"I'd go into the icehouse at 5 a.m.," Red said, "and I'd deliver until seven at night. I got to know so many wonderful people, going in the back door. 'Harold, are you hungry?' and I'd get a piece of sausage. I could have weighed 300 pounds. But every summer I'd save the three or four hundred bucks it took to pay for another semester at Illinois."
"You had no financial help?"
"There were no scholarships then, and I wouldn't have taken one if it had been offered. We were taught to earn those things. My father didn't have anything. He'd been a lumberjack as a young man back in Forkville, Pennsylvania, where I was born. When he moved to Wheaton, he became a policeman and was a one-man force for about 30 years. The toughest man I ever knew, my father. I'll tell you, when the drunks got off the Chicago Aurora & Elgin, they'd all run for home instead of raising Cain downtown. I don't think anything in the world scared my father. I was always afraid he'd get shot, he was so fearless. He did, once, in the foot.
"But he didn't have the money to send me to school. My mother had died when I was five, and Dad had to leave my two sisters back East for an aunt to raise. He took my younger brother, Garland, and me to Wheaton. Wheaton was a railroad town of about 4,000 people then, and probably 80 percent of them worked in Chicago. I got to be such a White Sox nut that I'd take the train in on school days, catch the 10:30 to the Wells Street station downtown, then the elevated to Comiskey Park. I didn't fool anybody. One of my teachers said, 'Harold, how'd the White Sox do yesterday?'
They did fine, until the [1919 World Series] scandal, of course. I loved to watch Cicotte pitch, putting that glove up there like he was loading up for a spitball, and he probably didn't throw one in a hundred. And Collins and Weaver in the infield, and Joe Jackson—what a hitter. He could put it over the fence with one hand. There might have been better teams, but I never saw one."
"Had your father been an athlete?" the visitor asked.
"He could have been, he was so big and strong. He lived to 86, and he never missed a football or basketball game. He knew more about my career than I did. He hated anybody who got cocky about success. If I'd gotten cocky, he would have paddled me. But he was like everybody else in town when it came to athletics—they had an interest in you. The merchants would stop you in the street and ask what happened Saturday. Everybody was involved, in a supportive way. It was great because it made you feel like you were part of something."
The visitor asked how heavily Illinois had recruited him.
"The only time Zuppke spoke to me was when I went to Champaign for the state track meet, representing Wheaton. I won the 100 and 220, and he came and put his arm around me and said, 'If you come down, I think you have a chance of making our team.' That's the only selling job he did. Anything more than that was beneath his dignity."
"Do you think recruiting is beneath a coach's dignity?"