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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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"Just a few words," said Kiely.

"What will I say?"

"Well," said Kiely, "I imagine you would want to say the league appreciates the $28 million CBS is paying for the TV rights this season and next, and that the Steelers are glad to have their $2 million share."

"O.K.," said Rooney, "but next day I've got to go to Cincinnati and to the farm, and next week Kathleen [ Mrs. Rooney] and I have to go to Canada."

Kiely nodded. "After the CBS dinner," he said, "you're on your way."

( Art Rooney is almost always on his way somewhere. It is a rare week that Pittsburgh does not see him, but it is also a rare week that Pittsburgh sees him seven days in a row. What with his Thoroughbreds running at tracks all around the East, his harness-racing interests, the wakes, the funerals, the banquets, his trips with the Steelers in training and during the season, Art Rooney is on the road or in the air almost constantly. Frequently he flies to New York's Aqueduct track and back the same day. Sometimes it is Aqueduct in the afternoon and the trotters in Philadelphia that evening. His friends and his family may rarely know where he is, but they always know where he has just been because he is a compulsive writer of postcards.)

The CBS dinner, as Rooney judges such affairs, was a pleasant surprise. Bill MacPhail, CBS vice-president, gave him the briefest of introductions, and Rooney responded with a very few remarks expressing his complete satisfaction with getting $2 million. After a round of longer speeches, in which the television and advertising men talked mostly about themselves, the party fell into comfortable disarray, generating the kind of conversation about sports and politics that Art Rooney enjoys most.

What Art Rooney enjoys least are affairs at which he is singled out for testimonials by his Pittsburgh admirers. He seems to suffer acutely when, as often happens, attention is called to his contributions to sports, charities and pals in jams. "It's no pose with Art," says one lifelong friend. "Nothing gives him more satisfaction than helping a man down on his luck, but nothing embarrasses him more than to be given credit for it publicly."

One can only guess at his discomfort last spring when Pittsburgh's Saints and Sinners honored him at a banquet that observed his 63rd birthday and his 30 years as owner of the Steelers.

Mayor Joseph M. Barr lauded Rooney as a devoted father of five and grandfather of 15, a man who brought pro football out of the dark ages, a man loyal to etc. etc. Carl Hanford, who once trained horses for Rooney, said, "It was a great day for me when I got Kelso to train, but my greatest day in racing was the day I met Art Rooney." NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Allie Sherman, coach of the Giants, said Art Rooney was a nice man. Other speakers reviewed his athletic career in boxing (he was once welterweight amateur champion of Pittsburgh), football and baseball. Both he and his brother, Dan, now a Franciscan priest, were offered major-league contracts, and Elmer Daily, onetime president of the Mid-Atlantic League, recalled that Art had hit .372 and Dan had hit .359 when they were teammates on the Wheeling, W. Va. club. Steeler Coach Buddy Parker declared Art Rooney was indeed a nice man, and so did Bullet Bill Dudley and Johnny Blood McNally and John Galbreath and Danny Murtaugh. By then Rooney looked as if he were wishing he had not spent 63 years being so damn nice.

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