Chuck Heaton is a legend in the world of sports writing. That's not an exaggeration. Chuck is one of the very few writers who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
He was even chosen to present Browns running back Leroy Kelly at his induction into the Hall of Fame.
This collection of short stories serves as evidence of the worthiness of Chuck Heaton's Hall of Fame induction.
It must have been difficult to choose stories from Chuck's 50 years of writing, but the included works are outstanding. They give a feel for the game, the players and the time that we just don't read about anymore.
The book is broken down into several sections. The Places section tells tales of the travels of the players, coaches and sportswriters. Young readers will not believe the conditions. Superstars flying coach on a commercial plane? Unheard of. As Chuck wrote, "…such incidents will never be experienced by the present media covering the Browns. It was different back then."
Yes it was. For example, Chuck tells how "Black players were not allowed in the hotel the Browns used in Dallas and so the squad split up. The black players went to practice and then went to live with black families in the area." That was 1954, not that long ago.
Another section is On and Off the Field which includes reportings of the death of Paul Brown, trading Bobby Mitchell and the waiting by Leroy Kelly and Gene Hickerson for the Hall of Fame. Heaton claims Otto Graham as the best QB and rightly predicted that Red Right 88 would be Brian Sipe's legacy.
Brown's fans should ignore the favorable comments about the traitorous Art Modell. Chuck's stories were written long before the dastardly deed of moving the team.
The Rivals section is lots of fun. We read about Chuck Noll, Bum Phillips, Jack Lambert and others from the hated Steelers, Bengals and Oilers. Older readers will remember the rivalry with the Detroit Lions and way back to the pre-NFL days for the 49ers rivalry.
There are also some great old photos in the book - Chuck with the players and coaches and lots of classic Browns photos.
The Big Moments section should be savored. It includes reporting on the Browns 1964 championship over the Colts, the 1950 victory over the Eagles that shocked the NFL, the firing of Paul Brown and the (gulp) Drive.
The Game section covers the NFL Draft and Chuck tells why 1964 was the year "the sport lost its innocence." (Chuck blames Joe Namath.)
The next section is on Hall of Famers and covers Jim Brown, Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli, Bill Willis, Bobby Mitchell, Paul Warfield, Mike McCormack, Frank Gatski and Leroy Kelly.
The final section is a lot of fun as Chuck chose his all-time greatest Browns team. Some selections are no-brainers such as Jim Brown at running back. Others will be a source of debate for football fans. And younger fans will argue that Josh Cribbs, for example, should be the kick returner and not Leroy Kelly. That's part of the fun.
The photo on the cover of the book summarizes the contents. Chuck is being lifted into the air by 4 Browns linemen. This kind of camaraderie was prevalent then (at least for respected writers like Chuck) and unlikely to be seen again.
Just as the quality writing and stories of Chuck Heaton are unlikely to be seen again.
Note. Sadly, Chuck Heaton passed away February 14, 2008 at the age of 90.
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