Ten Conference selection as a senior.

But Podolak's finest hours came as a member of the Chiefs. He was a National Football League "ironman," a 204-pounder who parlayed a strong work ethic instilled in him by parents Joe and Dorothy, and a gifted body into a nine-year pro career.

That's much longer than any running back is supposed to last in the NFL, where knee surgeries and broken bones are as commonplace as Tom Landry wearing a hat and Jim McMahon wearing a headband.

"The average career length is 31/2 years," said Podolak. "Maybe conditioning helped me stay as long as I did, maybe it was my running style. But luck had a big role in it, too.

"I really enjoyed my first three or four years of pro ball because we were very successful. But I didn't like the last part of my career because we were losing.

"That led me to retire. I could have played longer, but I hadn't had any knee operations, and thought it was time to quit.

Among the Chiefs' recods Podolak owns are for career-rushing yards with 4,451, and attempts with 1,158.

Although Podolak played on some outstanding Kansas City teams, his best game came in a loss.

That was the famous Christmas Day playoff game in 1971 with Miami. In a marathon that didn't end until the Dolphins' Garo Yepremian kicked a 37-yard field goal for a 27-24 victory after 82 minutes 40 seconds, Podolak piled up a record 350 yards.

He rushed for 100, totaled 100 in pass receiving, and added 150 in kick returns.

"The game was in Kansas City, and my parents were in town," Podolak said. "I went back home, ate a late Christmas dinner with them, then got on a plane the next day and flew to Aspen, so I could get away from football.

"Losing that game was a pretty painful experience. Most of our players thought we had a better team than the 1969 club that won the Super Bowl.

Injured as Rookie

Podolak was a rookie on the 1969 team, but tore a hamstring in the final exhibition game and missed nine weeks.

"I played on special teams in the Super Bowl game," he said, "and that was the only one I ever made it to."

In Super Bowl IV, at New Orleans on Jan. 11, 1970, Coach Hank Stram's Chiefs upset Minnesota, 23-7.

The versatile Podolak not only led the Chiefs in rushing for four straight years, 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973, and again in 1977, but he still owns the club record with 12 pass receptions against Denver in 1973, and also has the club mark for punt returns with nine against San Diego in 1974.

Podolak was the Chiefs' second-round draft choice behind cornerback James Marsalis of Tennessee State after his senior season at Iowa.

Because he hadn't been moved from quarterback to running back until midway through his final year as a Hawkeye, Podolak gave the professional scouts plenty of time to see him as an option player.

"I was drafted by Saskatchewan of the Canadian League as a quarterback," Podolak said, "and gave a lot of thought to playing there.

"The Canadian offer was as much as he Chiefs' and it turned out I got a better deal from Kansas City because I was considering Saskatchewan."

Recruited by Burns

Jerry Burns was still the Iowa coach when Podolak was recruited out of Atlantic High School.

"Freshmen weren't eligible for varsity competition in college football then," Podolak said, "so I never played for Burns [who was fired after the 1965 season]."

Ray Nagel was hired as a coach, and Podolak Podolak became the quarterback.

"In my sophomore season, I was runner-up to Purdue's Bob Griese in Big Ten total offense," said Podolak.

"But it was frustrating to keep getting beat, because I'd played for high school teams that never lost.

"I had expected to be part of a healthy, winning program, but the wheels came off. Those first two years were really a struggle."

But Podolak began the 1968 season as the leader of a promising offensive unit. But, after opening with a 21-20 victory over Oregon State, the Hawkeyes promptly lost successive games to Texas Christian, Notre Dame and Indiana.

To make matters worse, Podolak suffered a concussion in the Oregon State game, then had the same thing happen at Texas Christian.

"I spent four or five days in a Texas hospital," he said, "and that was probably my worst injury as a player."

Podolak was moved to running back in the fifth game, and quickly proved it was a good move.

"I went to tailback," he said, "because Denny Green hurt an ankle, and we had no depth at the position.

"Larry Lawrence was our backup quarterback, and Nagel figured I'd be stronger at tailback.

"After gaining 140 yards in first game as a running back, I knew I'd stay there the rest of the year."

The highlight of the season came with the 286-yard rushing day in a 68-34 Iowa victory over Northwestern.

"That set a Big Ten record," Podolak said, "but it didn't last long. I broke a record that had stood for years, but the following week Ron Johnson of Michigan broke mine."

Podolak thought Iowa was headed for big things after he concluded his competition, but it was not to be.

"By the time I was a senior, Nagel had recruited a lot of good athletes," Podolak explained.

"I felt they had a chance to win the Big Ten championship the following season, bu the team lost nine or 10 starters because of the black boycott."

As a result, the 1969 team repeated the 1968 squad's 5-5 record, but won one fewer Big Ten game. Then, after a 3-6-1 record in 1970, Nagel was gone.

"Our 4-3 record in the Big Ten in '68 was the last time Iowa was better than .500 in the conference until Hayden Fry's teams," said Podolak.

Next fall, Podolak will be in his fifth season as a commentator on Iowa games broadcast by WHO-radio in Des Moines.

"I enjoy doing that much more than the work I did as a commentator on the NFL games on NBC-TV," he said. "College football is much more colorful than pro games.

"But the thing I enjoy most is that Hayden Fry's Iowa teams are winning. I'm tremendously impressed with Fry. I hope this is his last coaching job, and that he stays at Iowa 20 more seasons."

Podolak and his wife, Vicki, also formerly of Atlantic, are the parents of two children -- Emily, 8, and Laura, 5.

His parents no longer live on a farm, and have moved into town in Atlantic. Younger brother Charlie, also a former Iowa player, lives in Columbus, Ohio, and sister Betty is in San Antonio, Texas.

Podolak lives a casual lifestyle in Colorado. He doesn't wear many three-piece suits or Florsheim wingtips.

"If you put on a coat and tie to do business in Colorado, they think you're going to rob the bank," he joked.

"I wear tennis shoes a lot because my feet got so beat up when I played football. That part of your body takes a real beating.

"When I retired as a player, I promised myself my feet would never hurt again."

Wednesday, April 11, 1990

George Pipgras--Hall of Fame, April 11, 1976

Ex-Yankee hurler Pipgras into 'Hall'

Register Staff Writer


The year Babe Ruth smashed 54 home runs, this guy won 24 games for the same New York Yankees. In the World Series game that The Babe "called his shot," this guy was the winning pitcher.

In fact, by the time this guy finished firing his fastball around the American League, he'd won 102 times.

In the Yankee heyday, he could throw almost hard enough to tear a hole through a barn wall. The trouble was, he had to find the wall first.

"Yep, wildness was my problem," George Pipgras said the other day. "At least it was until Herb Pennock, another pitcher on our Yankee staff, straightened me out."

Pipgras knew all about barns long before he could throw hard enough to damage one. He lived his early years on a 160-acre farm near Ida Grove and stayed in Iowa until going off to World War I in 1917.

George, now 76, didn't spend much time in our state after making it to baseball's big time and hanging around with the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri and Crosetti, but as an oldtimer he certainly qualifies as the eighty-second member of The Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

PIPGRAS SPENT all or parts of 11 seasons in the major leauges. The big years were with the Yankees, but he could see the end coming when surgeons opened his arm and found seven pieces of broken bone.

"I broke my elbow while throwing a fastball in 1933," he explained. "That ended my career."

George spent two unproductive seasons with the Boston Red Sox before calling it quits in 1935. He closed with an overall record of 102-73 and a composite big league earned-run average of 4.09.

But Pipgras still hadn't had enough baseball. He turned to umpiring in 1936, advanced to the American League in '38 after two years in the minors and stayed through '46.

"On the field," Pipgras said, "umpiring was great. But off the field it was a lonely life.

"After getting out of it, I scouted two years for the Red Sox, instructed umpires three years, then left baseball altogether. I've been retired since."

PIPGRAS, IN "pretty good health," lives in Iverness, Fla., a small town north of Tampa, with his second wife (the first died of cancer seven years ago). He's been a Floridian since 1925.

"I don't go to baseball games any more," Pipgras said. "I even quit going to spring training here in Florida. It's like everything else -- once you're through with a job, you don't want to go back to it."

But George enjoyed his days in baseball. Of course, he had some advantages others didn't -- like playing on those brilliant Yankee teams with Ruth, Gehrig and the rest, going to the Series, starring in Yankee Stadium.

"I liked New York," he recalled. "They tell me it's not such a good place now, but you seem to like whatever city you're working in.

"We didn't make the money ballplayers make now, but all in all it was a good life."

THE PIPGRAS family farm was 5 1/2 miles outside Ida Grove. By the time George was ready to play high school baseball, his dad had traded the farm for a hotel in the Schleswig-Holstein area.

"That's where I did my high school pitching," he said, "and baseball was the only sport in which I competed. I was always big (a 6-foot 2-inch, 200-pounder when a Yankee), so I should have been able to throw hard.

"Still, I was the runt of the family. My dad was 6-4 and my brothers (one of whom, Ed, spent a year with the old Brooklyn Dodgers) were either 6-3 or 6-4."

George didn't give that much thought to playing baseball for a living until after he went into the Army as a 17-year-old.

"I joined in Sioux City," he said, "and later was stationed in Texas and New York."

The young soldier spent nine months in England and France. He wasn't shot, but caught the flu and came back to the U.S.

"I guess the flu is what saved me," he said.

A MAN IN PIPGRAS' company -- his name was Ralph Works -- is credited with suggesting baseball as a livelihood.

"He said I should take it up after I got out of the army," George explained. "He'd seen me pitch in New York when we were stationed there.

"Well, the Yankees signed me and I was sent to Madison, S.D., in 1921. The Yanks bought me from there in '22, but later farmed me out to Charleston, S.C.

Then it was on to the big club in 1923 -- the year Yankee Stadium was dedicated.

"I didn't know a place could be so big," Pipgras admits now.

He won only one game (while losing three) in that rookie season, and went 0-1 in '24.

"It was tough breaking inot a staff that included Waite Hoyt, Urban Shocker and Carl Mays," said Pipgras. "So I went back to the minors in 1927."

Now the big guy with the whiplash right arm was ready. The season of '27 was a magic one for the Yankees. It was the year Ruth blasted his 60 homers. It was the year the Yanks swept the World Series from Pittsburgh in four games.

Pipgras not only flashed to a 10-3 record during the regular season, but whipped the Pirates, 6-2, on a seven-hitter in the second game of the series.

But the best was yet to come. In 1928, Pipgras surged to a 24-13 record, worked 300 innings and had a 3.38 ERA.

"I should have won 30," George said flatly. "Believe it or not -- with hitters like Ruth and Gehrig in our lineup -- the Yankees didn't get me a run for 46 straight innings. We lost a lot of 1-0 and 2-0 games when I was on the mound."

BUT THE YANKEES again won the pennant, went to the Series and swept it in four games (this time from St. Louis). And again Pipgras was a winner in the second game. His four-hitter checked the Cardinals, 9-3.

His victim was Grover Cleveland Alexander, then in the twilight of a brilliant career.

"I could throw harder than Grover," Pipgras said, "but he could put the ball through a knothole. He had perfect control."

But, with the help of Pennock, Pipgras' control was improving.

"I was off stride all the time," he explained. "I kept falling toward first base when I pitched. Pennock fixed my stride and also taught me a curveball."

Pipgras had an 18-12 record in 1929. He leveled off to 15-15 in '30 and 7-6 in '31.

The Yankees had gone three straight years without a World Series appearance, but that changed in '32. And so did Pipgras' luck.

He went 16-9 during the regular season and drew the World Series assignment in game No. 3 against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.

IT WAS THE LAST Series of Ruth's spectacular career -- and what a way to go! In the fifth inning of the third game, legend had it the Babe pointed to the most distant part of the park, took two strikes from Charlie Root, then hammered a homer to the part of the bleachers to which he'd pointed.

It is still known as one of the more brazen and defiant gestures in baseball history. The Yankees -- Ruth in particular -- had been riding the Cubs during the entire Series because the Chicago players had voted only a fraction of a Series share to Mark Koenig, a former New York shortstop.

"I remember the whole thing very well," said Pipgras. "Babe called his shot on that homer, all right.

"He never said anything when he came back to the dugout. All he did was laugh. The Cub pitchers denied Babe did it, but he did -- and it was the only time I ever saw him do it."

There is one other thing Pipgras remembers about that game: He struck out five times.

"That was about the only record I got out of the whole deal" he said with a laugh.

THE BROKEN elbow came the following season, and Pipgras split his time between New York and Boston. After going 11-10 that summer, he didn't win another game the rest of his career.

Many of the Yankees of that era have died. Pipgras still looks back to those years fondly. -- He said he and Ruth were "good friends" and added that Gehrig was "quieter than Babe."

And Pipgras? "Well, I didn't talk or pop off much."

The last time George recalls going through Iowa was in 1929. These days, he spends as much time as possible playing golf.

"I usually shoot between 80 and 85," he said.

Obviously, he could find the barn wall now.

Sunday, April 08, 1990

Dick Ives--Hall of Fame, April 8, 1979

Ives named to Register's 'Sports Hall'

Register Staff Writer


He was the kid from the tiny town of Diagonal, the one who could shoot the eyes out of the basket and who'd run through the walls of Iowa Fieldhouse for a guy named Pops.

When Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Bulge had been or would be splashed all over the front pages of the nation's newspapers in those war years, The Kid was giving the folks back home some relief by punishing Chicago and Indiana and Western Illinois on the basketball floor.

Dick Ives was his name. He'd come to the Iowa campus as a 17-year-old freshman in 1943, and brought with him a hot hand that made a shambles of the record book.

Thirty-five years ago, it was practically unheard of for a player to score 43 points in one game. Some teams couldn't even do that.

But Ives did it. In that brilliant freshman season, he hit the University of Chicago with a 43-point knockout blow. The Hawkeyes won the game, 103-31, to run their record to 12-0 against a school that was in its last year as a Big Ten member.

The 43 points accounted for a Big Ten one-game scoring record. So did Ives' 19 field goals in the same game. Dick won the conference scoring title with 208 points in 12 games -- the first freshman ever to do so.

What's more, Ives' 327 points in the 18-game 1943-44 season was a school scoring record.

And that was just the start of a brilliant Hawkeye career for Ives, an all-American who today becomes the 90th member of The Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

DIAGONAL WAS big stuff in Iowa high school basketball when Dick Ives came along.

"We were a good country ball team when I was playing there," said Ives, who now lives in Miami, Fla., "but we weren't as good as the teams my brother, Max, played on. Max's team won the state championship in 1938.

"But Pops Harrison, the Iowa coach, had heard of me. He knew I was out there in Diagonal, and we began corresponding by mail.

"I could have had a full-ride basketball scholarship to Drake, but I'd always wanted to play for Iowa, so I went there and even paid my $65 tuition fee."

Yes, and he also mowed lawns in Iowa City for 40 cents an hour, polished door knobs and swept up the floors in the athletic department offices at the Fieldhouse to pay that $65.

"I was jealous that I wasn't given an athletic scholarship," Ives commented. "I'd go out with Pops and help him recruit other players, but I wasn't given a scholarship myself.

"The football program was lousy at the time, so there weren't many other good athletes on the campus.

"Finally, Pops found a couple of guys who agreed to pay my tuition in the second semester."

Because World War II was going full-blast, freshmen were eligible for athletic competition on the college campuses then.

"Slip Madigan (Iowa's football coach in 1943 and '44) even asked if I wanted to come out for the squad," Ives said.

"I was a 6-foot 1-inch, 175-pounder. I said I'd be a cowardly flanker. 'Promise not to hit me and I'll come out,' I told him.

"But Pops about had a heart attack when he heard about the possibility of me going out for football."

But Ives did report for the Hawkeye squad in 1944.

"I was the only player at Iowa to win a baseball letter without ever coming to bat," he said.

"I was known as Warmup Ives -- a relief pitcher of great reknown."

HARRISON'S FIRST Iowa team -- the one Ives played on as a freshman -- had a 9-3 Big Ten record and tied for second in the standings.

"I started at forward with Ned Postels, Jack Spencer, Dave Danner and Skip Herwig," Ives said.

"Herwig was a 6-4 graduate student who played center," Dick said. "We told him to get out of the key, go to the corner and stay there. He followed instructions and stayed in the corner.

"Because we lost our last game to Northwestern (42-41), it cost us our chance to tie for the championship."

The following season, however, there was no stopping Ives and the Hawks.

They finished with a 17-1 record (with the only loss to Illinois) and won the Big Ten championship. After the season, Ives was named an all-American.

"We had the Wilkinson brothers -- Clayton and Herb -- then," Ives said. "Clayton was the center, Herb a guard. Danner had gone into military service and Murray Weir was a freshman and our sixth man.

"That team was the first one ever to sell out the Fieldhouse," Ives said. "We didn't draw very well during my freshman season, but we got crowds of 14,000 and 15,000 during the season we won the title.

"They even had to bring in portable bleachers to handle the fans."

Keep in mind that crowds in those years were estimates and Iowa, like other schools around the nation, had inflated attendance counts. Capacity at Iowa Fieldhouse is now listed as 13,365.

If Iowa would seize a Big Ten championship now, a spot in the National Collegiate playoffs would naturally follow.

After the 1978-79 regular season, five Big Ten teams -- Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana and Ohio State -- went to post-season tournaments.

These days, if you're pretty good but not quite good enough to get into the NCAA playoffs, there's always the National Invitation Tournament.

It didn't quite work out that way for Ives' Iowa teams.

There was the war, you know.

"We were invited to a tournament after my first season," Ives said, "but there were travel restrictions because of the war. In addition, at the end of the season we didn't have enough guys left on the team to scrimmage. Some were going into the military.

"We had problems the next season, too. Some of the guys didn't want to leave school to play in a post-season tournament, so we had to decline the invitation."

Iowa tied for third place in the Big Ten in Ives' junior year and tied for sixth when he was a senior. In his four seasons, he scored 843 points.

"In my senior year," he said, "we had a big guy named Noble Jorgenson, who, in my estimation, could have been the greatest player of my era.

"He could have been even better than George Mikan, but he never played that way and eventually flunked out of school."

IVES GOT his degree in 1947 in physical education, then coached basketball and baseball for one year at old Parsons College.

"I then went into the hardware business in Cedar Rapids, and married a girl from there. We moved to Florida in 1954."

Ives, who has been divorced for five years, is in partnership in a company in Miami that processes potatoes for restaurants.

He has a daughter, Susan, 26, who teaches school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"I've been staying with friends lately," Ives said, "because my home nearly burned down. The air conditioner got too hot and caused a fire that did $20,000 in damage."

Ives watches basketball occasionally on television, but hasn't seen a college game in person for quite a while.

"I play golf quite a bit," he said. "I picked up a club for the first time the week I graduated from Iowa. I recall playing on a course that had sand greens out there along the road from Iowa City to Davenport."

Ives had great admiration for Harrison, the late coach.

"He was a wonderful individual and a very inspiring man," Ives said. "A couple of months before he died, about 30 of his former players got together for a party with him.

"Even though Pops was on his death bed, he gave a speech you wouldn't believe. What an inspiration."

Not until John Johnson scored 46 points on Dec. 7, 1968 did an Iowa player ever surpass Ives' 43 against Chicago.

Ives' total is still No. 3 on the school's all-time list. Johnson's 49, which came Feb. 24, 1970 is No. 1.

"I have no regrets about anything that happened to me at Iowa," said Ives. "Well, I guess I do think they still owe me that $65 in tuition money."


Thursday, April 05, 1990

Doreen Wilber--Hall of Fame, April 5, 1981

'72 Olympic golf medalist Wilber into Register 'Hall'

Register Staff Writer


Jefferson, Ia. -- As far as Doreen Wilber can tell, she's not related to Robin Hood, that legendary archer who roamed Sherwood Forest.

"Robin Hood probably wasn't all that good an archer, anyway," Wilber said, a trace of a smile coming over face.

One thing's for sure -- Ol' Mr. Hood would hava a battle royal on his hands if he ever chose to go one-on-one with Wilber in the bow-and-arrow business.

The 51-year-old housewife from here is, or was, as good as they come.

Indeed, she could well be the subject of a trivia test at any time, in any place.

The question: Name the Iowa housewife who is the only female athlete from our state to win an Olympic gold medal.

The answer: Doreen Wilber, who stood proudly as the National Anthem was played while receiving the Olympic gold at the 1972 Games in Munich, West Germany.

"Somehow, it was an even bigger thrill to be on that stand, hearing the Anthem, with a Russian on one side of me and a Pole on the other," Wilber says now.

And today, Doreen Wilber needs to apologize to no archer anywhere. her gold medal still glitters as she carefully holds it in her hands, as she poses to be photographed on a warm, sunny afternoon.

The World's Best -- that's what she was. Now she's an archer who puts in only token appearances at big tournaments, but it's time she became the 96th member of The Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

Welcome to the club, Doreen.

THERE IS no complicated explanation as to how the lady got started as an archer.

It all began in 1957 when her husband, Paul -- better known as "Skeeter" -- took up field archery to sharpen his eye for the hunting season.

The Wilbers are childless, so Doreen went along just for somthing to do.

"I didn't like it for about two years," Doreen admits now.

But it wasn't long before it was the lady of the house, not the man, who was the serious archer. It wasn't long before Doreen was the one winning all the championships.

But it was the competition that turned her on. Certainly not the killing. To some, an arrow is a weapon. To Doreen Wilber, it isn't.

"I've never cared about hunting," she explained. "I don't like to kill things.

"I love animals. I like everything -- birds, squirrels, stray cats, you name it."

But get this lady in front of a target, with that bullseye staring at her, and it's a completely different story.

Then she's a dynamite.

Archery, as a sport, was something that fit Wilber perfectly.

"I have a strong back and strong shoulder muscles," explained the 5-foot 6-inch, 135-pounder. "Plus that, I'm a very cool person. Nothing upsets me when I'm on that line."

Yes, cool. If Doreen Wilber is anything, she's cool. A freight train could be zooming in on her, but if it was time to shoot she'd not hear it.

Fortunately, there were no confrontations with trains in Munich. Just a couple of women with jawbreaking names, and she calmly withstood the pressure of their presence very well.

In the end, it was the American -- the woman who lives in the neat home on 21/2 acres of countryside -- who turned on the diesel power and whipped the field.

"In all," Wilber said, "I beat 39 other women in the Olympics. Irena Sydovska of Poland was second and Emma Gaptchenko of Russia was third."

DOREEN INSISTS "nothing upsets me on the shooting line.

"Even when I shoot a bad arrow, I don't get angry," she commented. "Some people shoot a bad arrow and blow sky high. I never have.

"Actually, I've never started well in any tournament. After the first day at Munich, I was in seventh place. But, like in most other tournaments, I was consistent. I moved into first place on the last day."

Wilber was away from home for seven weeks and spent three of them in Munich, preparing for and winning the title. The '72 Games were, in some aspects, sad ones because of killings in the Olympic village.

"I was staying just two or three blocks from where the terrorists did the shooting," Wilber said. "But I didn't hear the gunshots.

"We actually hadn't started our competition yet. It was to begin the next day. Because of the killings, we started a day late."

Wilber closed with 2,440 points out of a possible 2,880 and won the gold medal by 14 over Sydlovska.

Skeeter didn't make the trip because he had to stay home and work (he repairs cars and also is an excellent woodcarver). He and Doreen had decided they wouldn't make the trans-Atlantic telephone calls while she was away, so Skeeter discovered his wife was a gold medalist by listening to the radio.

"I didn't do any celebrating after winning," said Doreen. "By the time I finished with everything, it was getting late. I was so tired I was about to collapse, so there was no partying."

But she did manage to get to one or two of the beer halls while in Munich, and admits she stole a mug from one of them.

You're excused, Doreen. Everybody steals a mug from the beer halls of Munich.

WILBER DIDN'T give any thought to going to the 1976 Olympics. There was nothing else to prove, not with that gold medal sitting in her home.

In fact, she has cut down her on her competitive meets considerably in recent years.

"I still go to the national tournament," she said, "so I can see the people. It's always held in early August in Oxford, Ohio.

"I've won it four times, and last year -- after practicing about two weeks -- I finished 12th in a field of 100. The last time I won the championship was 1974."

Doreen wonders if she could ever again "get the right attitude for a big meet.

"I doubt I could," she commented. "You have to really want to go out there and compete, and that takes quite a toll on your body. Physically, I think I could stand up to any of the archers, but mentally I don't think I could handle it."

The woman who has won so many state championships that officials stopped counting long ago, said she gets a kick out of listening to photographers apologize for clicking and whirring their cameras when she's in the middle of a tournament.

"You expect complete silence," she said, "but sometimes that's not always possible. But I've learned to block everything out when I'm at the line.

"Occasionally, a photographer will say, 'I'm sorry I made noise,' but I tell him or her, 'That's all right, I didn't hear a thing.' I just don't panic or get nervous."

Archery has made a world traveler out of Wilber. In addition to her trip to West Germany, she's been to places such as South Africa, Russia, England, France and Puerto Rico.

Although Wilber hasn't entered the state tournament for quite a while, she's confident enough to think she could win the title if she'd decide to join the field.

"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging," she said, "but I think I could beat anyone in the state right now."

Don't bet against her. Don't forget, she's cool.

Cool and still strong.

"Here," she said, "feel this arm.

"Solid, right?"

Solid, Doreen.

Tuesday, April 03, 1990

Alex Karras, Hall of Fame--April 3, 1977

Ex-Iowa grid star Karras named to Register 'Hall'

Register Staff Writer


First of all, keep in mind that Alex Karras is not a phony. He did not come into the world with a sugar coating.

Alex is 41 now, an age when maybe he could start mellowing a bit. Surely he could go around softening some of those barbs he enjoys hurling.

But, if anything, the newest member of The Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame is zinging 'em in even harder these days. Let's tune in on him for a while out there in Hollywood Hills, Calif.:

"I hated going to school. I liked some of the people at the University of Iowa, but I didn't go to class very often. I guess I'm about 25 years away from getting my degree. Not 25 semester hours -- 25 years. I don't regret not having a degree. I think it's silly to push people to go to college."

"There is nothing I liked about Forest Evashevski (his football coach at Iowa). How could I begin talking about a man I totally disliked?"

"I didn't like the 1957 Rose Bowl game we won from Oregon State. Oh, I played all right in it, but we didn't have any fun. I had eight tickets and planned to sell them so I could buy a suit. Don Dobrino (a teammate) supposedly had a guy who was going to buy all our tickets. Don gave 'em to somebody in a bowling alley, but he turned out to be a thief and we lost everything."

"I don't like Pete Rozelle (commissioner of the National Football League). I don't talk to him. I don't know if he likes that or not. I don't think he cares. He suspended me for one season (1963) for betting on games, and that was a bullshit rap."

"I like pro football, but it's not as much fun as when I played. It's stereotyped. It's a television project. That passing game -- the kind where you could throw a 65-yard touchdown bomb -- has been killed. I get tired of watching a halfback run for two yards."

"It's ridiculous for Iowa to try to compete with Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten. Those schools have alumni groups that can get them anything they want. Bob Commings, who was my roommate at Iowa, is the best coach Iowa can get, but he's bucking a very big dynasty in the conference."

THAT'S LOVEABLE old, tell-it-like-it-is Alex. The big guy who was an all-American at Iowa has gone a bit Hollywood on us now. He acts, he writes, he produces, he has an agent, he has a manager, he wears a mustache, he wears his hair in an afro.

Generally, Alex George Karras likes life in 1977.

"I'm getting ready to appear in a television special," he said. "It's called Mad Bull Korkus, the story of a greek pro wrestler's life. He falls in love. It's a wonderful story."

Now that's progress. Karras has gone from decking a horse with a right cross in "Blazing Saddles" to playing himself on the screen.

"Yep, I was a pro wrestler in real life from 1958 through '62," he commented. "Pinkie George of Des Moines signed me to my contract.

The reason Karras qualifies to be in the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame is because he came out of the polluted air of Gary, Ind., to play football for Iowa in the 1950s.

And, yes, they were generally unhappy years for the tackle who always seemed to have a personality clash with Evashevski, his coach.

"Evashevski was good for college football at the time," Karras said, "and he had some good assistants -- guys like Bump Elliott, Jerry Burns and Archie Kodros.

"But I would have enjoyed football more if it hadn't been for Evy. He recruited me personally. He came into my brother's home in Gary and flew me to Spencer, Ia., where I stayed for 1 1/2 months."

Why Spencer?

"They figured nobody would know where the hell Spencer was," Karras explained. "A lot of other schools -- Notre Dame, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and others -- were trying to recruit me, and I guess that's why Evashevski took me to Spencer. I did a lot of fishing up there and nobody found me."

Asked if he felt his recruitment was handled legally, Karras says now: "Legal? I don't know anything that's legal anymore."

Finally, Karras got to Iowa City as a freshman in 1954. But he couldn't adjust to life in college and recalls going back to Gary many times.

"I've been going home to Gary all my life," he says. "I spent many hours on the road to Gary when I was at Iowa.

"It was hard for me to adjust to a world outside of Gary for a long time. My mother urged me to go to school, and so did others."

KARRAS WAS not exactly the Robert Redford of the Iowa campus. He didn't have many girl friends.

"I was a backward guy, very shy," he said. "I couldn't handle the social aspects of a campus. I never hung around much. Bobby Commings was probably my best friend at Iowa."

Still, there were some eventful days in Iowa City for the 6-foot 2-inch, 235-pounder. Although he failed to letter as a sophomore, he was a major factor in Iowa's Big Ten championship season in 1956.

"I guess the day we won the conference title by beating Ohio State, 6-0, is my fondest memory," he commented. "I never thought we'd lost that game because we'd come a long way and were at a peak that afternoon.

"But my most satisfying game was the 48-8 win we had over Notre Dame the next week. The Karrases ahve always had a rivalry with Notre Dame. The school was just 60 miles down the road from our home and we wanted to beat 'em at anything."

Iowa climaxed that 9-1 season by ripping Oregon State, 35-19, in the Rose Bowl. Karras was an all-American that season and the following year.

"We didn't have to play very well in the Rose Bowl game because Oregon State wasn't very good," said Karras.

"The game was an extension of a long, long year. It was total football in Pasadena. We had no parties and were kept away from everything."

In 1957, Karras' final season, Iowa had a 7-1-1 record and Alex was given the Outland Award as the nation's outstanding linemen.

He began a 12-year pro career in 1958 with the Detroit Lions, who chose him in the first round of the college draft.

There are few fond memories about that stage of his life, either.

"I made a collect call to the Lions after they drafted me," Alex recalls, "and they wouldn't accept it."

Karras was many times an all-star as a pro. He is probably best remembered for the manner in which he would roar in like a mad bull and try to tear off the quarterback's head.

"I was a little different than most guys at my position," Alex said. "I wasn't as big (he played at 245). The guys now don't play the lateral game I did. I'd run around the opposition, not through them.

"Linemen today weigh 290 and can lift houses. They play a different game, but they're damn good."

Karras still has no admiration for the Detroit organization. "They don't seem to want to win very much," he said. "They should show the customers a winning team once in a while.

"But every year they come out stumbling. It'a a bad organization."

KARRAS SAID he wanted to be an actor as long as he can remember, and appeared in his first film -- "Paper Lion" -- in 1968.

"I've been in nine films so far," he commented. "But the one that was the turning point in my acting career was Babe, when I played George Zaharias. That put me into the heavy acting I like."

The reviews were good for Babe, but Karras is probably best known to television viewers for his role on Monday Night Football.

"I'm the bridge between Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford," he said. "I'm there to have a little fun. I'm going into my fourth year next fall."

Karras describes Cosell as being a "very sweet man ... an interesting guy I like to be around three hours a week."

There was a time, several years ago in a speech made in Des Moines, that Karras said Gifford reminded him of Lawrence Welk. "His straight style bores me," he said.

But that was before Karras replaced Don Meredith as part of the Monday night team. Alex now says of Gifford: "He's the best play-by-play announcer on TV today. He has to be if he's going to survive Cosell and me."

ALTHOUGH HE is certainly no pro football red-hot, Karras said he sees "nothing that's going to pass the game up in this country.

"I just wish they'd open up the game more," he added. Instead of being exciting, pro football has become a status symbol for people. It's a social function for people with money.

"I wish the guys carrying lunch buckets could go to the games, but they can't afford to."

Karras thinks college football is more interesting now than it was when he played. He likes platoon football because "more kids can go to school on scholarships and the game is wide open."

Alex, whose marriage to the former JoAnn Jurgenson of Clinton has broken up, has lived in Hollywood Hills for 1 1/2 years.

"I live in a little house," he said. "I have one car."

Alex works as much as he can. He produced a film last year for the ABC Children's Classic and likes doing that sort of thing -- children's films and producing.

He has a book coming out in November about his life. It's called "Big Boys Cry, Too."

"I'm planning a vacation next summer," he said, "when my kids come out to California from Michigan. My oldest is 17, my youngest 4.

"Four of the kids are boys. My oldest son plays football and basketball, and one of the other kids plays basketball."

Karras has cut his weight to 220 by eating more vegetables and less meat. "I didn't need the weight anymore," he said.

Alex doesn't know when he'll see the next Iowa football game coached by his old roomie.

"The last time I saw Iowa play was against Michigan a few years ago," he said.

"Iowa lost."

Sunday, April 01, 1990

Chet Brewer--Hall of Fame, April 1, 1984

Baseball great Brewer joins Register 'Hall'

Register Staff Writers


Chester Arthur Brewer -- better known as Chet -- threw smoke, and often pitched against the legendary Satchel Paige. But his timing was all wrong.

Unlike Paige, Jackie Robinson and other black men who were pioneers in organized baseball, he was never able to play in the major leagues.

However, Brewer says he has no regrets.

"I couldn't have been the Jackie Robinson of big league baseball," he explains. "I wouldn't have been able to take the insults he did, and would have been kicked out of baseball."

But today Chet Brewer isn't being kicked out of anything. Instead, the man who managed Robinson in a Los Angeles winter league in 1945 is becoming the 104th member of The Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of fame.

Brewer, now 77 and living in Los Angeles, moved with his family to Des Moines from Leavenworth, Kan., as a second-grader. In the years that followed, he demonstrated his skills in baseball and other sports in the state, around the nation and even in foreign countries. In 1966 he was named to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

There are those who say Brewer was as talented a pitcher as the more famous Paige. Old-timers say Brewer was equal to Satchel in ability.

In his days in the old black leagues, Brewer faced Paige on the mound often.

"Sometimes he won, sometimes I won," Brewer says. "But it was always a scuffle. None of the rest of us got any publicity when Satchel was there because he got it all. But I beat everyone he did."

Brewer, who comes back to Des Moines occasionally to visit friends and relatives, was among the honored guests recently at the fifth annual Negro Baseball Leagues Reunion in Ashland, Ky. On hand to toast Brewer and others were Iowa-born Hall of Famer Bob Feller, former Chicago Cubs star Ernie Banks, baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and other veterans of the black leagues.

BREWER, WHO attended old West High School here before embarking on his long baseball career, says his biggest thrill was beating Paige with a no-hitter in the Dominican Republic in 1936.

Later, Brewer and Paige were teammates on the Monarchs, one of the best black teams around.

Brewer considered Monarch shortstop Jesse Williams better than Robinson, and urged Jackie to shift to second base, the position he later played with the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

Brewer's Los Angeles winter league club played Feller, Bob Lemon, Mickey Vernon, Ken Keltner, Stan Musial, Mike Garcia, Johnny Sain and other major leaguers in 1946.

"You know," he says, "we beat those guys as many times as they beat us."

Allen Ashby, 79, of Des Moines, is a friend of Brewer's who thinks there's no doubt the 6-foot 4-inch, 200-pounder could have pitched in the majors had he gotten the opportunity.

Ashby recalls that when Brewer was at the top of his game, "One catcher said, 'You could catch Chet in a rocking chair. He would throw 100 pitches, and 90 of them would be in the strike zone.'

"CHET WAS A great athlete around Des Moines," Ashby said. "He was an excellent basketball player and a good football player. He and I played on basketball and football teams together, but I couldn't carry his baseball shoes.

"Chet was taller than most kids his age in his young years. He enrolled in the old Olive McHenry School. At that time, the Des Moines grade school athletic system was divided into four parts, and games were held between schools in each district, with the four winners playing for the city title.

"Brewer pitched his team to the final game, but lost, 1-0, after striking out 17 batters in seven innings. He then was 12 years old. He pitched around the city with kid teams, and rarely lost because nobody could hit his fastball.

"At 15, he was traveling out of town, pitching for black semipro teams. Then clubs from around the state began to hire him to pitch, and soon he was making what then was good money simply by pitching baseball."

Brewer calls the move by his family to Des Moines one of the best things that ever happened to him.

"We were in Leavenworth -- and if you say the penitentiary, I'll shoot you," Brewer said with a laugh. "But one of my father's brothers moved to Des Moines because things were kind of slow in Kansas.

"Des Moines was like a breath of fresh air to us. We got rid of a lot of racial prejudice we found in Kansas. Everything there was either all-white or all-black. We lived in an integrated neighborhood and I went to integrated schools in Des Moines. We blacks could go to movies in Des Moines and not have to sit back with the projector.

"I have very fond memories of Des Moines and West High School. As teen-agers, some of us organized an athletic group called the Dashing Eagles, and we backed ourselves. We gave 15- and 25-cent dances to hustle up money so we could buy equipment."

ALTHOUGH BREWER had an assortment of pitches, he says his strikeout delivery was "an overhand curve -- something we called a 'drop.' It started high and dropped low. Now they call it an overhand breaking ball."

Brewer joined the Monarchs in the mid-1920s. Club Owner J.L. Wilkinson even assigned Chet to get Paige to the games on time. Brewer recalls Satch driving "a big Airflow Chrysler, saying, 'Don't worry, if the red lights are gonna make us late, I won't stop for any more.'"

Paige leaned on the horn and stepped on the gas, dodging oncoming cars on one-way streets, making U-turns across pedestrian islands and overshooting the park by three blocks before he could hit the brakes. They walked onto the field in the fifth inning with angry customers demanding their money back.

Now, Brewer told Wilkinson, "Instead of one pitcher being late, you've got two late. I don't want to ride with Satchel anymore. He's going to get both of us killed!"

Brewer recalls barnstorming with a team called the Tennessee Rats, a team he compares to one in the film "Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars."

"We'd come into a town in our Model-T Ford and go up and down the street with a megaphone," he said. "We slept in tents, played and clowned. It was the only way we knew to make money."

They did their laundry before the game and lived out of shaving kits. "It was a tough life, but I see these big leaguers complaining nowadays, too."

Brewer's team encountered prejudice in both the South and North, and was ordered out of one hotel in Wisconsin at gunpoint.

"Just think of the life we have to live," he said. "Paving the way for the guys today who are making all that fabulous money, and none of them thinks of doing anything for the old ballplayers. They never thought about getting up a fund, and some of the old-timers are in pretty bad shape.

"I'm just fortunate enought to have a scouting job, and I saved some of my money when I had it."

BREWER CALLS Bullet Joe Rogan, manager and star pitcher of the Monarchs, "the best pitcher I ever saw -- black or white -- and I saw Feller, Dizzy Dean, Satchel and Smokey Joe Williams. Who in the world had a curveball like Rogan? Jeepers, he could throw the curve faster than most pitchers could throw a fastball.

"Some of those old-timers ... it's a shame baseball wasn't open to them. Man, oh man, we'd have rewritten the record books back in our time."

In Brewer's rookie season with the Monarchs, he had a 12-1 record in the 100-game Negro National League schedule. In the Depression, the leagues broke up, so Brewer pitched for a white semipro team in Crookston, Minn. -- "one of the most beautiful summers I ever spent," he recalls. The townspeople furnished him a house and car.

He also barnstormed with Dean, who became upset if he thought the blacks weren't getting their fair share of the receipts. Dean gave Brewer a 1934 St. Louis Cardinals championship jacket, saying, "From one good pitcher to another."

Brewer says the toughest hitter he faced was Buck Leonard, the "Black Lou Gehrig." Chet says, "I could get Josh Gibson out, but Leonard hit me like he owned me."

The same year Brooklyn signed Robinson, the Cleveland Indians farm club at Bakersfield, Calif., signed Brewer. He was nearly 40 at the time. George Troutman, the minor league commissioner, approve the deal but, Brewer says, Cleveland General Manager Roger Peckinpaugh turned it down.

TODAY, BREWER IS recovering from a stroke, but before that he called himself "the busiest 77-year-old man you'll ever see."

He runs a semipro youth baseball league in Los Angeles, a showcase for talent for the major-league scouting bureau. He has sent Enos Cabell, Ellis Valentine, Bob Watson, Reggie Smith, Bobby Tolan, Willie Crawford, Dock Ellis and Joe Black to the majors.

More important, he feels, he has helped keep hundreds of kids off the street and out of trouble.

He and his wife, Tina, also supervise a boys' club. "I feel good when I see those boys staying out of trouble and doing something for themselves," he said.

The kids call him "Pops" or "Papa Chet."

Times have changed a lot in baseball, of course, since Brewer left the game. He recalls the time during World War II when the majors were so hard up for talent they hired a one-armed white man, Pete Gray, but wouldn't sign any of the great two-armed black men available -- Paige, Gibson, Leonard and others.

"Shoot," Brewer syas, "the only thing a one-armed man could do as good as a two-armed man is scratch the side that itches."

He remembers one manager in California who repeatedly refused to let a black kid try out for the team. Finally, hoping to humiliate him, the manager sent the boy in to pinch-hit against the league's best pitcher.

The kid hit a line drive off the fence and tore around the bases. "Man," the manager said, "look at that Cuban run!"