The Legacy Of A Pioneer Sports Journalist
Jan 16, 2021Posted by james

Jeannie Morris passed away at the age of 85 during December. Possibly you never heard her name. Then, you certainly were not aware of her significant contributions to the sports world.

Jeannie was a pioneer in Chicago sports journalism. Knowledge, writing and perseverance propelled her print and television success. Among her accomplishments:

· First woman to report live from the Super Bowl (1975).

· Multiple Emmy Awards.

· First woman to receive the Ring Lardner award for excellence in sports journalism (2014).

· When NFL press passes declared “No Women or Children Allowed in the Press Box” and she could not cover a Bears game, she sat on top of the press box during the icy game.

· Her sports column, “Football Is a Woman’s Game,” ran on the “women’s pages” that once were prominent in newspapers.

· Interviewed male and female sports stars, including Chris Evert, Joe Namath, Fran Tarkenton and Don Meredith. She never hesitated to tell an athlete, “Hey, you didn’t answer my question.’”

Possibly Jeannie’s most significant accomplishment, besides raising four children, was her 1971 book, Brian Piccolo: A Short Season. The story contributed to the legacy of the Bears’ running back who died from cancer. His life and friendship with teammate Gale Sayers were celebrated in the television movie Brian’s Song.

The book led to the success of the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. Jeannie allocated all proceeds to the fund and to the player’s daughters. Despite her own battle with cancer over the last year, Jeannie roused herself a couple of weeks before her death to request that any donations in her memory “go to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.

Jeannie was passionate about sports for almost all of her 85 years. Her love for athletics came from her mother, who was a huge sports fan. Her father, she once recalled, could care less about sports.

Celebrating The Achievements From A Difficult Year
Jan 01, 2021Posted by james

The upside down year of 2020 affected youth sports across the country. Millions of athletes did not compete during their recent high school and college sports seasons, and many still will not be permitted to participate in this year’s spring sports. Scholastic sports careers never reached a conclusion for many seniors. Anticipated stories about their achievements, success, sportsmanship and teamwork never were featured in media, on social media, or in blogs such as this one.

In this forum, I’m unable to write about all the wonderful sports stories, locally and nationally, that involve student-athletes or even our professional athletes. So, to represent (and to celebrate) all the positive sports achievements that did occur during last year despite the unanticipated roadblocks, I decided to place the spotlight on three Westchester County young ladies. They successively navigated the COVID-19 sports shutdowns.

Exactly one year ago, shortly before the virus disrupted so many lives, Kelli Venezia scored her 1,000-point on the basketball court. Kelli is the second young lady at Putnam Valley High School in the northern part of the county to net that total. Kelli joined Kristi Dini in sharing that milestone. Kristi, by the way, is her coach at Putnam Valley.

According to Kristi, Kelli has worked hard, put in the time and has had a huge influence on the Putnam Valley program. Kelli’s achievement was a rewarding moment for her family, her many friends and fans, and for her coach.

Meanwhile, in Scarsdale, two tennis players developed a strong partnership on the court. Zoe Tucker and Natalie Hu are two years apart in school but they bonded in doubles play. They also enjoy a great relationship off the court.

As a team, Zoe and Natalie did place a year ago at states. They then finished 2020 with perfect records. Both were unbeaten in singles (5-0) and, as a team, they won all four matches at the regional tournament to win the Southern Westchester large-school doubles title. Though the states were cancelled due to COVID-19, Zoe and Natalie were selected as the Westchester/Putnam Players of the Year for girls’ tennis.

Kelli, Zoe and Natalie each enjoyed wonderful success in high school sports. (Natalie still has two years remaining). Years from now, the ladies will recall fantastic memories about their achievements and they will have many stories to tell about their navigation through sports, school and life during a very difficult year.