Win one for The Gipper. Has there ever been a better-known and widely-used exhortative phrase in sports? Not likely. But who was the “Gipper,” this mythical-like sports figure whose nickname has aroused, in turn, awe, wonderment, curiosity, and amusement since the second decade of the twentieth century, and why is his story important? Answering those questions is the formidable task taken on here by veteran sportswriter Jack Cavanaugh, whose Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography of boxing legend Gene Tunney was referred to as “impressively researched and richly detailed” by Sports Illustrated.
More than eight decades after his death, George Gipp is still regarded by football historians as Notre Dame’s best all-around player. And it was Gipp and his legendary coach, Knute Rockne, who were largely responsible for putting the small Midwestern all-male school on the map.
Like Cavanaugh’s other critically acclaimed books, The Gipper is also a period piece, with a considerable focus on the era before, during, and immediately after WWI. It details the changes that the country underwent during that time, including the onset of Prohibition and the gangs that it spawned in the Midwest such as those active in the South Bend area and in nearby Chicago, headed by the notorious Al Capone.
Jack Cavanaugh is a veteran sportswriter whose work has appeared most notably on the sports pages of the New York Times, for which he has covered hundreds of assignments. He is the author of six books, including Tunney (2006), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, The Gipper (2010), and Season of ’42. He has also written for Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, Golf and Tennis magazines, and a number of other national publications. Cavanaugh also was a reporter for ABC and CBS News, and has been an adjunct professor at Fairfield and Quinnipiac universities, and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.