Tough luck Sid Luckman, Murder, Inc., and the rise of the modern NFL

Richard Dean Rosen, 1949-

Book - 2019

"In the long annals of sports and crime, no story compares to the one that engulfed the Luckman family in 1935. As eighteen-year-old Sid Luckman made headlines across New York City for his football exploits at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, his father, Meyer Luckman, was making headlines in the same papers for a very different reason: the gangland murder of his own brother-in-law. Amazingly, after Sid became a star at Columbia and then led the Chicago Bears to multiple NFL championsh...ips, all while Meyer wasted away in Sing Sing, the connection between sports celebrity son and mobster father was ignored by the press and then overlooked for eight decades. Tough Luck traces two historic developments connected by a single immigrant family in Depression-era New York: the rise of the National Football League through the dynastic Chicago Bears, whose famed owner George Halas convinced Sid Luckman to help him turn the sluggish game of pro football into America's favorite pastime; and the demise-triggered by Meyer Luckman's crime-of the Brooklyn labor rackets and of Louis Lepke's infamous organization Murder Inc. Filled with colorful characters-from ambitious district attorney turned governor Thomas Dewey and legendary columnist Walter Winchell, to Sid Luckman's rival quarterback "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh; from hit men like "Tick Tock" Tannenbaum, to Sid's powerful post-career friends Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio-Tough Luck unforgettably evokes an era of vicious Brooklyn mobsters and undefeated Monsters of the Midway, a time when the media kept their mouths shut and the soft-spoken son of a murderer could become a beloved Hall of Fame legend with a hidden past"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 796.332092/Luckman Checked In
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press [2019]
First edition
Physical Description
x, 306 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Richard Dean Rosen, 1949- (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Sid Luckman, the first of the great NFL quarterbacks, came to Chicago from Columbia University in the late thirties and led the Bears to multiple championships over the next decade. His arrival coincided with Bears owner and coach George Halas' revitalization of the T formation, which was much more amenable to the passing game than the single-wing formation that it replaced. But for all Luckman's success, a very dark cloud hung over his life. His father, Meyer, was convicted in a brutal murder in 1935 and spent the rest of his life in prison. He never saw his famous son play a single moment in either college or the pros. Rosen, who has written mysteries and served as an editor with ESPN, focuses on Luckman's football exploits but also looks at organized crime in the thirties and forties and Meyer Luckman's involvement in it, noting how the story of Luckman's family was buried by the press, which was then more interested in promoting heroes than reporting scandals. A fascinating book that is sure to be popular as the NFL approaches its 100th anniversary.--Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

A journalist brings to light a dark family secret of a player who helped create the modern game of football. A passionate Chicago Bears fan and former neighbor of the team's great quarterback Sid Luckman of the 1940s, Rosen (Such Good Girls) couldn't believe that Luckman's dad, Meyer, had gone to prison for the murder of his own brother-in-law in 1935--and almost no one had reported the connection. Digging into the sordid crime, Rosen ties Meyer to Louis Lepke, head of the mafia organization known as Murder Inc., as he parallels Meyer's demise with his son's rise from Brooklyn Prep star to first round pick. While the Bears won four NFL championships with him at the helm, Luckman's biggest impact on the game was running the T formation, which transformed the NFL from a low-scoring, brutal game to a pass-heavy, high-scoring affair that became America's most popular sport. With great research and storytelling, Rosen brings to life Depression-era New York and WWII-era Chicago in a wonderful family saga that will captivate history and sports fan alike. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

In 1935, Meyer Luckman, a minor affiliate of the New York mafia, was convicted of the murder of his wife's brother for siphoning money from the Luckman trucking business to cover gambling debts. Luckman's son Sid was then a football star at Columbia University, and the national press shielded his identity from the lurid tale splashed across several newspapers at the time. In the courtroom, Sid's maternal grandfather denounced Meyer as a murderer, and Meyer was sent to prison. Sid's mother never spoke to or about her husband again in the aftermath of her brother's death. Throughout Sid's career with the Chicago Bears, the story vanished; even in Luckman's 1949 autobiography, the only mention of his father was that he had died. Here, Rosen (Such Good Girls) fleshes out the full saga in this lively biography of the Hall of Fame player and successful businessman. Rosen delves not only into the lives of the Luckman family but also into the history of crime boss Lepke Buchalter and his Murder Inc. organization that began to unravel shortly after the murder. Rosen's assessment is that Sid lived a life of generosity at least partly as atonement for his father's sins. VERDICT A terrific read that should draw interest from all general nonfiction readers.--John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ.-Camden Lib., NJ

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