Fifties index

by Bob August, the Cleveland Press

The years mercifully smooth out the rough edges of memory and before long few will be unfortunate enough to remember a certain political convention, and a certain orator's repeated rendition of, "How long, Oh, how long?"

But while it has fallen into disuse politically, the slogan still might serve the faithful followers of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are a particularly intense and loyal breed. The disappointments of the past are forgotten in the buoyant hopes, of each fresh season. But in regard to their. Steelers, they might well ask, "How long, Oh, how long?" For this marks Pittsburgh's 25th year in professional football.

Great players have come and gone. There have been good teams and bad ones, but they all had one thing in common. When the season ended somebody else was playing in the championship game. Browns' fans who felt let down last season, the first in which their team failed to make the championship game, might well consider their melancholy history. Only four times in 24 seasons did the Steelers better .500.

One year, in 1947, they managed a tie for the eastern division championship. Even then, they couldn't get lucky. The Philadelphia. Eagles defeated them, 21-0, and they haven't been close again.

But hope dies hard not only in the hearts of the fans but in that of Steeler owner Art Rooney, one of the most colorful characters ever to inhabit the sports field. Rooney has a personal background in sports that few front office executives can match.

He was a halfback at Duquesne and Georgetown Universities, an outfielder with the Chicago Cubs and, still later, a player-manager in the Mid-Atlantic League. He also was handy enough with his fists to represent the United States as a welterweight in international matches.

His race track adventures have supplied some of the more arresting chapters of turf histories, and Rooney now is one of the owners of Randall Park here. With all his personal successes, Rooney has been denied the one that would please him the most most, a championship for his Steelers.

This year he took a drastic step to achieve that goal. During the training season he replaced Walt Kiesling, a warm personal friend, with Buddy Parker as coach. The step must have been a hard one, even though Kiesling himself had urged it.

Parker, who manipulated the Detroit Lions with great success, has been given a free hand in reshaping the Steelers, and he has been using it vigorously. The Steelers who face the Browns here today bear slight resemblance to the team he took over.

Many observers believe Parker already has found one essential for a championship. Earl Morrall, obtained in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, seems to be the quarterback the Steelers have been seeking.

Now Parker must provide the supporting players. Students of his operations think he will do it, as he once constructed a champion around Bobby Layne. If not this year, then in the next two or three. Then Rooney and the Steeler fans will know, it was worth the long waiting period.