Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bill Dudley: The End to a one year era

Author's note: The following was among my father's notes from which I wrote the book Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The incident occurred in 1947, and now all have passed on. My dad viewed Dudley as the greatest individual to ever play pro football, and one glance at his achievements in running, passing, kicking and playing defense should convince anyone else of why dad was justified.

I returned on Sunday from the Run for the Roses. I wanted to write this note as quickly as possible so that I would not forget. Art pledged me to complete secrecy about what I had heard, and other than writing and filing this note; I will not speak of what transpired.

Besides me, there were three others at the Derby Saturday, Art Rooney, Bill Dudley, and Fran Fogarty. “Bullet Bill” had finished the 1946 season as the most spectacular player I or anyone else had ever seen. Art wanted to sign him for the ’47 season, but there were problems. He had had several clashes with that other Steelers great, the coach, ‘Jock’ Sutherland. Bill had been a standout at Virginia where they played the new T-formation. In the single wing, Bill was often left open to punishing tackles. He wanted the coach to modify and got into a heated argument with him over tactics.

Having finished the season under the unwavering coach, Dudley came to Louisville with one mission. If he were going to continue with the Steelers, he would have to be paid a lot more than the $5,000 he made for 1946. He told Art that he understood that “Whizzer” White had a contract for $15,000 a decade earlier, and that either he would get $25,000 or he would retire.

Art told Bill that he had been carrying the team for the war years and it was only in 1946 that the team began to almost pay for itself. Bill was noticeably upset, but knew that Art was being truthful. He told him that the maximum he could go was $10,000, but would agree to a bonus if certain conditions were met. The possibility of anything approaching Bill’s figure was not remotely possible.

Bill was downcast when we parted, he back to Virginia, we, back to Pittsburgh.

No comments: