Monday, July 30, 1990

Paul Brechler--Hall of Fame, July 30, 1989

Paul Brechler: Architect of Iowa's success in '50s

Register Staff Writer


There wasn't much Dr. Paul Brechler didn't see in his years as a coach and athletic department administrator at the University of Iowa.

He even saw a lot of Pops Harrison's backside.

"That's when I was an assistant basketball coach under Pops in the 1940s," Brechler recalled. "My main responsibilities were scouting and grabbing Pops by the seat of his pants."

The games were played in Iowa Fieldhouse then, and a low canvas fence separated the coaches' and players' bench from the court.

"Well, Pops would sometimes get upset with the officials," Brechler said, "and it was my job to grab him before he went over the canvas."

After leaving the basketball bench, Brechler moved swiftly up the administrative ladder. He became Iowa's business manager of athletics in 1946, then was named athletic director on July 1, 1947.

The years that followed found the Hawkeye athletic program prospering in the arena and the cash register.

During Brechler's 13-year tenure as athletic director, the 1956 and '58 football teams won Big Ten championships and Rose Bowl games. The coach was Forest Evashevski, whom Brechler hired.

It was also in the Brechler era that Iowa won Big Ten basketball titles in 1955 and '56 and finished fourth and second nationally under Bucky O'Connor, another Brechler appointee.

"We had other successful coaches when I was at Iowa," Brechler said, "men like Francis Cretzmeyer in track and cross-country, Dave McCuskey in wrestling, Dick Holzaepfel in gymnastics and Don Klotz in tennis.

"Their accomplishments made my happy. I always thought an athletic director was lucky if he was successful 50 percent of the time in hiring a coach. I figured I had a 70 percent success rate."

Brechler, born in Curlew 78 years ago, today becomes the 122nd member of The Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame. He goes in under a new category that honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to athletics in ways other than as competitors.

Brechler was certainly a contributor -- and still is. Despite a stroke in 1985, and three heart attacks before that, he is listed as commissioner of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, a collection of small colleges. The league includes schools such as Adams State and Colorado School of Mines.

The office, says Wanda Brechler, Paul's second wife, is in the basement of their home in Denver, Colo. "Paul has the title of commissioner," she said, "but I do the work."

The stroke robbed Brechler of the use of his left arm and leg. He uses a wheelchair much of the time.

"I can only walk with a can and someone's help," he said.

But there were days when he was much stronger.

It's rare these days to see a collegiate athlete who participates in football and basketball, but Brechler did at Drake University in the 1930s, after his graduation from Emmetsburg High School.

He was a guard and end on the Bulldogs' football squad, and captained the 1933 team as a senior. In that season, Drake lost only to Illinois, Temple and Oklahoma A&M. Brechler was twice named to the the all-Missouri Valley Conference team.

"I played a little bit of varsity basketball at Drake, but football was my main sport," Brechler said.

Brechler coached three sports at Harlan High School and directed the football and basketball programs at old University High in Iowa City, but it was as Iowa's athletic director that he starred.

He had a bachelor's degree in social studies in 1934 from Drake, a master's in physical education from Iowa in 1941, and a doctorate in education administration from Iowa in 1943.

So he not ony was one of the better-educated athletic directors in the Big Ten, he also was the youngest when he was named to head Iowa's program 16 days short of his 36th birthday in 1947.

Brechler was certainly no stranger to controversy in his years at Iowa. There was a bitter public feur between Brechler and Evashevski, the man he hired to resurrect Hawkeye football before the 1952 season.

In 1959, after Evashevski had taken Iowa to two Big Ten championships, he called working conditions at the university "intolerable." Consequently, some of Evy's supporters demanded Brechler's resignation.

Brechler quit, but not until Aug. 15, 1960, and he says the resignation had nothing to do with pressure from fans who were loyal to the extremely popular Evashevski.

Brechler had been courted for numerous other jobs in athletics when he was at Iowa, but the offer that finally sounded attractive enough to get him to leave was to be commissioner of the Skyline Conference, with headquarters in Denver.

When the league folded after Brechler was on the job for two years, he became the first commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference in Denver, serving for six years.

Evashevski was named to succeed Brechler at Iowa, coached only one more season, then moved into the athletic director's job full-time.

Brechler acknowledges that he was warned about possible problems with Evashevski.

"When I was looking for a new coach, I called a few people I respected," Brechler said. "Fritz Crisler [then the athletic director at Michigan, and a man who coached Evashevski in college], was one of them.

"I asked Crisler, 'Is Evashevski [who then was at Washington State] any good as a football coach?'

"Fritz said, 'He's a good man, but he's sure as hell hard to handle.' I never had any trouble with people, and I thought I could get along with anybody. So I wasn't hesitant to hire Evashevski."

Time hasn't wiped away all Brechler's bitterness of his years with Evashevski.

"I wouldn't say we're the greatest of friends," Brechler said, "but we've been at meetings together since we've been gone from Iowa, and Evashevski and I have spoken to one another.

"We had so many differences of opinion that it probably doesn't do any good to bring them up now. When we were both at iowa, he and I had the same problem -- we talked too much in public."

Although a number of universities -- Indiana, Arizona and Pittsburgh among them -- offered Brechler jobs when he was managing Iowa's program, perhaps the most unusual came from CBS-TV.

"I was on the NCAA television committee," Brechler explained, "and met many times with executives of the networks. Once, after a meeting in New York City, I was asked if I'd be interested in joining CBS.

"I said I'd listen. When I went to the network offices, my name was already on the door. When I happened to ask the people who worked there where most of them lived, they said Connecticut. So I hopped on a train to go to Connecticut to check things out.

"But I almost got squeezed to death in the crush of people. I told myself, 'This isn't for me,' went back to New York City and told CBS that I wasn't interested in the job."

One job Brechler wishes he hadn't taken was athletic director at California in 1968.

"That was the biggest mistake I ever made," he says. "To take it, I resigned as commissioner of the WAC -- the best job I ever had."

At California, Brechler got caught in the Berkeley campus uprisings and left before his contract expired.

When asked for an opinion on the present state of college athletics, Brechler has one word: "Terrible."

He thinks too much money is involved and too much emphasis is placed on winning.

"That puts a lot of pressure on the coaches that shouldn't be there," he said. "An athletic director is only as good as his staff."

But, Brechler adds, the problems aren't new.

"My experience has been that whenever people give money to an athletic department, sooner or later they want to help you run it. They even want to name your coaches.

"When I was at Iowa, I belonged to the Elks Club in Iowa City. Some guy might have a few too many drinks, then come up to me and say, 'When are you gonna get rid of so-and-so as coach?'

"I'd go into cities and towns where fans would come up to me and say, 'Here's $100 or $500, use it any way you want to help your athletic program.' I'd say, 'No, I don't want that money.' They certainly wouldn't want that kind of stuff done in their own businesses."

Brechler said even the small league he and his wife now run, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, isn't immune to problems.

"When I became commissioner of this league," he said, "I thought, 'Boy, this is it -- a program that will be good for the athlete, not the coaches or the alumni.'

"But that hasn't turned out to be the case. They cheat at this level, too."

Wanda and Paul Brechler have been married for 32 years. She had been his secretary at Iowa. They were married after his 21-year marriage to Bonnie Brechler ended in divorce in 1957. Brechler has two sons from his first marriage -- Bill, now 48, and Steve, 38. He has six grandchildren.

Sunday, July 22, 1990

Fred Brown--Hall of Fame, July 22, 1990

He gave Iowa lift, from downtown

Register Staff Writer


As a University of Iowa junior, he was called the missing link by Coach Ralph Miller in what was to become a championship season.

As a senior, he was much more than a link. He was virtually the whole show under Coach Dick Schultz.

Fred Brown was his name, basketball was his game. The 6-foot 3-inch guard excelled in the sport at every level of competition.

They called him downtown Freddie Brown when he dialed long distance for many of his points in 13 seasons for the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association. But he was strictly uptown in style in his two-year career as a Hawkeye.

Add in a strong showing at Southeastern Community College of Burlington before his days at Iowa, and it's easy to see why Brown qualifies to become today the 125th member of the Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

"Even though I wasn't a native Iowan, I'm proud to have spent some time in the state," Brown said. "It was a love affair. I still have fond memories of how the people of the state took me in.

"I live in Seattle now, but when I go back to Iowa to visit, it's like I never left."

Brown was born in Milwaukee, where he led Lincoln High School to two state championships. Although Miller, who was Iowa's coach from 1965 to 1970, would have preferred Brown be a Hawkeye for four years, he settled for the next-best thing.

"Fred couldn't qualify academically to play Big Ten Conference basketball out of high school," Miller said. "So he enrolled in junior college at Burlington, and we stayed in contact with him."

In his two seasons at Southeastern, Brown scored 1,675 points -- averaging 21.3 a game as a freshman, 26.8 as a sophomore -- and was named to the national junior college all-tournament team in 1969. Then it was on tow Iowa, where he quickly earned the respect of Miller and a gang of veteran players.

"In his first season with us," Miller said, "it was a situation where one person made a huge difference in a team. Fred was the missing link. We were a good team, but he helped make us a very good one.

"Chad Calabria, Glenn Vidnovic, John Johnson, Dick Jensen and Ben McGilmer were seniors when Brown came in, and he was just what we needed."

Although Brown could be an explosive scorer, Miller hardly ever mentioned offense first when he was describing any player. Before he talked about points, Miller talked about defense and passing.

Brown was capable in both areas.

"He was a fine passer, a good shooter and quite capable of playing excellent defense," Miller said. "Now, he didn't try very often to play strong defense when he was a junior in college, but I did notice that he could be an outstanding defensive player when I saw him in a tournament."

Miller recalls a conversation he had with Brown when he recruited him: "You're supposed to be a fine offensive player, and we know that. But I also saw you play defense for 5 minutes in a junior college game, and I'm going to make you one of the best defensive guards in the Big Ten."

"He worked on his defense very hard, and became a solid all-around player," Miller said.

Conference Champs

Brown was a point guard on the 1969-70 Iowa team that, after a sluggish start, took the Big Ten by storm. The Hawkeyes finished with a 20-5 overall record, and seized the conference championship with a 14-0 mark.

In 14 of their 25 games, they scored 100 points or more. In nine league games, they surpassed 100. In their final six games, they went past 100 -- including a 121-point outburst against Notre Dame in a third-place NCAA Mideast Regional tournament game.

Iowa's 102.9 average in conference games that season is still a Big Ten record.

Although some -- including Schultz, who then was Miller's top assistant -- thought the 1969-70 Hawkeyes had the ammunition to be national champions, they lost their chance when Jacksonville nipped them, 104-103, in the first round of the Mideast Regional.

Brown was a player who knew his role in that devastating lineup. He was the new kid on the block. He didn't come to Iowa City to show Johnson, who would later join him on the SuperSonics; Calabria; Vidnovic, or any other members of the team he could throw his weight around.

Just his passes.

"Filled a Need"

"I wasn't the type of player who wanted to score points," Brown said. "I just filled a need. Those other guys had all been there. I could pass well, and the other guys wanted to shoot. Because I was the point guard, I had the ball. So I got it to them."

Brown kept it a few times, too. He averaged 17.9 points a game -- one of four Hawkeyes who hit at a 17-point clip or higher.

With Miller having left to take the Oregon State coaching job, and with most of the experienced players gone, Brown was left to carry the load in the 1970-71 season under Schultz.

Schultz's first Hawkeye team lost eight of its last nine games, and finished 9-15.

Still, Brown had a brilliant season. He played in all 24 games, averaged 27.6 points and had a high game of 37 against Purdue. The average hasn't been matched by a Hawkeye since.

To further explain how dominant Brown was on that Hawkeye team, consider that center Kevin Kunnert had the team's second-best scoring average at 10.4.

Brown averaged 28.9 points in Big Ten games; he was on all-America teams selected by Basketball News, Basketball Weekly and the Helms Foundation; he was an all-conference first-team player; and he was named Iowa's most valuable player.

Fred could always shoot," Schultz said, "but we had a problem getting him to shoot more as a senior. He preferred to drive, and set up other people."

He said he helped recruit Brown, and always thought highly of him.

"He was a classy guy -- honest and straight-forward," said Schultz, who now is executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. "I felt he'd be a good professional player, but so many things can happen in the NBA that you never know for sure."

Looking back at his collegiate career, Brown said, "The individual statistics aren't that important to me. I'd have preferred to be on a national championship team."

National Champ

That honor finally came Brown's way when the SuperSonics won the NBA championship in 1979. He had been Seattle's first-round draft choice in 1971, and quickly became a factor on the team. he played in 33 games and averaged 4.2 points as a rookie, then hit at a 13.5 clip while playing 79 games in his second season.

In his 13 seasons, Brown averaged 14.5 points and is the team's career scoring leader with 14,018 points. He owns the club record for points in a game with 58 against Golden State on March 23, 1974. He is also the Sonics' career leader in minutes played (26.4 average per game), assists (3.4 average), field goals (6,006), field goals attempted (12,568) and steals (1.2 average per game).

"I was a point guard when I first got to the pros," Brown said, "but became a shooting guard in my third season. The decision was made because we needed point production."

Brown said he acquired the nickname Downtown Freddie Brown during an autograph-signing session following a Seattle game.

"The kids who came up to me asked if I'd sign my name Downtown Freddie Brown," he said. "There were some media people there at the time, and they picked up on it."


Brown retired following the 1983-84 season, going out with an 8.5 average during the regular season and a 9.8 mark in the playoffs.

"The team was restructuring, and I didn't want to be a guy sitting at the end of the bench," Brown said.

Brown, 42, is now assistant vice president of sales and marketing for the Goodwill Games, which are in progress in Seattle.

"I was the guy who had to raise $26 million for the Games," Brown said. "When the Games are over, I'll go back to the real world -- which, for me, is commercial and residential real estate."

Brown met his wife, Linda, when both were students at Iowa. They have three sons -- Fred Jr., 16; Terik, 12, and Bryan, 10.

Brown's main game these days is tennis.

"I'm waiting to play Boris Becker," he joked.

Tuesday, July 10, 1990

Jack Dittmer--Hall of Fame, July 10, 1988

Ex-Brave Dittmer in Register Sports Hall of Fame

Register Staff Writer


Elkader, Ia. -- When Jack Dittmer was a second baseman for Milwaukee in the 1950s, no player knew him better than Ernie Johnson.

Johnson, a pitcher, was Dittmer's roommate when Milwaukee, not Boston or Atlanta, was the home of the Braves. Because the two spend so much time together, Dittmer said Johnson was his best friend on the club.

Dittmer, 60, now sells automobiles in Elkader, and regularly listens to Johnson talk about the Braves on WTBS telecasts.

"Dittmer was a good, bear-down ballplayer," Johnson recalled when told his old roommate was becoming the 117th member of The Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.

"I don't know how many people realize it, but he also was quite a prankster.

"I'll never forget an incident that happened one night in St Louis. While 'The Star-Spangled Banner' was being played, the stadium lights were turned out. Dittmer than gave Manager Charlie Grimm a hotfoot by setting fire to his shoelaces.

Born in a Small Town

"Grimm let out a yell, saying, 'Dittmer!' when he felt the firse. He knew right away it was Jack who did it."

Small-town Jack Dittmer a hotfoot artist? Jack Dittmer, the kid with the flat-top haircut from Elkader, causing a stir in a big-league dugout? Jack Dittmer, who won a record 12 letters at Elkader High School and a rare nine at the University of Iowa, torching Charlie Grimm's shoelaces during the national anthem?

Well, just because Dittmer was a product of small-town America doesn't mean he didn't know how to have fun in the big city.


On a hot, dry afternoon in this picturesque northeast Iowa community of 1,500, Jack Dittmer is as far removed from a major-league dugout or a major-college football stadium as he could be.

His only connections with professional baseball are the telecasts he watches and the occasional games he sees in person in Milwaukee. Every fall, he makes the drive to Iowa City for two or three Hawkeye football games, and he watches most of Iowa's basketball games on TV.

He's still a Hawkeye fan, still knows who's doing what in the National and American leagues.

But today, he talks about how this town he has always called home needs rain. On a typical busy afternoon, he drops off the mail, pays a couple of bills, then makes a brief stop at home. He comes across as anything but a dugout hotfoot specialist as he shows a visitor the baseball caps, autographs in his recreation room.

Braves Dissatisfied

They are reminders that Dittmer was an outstanding baseball and football player at Iowa, and that he spend five years and three days as a major-league baseball player -- four of the seasons with Milwaukee.

Dittmer's first year in the majors was with the then-Boston Braves in 1952. In 93 games, he hit .193. But improvement came quickly.

His best season was 1953, after the franchise was moved to Milwaukee. It was his first season as a regular, and he hit .266, belted nine home runs and 22 doubles and had 63 runs-batted-in.

You would have thought that would be enough to install him as Milwaukee's second baseman for at least several seasons. But that's not the way it happened.

"I think the Braves made a big mistake after that season," Johnson said. "Dittmer had enjoyed a good year, and was only 25 years old. Then, all of a sudden, the club dropped a bombshell and got Danny O'Connell from Pittsburgh. The deal didn't help either Dittmer or O'Connell. Danny played a little more than Jack, but I could never understand why the Braves thought they needed to make a change."

O'Connell hit .279, .225 and .239 in his years with Milwaukee.

Dittmer played in 66 games in 1954 and hit .245. He appeared in 38 and 44 games the next two seasons before winding up his major-league career at Detroit in 1957.

No Bitterness

His final two seasons in Milwaukee he hit .125 and .245. With the Tigers, he hit .227, leaving him with a composite major-league average of .232.

Dittmer spent half the 1957 season at Detroit, then was sent to the minors at Birmingham, Ala. He played for Phoenix in 1958, Seattle and Sacramento in 1959, then retired.

Dittmer displays no bitterness at the way things went.

"I guess the Braves wanted a second baseman who could hit better than .266," he said.

"But that .266 average could make a lot of money for a player now."

We hear a lot about the millionaires who play the game today.

Dittmer wasn't one of them.

"I got a $6,000 bonus when I signed with the Braves," Dittmer said. "The minimum major-league starting salary then was $6,000 a year, and the most I earned was $13,000 in my one season with Detroit."

Dittmer supplemented his income by working for his father at the Dittmer Motor Co. in the offseason. He took over the business after his father died in December 1962. He sold the company in 1985, but still manages the dealership.


Although Dittmer came from the corn belt, he said he had no problem adjusting to the fast lane of major-league baseball.

"I was traveling all the time when I played two major sports at Iowa," he said. "Our football team played UCLA in Los Angeles before about 80,000 fans. Being in big cities ans playing in front of big crowds, wasn't anything new to me once I got to the Braves."

Dittmer attended Iowa on a football scholarship, and lettered four times on Coach Eddie Anderson's teams during the 1946 through '49 seasons, playing end. He also earned four letters in baseball and one in basketball before graduating in 1950 with a degree in general science.

Nine-Letter Hawkeye

Surprisingly, he says basketball was his best and favorite sport. But, even in the 1940s, the demand wasn't great for 6-foot 1-inch centers.

Dittmer said the last Hawkeye athlete before him to earn nine letters was Erwin PRasse, who got three each in football basketball and baseball in the late 1930s and early-1940s. Dittmer said no University of Iowa athlete since him has earned nine letters.

That Dittmer played on just one Hawkeye team that had a record above .500, was on no Big Ten championship squads and went ot no bowl games didn't dampen his career.

He was chosen Iowa's Most Valuable Player in 1949, and was in the school record book for a long time as the career leader in touchdown catches with 13. As a senior, he set a Big Ten Conference season record for yards gained in pass receiving with 333.

Dittmer had good hands and adequate speed.

"If the quarterback could get the ball to me," he said, "I could catch it. And if I got into the open, no one caught me from behind."

Despite his light weight (165 pounds), Dittmer never backed away from a collision on the football field. Following a rare Iowa victory over Ohio State in 1948, Dittmer was asked about a run-in with the Buckeyes' 220-pound Joe Whisler.

Although Whisler had steamrolled him, Dittmer said: "Did you see me take him on? I wonder if he's out of the hospital yet."

Dittmer's nickname was Skinny. The years have added bulk to his body, and the nickname no longer fits. He plays an occasional round of golf, and it's his goal to trim a few pounds soon.

He and Darlene, his wife of nearly 38 years, are the parents of three children -- daughters Lisa, 32, and Jan, 30, both of whom are married; and son, Doug, 17.