Sunday, July 04, 2010

Motts Tonelli -All-American, The Bidwill Family Americans All and Stars and Stripes Forever!

I had the honor to meet saints and heroes, as well as hundreds of wonderful sinners in this life. One Saint was Brother Francis Rupert Finch, Irish Christian Brother, who dies while teaching kids chemistry at Leo High School - Brother Finch taught generations of men who went on to become great Americans. Brother Finch coached the 1945 National Champion Lightweight Basketball team. I also met Mott's Tonelli, Noter Dame All-American, Bataan DEath March survivor and Chicago Cardinal.

Charlie Bidwill, the Chicago Cardinal owner, made sure that this American Hero had his NFL pension and rights.

God Blesses America, because of the Americans he places among us!

The Bidwill Family always seemed to take the high road. When Notre Dame running great Mario 'Motts' Tonelli* returned to Chicago from the Japanese Death Camps from Bataan to Japan after being captured in the siege of Bataan, Charley Bidwill, though putting together a Million Dollar backfield, signed the skeletal Tonelli and had him carry the ball against the Green Bay Packers:

Slightly more than one in every three men captured on Bataan returned home. But few did so to recognition of their peculiar ordeal. In the flush of V-J Day, Americans yearned for their antebellum status quo. In just such a spirit Cardinals owner Charley Bidwill** asked Tonelli, home not even a month, to rejoin the team. It was a publicity stunt, but one in which all parties eagerly conspired. War hero Tonelli, The Chicago Sun declared, had been "nursed back to full strength and health." Tonelli played along. "My weight is back up to 183 pounds," he told the papers, though he weighed more like 140. He still had malaria. Since that day his wife, Mary, and his parents had met him at Chicago's Union Station, doctors had twice cut him open to treat his intestines.

Bidwill's gesture was well-intentioned, but football doesn't run on sentiment. Three days after signing in front of the cameras, Tonelli carried twice against the Packers in Green Bay, each time for no gain, and so ended his NFL career. The next morning's Chicago Tribune carried both news of the Cardinals' 33-14 loss and the headline WAR VETERANS RETURN AND GO HOUSE HUNTING.

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