State Your Case: Mac Speedie


macspeedie.jpeg

(Mac Speedie photos courtesy of the Cleveland Browns)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

When I was in Canton for this year’s Hall-of-Fame induction I ran into former GM Ron Wolf, there with over 100 Hall of Famers, and he couldn’t wait to ask me something that seemed to have been bothering him for some time.

“Why isn’t Mac Speedie in the Hall of Fame?” he said.

It’s a good question. And I have a good answer: I don’t know.

He is qualified. He played on championship teams. In fact, in his seven-year career the Browns went to the league championship game all seven times – winning five of them, four in the All-America Football Conference and one in the NFL. He was a decorated wide receiver who led the league in catches. Four times. His career average of 800 yards receiving per year was not surpassed until two decades after his retirement, and he produced 33 touchdowns in 86 regular-season games.

But that’s not all.

He was an outstanding blocker. He ran precise routes. He was lightning fast. He was athletic, one of the country’s top hurdlers in high school and college, and he was all-decade, named to the NFL’s all-star team of the 1940s. Plus, for what it’s worth, he was liked and respected by teammates who made him the Browns’ MVP in 1952.

So what’s missing? Longevity, that’s what. That and the support of his former coach, Paul Brown.

After missing the 1952 NFL championship game with a knee injury, Speedie left the NFL and signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Western Interprovincial Football Union, which essentially became the CFL. The Roughriders offered more money than he was making in Cleveland, so he took the offer and ran to Canada, where he became an all-league choice the following two seasons.

So what? Well, so that kept his NFL resume at three years and his Browns’ resume at seven.

It also infuriated then-Cleveland coach Paul Brown, who is in the Hall of Fame – so much so that the Browns’ organization didn’t put Speedie in its Ring of Honor until 1999, or after Al Lerner headed the expansion franchise, and Brown rebuffed Speedie when they met at the 1977 East-West Shrine Game.

According to those close to the Browns, Speedie’s free-spirited personality clashed with the button-downed Brown, who wasn’t amused when Speedie showed up at training camp with a pet skunk he named “Paul.” And when Speedie decided to leave Cleveland for Canada? It was Brown who sued him for breach of contract – contending the Browns exercised an option to extend his deal after it expired in the summer of 1953.

Speedie later said Brown “told me when I jumped leagues he would get even with me.” And he did. He kept him out of Canton … and out of Cleveland’s Hall … until both Brown and Speedie were dead.

At least the Browns corrected their mistake. Now it’s time for the Hall’s senior committee to correct another.

Mac Speedie was an All-Pro choice in six of his seven pro seasons in this country. He was an all-league choice in two of his three years in Canada. And last time I checked, this is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the NFL Hall of Fame. And while seven of his teammates on the Browns are in Canton, he was as good as any of them – including Dante Lavelli, who played the same position as Speedie.

“I’ve written letters for years, saying Mac should be in the Hall of Fame,” Lavelli said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Quite honestly, I can’t understand it.”

I can. He didn’t ingratiate himself to a powerful and successful head coach. So he was punished. But the punishment has gone on long enough. Otto Graham was enshrined in 1965; Dante Lavelli in 1975. Mac Speedie hasn’t been discussed since 1983, and I’d like to see that changed.

Now.

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. Rob
    August 30, 2016
    Reply

    Gary Collins or Mac Speedie Clark?

    • August 30, 2016
      Reply

      Think Id take Speedie, though I didnt see him. Saw Collins, and thought he was a bear. Killed the Colts in 64 championship game. Plus, terrific punter. But Speedie seemed to have everything. Maybe hands werent as good as Lavelli, ut he stretched the field, ran sharp routes, could block and was always, always a threat to score. Seems to me he wouldve been in a long time ago were it not for Paul Brown refusing to endorse him. Another thing about Speedie: Played 10 years of pro ball –seven in AAFC/NFL; three in NFL — and was all-league eight times. Also played seven years in AAFC/Cleveland and went to championship game every season, winning five times. Must have been doing something right.

  2. bachslunch
    August 30, 2016
    Reply

    Great article. Agreed, Mac Speedie is a no-brainer and should have been elected long ago.

  3. Rasputin
    August 30, 2016
    Reply

    Mac Speedie should and hopefully will be in the HoF, though now that he’s passed away he should be a lower priority in urgency than some other old deserving guys who are still alive.

    • August 30, 2016
      Reply

      Agree that his death probably pushes him to back of pack, but dont know that he will ever get in. Should have been in long ago and with each year his chances get longer. People simply forget. A shame.

  4. Bobby
    August 30, 2016
    Reply

    Speedie is long overdue, You make a great point though about it being the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Therefore wouldn’t Doug Flutie be considered after having such a great career in Canada and a few good seasons as a starter in the NFL?

  5. bachslunch
    August 31, 2016
    Reply

    Bobby, my take is that the CFL has its own HoF, and if memory serves Flutie is rightly in it. The PFHoF is actually the NFL/AFL/AAFC Hall of Fame.

  6. Dave
    August 31, 2016
    Reply

    I think most of the Hall of Fame selection committee members are morons! Players like Mac Speedie, Jerry Kramer, Leon Hart, Gary Collins and Jim Marshall should have been enshrined years ago, but can’t even make the first cut from the Seniors Committee selectors. Time to get some new committee members!!

    • August 31, 2016
      Reply

      Dave, you get new committee members and, guaranteed, you will never get those guys in. These guys know the history and, in many instances, have seen the players youre talking about. Members of the senior committee are working as hard as they can to put some of those names you mentioned in, but there are 48 people in that room in February. Mac Speedie, Jerry Kramer, Collins, Marshall, et al could have been/should have been in years ago, but that isnt the fault of this group or this senior committee. Those voters chose not to induct them for reasons we will not know … and their reasons, they believe, were valid. I wasnt there so I dont know. All I do know is that this senior committee is committed to getting the right players in while it can, but it has a huge backlog of qualified candidates that simply keeps getting longer.

  7. bachslunch
    September 3, 2016
    Reply

    Dave, agreed that Speedie and Kramer definitely belong in. An more on the fence with Gary Collins, though if players like Speedie, Billy Howton, Billy Wilson, and the 70s foursome of Harold Jackson. Harold Carmichael, Drew Pearson, and Cliff Branch get in, he’s next in line along with Art Powell, Lionel Taylor, and Otis Taylor — Collins wouldn’t drag the HoF down if he got in. Don’t see an argument for Jim Marshall (0/2/none honors among other things) or Leon Hart (one good year, short career), sorry. And Clark’s right, having older Senior selectors improves the chances of deserving Super Seniors like Al Wistert, Lavvie Dilweg, Duke Slater, Verne Lewellen, Riley Matheson, and Ox Emerson as well as Speedie. Sweeping out the old for the new isn’t always a great idea — but increasing the number of Senior slots (as well as a big catch-up year in 2020 for the 100th year league anniversary) would be. I’d push for those ideas, myself.

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