If you asked a 2008 high school recruit who the “Galloping Ghost” was, it would be interesting to see if they knew. I knew who the Galloping Ghost was, I had seen those old videos of him running with the ball. That seemed to be what defined him, running with the ball. The Ghost, ran with the ball throughout the 1920′s and the early 1930′s. Red Grange, the “Galloping Ghost”, was named the greatest college football player by ESPN.
In some ways football today is like football when Grange played, but in other ways, it is an entirely different world. In The Galloping Ghost by Gary Andrew Poole, we get a history lesson in what is was like to be a football player during the 20′s and 30′s, and Poole doesn’t disappoint. Mr. Poole was kind enough to send me a copy to read, and I will grateful for a long time. It was one of the best sports books I have read a very long time, maybe ever. His prose rates right up there with Jim Dent’s Twelve Mighty Orphans. Indeed, Poole doesn’t just tell us about the facts of Grange’s life, he illustrates it for us describing in detail and taking us to the very scene as if we are standing there next to Grange and his never ending following of colorful characters including “Cash and Carry” C. C. Pyle.
As someone who has done graduate work and having had to write academic papers, I appreciate Poole’s style of detailed notes listed at the end of the
book. Often in the popular reading world, publishers and editors decide to leave the notes off because, I am sure, they don’t think readers are
interested in that kind of work. Well, I am. Poole’s book uses a casual style of notation to list the notes in the back, but something, even casual, is way better than nothing for me. He even includes a section in the
acknowledgments about his sources as well as a very detailed bibliography.
Poole retells the story of Grange, from the beginning, in a narrative style which most readers will appreciate. Part I takes us from Grange’s birth to the beginnings of his pro career which was orchestrated by Pyle. Part II tells of the whirlwind “barnstormer” tour in which Pyle arranged for Grange and the Chicago Bears taking them all throughout the country playing multiple games in a week to several sold out stadiums generating more profit for George Halas’ Bears than the NFL had ever seen up until that point. The reader will understand the struggles in which the NFL had in its early years including the lack of respectability by most of the country including the college football world. Most All-American caliber players went on to lucrative business careers forsaking anything the NFL had to offer as an un-pure reflection of the sport.
Poole works hard to bring us the story of Grange, the good, the bad, the dark. Grange had a simple wisdom, but at times was a little too naive. Grange’s professional career seemed to be too tied to Pyle’s shenanigans. Later in life, Grange did separate himself from Pyle, worked hard to regain his respectability and get out of debt. He married Margaret “Muggs” Hazleberg, a wonderful lady who helped Grange straighten out his affairs and took care of him at the end of his life. If you still have someone on your Christmas list, and he or she is a football fan, Poole’s book, The Galloping Ghost, may be the right gift. You buy a copy from the Collegefootballtopten Bookstore.