The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne, and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football

The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne, and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football

by Jack Cavanaugh
     
 

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Win one for the Gipper. Has there ever been a better-known and more widely-used exhortative phrase in sports? Not likely. But who was “the Gipper,” this seemingly mythical athlete whose nickname has aroused, in turn, awe, wonderment, curiosity, and amusement since the second decade of the twentieth century, and whose death while still a student

Overview

Win one for the Gipper. Has there ever been a better-known and more widely-used exhortative phrase in sports? Not likely. But who was “the Gipper,” this seemingly mythical athlete whose nickname has aroused, in turn, awe, wonderment, curiosity, and amusement since the second decade of the twentieth century, and whose death while still a student plunged the Notre Dame campus, the city of South Bend, Indiana, and indeed much of the country into collective grief? 

More than eight decades after his death, George Gipp is still regarded by football historians as Notre Dame’s best all-around player. And it was Gipp and his legendary coach, Knute Rockne, who were largely responsible for putting Notre Dame, then a small Midwestern all-male Catholic school, on the map. But their names were to resonate well beyond that era as they each attained immortal status, both because of their football achievements and their distinctive, albeit vastly different, personalities—Gipp, the enigmatic and undisciplined loner, and Rockne, the charismatic, highly organized, and disciplined coach, famous for his stirring orations to his players and his ability to bring out the best in the insouciant Gipp. 

Exhaustively researched and meticulously reported, The Gipper is the definitive examination of the enigmatic Gipp, his larger-thanlife coach, and a bygone golden era in sports and American culture.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It's not surprising that the more one gets to know George Gipp, the less like a hero he seems. A high school drop-out, he spent much of his time at Notre Dame cutting class, playing semi-pro ball under assumed names, hustling pool, and engaging in high-stakes gambling. Cavanaugh organizes his research well and says what he can about Gipp's personal life, but rightly focuses on the young man's astounding athleticism. Nearly a century on, Gipp still holds the Notre Dame record for most yards per carry in a season, most career total yards for a non-quarterback, and the longest field goal; he never allowed a pass to be completed to the man he was covering (though as teams tended to have few passes per game in those days, this is less impressive than it might seem), and is regarded by most historians as the school's best all-around player. His death in 1920 at the age of 25 (having never completely recovered from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918) leaves Cavanaugh to fill out his effort with stories of Coach Rockne and Notre Dame's colorful early football days, all placed into the larger context of a country dealing with great tragedies.
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Booklist
“For Notre Dame fans especially—and there remain many of those—this is an entertaining look at one of college football’s enduring heroes.”
Library Journal
President Reagan's political rallying cry, "Win one for the Gipper," originated in his portrayal of star Notre Dame halfback George Gipp in the 1940 biopic Knute Rockne, All American and thence became a part of American cultural literacy. But what of Gipp himself? He was arguably one of the three greatest football players of the early 20th century along with Jim Thorpe and Red Grange, but Gipp is the least well known of the trio, so sportswriter Cavanaugh's (Tunney) treatment meets a glaring need. The problem is that Gipp was a reticent loner who died 90 years ago at the age of 25. Fortunately, Cavanaugh was able to draw on several interviews he conducted 30 years ago with many of Gipp's teammates and contemporaries while he was writing a magazine piece. He has supplemented those with further interviews with descendants and additional research to create as full a picture of Gipp as is likely to emerge. Still, the book is as much about coach Knute Rockne and Notre Dame football as it is about Gipp, whose short, colorful life was marked by a propensity to spend more time drinking and gambling than attending class. VERDICT A welcome resource on a legendary figure, also giving a valuable depiction of a fabled coach and the start of a college football dynasty.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616086015
Publisher:
Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date:
08/01/2012
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
1,137,270
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.87(d)

Meet the Author

Jack Cavanaugh is a veteran sportswriter whose work has appeared most notably on the sports pages of The New York Times, for which he has covered hundreds of assignments. He is the author of Giants Among Men (2008) and Tunney (2006), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in biography. In addition, Cavanaugh has been a frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated and has written for Reader’s Digest, Tennis and Golf magazines as well as other national publications. Cavanaugh is currently a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and lives with his wife, Marge, in Wilton, Connecticut.

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