The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne, and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football

Jack Cavanaugh, Skyhorse (Norton, dist.), $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61608-110-2

It's not surprising that the more one gets to know George Gipp, the less like a hero he seems. A high school drop-out, he spent much of his time at Notre Dame cutting class, playing semi-pro ball under assumed names, hustling pool, and engaging in high-stakes gambling. Cavanaugh organizes his research well and says what he can about Gipp's personal life, but rightly focuses on the young man's astounding athleticism. Nearly a century on, Gipp still holds the Notre Dame record for most yards per carry in a season, most career total yards for a non-quarterback, and the longest field goal; he never allowed a pass to be completed to the man he was covering (though as teams tended to have few passes per game in those days, this is less impressive than it might seem), and is regarded by most historians as the school's best all-around player. His death in 1920 at the age of 25 (having never completely recovered from the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918) leaves Cavanaugh to fill out his effort with stories of Coach Rockne and Notre Dame's colorful early football days, all placed into the larger context of a country dealing with great tragedies. (Oct.)