Entries in Eddie DeBartolo (5)


Dwight Clark wanted to see Niner mates ‘one more time’

By Art Spander

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The game was forgettable. As opposed to the halftime ceremony. That is something we must never forget, an emotional tribute — realistically, and how awful it is saying this — a farewell.

The 2018 49ers played awful Sunday. “There’s a very fine line between winning and getting your butts kicked,” said first-year coach Kyle Shanahan. They got their butts kicked.

They were beaten by the Dallas Cowboys, 40-10, at Levi’s Stadium. The team and the rookie head coach are 0-7. And while NFL teams rarely win them all or lose them all — yes, the exception is the 2008 Detroit Lions, 0-16— the possibility of the Niners going without a victory this fall is growing.

Depressing for Niners fans. As, in a way, was the halftime program. Depressing and at the same time uplifting, because it reminded us of better days, for the franchise and for the man being honored and remembered, Dwight Clark.

Clark has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a horrible, cruel ailment that traps a person in his own body, stealing life a day at a time. “A few months ago,” remembered the kind man who operates the press elevator at Levi’s, “I saw Dwight and he was joking, laughing.”

But time moves quickly with ALS. A healthy, robust individual is conquered by an ailment for which there is no cure. Clark made it to midfield Sunday at halftime, but when he spoke there was hesitancy in his words, as if he were fighting to get them out and barely succeeding.

Clark is best known for The Catch, and while surely no explanation need be required, not if you know football, not if you know Northern California, not if you know the 49ers, one will be given.

It was Henry Ford who said, “History is bunk.” What he meant was don’t look back when you should, look ahead. Yet all of sport is wrapped in history, and when the first pro franchise created in San Francisco has gone year after year without the championship and then in a moment of timing and brilliance it is transformed because of one play, The Catch, then the past must be cherished.

Early January 1982, Candlestick Park, the NFC Championship game for 1981, Niners and Cowboys, and once again it seems Dallas will win. But Joe Montana, Super Joe, avoids the leaping pass rush of Ed “Too Tall” Jones and flings ball to heaven knows where. To a desperately leaping Dwight Clark, that’s where. Touchdown, and after a brief defensive stand, Super Bowl, the start of a dynasty.

Montana was part of the ceremony on Sunday. Of course. So were as many teammates of those 1981 49ers as could be located and, through the passion and generosity of former owner Ed DeBartolo Jr., brought to the stadium.

Each wore a red 49er jersey with Clark’s number, 87. History. Memories. Sadness.

“I just want to see my teammates one more time,” Clark said he told DeBartolo. “And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in so I could see ‘em one more time.”

DeBartolo wiped away a tear. Perhaps others did as well.

Montana reminded us that he and Clark were rookies and roommates in the summer of ’79, a friendship still strong. You watched, you listened, you shook your head in disbelief. Clark is 60, so young.

I’ve known others with ALS, including Bruce Edwards, who for quite a while was the caddy of champion golfer Tom Watson. What causes the disease? Why does it strike so many football players and golfers or caddies? Is it something on the grass? Something in the air?

Clark said DeBartolo flew him to Japan, hoping a researcher would have an answer, have a cure. “Thanks, Eddie,” said Clark. “You’ve been my friend since 1979.”

Then, after a few seconds, he said, “It’s been a tough year.”


S.F. Examiner: Mother Nature, 49ers let down Eddie D. on his big day

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

It was as if Mother Nature was cackling from somewhere east of Eden or west of Milpitas. Late on a Sunday afternoon that had been all too wet, and — for the 49ers — all too unsuccessful, the sun broke through, casting a glow on the upper rows of Levi’s Stadium and creating a rainbow in the skies above.

The old gal must have a perverse sense of humor. Now that the ceremonies were finished, a hurrah for Eddie DeBartolo, which surely will not be the last; now that the football game was finished, a 49ers loss, 30-17, to New England, the weather turned fine.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: DeBartolo’s contribution to football immortalized

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

CANTON, Ohio – He knew the shortcuts. Edward DeBartolo Jr. says he could travel the 65 miles from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in maybe 45 to 50 minutes on the back roads.

The real journey, however, would take years.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Big night for Eddie D, Stabler, Boldin

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

He was the stranger from Youngstown, the little guy who had to earn his spurs and, more importantly after some missteps owning the 49ers — “This team is not a toy,” he grumbled at the media so critical of his mismanagement — earn the cheers. They were there at Super Bowls in past years. And they were there Saturday night, when Eddie DeBartolo was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So timely. So appropriate that DeBartolo, now 69 and far away in time and distance, having moved to Tampa, Fla., would be one of the chosen few when the Super Bowl, the Half-Century Super Bowl, No. 50, would be played in the area where he built a champion in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Read the ful story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner


SF Examiner: Reunion reminds fans of Niners’ glory days

By Art Spander
Special to The Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO — The talk was about what used to be.

“Those were the days,” ex-mayor Willie Brown affirmed.

The talk was about what might be again.

Eddie DeBartolo had come back to his adopted home, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame that bears the name of his father, Edward J. DeBartolo Sr.

He had come back to reminisce, to laugh and, even for a brief emotional moment, to cry.

He had come back for a reconciliation which could only mean good things for the 49ers, the team which won five Super Bowls when they were owned by Eddie, the team which talks about winning Super Bowls now that they are run by Eddie’s nephew, Jed York.

Let’s address the issue. The 49ers were champions because of Bill Walsh, a visionary who coached and managed them out of the darkness. And it was terrific to see Bill’s widow, Geri, among the many at the Sheraton Palace for the DeBartolo presentation.

But without Eddie, there’s no Walsh. Without Eddie, there are no resources. DeBartolo, Walsh and John McVay all had a hand in the success, along with Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and so many others.

“We weren’t supposed to lose,” Steve Young said. “Eddie would say, ‘You tell me what you need to be great,’  but in return you’d better be great.”

Young, Lott and Jerry Rice offered an unintentional comedy routine during their time on stage. Rice made everyone aware of Young’s expanding bald spot. Young responded, “You wouldn’t say five words, but ever since ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ you won’t stop talking.”

Yes, John York was there. In the same room with Eddie. The new owner and his brother-in-law the old owner, two people we were told who didn’t get along, two people who had different ideas on how to run a pro football team.

But now John’s son, Jed, is in charge. And he was thanking his uncle, Eddie, for providing advice, apparently last year on when to get rid of Mike Nolan as head coach and bring in Mike Singletary. The family is together once more.

“We were always together,” said Denise DeBartolo York, John’s wife and Eddie’s sister.

She was distressed by what a certain columnist through the years had written to the contrary.

The idea, expressed more than once, by everyone from Willie Brown to Rice, is to get Eddie D into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That may not be terribly easy, even if DeBartolo is deserving. Some voters will be hesitant because he was stripped of the Niners after illegally trying to obtain a casino license in Louisiana.

But this is a start. Just as the Yorks and DeBartolos showing unity is a start of a process to regain the Niners’ old glory.

“Eddie changed the world of sports for the better,” said Brown.

At least as far as Northern California is concerned.

Paul Anka, the singer and composer, the man who wrote “My Way” for Frank Sinatra, was a guest, bringing revised lyrics for DeBartolo, a long-time pal.

“Your football star,” sang Anka to Eddie, “you raised the bar, and did it your way.”

A way the Niners, very much in the family, would love to find once more.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and E-mail him at

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