Without having to
be prodded, Fido takes credit for the fact that Mike Ditka, the magnificent
Chicago offensive end, signed with the Bears rather than with the wealthy
Houston Oilers. As Fido tells it, Ditka was flying home to Aliquippa, Pa. from
the Hula Bowl game in Hawaii and stopped in San Francisco to change planes.
"I had him bumped off his plane," says Fido. "Then I got him a
first-class window seat on another flight, and he thought I was a big man. The
flight had a 90-minute layover in Chicago, and I had Halas wait for him at the
airport with a contract."
however, are nothing when compared to Fido Murphy's exploits as a football,
baseball and basketball star, and as a football coach, baseball manager, umpire
and club owner. There is almost nothing in sports that Fido has not done, and
done before anyone else. A few nit-pickers, of course, have questioned Fido's
veracity on occasion. They cite the time when the late Art (Pappy) Lewis, then
head coach at West Virginia University, posed as a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter
doing a survey on college coaching and asked Fido his opinion of "that
fellow Lewis at West Virginia."
farmer!" answered Fido. "I taught him everything he knows."
apparently sojourned in so many places and made so many conquests that it is
perhaps understandable if he should occasionally confuse the facts. For
example, he reports that in 1934 he coached St. Viator College of Bourbonnais,
Ill. in the first indoor football game ever played. Reminiscing in rich detail,
he says: "Our opponent was St. Mary's College of Winona, Minn. There was a
lot of interest in the game, but the weather got cold, so we played in an
armory on the South Side of Chicago. They trained polo ponies there. We played
on a Saturday night and filled that place—12,000 paid. At one end of the field
we had a six-yard end zone. At the other end there was no end zone. We painted
the posts white on a black wall. The St. Mary's coach was Moose Krause, and
here's how I outsmarted him: the field was three yards short in the width. I
didn't tell him that. I had all my quarterbacks run all inside stuff instead of
wide stuff. So we won 14-0."
athletic director at Notre Dame, recalls the game vividly and agrees that Fido
describes it beautifully, except for one trivial error: St. Viator did not play
in the game. "Our opponent," says Krause, "was St. Benedict's
College of Atchison, Kans. Moon Mullins was their coach."
undoubtedly creep into Fido's account of his playing days also. As he puts it,
cryptically, "See, I was sort of a peculiar athlete. I was more fact than
fiction." Fido's mind flashes back to a day in 1924 when he was performing
for the New England Ramblers, a noted semipro football club then locked in a
death struggle with the Portland Longshoremen. "You had to play those guys
with a knife and a club," says Fido, shuddering. In any case, neither team
had scored when the clock showed time for only one more play. Fido dropped back
to kick a field goal. He booted a line drive, true to the mark. But a gigantic
splinter was protruding from the crossbar and, with a twang, the football was
impaled on the splinter. It hung there, teetering back and forth.
wait around to see which way the ball fell," says Fido, "because I had
a date with a doll who had a lot of dough and a Packard. The dolls loved Murphy
in those days. He was a handsome rascal. Anyhow, the other players and all the
fans waited for 20 minutes to see which way the ball would drop. I was coming
out of the shower dripping wet when the referee came in and said, 'Fido Murphy,
you are the first guy in history to win a game in the showers!'
"I was a
magician with a basketball," Fido confesses. "I played for a touring
team called the Boston Whirlwinds. I stood under the basket with the ball in my
hands and bounced it off my head into the basket. Abe Saperstein saw me, and
that's how he got the idea for the Harlem Globetrotters."
From time to
time, Fido has owned, managed and general-managed minor-league baseball clubs
but is best remembered, by himself, for his daring as a player. He purports
that in the days when games frequently were umpired by a single man he once
laid down a trickling bunt and, while the umpire attentively hovered over the
ball to see whether it would remain fair, he sprinted directly across the
pitcher's mound and came to rest on second base. The bunt stayed fair. Fido's
opponents furiously protested his shortcut to second, but the ump replied:
"Aw, dry up. You guys just wish you had Murphy's speed and could take two
bases on a bunt."
umpired in the minors in 1941, going down as the only nonguessing umpire in
history. In a game at Fort Smith, Ark., he found himself faced with a difficult
decision. The home-team left fielder had dived at a sinking liner, but Fido was
not certain whether he had caught the ball or trapped it. Fido forthwith halted
the game and polled the bleacher fans.