Green Bay Press-Gazette from Green Bay, Wisconsin on April 6, 1969 · Page 59
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Green Bay Press-Gazette from Green Bay, Wisconsin · Page 59

Green Bay, Wisconsin
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 6, 1969
Page 59
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leading one-season ground gainer." He didn't waste any time making an impression, either. In the first game, against Camp Grant, he ran 45 yards for a touchdown. It was his 33-yard dash that tied the score against Notre Dame in the second game. Crazylegs raced for 178 yards against Purdue and 174 against Missouri. He had more than 200 yards in total offense, including throwing a touchdown pass, as Wisconsin upset Ohio State, 17-7, in a key game. But that one spectacular campaign completed Hirsch's career at Wisconsin. He enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Michigan under the V-12 officer candidate program. At Michigan, he played football until sidelined by a torn nerve in his shoulder, and helped the Wolverines to a Big 10 basketball championship. "I had a great day against Wisconsin that year," he recalled recently with his impish grin promising a punch line to come. "I held Ray Patterson to 22 points." Hirsch also pitched for Michigan's conference baseball champions and declined a tryout with the Chicago Cubs. He broad jumped on the track team and once flew 24-feet-2'j, to beat Illinois' famed Buddy Young. But considering what he did for Wisconsin in 1942, is it any wonder that his return to a situation similar but even more serious than in 1942 has generated a new and exciting hope on the Madison campus, which the school likes to think of as the entire state? Though he never returned to the Badger varsity, Hirsch did come back for alumni games each spring, even after making his professional mark. "When he stopped coming back for the alumni game, the game just sort of dis-intigrated," Butler mused. "Nobody seemed interested anymore. And even in those years, when he did come back, he could go into any bar in town and never pay for a drink," Butler declared, weaving more magic into the Hirsch story. Now Hirsch is back again. He has a five year contract as athletic director with a clause calling for his employment for another five years in either that or some other capacity. And his mission is a carbon of that of 1942. "We're going to turn this thing around," he is fond of saying. This "thing" is the general competitive plunge taken by Wisconsin's teams, particularly in football, and the deep dip into red ink taken by the UW : 1 ELROY HIRSCH A hero in the 1950s The portrait is from a 1951 bubble gum card athletic department's accountants. "I've never been hit with so much in my life," the energetic, determined Hirsch acknowledges with a telling shake of his head. Ironically, he left a secure, quiet ... at least comparatively quiet . . . position as assistant to Los Angeles Rams President Dan Reeves to take on the enormous task of "turning this thing around." Crazylegs ... and he says he prefers that name to Elroy ... has been on that Ram job, which he describes as a sort of general managership, since he ended his playing days in 1957. After finishing his service hitch in 1946, the much sought after halfback decided to cast his pro lot with the Chicago Rockets of the budding All-America Conference because his coach from El Toro Marine Base, Dick Hanley, was headmaster of the Rockets. It was probably the worst decision he ever made ... up to now, he admits. During his three years with the team, Chicago had a 7-38 record and Hirsch fractured his skull. While he was recovering, the All-America Conference folded for lack of fans and Elroy wound up with the Los Angeles Rams, though Curly Lambeau put in a strong bid on behalf of the Packers. There he was converted to a flanker or end and turned into an All-Pro receiver, helping the Rams to the world championship in 1951.' Having found a home on the West Coast, where lie had become a favorite of the fans, Hirsch was delighted to accept the Los Angeles front office job. And he really did not have any intention of leaving that position. Not until he was caught in his own mystic web, that is. "I wasn't going to apply for the job," he said as he leaned back in the comfortable chair behind his desk several weeks after he had moved into the dingy office under the Camp Randall Stadium stands. "But this thing got started somewhere and then Professor Haberman (Frederick, chairman of the athletic board) called me and asked if I would make a formal application. Well, I did and I agreed to come to Madison for an interview with an open mind. But that wasn't exactly true. "I was very happy in Los Angeles and had a fine job there. My family was extremely happy there. When I came here, everybody kept telling me about the problems. That should have chased me away. But they made it sort of a plea. Not that I'm a Messiah or anything, but they seemed to think I was a guy everybody could agree on. All the others seemed to have some people for them and some against, the committee told me. "Actually, they really changed my mind when I really didn't think that there was a chance." Speaking slowly, Hirsch said he then went back to Los Angeles to discuss the situation with Reeves, who he calls "one of the finest men I have ever known." Reeves told him "Go on out there because deep down you really want to. Think of what it will be if you do the job. You will really have accomplished something. Looking at the man, one can sense why lie signed a contract on Feb. 28 for a job lie really wasn't sure he wanted. Elroy Hirsch, who will be 46-years-old in June, is just one pound over his pro playing weight of 195. He maintains his hardness with half-court basketball, tennis and golf. He's not as tall as one expects him to be but he has the characteristics of a tall man ... the narrow face, long arms, long fingers that give you a suregrip handshake. He has short hair, a peaked nose and rather thin eyes and lips. These facial features sparkle when his humor turns on, which is often. In one of his first public appearances after accepting the job, Hirsch assured a meeting of Chicago alumni that after playing three years with the Rockets he is beyond embarrassment. Perhaps it is this personality, for he is not a handsome man in the usual sense, that gives him the attractive ruggedness which makes him a man's man but also appeals to the ladies. This appeal did not go unnoticed in Los Angeles and Hirsch starred in three movies, including one based on his own life, and several television plays before he decided an actor's life was not for him. "I can't just sit by a telephone and wait for a job," he offered in an explanation that went far beyond the bare words. He's so obviously a man who. wants and needs a challenge that, despite some Still in shape Hirsch is a pound over his playing weight mild protestations he still makes, he now appears to be extremely happy in his job. But it's not likely that everyone, contrary to the initial splash of enthusiasm, will be as happy with Hirsch's job as Crazylegs is himself. Struggling to pull out a stuck, squeaky desk drawer in search of a pipe and tobacco, Hirsch declared, "I'm going to do what I think is best. Some decisions will be controversial in some people's minds, I'm sure. What we need here is j a Lombardi-like set up. I'm not looking for that I sort of authority. Everybody needs a j check-rein. But we have to get things done." His final words came out in a grunt as the draw er finally became unstuck. "And one of the first things I'm going to do is get this desk' and these offices fired up. I hate to come here in the mornings only because it's so depressing," he blustered. Being a man of his word, Hirsch, at his first official meeting with the school athletic board, declared, "Our offices are a hovel. The paint is peeling. The place is dirty. It's no wonder there is no morale. There is a Mickey Mouse partition between my office and Milt Bruhn's and it's got to go. I wouldn't dream of. inviting a football prospect into this mess, "We've got to have a complete paint job. I want red carpeting. We've got to find new office space for Milt Bruhn so that I can have a decent office. And that's got to be part of a complete realignment of office space." And there might have been a slightly masked meaning to his other shot on the subject: "I can't ask personnel to improve work habits if there is no decent place to work." Hirsch was shooting from the hip and he trig" gered a few more shots. "Every high school athlete in the state who comes to Wisconsin has a better locker room at home at his high school than he has when he comes here. "I can't imagine how a major university can allow its coaches to exist in that mess (coaches' locker room) . "It's ridiculous to ask customers to walk up a TURN TO PAGE 4 Green Bqv Press-Gozetta Sunday, April 6, 1969.' I,

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