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Public League needs football Hall of Fame

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Public League needs football Hall of Fame

With all due respect to the ghosts of Walter Eckersall and George Halas and Knute Rockne and Buddy Young, it is difficult to fathom why the Chicago Public League hasn't found time over the last 100 years to create a Hall of Fame to recognize the great football players, coaches and teams that have been produced in the city.

In fact, a Public League Football Coaches Association hasn't even been organized to establish a Hall of Fame and nominate honorees. You'd have thought that somebody would have taken a hint from the very active Public League Basketball Coaches Association or the tradition-rich Chicago Catholic League Coaches Association's Hall of Fame.

Hubbard football coach Elton Harris said he was trying to organize an association for Public League football coaches that would include a Hall of Fame. Over the years, there just hasn't been enough interest in the project.

It's a shame because the Public League, like the rival Catholic League, is filled with history and tradition dating to the 1880s. The Hyde ParkEnglewood rivalry, the oldest in Illinois and one of the oldest in the country, dates to 1889.

All you need to know is it was a Public League player, the legendary Bill DeCorrevont, who attracted a record crowd of 120,000 to Soldier Field for the 1937 Prep Bowl. That's 120,000 as in more people than have ever witnessed a football game at any level, high school or college or professional, before or since.

For years, the Public League was every bit as competitive as the Catholic League. From 1934 to 1959, the Public League held a 14-10-2 advantage in the Prep Bowl rivalry. Then the Catholic League won 16 in a row until Vocational stunned St. Rita 13-6 in 1976.

"I guess God wanted to make me a (bleep)," said a shocked St. Rita coach, Pat Cronin.

From the 1930s to the early 1970s, before the Illinois High School Association introduced the state football playoff in 1974, the Prep Bowl was the most celebrated high school event in the nation. It annually attracted as many as 70,000, 80,000, even 90,000 people to Soldier Field.

Players such as DeCorrevont, Dale Samuels, Bill Gay, Buddy Young, Abe Woodson, Jack Delveaux, Mike Lind and Dick Butkus became icons.

In the last three decades, Public League football highlights have been few and far between. Robeson finished second in the 1982 state playoff, the only Public League representative ever to qualify for the championship game. Only three others have ever reached the semifinals.

Until basketball became the game of choice for youngsters in the city in the 1960s and 1970s, the Public League produced many players who went on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Football League Hall of Fame.

The distinguished list is headed by Walter Eckersall, George Halas, Knute Rockne, Fritz Pollard, Dick Butkus and Buddy Young.

It also includes DeCorrevont, Alf Bauman, Abe Woodson, Bill Fisher, Don Stonesifer, Tony Canadeo, Pete Pihos, Lou Rymkus, Hugh Gallarneau, Al Brosky, Bill Gay, Russell Maryland, Otis Armstrong, Darryl Stingley and Vic Schwall.

Don't forget Jim Grabowski, Al MacFarlane, Jack Delveaux, Rick Kreitling, Dale Samuels, Mike Lind, Rocky Harvey, Alex Rodriguez, Dempsey Norman, Ken Ferguson, Jack Sawin, Chris Zorich, Keena Turner, Mike Morgan, Tony Klimek, Chuck Ulrich, Corey Mays, Trezelle Jenkins, Kelvin Hayden, Nate Lyles, Walter Stanley, Fred Evans, Lou Gordon, Mike Schwager, Chuck Logan, Mack Herron, Cyron Brown, Mickey Pruitt, Corbin Bryant and Martez Wilson.

And what about the coaches? Bernie O'Brien, Chuck Palmer, Bill Heiland, Frank O'Keefe, Al Manasin, Chuck Harvey, J.W. Smith, Roy Curry, Glenn Johnson, Al Scott, Sam Bronswick, Carl Bonner, Sherman Howard, Joe Stepanek, Terry Lewis, Lexie Spurlock and Frank Esposito.

The best Public League team ever? Lots of candidates, including Austin 1937, Schurz 1949, Fenger 1954, Lane Tech 1959, Robeson 1982 and Julian 1989.

The 1937 Prep Bowl is perhaps the most celebrated high school football game of all time. DeCorrevont, one of the most publicized high school athletes in history, ran for three touchdowns, including a 47-yarder, and passed for another as Austin defeated Leo and Johnny Galvin 26-0 before a crowd estimated at more than 120,000. He also returned three punts for 67 yards and quick-kicked a 53-yarder. Other Austin standouts were tackle Alf Bauman and quarterback Sonny Skor.

In 1949, Schurz lost its opening game to New Trier but won 11 in a row, closing with a 20-7 victory over previously unbeaten Fenwick and Johnny Lattner. Ken Swienton scored two touchdowns and Bob Fudala ran 60 yards for another.

Fenger's 1954 powerhouse went 11-0-1 and featured three players who went on to play at Illinois--fullback Jack Delveaux, end Rich Kreitling and tackle Ron Nietupski. Delveaux rushed for 82 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 20-13 victory over Mount Carmel. Linemen Dick Calder and Ray Karczewski also stood out.

Lane Tech overpowered Fenwick 19-0 in 1959. It was the Indians' seventh shutout in a 9-0-1 season. The line was spearheaded by 250-pound Mike Schwager and end Chuck Logan. Quarterback George Bunda scored twice and fullback Pete Stamison rushed for 87 yards.

Robeson coach Roy Curry always called his team's loss to Rockford Guilford in the championship game of the 1982 state playoff "the most disappointing loss of my career." Robeson, led by Mickey Pruitt, Tim Spencer, Jimmie Spraggins, Tiffany Hamilton and Vincent Tolbert, led 12-9 and was attempting to run out the clock when Guilford recovered a fumble on its 38 with 2:35 left and scored the winning touchdown with 45 seconds to play. Robeson finished 11-2.

In 1989, Julian scored the most points in Prep Bowl history, crushing Fenwick 48-14 and marking the Public League's first victory in the series since 1979. Quarterback Torrance Garfield completed 13 of 26 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, three to Mike Griffin, as Julian finished 14-1.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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