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Gams And The Man

Feb. 09, 2004
Feb. 09, 2004

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Feb. 9, 2004

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Gams And The Man

DIED Pro Football Hall of Famer Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch, 80.
Born an ironworker's son in Wausau, Wis., Hirsch, a fleet
receiver who ran splayed-legged--"point the toes in and throw the
legs wide," he described it--earned his enduring sobriquet when
he played at Wisconsin in 1942 before joining the Marines. After
Hirsch ran for a 61-yard touchdown against the Great Lakes Naval
Training Station team at Soldier Field, Chicago Daily News writer
Francis Powers observed that he "ran like a demented duck. His
crazy legs were gyrating in six different directions all at the
same time." When asked about his nickname, Hirsch was wont to
reply that anything was better than Elroy.

This is an article from the Feb. 9, 2004 issue Original Layout

Hirsch played 11 seasons of pro ball, with the Chicago Rockets of
the All-America Football Conference (1946 to '48) and the NFL's
Los Angeles Rams, where in '51 he led the league with 66
receptions, 1,495 yards and 17 touchdowns as the Rams won the
title. The square-jawed, crew-cut Hirsch also starred in three
movies, playing himself in 1953's Crazylegs: All-American. (A
review in TIME said that he "looks like a dark-haired Kirk
Douglas and meets every cinema crisis with the wooden impassivity
of Alan Ladd.") Hirsch was general manager of the Rams from '60
to '69, when he returned to Wisconsin and resuscitated the
Badgers' flagging football program and debt-ridden athletic
department before retiring in '87. In '74, Hirsch recalled the
thrill of playing pro football. "We made only $10,000 or $12,000
a year, and we didn't have agents or lawyers, and we didn't drive
fancy cars or own fancy homes," he said, "[but] we had fun and we
looked forward to a game every Sunday."

--Daniel G. Habib

COLOR PHOTO: VIC STEIN (HIRSCH) Hirsch in '98B/W PHOTO: CRAIG SCHREINER, WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL (HIRSCH WITHBALL) L.A. STORY Crazy Legs soared to an NFL title and onto the bigscreen