From little league baseball to the National Basketball Association a revered concept in American sports is the all-star tradition. A sports-writer from the Chicago Tribune invented the concept of an all-star contest. His name was Arch Ward. All-star games began in 1933 with the first all-star baseball game. The following year, Ward initiated the College All-Star football game.
Arch Ward was sports editor of the Chicago Tribune from 1930 until he died in 1955, and during that time he "may have been the most powerful sports editor who ever lived," according to one sports historian.
Arch was born in Irwin in Kankakee County, Illinois. He attended Loras College, then St. Joseph's College in Dubuque, Iowa, and finished his college career at Notre Dame. He gained his first experience in sports journalism as the first publicity writer for a Notre Dame football coach and icon, Knute Rockne.
Arch Ward joined the Chicago Tribune in 1925 as a sports writer, and in 1930 he became sports editor, where he remained until he died in 1955. Ward joined a new breed of sportswriters that included Paul Gallico, Damon Runyan, Westbrook Pegler, Ring Lardner, and Heywood Broun. Those sports writers have little in common with today's sports writers. They were not critics. They were not investigative reporters. They were neither poets nor cynics. They considered themselves wordsmiths. They wanted to tell a good story.
Ward even quit reporting to became a promoter. In 1933, during the heart of the Depression, Ward argued that, "baseball needed to show that it was not in a state of decadence." He tied the baseball all-star game in with the Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair. Funds raised at the game went into the baseball pension fund. The game was a success and still continues. The success of this game inspired him to create the all-star football game for the second year of the World's Fair in 1934. For the next forty-two years the proceeds from the all-star football game aided Chicago Tribune Charities, Inc. The all-star football game continues today in a new format entitled the Pro Bowl.
The All-American Conference, a new professional football league, was started by Ward in 1946, and it inaugurated pro football in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Miami. The Cleveland Browns can trace their origins back in part to Arch Ward.
Ward was nicknamed the "Cecil B. de Mille of sports." He helped to develop and promote the Golden Gloves. This amateur boxing association developed such boxing legends as Joe Louis, Barney Ross, and Tony Zale. As with everything he tried, Ward used a combination of pressure and finesse to accomplish his goals.
Ward also managed to promote money-making events in fields as diverse as horse racing and musical concerts. Arch authored several books and was once granted a rare interview with Pope Pius XII.
When Ward died, Reverend Edmund J. Joyce, vice president of Notre Dame University, called him a man of "integrity." Mayor Daley said, "Arch Ward will be mourned by everyone for his unrelenting devotion to our youth and to his city, to which he brought world-wide fame and interest through his great sports spectacles."—[From Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1955; F. Richard Ciccone, Chicago and the American Century; Thomas B. Littlewood, Arch: A Promoter, Not a Poet; Benjamin G. Rader, In Its Own Image: How Television Has Transformed Sports; Stevenson Swanson, ed., The Chicago Days; Jules Tygiel, Past Time; Rudolph M. Unger, The Chicago Tribune News Staff, 1920s - 1960s; Lloyd Wendt, Chicago Tribune.]
20 ILLINOIS HISTORY/ DECEMBER 2001
Illinois History Fair News