By Chris Willis, NFL Films
|Nov. 22, 1925, Red Grange signs with Chicago Bears, from right to left, C.C. Pyle, Grange, George Halas and Dutch Sternaman|
But that was not true. Grange had 3 managers on that tour- and they all shared in the profits.
Here’s the story:
Red’s journey from college All-American to signing a contract to play professional football for the Bears actually starts his freshmen year at Illinois and his friendship with a college classmate- Marion Coolley.
Marion “Doc” Coolley
Marion Fowler Coolley was born on August 10, 1898, in Newtown, Illinois to Mary and Dr. Elmer B. Coolley- who was the most successful physician in nearby Danville.
|Marion "Doc" Coolley, circa 1927|
(Courtesy, Marilyn Coolley-Carley)
Marion would follow in his father’s footsteps with getting a proper education. He would attend Danville High School earning the simple nickname of “Doc.” He would participate in multiple activities such as the Spring Play, Junior Red Cross, class track and baseball, was a four-year member of the Athletic Association (team manager), as well as being Class President as a Sophomore and Senior. Before his senior year, Marion tried to join the service for World War I, but because of his health (had a bad heart and lungs) he was turned down several times, eventually, in June of 1917, he was selected to serve in the Ambulance Corp. (Rainbow Division). He served one month before being dishonorably discharged. He was described as “character very good…service honest and faithful…No AWOL.”
He returned for his senior year at Danville High graduating in 1918. In the school’s yearbook, The Medley, it wrote: “’Doc’s’ a good old boy. Notorious Doctor of Politics. A little too much so perhaps. Well, we’ll forgive him. There’s much that’s likeable in him.”
The following fall Marion enrolled into classes at the University of Illinois. Standing a shade above six-feet tall, slender build, the brown hair, brown-eyed Coolley would major in General Business. While on campus he pledged and lived at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house. Marion was very outspoken and energetic as a student, he always liked to wear nice clothes, usually a suit and tie, often wearing bow ties. He became involved in several clubs and committees including the Commerce Club; Mixer Committee; Junior Cap and Prom Committees; and Stadium Homecoming Committee.
“He had a great interest in sports, but didn’t have the health to play. He was not healthy not even in college,” said Marilyn Coolley-Carley, daughter of “Doc” Coolley. Being seen around campus was also a top priority for “Doc” Coolley. Wanting to be a part of the social scene he made sure to know the school and the town of Champaign-Urbana very well. Coolley must’ve really liked the campus life, because he was in no hurry to graduate taking classes at his own pace. His health didn’t help the journey either, by the time Red had arrived on campus Coolley had already had four years of classes. So, he had time to get to know Red and show him around town in his car- something that Red didn’t have. The two quickly became good friends. One of their favorite things to do was go to the movies, especially at the Virginia Theatre on campus.
The sandy, gray-haired Charles C. Pyle grew up to be 6-feet-2 inches tall, 175 pounds, broad shoulders and a sharp smile. He always dressed impeccably, usually sporting a black suit and black derby. He always had his trademark short mustache trimmed weekly, but it wasn’t his appearance that made him convincing. The man could talk. “He is a Scotch-Irishman with twinkling gray eyes, who immediately takes you in, in the warmth of his greeting and his general good fellowship,” said one newspaper. Pyle looked like a man of money and influence, and he was, after years of trying. His initials, C.C., sportswriters joked meant “Cash and Carry,” and Pyle embraced the nickname.
|C. C. Pyle, 1926|
As the Roaring Twenties begun things were looking up for Pyle. At this time he met Almon Stoolman, a Champaign contractor, who decided to partner with Pyle in building a lavish movie theatre in the central college town where the University of Illinois was located. Pyle divorced again (his 3rd wife) and moved into the Beardsley Hotel to start his newest project. In 1921 the newly minted Virginia Theatre, named after Stoolman’s daughter, opened in grand style featuring a live stage show of the hit mystery The Bat. The next night the Virginia showed its first feature film The Boat starring Buster Keaton. At this point Pyle was flourishing. Managing the Virginia in Champaign he expanded his enterprise in the next few years to include a second theatre in Champaign (The Park) and one in Kokomo, Indiana (Victory Theatre). Pyle was making a living, but deep down he wanted a shot at the big time. He was about to see it come walking right through his doors at the Virginia.
Somewhat of a mystery is when and how Red Grange actually met C.C. Pyle for the first time. For most of his life Red told the story he first met Pyle right before his senior season in the fall of 1925 at the Virginia Theatre, but research proves this not to be true. They met almost a year before that historic meeting. Pyle always wanted a shot at the bigtime, especially in the entertainment field, but he needed a star to make him rich and famous. After the 1924 Michigan-Illinois game (in which Grange scored 4 TDs in the first twelve minutes to become the most famous football player in the country) Red had hid from the public at a movie house, most likely the Virginia Theatre on West Park Avenue, which was just over a mile walk from the frat house on East John Street, north of campus. Since Red enjoyed going to the movies, along with his good buddies, teammate Earl Britton, and Doc Coolley, this is probably why Red for years mentioned that he met Pyle here before his senior year was to begin. Coolley knew everybody in town and might’ve introduced the two to each other.
Pyle knew a star when he saw one and Red was now a superstar. The Virginia Theatre even showed the newsreel of Red’s super-human 1924 performance against Michigan a week after the game. Once Red had become the biggest name in sports after that game Pyle took notice of him. Red Grange was going to be his meal ticket to get rich. Red was immediately taken by Pyle, he liked him from the start, especially impressed by his appearance. Speaking to sportswriter-author Myron Cope, Red once said:
“Pyle was about forty-five when I met him. He was a shade over six feet tall and weighed about 195 pounds. He had gray hair and neatly trimmed mustache. An immaculate dresser, his clothes were made to order by the most exclusive tailors. He always carried a cane, wore spats, a derby and a diamond stickpin in his tie. He was suave, brilliant and perhaps the greatest supersalesman of his day. Pyle came up with more ideas in one day than most men come up with in a lifetime.”
Once his junior year (1924) on the gridiron was finished Red kept very busy. On November 30th Red was spotted at an NFL game. This was probably the first time he had attended a pro football game (or NFL game) in his life. At this time Red began thinking about his future- or maybe after meeting Pyle he was getting several opportunities to do something to capitalize on his growing fame. His public profile was growing. He was starting to become a celebrity and not just a 21-year old student-athlete, so he wanted to see what the pro game was about.
On this day the Milwaukee Badgers were playing the hometown Chicago Bears at Cubs Park. He sat in the stands with roughly 1,000 other fans, shivering on a cold and windy Sunday afternoon. The Bears were loaded with former Illinois players who had played for Bob Zuppke. The co-owners of the team George Halas and Dutch Sternaman were also the starting right end and left halfback respectively. Other Illini alumnus playing for the Bears included Oscar Knop (fullback), Vern Mullen (end), Dutch’s younger brother Joey Sternaman (quarterback) and Red’s good friend and former teammate Jim McMillen who was starting at right guard. Red’s appearance at the game was reported in the Chicago Herald-Examiner:
“In a game full of forward passes the Chicago Bears thumped the Milwaukee Badgers, 31 to 14, at the Cubs’ Park yesterday afternoon. It was the most spectacular clash of the season on the North Side, open football being turned on until the air seemed teeming with footballs.
While this was going on, making the half-frozen spectators almost forgot the cold, Red Grange, Illinois captain, sat in the stands and took it all in. It was something new for Red, seeing a gridiron battle without any work to do.”
No other mention of who was with Red on this day. Maybe C.C. Pyle, Doc Coolley, or his brother Garland. Who knows. But one thing was for sure, Red was thinking about playing professional football.
In the early part of 1925 Grange’s relationship with Pyle was growing. He trusted him. Red, “Doc” Coolley and Pyle soon would come to an agreement to join in a partnership. Pyle knew he wanted to look after Red’s future, but he needed additional help with the potential earnings that would come down the road. Since he wasn’t a great businessman or financial wizard he needed somebody to look after that end of the agreement. Pyle turned to another movie theatre manager for help. He went to see Byron F. Moore.
“My grandfather was of fairly good stature,” said Scott Moffatt, grandson of Byron Moore. “He had a mustache, black hair combed straight back, stood about five feet-ten, in that range, not over weight, of medium build.” The out-going, intelligent Moore had spent his early adult life operating theatres in Richmond, Indiana, South Bend, Indiana and Champaign where he started a friendship with Pyle. He would spend a lifetime in the movie business eventually working for the Warner Brothers company running theatres in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. “My mother always bragged about that,” said Moffatt. “These movies stars traveled in those days, came to Pittsburgh and visit my grandfather and his Warner theatres, stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, would come into town to sign autographs and my father would take care of the Vaudeville or live acts.”
|Byron Moore, circa 1935|
Moore was just a theatre manager operating the Orpheum Theatre in South Bend at the time Pyle brought up the opportunity to help with Red Grange. How could he say no. “He was a pretty out-going guy and my mother was excited about the Red Grange connection,” said Scott Moffatt. “She believed that it was a lucrative arrangement for my grandfather. He wasn’t rich, but I think he thought the idea was a very good money-making thing for him at the time. That connection with Red Grange economically was a pretty good move for him.”
Now on board looking after Red’s affairs would be a trio of men - Pyle, Coolley and Moore. At this time the group reached out to H. L. Jones, a Champaign lawyer whose office was located just two blocks from the Virginia Theatre at 112 W. Church in the Trevett-Mattis Banking building, to help them hammer out an agreement. The forty-six years old Jones had plenty of law experience with contracts since becoming a private attorney twenty years earlier. He would draw up a contract for the four men. The contract was 6-pages in length and dated March 27, 1925. It was typed up on H. L. Jones stationary paper. Within the contract the “first party” was the trio of Pyle, Moore and Coolley and the “second party” was Red Grange. The contract had 13 individual items that were agreed upon:
H. L. JONES; Champaign, Illinois
“Articles of Agreement, made and entered into this 27th day of March A.D. 1925, by and between Chas. C. Pyle and Byron F. Moore, of Champaign, Illinois, and Marion F. Coolley, of Danville, IL, parties of the first, and Harold E. (Red) Grange of Wheaton, IL., party of the second. Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the respective promises and agreements hereinafter set forth, the respective parties here to agree as follows:
1. Party of the second part (Red) hereby agrees to give the parties of the first part (Pyle-Moore-Cooley) exclusive rights to manage and contract for the public exploitation, personal/public appearances and appearances in motion pictures, theatrical performances, professional football exhibitions/or otherwise…(also) for the use of his name in advertising ventures, including the advertisement of his appearances in motion pictures, theatrical performances, professional football exhibitions/or otherwise…(and) the exclusive rights and privileges in motion pictures, theatrical performances, professional football exhibitions/or otherwise of contracting for the publications of newspaper or magazine articles or stories published under the name of the party (Red)…(and) further agrees that he will make no appearances and will not permit the use of his name in any manner other than as in this clause provided without the unanimous consent of the parties of the first part during the period of this agreement which shall commence upon the date hereof and continue for, during and until March 27, 1928.
2. Said party of the second part hereby to agree to appear and fill all engagements arranged and contracted for by the first parties of the first part…there for, inevitable accident, illness or other involuntary incapacity expected, provided however, said second party (Red) not be obliged to make any appearances or conduct any performances as hereinbefore above provided prior to the close of the 1925 University of Illinois football games or prior to the 1925 football season closing on Saturday prior to Thanksgiving day in the year 1925, and further agrees to do nothing whatever prior to that time which would render himself subject to classification as a professional athlete or football player.
3. Said second party (Red) further hereby agrees to exert his best endeavors during the 1925 season to retain the popularity of his name and make the use of same more effective for the purpose of this agreement.
4. Said second party (Red) agrees to be governed by the rules & regulations prevailing in the several localities where he may appear under this contract/ respect to the time of rehearsals and giving appearances.
|March 1925 Contract, Pages 2-3|
5. Said second party (Red) hereby agrees that the first parties (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) have exclusive rights to contract for display of his name, pictures and personal appearances in public or otherwise for profit in such advertising ventures, motion pictures, theatrical productions, football exhibitions, etc., during the entire period covered by this contract…(close of 1925)
6. And that in event of the failure, default or refusal upon the part of the part of the second part (Red) to perform the terms and conditions of his agreement, that the parties of the first part (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) shall have the right to sue for damages for the breach of this contract.
7. Said second party (Red) further hereby agrees to that he will promptly deliver over to the parties of the first (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) part all letters or other communication which maybe received by him containing offers for his services or for the use of his name in any manner hereinthefore specified are to co-operate with the parties of the first part in carrying out this agreement for the mutual advantage and benefit of both parties hereto.
8. It is further hereby mutually agreed that the actual expenses of promotion and obtaining and making any necessary expenses of manager and second party (Red) in filling engagements contracts under this agreement, the said expenses to be itemized and an account thereof kept by the parties of the first (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) part for the benefit of both parties hereto, shall be paid out of the gross receipts.
9. And the parties of the first part (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) hereby agree to accompany said second party (Red) and personally represent him at each place he might be required to appear under the terms of this agreement.
10. Said parties of the first part (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) further hereby agree that they will do nothing under this contract on or before Saturday prior to Thanksgiving day 1925, which would render the said party of the second part (Red) subject to classification as a professional athlete or football player.
11. Said parties of the first (Pyle-Moore-Coolley) part further hereby agree to use their best efforts to promote and exploit said party of the second part (Red) through the use of his name, pictures, newspaper or magazine articles under his name and to do the other things here in before provided to be done by them…
12. The parties of the first part further hereby agree that the said Charles C. Pyle shall, and he hereby authorized by all of the parties here to personally negotiate and execute any and all contracts which may be obtained, negotiated and concluded by or for the parties of the first part (Moore-Coolley) pursuant to the terms of this agreement…
13. It is further hereby mutually contracted and agreed that the net proceeds or net profits derived from these engagements, performances, ventures or undertakings, conducted pursuant to this agreement shall, upon receipt therefore be divided among the several parties hereto as follows; forty percent (40%) there of shall be paid to the party of the second part (Red); twenty-five percent (25%) thereof to the said Charles C. Pyle; seventeen and half percent (17.5%) thereof to the said Marion F. Coolley and seventeen and half percent (17.5%) to the said Byron F. Moore, settlement upon that basis to be made by such of the parties of the first part (Pyle-Moore-Cooley) as shall be present at the respective appearances or engagements of the party of the second part (Red) as his representative at the time in connection therewith.
|March 1925 Contract, Pages 4-5|
WITNESS the hands and seals of the respective parties hereto this 27th day of March A.D. 1925.
Chas. C. Pyle (signed in purple ink)
Byron F. Moore (signed in black ink)
Marion F. Coolley (signed in black ink)
Harold E. “Red” Grange (signed in blue ink)
(all signed and sealed)
This was an historic contract. Never before had a college football player signed with an “agent” to help represent him. In 1925 there was no NCAA rule against signing with a person to represent you. This was more of a “power of attorney” contract for the future, not a contract to play pro football. Red was clearly aware of what he was doing so much that he put in the contract, items 2 and 10, a clause that nothing was to be done until after he completed his senior season at Illinois. He did not want to sign any contracts with pro teams, Hollywood studios, or take any money. The split of the net profits would come later with the split this way:
Red Grange: 40 percent
C. C. Pyle: 25 percent
Byron F. Moore: 17.5 percent
Marion F. Coolley: 17.5 percent.
This would eventually change.
The 6-page contract signed in March of 1925 made it official. Three men- Pyle, Coolley, Moore- would handle all of Red’s business opportunities once he played his last collegiate game. Pyle would be the front man, handling all negotiations, whether it be with pro football teams, Hollywood executives, business men who wanted to use Red’s names for advertisements, and just about anything that could make them all richer.
In the end this contract shows proof of who represented Red Grange. Over time it appeared that only C. C. Pyle was Red’s manager. This was not true. Red would be represented by three men. Three men who would watch over his business affairs and split the net profits with Red. The contract was signed for three years, ending on March 27, 1928 (clause 1). The contract signed in March of 1925 would be kept by the Marion F. Coolley family for nearly 100 years.
Grange Signs with the Bears
The execution of this historical contract would have to wait 8 months. Finally, on November 21, 1925, Red played his last college game for Illinois in Columbus, Ohio against Ohio State. Shortly after the game he announced he was dropping out of school and turning pro, signing with his hometown team, the Chicago Bears. Later that night he took a train to Chicago to make it official.
Arriving at the Morrison Hotel the next morning, Grange was about to make sports history. Greeted by C.C. Pyle and the Bears co-owners, George Halas and Dutch Sternaman, Red felt comfortable about his decision to play pro football. After a few pleasantries Pyle got the circus started. The eager promoter brought in the press and photographers. The moment everybody was waiting for had arrived. In the suite the four men sat down at a round glass table. The contracts and several pens were lying there ready to make history. Red, sitting in the middle, had Pyle to his left and Halas to his right, with Sternaman sitting next to Halas. The foursome posed as Red held pen in hand ready to sign his first pro contract. Through a haze of smoke, following a broadside of flashlight powder from photographer’s cameras, Red signed his name. The only thing missing was Coolley and Moore.
At the same time that Red was signing his contract with the Bears he also re-did his deal with Pyle, Coolley and Moore. He made one big change to the original contact that was drawn up in March (1925). The four men agreed to change the percentage of net profits. On the original contract Red crossed out the March 27th date and wrote November 23rd. Then under item number 13, the original split of the net profits was crossed out and written was the new split. Red would get 50 percent of the net receipts. The new numbers were: Harold (Red) Grange, 50 percent; Charles C. Pyle, 25 percent (no change); Byron F. Moore, 12 and half percent (down from 17 and half); Marion F. Coolley, 12 and half percent (down from 17 and half). So, the group decided to give Red half the net profits with Coolley and Moore getting only 12 and half percent each. It was only fair, Red was the one who was playing football.
|Red Grange with C. C. Pyle at L.A. Coliseum Jan. 1926, during tour|
The barnstorming tour was a commercial and financial success for the Bears (players and owners, Halas-Sternaman), Grange and his three managers- Pyle, Coolley, and Moore. But the relationship wasn’t built to last. This is where Pyle gets what he really wanted. Red by himself.
After the first part of the tour, Byron Moore left to return to his job at the movie theatre. He could handle the funds from Illinois. While “Doc” Coolley followed the tour down South for games in Florida (3 games) and one in Louisana. At this time Pyle had realized that he had no more use for Coolley, he could handle all the business deals from here on out. Pyle didn’t want to share any more money with Coolley or Byron Moore. He was working too hard to share the wealth.
After the tour game in New Orleans, Red said good-bye to his good friend, and to show his appreciation the redhead had George Halas, Dutch Sternaman and the Chicago Bears team present a football to “Doc” that was signed by the entire team- as well as the scores of the four games played in the South on the other side of the ball. Marion “Doc” Coolley appreciated the gesture that he kept the football his entire life. The signed ball is still in the family, nearly 100 years later.
|1925-1926 barnstorming football given to "Doc" Coolley|
After the tour ended, several reports came out about a Grange-Pyle break-up. What must reports felled to reveal was that it was with the other two managers. Marion “Doc” Coolley and Byron Moore knew they were on the outs, but they still had a signed contract- a signed contract for two more years. Pyle had already started to negotiate a settlement with the two men. On March 17, 1926 Pyle shot off a Western Union Telegram to “Doc” Coolley in Danville expressing his feelings. “No definite payment was agreed upon. I am treating you fairly. Doing everything possible for me to do. Wire answer, Regards, Chas.”
The break-up was near. Pyle wanted all the money for himself and he was about to get it. Red seemed to be more comfortable with Pyle running the show, so he had no objection to having Cash-and-Carry push Coolley and Moore aside. A year after agreeing to be Red’s manager the trio of Pyle-Coolley-Moore were officially about to split up. A three-page contract was typed up. It was pretty much a divorce, but Coolley and Moore would not go away empty handed.
This agreement made this fifteenth day of March, 1926, by and between CHARLES C. PYLE, MARION F. COOLLEY and BYRON F. MOORE. WITNESSETH:
WHEREAS, the parties here to are the same parties who heretofore entered into a contract with HAROLD E. “RED” GRANGE, wherein and hereby they acquired certain percentage rights as manager of the said H.E.R.G. in and to the proceeds arising out of the exhibition, performance and activities of the said GRANGE.
WHEREAS, the said Pyle is desirous of purchasing the interest of the said Coolley and Moore, and the said Coolley and Moore are desirous of selling the same to said Pyle.
NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of One Dollar ($1) and the other good and valuable consideration each to the other paid, the receipt whereof by each acknowledged; the parties agree as follows:
The said Marion F. Coolley and Byron F. Moore do hereby sell, transfer and assign all of their respective rights and interests in and to their contract with the said Harold E. “Red” Grange to Charles C. Pyle.
Charles C. Pyle does hereby agree to pay to the said Marion F. Coolley and Byron F. Moore each the sum of Twelve Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($12,500), payable to each Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) upon the execution hereof and the balance (a note for) Seven Thousand Five Hundred ($7,500) due on or before July first, 1926, in full payment for such assignment…The said Pyle, claims responsibility for all claims, demands and liabilities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have placed their hands and seals hereon, the day of and year first above written.
Charles C. Pyle (signed, black ink)
Marion F. Coolley (signed, black ink)
Byron F. Moore (signed, black ink)
I hereby accept and approved the terms of the above and foregoing contract and do release Marion F. Coolley and Byron F. Moore of and from all further duties and obligations under the certain contract between them and myself as therein above referred to:
Harold E. Grange (signed, black ink)
The original contract had two items crossed out in black ink. First, in the opening line the date of March 15th was crossed out for March 26th. The second item crossed out was the due date for the second payment by Pyle. He had agreed to pay Coolley-Moore $12,500 each for the right to be Red’s only manager. On the day of the contract he paid both men five thousand dollars each. But instead of on or before July first, written in black ink, was May 1st. So, Pyle would be under the gun. He would only have five weeks to pay off the remaining money. Pyle would eventually make the payments. As of March 26, 1926, C. C. Pyle was Red’s only manager.
As for the two men who were also Red’s managers during the famous barnstorming tour, they went their separate ways. Byron Moore would get back into the theatre business, eventually working for Warner Brothers theatres in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. After a lengthy career he passed away in 1972 at the age of 73. Marion “Doc” Coolley would go on to law school, graduating from Cornell University (Class of 1927), then working for years as a loan officer for Northwestern Mutual Life. Coolley married Helen Yaeger and had one child, a daughter. Marylin Coolley-Carley remembered growing up hearing about Red Grange:
“My father had a good sense of humor that’s for sure, and he had a lot of friends. He had all of these people over, and the most exciting thing when I was about thirteen we had the first TV on the block, and all the boys came over because he wanted to watch any of the sports that were on. And the boys were at my house all the time, because they wanted to talk to him about Red Grange. My teenage friends were there all the time.”
Over the years Red would keep in touch with “Doc” Coolley, visiting him in Danville, and mailing him a signed copy of his autobiography. Coolley never could shake his health problems. Because of his heart issues he passed away on April 10, 1955 at the age of 56.
|In front of the White House during the barnstorming tour, from right to left, Byron Moore, Grange, Ill. Senator William McKinley; Rep. Wm. Holladay and "Doc" Coolley (wearing Grange's famous coat)|
For decades the story of Red having only one manager while signing to play pro football and going on his famous 1925-1926 barnstorming tour has been told. But after nearly 100 years we have proof of a new narrative. Let us not forgot Marion “Doc” Coolley and Byron Moore.
|Byron Moore, outside of White House on tour, Dec. 1925|
(Edited from the book, Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL’s First Superstar; sources are located in the Notes section):