Pro football exhibit to debut here in fall
April 10, 2012
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, is taking its show on the road, and its first stop is Pittsburgh, considered the birthplace of the game.
The Heinz History Center will host a traveling exhibit from the hall for three months this upcoming fall and winter that pays homage to the history of professional football.
Hall of Famer Franco Harris and Steelers President Art Rooney II will be at the center this morning to announce the premiere, along with the hall's vice president Joe Horrigan and history center president Andy Masich,
The exhibit, "Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame," will be at the center from Oct. 6 to Jan. 6 and then embark on a nationwide tour.
Mr. Masich and Mr. Horrigan said Pittsburgh is the ideal place for what Mr. Masich called "the blockbuster exhibit in Pennsylvania" for 2012, considering the game's roots here and the tradition of the Steelers.
This year marks the team's 80th season and the 40th anniversary of Mr. Harris' "immaculate reception" in 1972.
"Pittsburgh happens to be the home of professional football -- it all started here in 1892," Mr. Masich said.
"There's a lot of good synergy. This is the perfect segue into the national tour," Mr. Horrigan said of the Pittsburgh debut. "If all goes well, we would hope the exhibit will go on for five to seven years. We hope to get it into as many venues as we can."
The exhibit will include more than 200 artifacts, rare photos and documents from the hall's collections.
• The 1892 Allegheny Athletic Association accounting ledger featuring Pudge Heffelfinger, considered the first professional football player. (He was paid $500.)
• Artifacts from the sport's pioneers, including Jim Thorpe's Canton Bulldogs blanket; Knute Rockne's 1919 helmet; Johnny "Blood" McNally's canvas football pants; Sammy Baugh's helmet; Bobby Layne's jersey; and items that belonged to Red Grange from the 1925 Chicago Bears barnstorming tour.
• Items from the game's "golden age," such as jerseys that Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas wore, Vince Lombardi's coaching diagrams, Dick Butkus' helmet, Tom Dempsey's kicking shoe and Tom Landry's hat.
• Items from famous running backs, including jerseys from Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders; from great quarterbacks, such as Joe Montana's MVP football from Super Bowl XXIII and Dan Marino's footballs for setting various records; and from great receivers, such the helmet Jerry Rice wore.
"Gridiron Glory" also will feature items from Steelers in the Hall of Fame, such as Mr. Harris' cleats, Joe Greene's helmet and Jack Lambert's jersey.
The exhibit will focus on the impact of pro football on America, the science behind the sport and stories of the game's players, coaches and greatest moments.
It also will feature footage from NFL Films and about a dozen interactive displays, such as a kiosk with videos on the 273 members of the Hall of Fame and opportunities for fans to try on old pads and helmets.
Some details of the exhibit are still being worked out, but organizers also are planning appearances by Hall of Fame players and coaches.
"Trust me," Mr. Horrigan said, "when that show opens it will open with a big bang."