Super Bowl Sunday has become an unofficial American holiday. But let’s go back 80 years to pro football’s early days. Things were a lot different then, when the National Football League staged its first championship playoff.
For the last 30 years of his life, Clarence Darrow lived in an apartment hotel facing Jackson Park. That building has been demolished. But a few miles to the north, at 4219 South Vincennes Avenue, a house that the great lawyer built still stands.
Darrow came to Chicago in 1887. He was 30 years old, and had already been active in Democrat politics in his native Ohio. Naturally he became a City Hall attorney.
In 1892 he moved into the private sector.
Amos Alonzo Stagg did not invent football. But during his 41 years at the University of Chicago he developed much of the modern game.
Stagg was born in New Jersey in 1862. He began making his football headlines while a divinity student at Yale University. Playing end on the varsity squad, he was named to the very first All-American Team in 1889.
After graduating from Yale, Stagg wanted to remain connected with football. Coaching offered the best opportunity – there was no NFL in those days. So when the brand-new University of Chicago asked him to take charge of its athletic program, Stagg headed west.
The year was 1892. Stagg was given an ample budget and also faculty rank, something no full-time coach had ever had at any college. His title was Director of the Division of Physical Culture.
Though he never did become a minister, Stagg felt he could promote the Christian ethic through football. “The coaching profession is one of the noblest and most far-reaching in building manhood,” he once said. Of course, that didn’t mean he had to field a losing team.
And Stagg’s teams were winners. The U
Adlai Stevenson II died on a heart attack while walking along a London Street on July 14, 1965. He was a one-term Illinois governor and a two-time Democrat presidential nominee. At the time of his death he was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
I was getting ready to start college that summer. I knew a bit about Stevenson and had a favorable opinion of him. Besides, he was a Chicagoan who’d been an actual presidential nominee. We’d probably never get another person that close to the White House for a hundred years.
So the day after Stevenson’s death, I sent a letter to the Sun-Times, suggesting that the new Southwest Expressway be renamed the Stevenson Expressway. I recounted some of the high points of his career. I also said that the Southwest Expressway would be an appropriate memorial, since it ran toward the ancestral home of the Stevensons in Bloomington.
A week went by. I’d just about decided the Sun-Times had thrown away my letter, when—they printed it! The paper had edited away about two-thirds of my copy.
Give my regards to Skid Row, Remember me to Mark White Square . . .
Those are the opening lines of a song that went around town when I was a kid, a parody with Chicago landmarks of Cohan’s “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Skid Row was the flophouse section of Madison Street. Mark White Square was a pocket-park located at Halsted and 29th streets.
Today Skid Row has been gentrified. Mark White Square has changed, too. Now it’s called McGuane Park.
The Chicago Park District renamed this 10-acre facility in 1960 to honor the recently-deceased John F. McGuane.
North Chicago is in Lake County. West Chicago is in Du Page. East Chicago is in Indiana. But where is South Chicago?
South Chicago is part of the city, located about a dozen miles southeast of the Loop. It’s officially designated as Community Area 46.
If Jefferson Davis had been listened to, this area might have become downtown Chicago. In 1833, as a young Army officer, Davis surveyed the various rivers that could be linked to the planned Illinois-Michigan Canal. He said that the Calumet River was the best choice.