Friday, July 11, 2008

Labor Of Love Completed By Art Rooney Jr.; Signing Slated

Jul. 10, 2008

by Don Sincell

“Legendary” seems like an inadequate description of the late Art Rooney, the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. His legacy began when he and a twin sister were born in 1901 to Welsh parents in a room above their saloon in Mc-Keesport, Pa.; evolved throughout the 87 years of his fascinating life; and continues to this day through the work of his five sons, his siblings, grandchildren, and various other relatives and associates.

Ruanaidh -which is Gaelic for “Rooney” - is the name of new book, a 12-year labor of love by one of those five sons, Deep Creek Lake resident Art Rooney Jr.

And much of the labor that went into the book took place at Rooney’s home along Lake Shore Drive.

“Soon after we moved in, I was showing the now late Judge Fred Thayer around the house,” Rooney said. “When we went into our loft, which has a window that overlooks the lake, Fred said, ‘It looks like a lot of work could be done in this space.’ And believe me, he was right.”

It was there that Rooney filled many of the pages of 41 journals that, with the editing assistance of good friend and long-time sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Roy McHugh, would ultimately become the 485-page Ruanaidh, The Story of Art Rooney and His Clan.

“For many years, Mort Sharnik, former associate editor for Sports Illustrated, kept after me to write down the events and stories of my dad’s life so that they would not be forgotten,” Rooney said. “I was about 60 when I finally started writing. I’m terrible with a typewriter, so I filled journal after journal with handwritten accounts. Unfortunately for Roy [Mc-Hugh], by handwriting is not much better than my typing!

“But he did a masterful job of editing and rewriting where necessary,” he said.

Rooney said that it was very important to him that the writing style in the final version would be such that the reader could “hear” the author’s voice.

“My biggest worry was that readers who knew me would say that it was not my ‘voice’ in the book,” Rooney said. “So I gave ex-cerpts to my friends, including Garrett County’s Judge Thayer and Troy Gnegy, to get their opinions. They really liked what they read, and said that reading it was like sitting down and talking with me, so I was very pleased about that.”

Art Jr., the second eldest of the five Rooney brothers, played football for St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., graduated with a degree in history, studied drama at Carnegie Tech and in New York City, served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, and then joined the Steelers organization as personnel director. He supervised the scouting and drafting of the Steelers’ first four Super Bowl championship teams in the 1970s.

Ruanaidh consists of 74 chapters, each divided into memoirs or anecdotal segments, some shorter than one page.

“I do ‘jump around’ a little bit in the book, and it can be read in pieces,” Rooney said, “but it is written in chronological order.”

Rooney will be signing copies of his book at the Book Mark’et in Oakland on Saturday, July 19, which are from a second printing.

“The first printing sold out quickly. I was shocked, but delighted, that there would be so much interest,” said Rooney. “So we arranged for a second printing of 3,000 copies.”

Interestingly, the cover of the book, designed by Rooney’s cousin Kathy Rooney, features a photo of Art Rooney Sr. and his brother Dan Rooney in baseball uniforms. The pho-to was taken in 1924 when they played for the Wheeling Stogies of the Mid-Atlantic League.

The book includes an account of when the Roon-ey brothers were “banned” from Frostburg after getting into a fistfight with the Frostburg players, who evidently were taunting the Rooneys with “anti-Cath-olic” jibes.

In that 1924 season, Art Rooney had a .369 batting average for the Stogies, second best on the team, and brother Dan hit .359. Dan, incidentally, would go on to become a Franciscan priest.

Rooney was a member of the varsity teams in football, basketball, baseball, and track at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (then Indiana Normal School), and was also an outstanding boxer.

“Dad loved all sports and was very good at playing them, but baseball was real-ly his passion,” Art Jr. said. “So that’s why I chose to use that photo on the cover of the book.”

Ruanaidh has drawn lots of praise from sports writers and editors from around the country, including:

“A terrific read! Funny stories, sad ones … a unique look back at the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their beloved patriarch.” Tom Danyluk, Pro Football Weekly.

“Art Rooney Jr. has produced an encyclopedic memoir that is informative and entertaining and populated by more real-life characters, including the Chief of the Steelers tribe, than Damon Runyon ever managed to fictionalize.” John Troan, retired editor of The Pittsburgh Press.

“I’ve found over the years that Steeler fans are among the most intense readers and collectors of good stories about their beloved team, and this book is overflowing with those stories.” Peter King, Sports Illustrated.

“A thoughtful and interestingly detailed history of the Pittsburgh Steelers by Art Rooney Jr., the team’s vice president, who was the mastermind of arguably the greatest player draft in NFL history.” William Buchan-an, retired Boston Globe reporter.

“A warm and witty accounting of the life and times of Art Rooney, NFL pioneer and perhaps America’s greatest sportsman and artisan.” Mort Sharnik, former associate editor, Sports Illustrated.

The July 19 book signing at the Book Mark’et will begin at 11:30 a.m.

Rooney has been married to married Kathleen (Kay) Kumer for over 46 years. They are the parents of four children and have six grandchildren. When they are not at their Deep Creek Lake house, they reside in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., near Pittsburgh.


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