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The Winning Ways of a Thirty-year Loser
Gerald Holland
November 23, 1964
When Art Rooney founded pro football's Pittsburgh Steelers a black notebook served as his office, a handshake closed his deals and he dreamed of championships. Since then he has become a millionaire, made a million friends, built a million-dollar racing interest and has given up trying to run things from a black book. But he and Pittsburgh are still looking for that title
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November 23, 1964

The Winning Ways Of A Thirty-year Loser

When Art Rooney founded pro football's Pittsburgh Steelers a black notebook served as his office, a handshake closed his deals and he dreamed of championships. Since then he has become a millionaire, made a million friends, built a million-dollar racing interest and has given up trying to run things from a black book. But he and Pittsburgh are still looking for that title

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"We've had some great players and some great characters on this club," he said. "I guess my alltime favorite among the players was Bill Dudley. I named one of my horses Bullet Bill after him. Dudley was an All-America from the University of Virginia, and when he came with us in 1942 it took just one play for him to show us what he had and what we had. In the first minute of the game he ran 44 yards, through right guard for a touchdown. Then there was Whizzer White, Jimmy Finks, Bobby Layne, Big Daddy Lipscomb, Iron Man Fran Rogel—I named a horse after him, too—Johnny Blood...."

Rooney stopped and laughed. "There was never anybody to match Johnny. If he had put his mind to it, he could have been one of the great coaches of all time. Nobody had the players' loyalty like Johnny. But he was footloose, and sometimes he was AWOL when he found something more interesting to do. But you couldn't get mad at Johnny. At least, you couldn't stay mad." He thought a moment. "By golly," he said, "if I ever get a real good horse, I'm going to name him Johnny Blood.

"Getting back to characters, there was Jack Slee. I'll never forget the day—"

A man who had come a way to hear Art Rooney broke in: "I don't recall anybody named Jack Slee playing with the Steelers."

Rooney grinned. "Jack Slee didn't play. I'll tell you about him. I was in my office one day in 1952, and the girl came in and said there was a Father Jack Slee asking to see me. I told her to send the reverend in, and in comes a tall, good-looking fellow wearing a clerical collar. 'Father Jack Slee here,' he says. 'It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Rooney.' 'Likewise, Father,' I said, 'and what can I do for you?'

"Father Slee came right to the point. ' Mr. Rooney,' he said, 'I'm crazy about football and I'm a real fan of the Steelers. I wonder if I could ask you a mighty big favor?'

"I said I would do anything I could for him, and I asked him just what he had in mind. ' Mr. Rooney,' he said, 'some pro teams have chaplains and you don't seem to have any. I wonder if you would consider me as a chaplain—at least give me a tryout, and let me sit on the bench for the Giants' game?'

"Well, sir, I have a lot of friends who are priests, and I went to Catholic schools, and somehow Father Jack Slee didn't seem to have quite the kind of priestly manner I had been accustomed to. So I came right out and asked him, 'You a Roman?'

"Jack Slee looked me in the eye and said, 'No, Mr. Rooney, I am not. I am an Episcopalian. I'm aware that you are a Roman. Does the fact that I'm an Episcopalian rule me out as a candidate for the chaplain's job? Does it mean I can't sit on the bench?'

"I said it meant nothing of the kind. I told Jack Slee that I hoped I was as broad-minded as the next man. I think I said he would be perfectly welcome to sit on our bench for the Giants' game. I didn't commit myself beyond that. Well, Jack Slee was like a kid, he was so happy. He said he couldn't thank me enough and that he just wished there was something he could do for me. He was so grateful that I kind of eased him toward the door before he started giving me an Episcopalian blessing."

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