The Sporting Life: Stories from Chicago Collections archives

Famous Faces

Investigating the 1919 Black Sox Scandal

Famous faces proliferate in the materials in Chicago Collections, many sports-related, whether as professional athletes themselves or as celebrities lending their caché to a sporting event. Our first image, a letter detailing a private investigator's undercover operation, showcases how sports can sometimes make players (in)famous. The investigator from Hunter's Secret Service writes to the White Sox team lawyer and describes a fishing trip with "F," code name for Oscar "Happy" Felsch, center fielder on the 1919 White Sox team. Felsch was one of the eight baseball players banned from the game for life for allegedly conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series by losing on purpose to the Cincinnati Reds. Other team members included Arnold "Chick" Gandil, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and George "Buck" Weaver. A grand jury inquiry led to a criminal investigation in 1921, where all players were acquitted though they were permanently banned from baseball by the MLB's first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. This ban included all post-career honors also, like being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Football in Chicago

Most professional athletes in Chicago have had less checkered careers than the 1919 White Sox team, including our two featured football stars. First, we have an image of Otto Graham playing football for Northwestern during a game in the early 1940s. Graham had a distinguished career as a football, basketball and baseball player at Northwestern, and after a brief naval career during World War II played briefly for a professional basketball team in Rochester, N.Y. before being recruited by the Cleveland Browns. As quarterback in Cleveland, he led the Browns to league championship games all ten years he was there, winning seven times. Graham was deservedly inducted into the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame, and went on to a distinguished coaching career after he retired from the NFL in 1955.

You can see another famous Chicago football player, Dan "Danimal" Hampton, in the Image Gallery below, pictured at the Brookfield Zoo with bears of all sorts. Hampton was a defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears from 1979-1990 and was an instrumental part of the Super Bowl XX team in 1985.

Louis Sullivan: Athletics and Architecture

Other materials in Chicago Collections have celebrities who may or may not have been athletic experts, but they were trying their best! Another very famous Chicagoan participated in a track and field contest in 1876, but that is certainly not why we recognize his name. Architectural genius Louis Sullivan is featured in a program here from an athletic contest sponsored by the Chicago Football Club.  The Chicago Tribune reported on the event, promising "the entertainment will be novel and interesting."* As you can see, both Louis and his brother Albert participated in the 100 yard run and 16 lb. shot put, but Albert dominated athletically that day. Louis Sullivan would have been 20 years old at this event, already working as an architect and only four years shy of becoming partners with Dankmar Adler. Adler and Sullivan would go on to design many famous buildings in Chicago and elsewhere, including the Auditorium Building, the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Carson Pirie Scott Building, the Guaranty Building and many others.

Another piece of annotated sports memorabilia from an artist is Ernest Hemingway's season pass to the 1915 Oak Park High School basketball season, shown in the Image Gallery. Hemingway's high school sports career is discussed in more detail on the Academics and Athletics page.

Richard J. Daley: Early Bicycle Advocate

Next we have Mayor Richard J. Daley riding a tandem bicycle in 1972 with Keith Kingbay of the League of American Wheelman (also accompanied by James McDonough, Commissioner of Streets). Daley was an early advocate of bicycle lanes, pushing the city to publish its first bike map in 1956, convert most of the existing Lakefront Trail into a bike path in 1963 and institute rush hour bike lanes on Clark and Dearborn streets in 1972 (the inauguration of which is presumably documented in this image). Kingbay himself was a famous cyclist racer, advocate and author and worked for the Chicago-based Schwinn Bicycles starting in the 1940s. This image is a testament to Daley's bike lane legacy that has expanded exponentially today, when Chicago has a Streets for Cycling plan in place to have 645 miles of bicycle lanes by 2020.

In the Image Gallery you can also see two pictures of another big Chicago personality, temperance and suffrage crusader Frances Willard, riding her bicycle. Willard is discussed in more detail on the Women Athletes page.

Mike Royko: Journalism Takes a Break

One of Chicago's favorite curmudgeons, Mike Royko, is pictured here participating in a penny pitching contest in the Chicago Daily News parking lot in 1971. Royko was a native son of Chicago and started as a journalist at the Daily News in 1959. After the Daily News folded in 1978, Royko wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times until 1984 and then the Chicago Tribune until his death in 1997. While at the Daily News Royko both won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and also published a best-selling book about our subject just above, titled Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, which led to a short-lived boycott of the local grocery chain National Tea Company (now Jewel Supermarkets) when they refused to stock the book.

Learn More

There is more information about celebrities and sports in EXPLORE Chicago Collections, as well as collections generally about SportsRecreation and Leisure and specific people.

Sources consulted for information on this page not linked above and sources for further reading:Please note that starred resources above (*) are available online through ProQuest Historic Newspapers, a subscription database. For access, you can visit or email one of our member institutions, many of which have a subscription. Many public and academic libraries across the United States also offer access to this database.

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This page references:

  1. Richard J. Daley on a tandem bike with Keith Kingbay
  2. Letter from private investigator regarding the 1919 White Sox World Series scandal
  3. Mike Royko pitching pennies at his penny-pitching contest, Chicago Daily News parking lot, Aug. 15, 1971
  4. Otto Graham