While most people tend to overlook the Pittsburgh Steelers in the era prior to the 1970s dynasty, this Steelers History Series will look back on some of the history of the franchise, ripe with some nuggets you may not know and hope you will enjoy.
Art Rooney had a passion for baseball
Art Rooney was a phenomenal athlete who was synonymous with success and winning. But if there was one sport he loved above all else, it was baseball. He wasn’t just good, he excelled. At one point, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox, but realized he could make more money barnstorming through the Midwest as a manager and player. He played and held his own with many major leaguers and even Hall of Famers like Honus Wagner and Joe Cronin. In 1925, playing in the Mid-Atlantic League, Rooney batted .369 and led the league in runs, hits and stolen bases.
Baseball came first
Dan Rooney would share that his father “did not take football as seriously as he did” and that “everything revolved around baseball.” On long drives, Art Rooney would play with the radio as he would prefer to listen to a static-filled broadcast of a baseball game over a clear football game. It did not matter who was playing either, because “baseball always won out.”
KDKA – Pirates or Steelers
In the late 1960s, KDKA Radio had the rights to broadcast both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates games. Art Rooney was happy with this arrangement but Dan Rooney couldn’t stand it. The Pirates were able to push the Steelers off the air whenever they were scheduled at the same time, forcing the Steelers to a short-range station.
However, in one particular instance the conflict of schedules happened and KDKA reached out to Dan Rooney and informed him they wanted to air the Steelers game. Dan Rooney was ecstatic and told them “Great! We’ve been waiting years for this!”
But when the Pirates’ business manager Jim Herron called Art Rooney, he put the pressure on. Art Rooney relented and an argument between the father-son duo ensued. Despite Dan Rooney’s logic, Art Rooney was ultimately “The Chief” and said “You just can’t interfere with the baseball game. You just can’t do it. It’s baseball.”
CBS offers AJR New York Yankees
In 1974, fresh off the heels of winning the Super Bowl, the Steelers were a popular and hot commodity. Public sentiment heavily favored that Art Rooney had finally shed the “Loveable Loser” tag. The CBS television network had owned the New York Yankees for a decade and wanted to sell them. So, they approached Art Rooney with an offer – “Make a legitimate offer for the ball club and it’s yours. You’d know how to run it.”
While “The Chief” loved baseball and while he technically could not have owned it, he could have put it in the names of one or more of his sons. However, it was a case of too much, too soon, and too fast. The Steelers were being approached by multiple organizations making various offers.
According to Art Rooney Jr., “The Chief” could have owned the Yankees for $6M, but passed on it. George Steinbrenner later bought them for $11M and they are worth more than $1B today.
- How The Pittsburgh Steelers Came to Be – Art Rooney
- How a day at Saratoga saved the Pittsburgh Steelers
- When Art Rooney played a prank on George Halas
- Byron “Whizzer” White and “Bullet” Bill Dudley: The Steelers first Franchise Players
- The Pennsylvania Polka – When Art Rooney sold the Steelers
- When Art Rooney was offered the chance to buy the New York Yankees
- NEXT: What might have been – Jock Sutherland
- Same Old Steelers – “Rogel up the Middle”
- Why the Steelers cut Johnny Unitas
- How Buddy Parker vs. Dan Rooney set up the Steelers Dynasty
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