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Rubbing elbows with Bill Bidwill

It was Oct. 1963 and I had just finished my sixth year on active duty with the Navy. I decided to leave the service and try to get hired for some job in professional sports (PR, traveling secretary, gofer, anything). I wrote letters to every major league baseball, football and basketball team in the United States. Several of them, including the St. Louis football Cardinals at that time, now the Arizona Cardinals, invited me to stop for an interview if I was in their area.

I was discharged in San Francisco and drove cross-country to Roaring Spring, so St. Louis was an easy stopover. I had the address of the Cardinals’ business office and the name of William “Bill” Bidwill as the owner of the Cardinals. I showed his receptionist the letter he signed offering me an interview, and was ushered into his palatial office.

The Bidwill family was one of the founders of the NFL, the others being the Halases in Chicago, Miras of New York and the Rooneys of Pittsburgh

I was 29 at the time and he was 32, so we were contemporaries age-wise, but miles apart in a financial sense. I was largely penniless and he co-owned a professional sports franchise, which he soon bought out from his older brother and became the sole owner. His team started out in Chicago and later moved to St. Louis and now Arizona.

After brief introductions he surprised me by stating that he was intrigued by my background as a navy officer. He, too, had served his national service time in the Navy, for which he was very proud. That’s what got my foot in the door, but, alas, he had no opening at the time.

We spent the next hour telling sea stories, but with no further contact.

Bill Bidwill died last Wednesday (Oct. 2) at age 88. Wikipedia estimates his wealth at $1.3 billion, almost all the worth of his franchise.

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