Herb's Archive features an article by Joe regarding his
affection for his mentor and friend, Knute Rockne. Also, an excerpt
from Paul Castner’s book We Remember Rockne that’s demonstrates the
coach’s deep feelings for his star player.
his coach and friend, Knute Rockne.
(From the University of Notre Dame Archives)
Published weekly in the interest of
sports by Mid-West Sports, Inc.
FREE TO FANS
“JUMPING JOE” SAVOLDI
Every year about this time my mind returns
again and again to a tragedy that left the sports world stunned and grief
stricken. Fifteen years ago a great man, an inspiring leader, profound
teacher and the best pal I ever had met sudden death.
Rockne was on his way to
Los Angeles where he was to speak at the
Breakfast Club meeting in the Biltmore Hotel and later to meet the
executives of the motion picture company that was to make the movie “The
Spirit of Notre Dame", in which he was to play himself. Tom
Lieb and I were both invited to the Breakfast
Club and what was to have been a gala event turned out to be a very sad
affair, when news of his untimely death reached us.
I can still hear Rockne
saying to his boys, striving to reach football perfection, “Boys, flabbiness
is out. Physical, mental and moral flabbiness is to be scorned. I want you
fellows tough, rugged and mentally alert. I want you to excel in your
studies because you are not valuable to me in football if you cannot learn
your lessons.” Fundamentals of right thinking and right living were his pet
theories. He believed in a sound body as the proper place to house a sound
mind and a sound soul. “A boy who hoped to be a good football player must
have brains, courage, self-restraint, fine muscular co-ordination,
intense fire of nervous energy and an unselfish
spirit of sacrifice. He must live cleanly. He must develop the will to win
so keenly that he can taste it. Above all he must make fair play an
obsession.” What a creed to apply to every walk of life!
He stood out against any softening of the
fibre of American manhood and he had a profound
understanding of boys. Rockne knew exactly how
to bring out the best performance of an individual or team. It might be
through praise, ridicule, persuasion or even by silence but instinctively he
was right in whatever he did.
The memory of Knute
Rockne will live forever within me for I knew
him and was inspired by him. I wish my son could know him ad his son in turn
but that is impossible and I can only make certain that his influence shall
not be a forgotten thing.
* * * * *
From Paul Castner’s
great book, We
Remember Rockne. It’s told in an
interview by Dan Halpin a student football
manager for Rockne’s last team.
Running at fullback that day as we rolled over
Penn was Jumpin' Joe Savoldi. You have to know
about Joe, because it was to be his last game for Notre Dame.
Jumpin'Joe, a native of
Milan, Italy, came to America at the age of 13. As a sophomore at Notre
Dame, he had been pushed over his head and was a disaster in our 0-13 1oss
to Georgia Tech. He'd grown so discouraged that he quit the team for a
while, but Rockne brought him back and Joe
developed into a sensation. Rockne taught him to
run like an eel, defend against passes, and back up the line. There were
those who even compared him to Jim Thorpe.
After the 1930 landslide victory over Penn at
Franklin Field, in which Savoldi was red-hot, I remember we grouped at the
train station in Philadelphia to
catch the train back to South Bend. While we stood on the platform, here
came the newsboys with their late afternoon papers, shouting: "EXTRA! EXTRA!
SAVOLDI SUES FOR DIVORCE! EXTRA! SAVOLDI DIVORCING!
This was news. Apart from the religious
obligation, Notre Dame students were not even
supposed to be married -let alone be involved in a scandalous divorce.
An hour out of
came to me in the sleeper and said: "Where's Savoldi?" I shrugged. "I don't
know, Coach," I said. "I still have his train ticket, but he didn't show up
to claim it."
was a man of persistence. When he had a problem he always saw it through to
its conclusion, good or bad.
A day after we got home,
Rockne showed up at my room in Sorin
Hall. He was still looking for Savoldi.
"The last time I saw him was right after the
game, in Philadelphia," I said.
"Come on, let's go find him,"
We got into his Studebaker and drove all over
South Bend looking for the
missing fullback. The search proved fruitless.
Joe was still absent without leave on Monday
afternoon. But, Tuesday a.m., he walked into the Athletic Office. I said,
"Well, Joe, we've been looking for you. Come
on, let's go have a little talk with Coach
treated Joe very cordially. He told him he appreciated the great performance
he exhibited in the Penn game -and then the ax fell.
"Now, Joe," he said, gently, "I'm afraid we
have a little problem. Here at Notre Dame we don't permit divorces. From
what I see in the papers, that sort of complicates your status. A lot of
folks didn't know you were even married."
"I understand, Coach," he said. "I guess that
means I'll have to go.”
said. "I'm sorry. Last Saturday, you were a hero to your family and friends,
and now this scandal."
let that sink in.
"Now, Joe," he continued, "I've met your
mother and father and admire them greatly. They're elderly and come from the
Old Country. They are proud people. I can't let this hurt them. When you
return home (Three Oaks, Mich.) I
want you to go on being an important figure in town. So Dan here is going
down to the First National Bank with a $1,500 check I have given him to
deposit in your name. I don't want you going home broke. I want you to take
that money and start a business and do something worthwhile with your life.
I don't want you being a hero today and a bum tomorrow."
Rockne treated Joe Savoldi as a father would
treat a son in trouble. This showed that among his other great qualities,
Rock was a compassionate man.
To read previous installments of Herb's
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