EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! Anytime Eddie DeBartolo shows up to a 49ers event, the cheers reign down on him. Last night, he was met with this characteristic chant as he finally put the finishing touch on his illustrious football career: being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Goodness knows he earned his spot. DeBartolo owned the San Francisco 49ers from 1977-2000, and was a good portion of the brains behind all of the franchise’s 5 Super Bowl titles.
In his acceptance speech, which he gave at the Hall yesterday, he was incredibly thankful. For everyone. No 49er great was off the table, and he gave profuse thanks to Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Fred Dean, Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Freddie Solomon, George Seifert, Steve Mariuchi, and of course, his ace in the hole Bill Walsh, who coached the Niners to their first 3 Super Bowls and pioneered the West Coast offense. DeBartolo recounted a very touching story with Walsh. During Walsh’s last moments in a Stanford hospital bed, Bill said that, though he wouldn’t be there to witness it, he was positive Eddie would make it to the Hall. DeBartolo went on to say, “Just before he died in 2007, Bill was thinking about every detail, just like when he was coaching. About a week after I was selected as part of the class of 2016, I received a package in the mail from Bill’s son, Craig. It was a small 49ers helmet with Bill’s autograph and a note Bill wrote that said: ‘I knew it was only a matter of time. Congratulations on your election. Love, Bill.”
The main thing Eddie emphasized in his speech was family. DeBartolo is obviously very Italian, and (speaking as an Italian myself), what’s more important to Italians than family? He said that he thought of the players as far more than people on a field: “We saw them as men. We saw them as sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, with families and responsibilities…we welcomed mothers, wives, girlfriends, and children to the team, sent gifts to them on special occasions and celebrated with them on holidays. We weren’t just a family on Sundays. We were a family every single day.” That, he said, was the secret to the 49ers success. Of course, he also thanked his actual family, including his parents, lovely wife, and his kids. Keeping in line with the family theme, he also gave many thanks to the 49er Faithful fans that provided the backbone of support for the dynasty.
All in all, it was a very touching speech. Eddie came from very humble family of immigrants in Youngstown, Ohio, and truly achieved the American Dream. DeBartolo has more bragging rights than most people will ever see in 3 lifetimes, yet he remained humble in his speech, and found as many ways as possible to attribute his success to others. He is truly a legend, not only among the 49er Faithful, but among NFL fans as well. EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE, indeed.