Maplewood History: Famous Maplewoodians – Paul Christman, a Football Legend

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.

Hartford Daily Courant. Nov. 13 , 1939

St Louis Star Times. Nov. 16, 1939

St Louis Star Times. Jan. 3, 1941

Chicago Tribune. July 22, 1956

St Louis Post-Dispatch. Jan. 15, 1967

A very sad day.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Oct. 23, 1990

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Famous Maplewoodians – Paul Christman, a Football Legend

  1. Doug, I remember Elmer somewhat. I think he was involved somehow with the Maplewood Renaissance Society way back when. I think he may have helped with that group somehow as a member or maybe as a speaker at the monthly meetings from time to time. He may have also contributed some pictures and such for the slide show that was put together for the 75th anniversary. I think the library still has that info and by now may have converted it to DVD or something else.

    • Mark, You are correct on all counts save one. The slide show survives in the archives of the Maplewood Public Library. I drew on it heavily when I produced our 100th anniversary community history book. The slides have never been converted to a DVD. I digitized most of them and use them whenever the situation calls for them.

  2. Doug, my dad told stories of him and his Maplewood high school senior football buddies loading up in a car and driving to Columbia on Saturdays in the fall of 1941 and suiting up and playing as “Tigers” for the day. The team was short players due to the war. They would play the game, get a meal, and drive home.

  3. Had no idea that someone like this was from Maplewood. I am not much of a football fan but my family followed it more. I wonder if they heard some of his broadcasts. Pretty amazing to think of where he came from and where he went.

    Any idea if he still has family around? They might have some interesting things to contribute to the story

    • If any of his family is still in Maplewood, I haven’t heard about it, Mark. They must be around somewhere. Maybe this article will flush them out?
      While I’m thinking of it, the late Elmer Wind Jr. was the fellow who first told me about Paul Christman. Elmer was very generous to our fledgling historical society. He allowed me to copy many of his very interesting family photos. He also allowed me to photograph many of the very interesting items that came down to him through his family and the family business, EJ Tire. I have done many posts from these images and documents.
      Elmer also advocated hard for the recognition by our town of the fact that we have the “original” Route 66 running right through the middle of our community. He held the page of the book up in front of my face that had those words on it. He is why those words exist on our streetlight banners.
      It was from photographs long stored in Elmer’s sideboard that I discovered the only photograph I have ever found with a Route 66 sign on a utility pole in front of the Wedge (Manchester at Southwest).
      Elmer was a character. A Maplewood original. He is missed along with a lot of other fine people who helped make our community what it is today.
      If you are late joining this examination of Maplewood’s history, here are a few of the links made possible by Elmer’s generosity.

      http://40southnews.com/maplewood-history-the-wedge/

      http://40southnews.com/maplewood-history-the-wedge-route-66-and-reller-chevrolet/

      http://40southnews.com/maplewood-history-a-closer-look-at-the-reller-chevrolet-building/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *