DeBartolo: “I am truly humbled”


(Eddie DeBartolo, right, and his sister, Denise DeBartolo York)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

CANTON, Ohio – Once upon a time, former San Francisco 49ers’ owner Eddie DeBartolo said that reaching the Hall of Fame would be “the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” Well, he’s halfway there.

DeBartolo was chosen Wednesday from a pool of 12 finalists as the contributor candidate for the Class of 2016 by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s contributor sub-committee.

That doesn’t mean he’s in. It simply means that his name will now be put in front of the Hall’s 46-member board when it convenes during Super Bowl weekend … and this just in: The Super Bowl? It’s in San Francisco. So DeBartolo will be a popular choice with 49ers’ fans.

Convincing electors, however, won’t be as easy. For him to elected, he must gain 80 percent of the vote.

“Oh, God,” said an emotional DeBartolo when notified of his nomination. “Thank you so much. I am truly humbled. I don’t know what else to say except that I am truly humbled. My football life … Bill Walsh … all the players from my team … other teams … the coaches … everything is going through my mind right now. I am truly speechless. I really don’t know what to say except than you from the bottom of my heart.”

DeBartolo was a three-time finalist for the Hall but failed each time to make the cut from 15 to 10. Then, the Hall created the contributor category in 2014 — a category reserved for non-players — and DeBartolo immediately became one of the favorites. Though he missed last year when Ron Wolf and Bill Polian were chosen as the first Hall-of-Fame contributors, DeBartolo told the Talk of Fame Network what it meant to have his name included among the finalists.

“It’s such an honor just to be mentioned,” he told the broadcast last summer. (Listen below) “I know anybody in this situation would say that. Because it was my life, and it was a gigantic portion of my life, like my family.”

“(If I were elected), it would mean the world to me. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’ll just take it year by year, and, if it happens, it will be the greatest thing that ever happens to me. If it ever happened, it would be a culmination of something that made my life memorable and made my life complete.”

DeBartolo’s impact on the game is undeniable. His teams won 13 division titles, 10 conference championship games and five Super Bowls – the first team to reach five. What’s more, during his tenure the 49ers never won fewer than 10 games in 17 of 18 consecutive seasons. The only miss? It was the strike-truncated 1982 season.

But his impact on players was just as significant. When he presented Charles Haley for induction last month it marked the fifth time he stood in front of a Hall-of-Fame audience to present a player or coach. Only Al Davis (9) and Paul Brown (6) appeared more in Canton as presenters.

“When you think about Hall of Famers,” Haley said at his induction, “you think about winning. So if that’s the standard, why is he not here?”

He may be. Sooner rather than later.

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  1. Rasputin
    September 3, 2015

    What a wasted pick, and wasted year for that matter by the senior/contributor nominators. Apart from hiring Bill Walsh and sitting there while others won SBs, I’m not sure what he’s supposed to have contributed. Why not induct Clint Murchinson then? A famously hands off owner, at least he had the vision to stand by Landry and extend his contract for a decade at a time when it was very controversial. That alone vaults him over DeBartolo at least.

    Hopefully the selectors shoot this down and send a message to the nominating committee to get its act together.

  2. Rasputin
    September 3, 2015

    You also forgot to mention the corruption scandal that forced him to step down. Terrible pick.

    • September 3, 2015

      didn’t forget. by hall of fame guidelines, not allowed to discuss what happens off the field.

      • Rasputin
        September 4, 2015

        He’s a contributor….everything he did was off the field.

        • September 4, 2015

          ok, you got me, smart guy. we’re not allowed to discuss non-football issues.

          • Rasputin
            September 4, 2015

            Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’ll skip the obligatory “I didn’t know that rule also applied to this blog…so when do we get to see that glowing tribute to OJ Simpson?” line, and get right to the point.

            DeBartolo left the 49ers in a financial mess and they were sanctioned by the league for salary cap violations that occurred under his watch. That’s football related. I’m not sure how much of that was really his fault versus Carmen Policy’s, but then that’s even more true of the SB wins.

            Can you cite some of DeBartolo’s personal, HoF worthy contributions to the 49er dynasty aside from hiring Bill Walsh and being liked by many players?

          • September 6, 2015

            Put in place an administration that was envied … and copied … by others. He made the 49ers a model for others. The salary-cap violation did come up in discussions, and it doesn’t matter who signed off on it. It was on his watch. Nevertheless, voters felt the model he established for others (17 of 18 straight seasons with 10 or more wins and five Super Bowls) and the fact that he resuscitated a moribund franchise and made it a dynasty that others copied and players wanted to join were more compelling factors.

  3. Rasputin
    September 6, 2015

    But that’s all vague. Bill Walsh and maybe Carmen Policy to some degree deserve credit for bringing in the system and players that won those games and SBs. It’s not like DeBartolo was the GM. The 49ers were hardly a “model” franchise when they were in salary cap hell and under sanction for having broken the rules at the end of DeBartolo’s tenure. They were a “model” team in the sense that they won a lot, thanks to Bill Walsh.

    What did DeBartolo do that, for example, the aforementioned Clint Murchison didn’t? Murchison actually founded the Dallas Cowboys (DeBartolo didn’t found the 49ers). He hired legendary figures like Tom Landry, Tex Schramm, and Gil Brandt. DeBartolo was owner for 23 years and presided over 6 losing seasons (including his last one) and 16 consecutive winning seasons (17 overall). Murchison was owner for 24 years and presided over 5 losing seasons (all in those first expansion years), 1 .500 year, and 18 consecutive winning seasons (out of an NFL record 20 consecutive). His teams made the playoffs 17 times in an 18 year period, made it to 5 Super Bowls in one decade, and played in an astounding 12 conference championship games during his tenure. It was on his watch that the Dallas Cowboys became America’s Team. So could you give me specific reasons why someone DeBartolo jumps to the front of the line while someone like Clint Murchison has never even really been mentioned in the HoF conversation? To clarify, I’m not arguing that either belongs in Canton. I just don’t see much difference between them, except that I’d rather have the classy, non-scandal ridden Murchison as an owner.

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