Contributor / Contributor
Class of 1964
Super Bowl titles
"I didn’t like losing games and I didn’t like losing money. But I’ll tell you from the bottom of my heart: whatever I lost in money I was lucky to be able to lose it. I’d pay to lose it…to keep in this game. I love it that much.”
In January 1975, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first National Football League championship by beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. In the locker room after the game, celebrating Steelers gathered around the team founder Art Rooney to present him with the game ball.
With the possible exception of the vanquished Vikings, the entire sports world rejoiced for the revered Mr. Rooney, who at long last had won the championship, which he had sought so diligently for so long. Rooney purchased the Pittsburgh franchise (originally known as the Pirates) in 1933.
Although it was his first venture into the NFL, Rooney was a well-known sportsman in the Pittsburgh area having previously successful run semi-pro clubs. Unfortunately, his NFL success was slow to come. In his first eight years of ownership, the team managed only 24 victories and Rooney lost money every year.
The team’s first winning season came in 1942. A tie for the Eastern Division title in 1947 was the nearest thing to a championship the Steelers experienced in their first 40 seasons. It was not that Rooney didn't try. In 1938 he shocked the sports world by signing Byron "Whizzer" White, the Colorado All-America, to a then unthinkable $15,000 contract.
Rooney’s continued faith in pro football was something that proved to be a guiding light for the NFL during the depression years. Finally, in the 1970s, the team hit on the right combination, of coaches and players and the Steelers became the most dominant team of an entire decade, winning four Super Bowls. The Steelers of the 1970s were armed with exceptionally talented athletes but, spiritually and emotionally, what they accomplished was a win for Mr. Rooney, a win for love, warmth and kindness, all rare traits that "The Chief" continually exhibited during his more than half century involvement in NFL football.
Art Rooney Enshrinement Speech 1964
Presenter: David Lawrence
The Reverend Clergy, Justice Douglas, civil authorities, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin by congratulating these great athletes, who by their faith and dogged deeds have won a place in this great Hall of Fame. It is my pleasure to give this award to my close personal friend, a friend I have known for over fifty years.
Art Rooney came into football back in 1933. He has given more to sports and asked for less than any man in the game. He is the all-time, all-around sportsman, participant, promoter, fan, and benefactor. He was a good minor league outfielder, won amateur boxing titles, and scrimmaged on rocky semi-pro gridirons. When it was possible and maybe when it wasn't, he financed financially shaky baseball clubs, backed big boxing shows, sponsored amateur athletes, and fed many a hungry fighter.
But what did he ever do for pro football? Kept it breathing in its very cradle, Pittsburgh, when no one else would. Kept it from floundering in World War II by fielding a team when others shied away. Kept it rise from raggedy days with top price magic names such as Whizzer White, Jock Sutherland, Bill Dudley. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to place the name of Arthur Rooney, a man without an enemy, in Football's Hall of Fame.
Governor Lawrence, fellow members of the Hall of Fame, reverend clergy, ladies and gentlemen. I am indebted and grateful to the men that choose me for this great honor. To the people of Pittsburgh and all the sports fans everywhere, I owe my thanks.
To the men in cities and towns that pioneered professional football, both promoters and players alike that will never receive this honor, all of us who are a part of the game today are indebted and owe our thanks. May God bless and keep them.