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‘Leatherheads’ book tells of the real team

On April 4, Hollywood will release “Leatherheads,” a comedy about the rough and rowdy early NFL in which George Clooney plays the player-coach of the NFL’s Duluth Bulldogs.
Part of the movie was filmed in Salisbury and Spencer, as well as Cabarrus County and Charlotte.
A new book, “Leatherheads of the North,” by Duluth News Tribune columnist Chuck Frederick, explores what actually happened to the Duluth Eskimos, the team the Bulldogs are based on.According to a press release from Publisher X-Communication, in the 1920s, the professional game was still developing. Angry at a call, the Eskimos’ Jimmy Manion once hurled himself through the air feet first, catching the umpire in the mouth and driving out “more teeth than a blacksmith-wristed dentist could pull in half an hour.”
The movie’s original screenplay, penned by sportswriter Rick Reilly, focused on the notorious 1926-27 Eskimos. “Leatherheads of the North” follows the Eskimos’ exploits as they logged 17,000 miles in four months on a 28-game road trip, the longest in professional sports.
During that season, the Eskimos played 15 exhibitions and 14 league games.
The Eskimos were designated a traveling team in order to sell more tickets in larger cities, such as Chicago and New York. Just as the Bulldogs do in the film, the Eskimos nabbed a college star, Ernie Nevers, to fill stadiums. Like the movie’s Carter Rutherford, Nevers was a three-sport All-American at Stanford who led the Eskimos, played pro basketball in Chicago and pitched for the St. Louis Browns ó all in the same year.
His name drew crowds, and promoter C.C. Pyle was bragging he had signed Nevers to a competing league he had started with Red Grange. But Nevers’ high school chum Ole Haugsrud convinced him to play for his Duluth franchise, a move NFL league president Joe Carr said saved the NFL.
Clooney’s Dodge Connelly could be described as a cross between the promoter Haugsrud and Johnny “Blood” McNally, the Eskimos’ notorious “Vagabond Halfback.” McNally was a combination athlete/scholar/drunk known as much for his off-field antics as his on-field feats. He was a notorious womanizer and brawler, once breaking his hand in a fight the night before a game, yet playing the next day, making one-handed catches.
Frederick’s book follows every game the Eskimos ever played ó and all the on- and off-field antics that inspired the movie. There was no real-life equivalent to the movie’s Lexi Littleton to create romantic comedy. McNally may have chased the ladies (and once, by mistake, Harpo Marx in drag) but Nevers was already a dedicated husband when he played for Duluth.
You can order the book from www. x-communication.org/ for $14.95 plus $5.50 shipping and handling or from online booksellers.
Appalachian Mountains book
Nature photographer and adventurist Bill L. Booz III has written his first book, “Seasons and Colors of the Appalachian Mountains.”
Booz explores the Appalachians from the ice-crusted peaks of Vermont in winter to the deep misty valleys of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. The pages are filled with landscapes, waterfalls and closeups of native flora and fauna.
Foreword and text by Jessy Oberright accompany each full-color page with the details of each photograph.
“Seasons and Colors of the Appalachian Mountains” is available online at www.billbooz.com, at Barnes and Noble or at bookstores and gift shops along the Appalachians. Booz is a through-hiker of the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.

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