A subject that deserves its own book would be the sports of Maplewood particularly football. Bob Broeg in his book, “Ol’ Mizzou, A Century of Tiger Football”, refers to a time in the 1930’s when “Maplewood and Cleveland High School in St. Louis supplied more talent to MU than any other prep schools”. The 1936 and the 1939 teams were the two best teams ever to come out of Maplewood High according to George Smith who was there.
There have been a multitude of fine players from the Maplewood program but the team of 1936 was a standout. It produced Paul Christman arguably the most famous sports figure to ascend from Maplewood. He was called “Pitchin’ Paul” and according to All-America center Dan Jenkins he could “throw a football into a pickle barrel from 70 yards away”. Coach Don Faurot said that after 50+ years of Tiger football, Paul was “the player who made the most significant contribution” in football history at Mizzou.
Some of the other players from Maplewood were the Orf twins (Bob and Bud), Pete Wistmann, a center who the aforementioned George Smith replaced when he left, Russ Nagel, and Joe Flavin.
Paul Christman went from Mizzou to the Chicago Cardinals where he quarterbacked them to two division titles in 1947 and 1948. He also led them to the playoff championship in 1947.
His post playing days were successful as well. He had a career in the Navy, had been a manufacturer’s rep in Chicago and had become the #1 college-pro TV commentator. His next gig would have been the ABC spot on Monday night football but death intervened.
He was just 51 years old when he succumbed to a massive heart attack after playing tennis. It was March of 1970. Don Faurot at his funeral recalled his glory days at Mizzou which included 20 victories in 28 games and the first Big Six championship.
Paul Christman from Maplewood measured up by anybody’s standards. The Christman family lived on Anna. Their home still exists.
This article first appeared in 2008 in the book I produced for our centennial celebration, “The First One Hundred Years, Maplewood MO”. Paul Christman is beyond a doubt one of the most famous Maplewoodians of all times. Were it not for the fatal heart attack he suffered in 1970 probably most of us would know his name today.
You may be familiar with some of the other announcers and commentators that Paul would have been working with at ABC. They include Frank Gifford (1971-85), Howard Cosell (1970-83), Don Meredith (1970-73 & 1977-84), Fred Williamson (1974 preseason only), Alex Karras (1974-76), Fran Tarkenton (1979-82), OJ Simpson (1983-85), Joe Namath (1985), Al Michaels (1986-2005), Dan Dierdorf (1987-89), Lynn Swann (1987), Dennis Miller (2000-01), John Madden (2002-05). And that’s just a few!
RIP Paul Christman. You were one of the great ones.