Whether it’s for the entertaining flashback to the NFL and how the game looked and felt to those of us who grew up watching it in the late ’60s and ’70’s, or the heartwarming remembrance of the father-son relationship that is at the heart of “Forgotten Sundays,” Gerry Sandusky’s touching memoir of family, football and life’s passage of time is a gift of a book.”
Don Banks – Sports Illustrated, NFL Senior Writer
Gerry Sandusky’s book, “Forgotten Sundays: A Son’s Story of Life, Loss, and Love from the Sidelines of the NFL,” is one darn good read. Baltimoreans know Gerry primarily from his sports’ commentator post at WBAL-TV. Lately, he’s branched out to do the play-by-play accounts on radio for the Baltimore Ravens, a National Football League team. In both sports-related personas, Gerry is known as a highly-competent professional.
When Gerry was at the Barnes & Noble’s bookshop in Baltimore, on June 15, 2014, discussing and signing his book, I got the distinct impression that this guy really knows his NFL stuff, like a genuine insider. I also had a chance to see his softer side, especially when he recalled his evolving relationship over the years with his late father, John Sandusky. He died in a nursing home in Florida, age 80, in 2006. John had been ravished for the last five years of his life by the terrible disease of Alzheimer.
Gerry’s tome is essentially a father-son story, but it is much more – think family, work, church and life. There’s plenty of football in this book, but it’s mostly utilized as a backdrop. Gerry’s dad, John, played and/or coached in the NFL for forty-three seasons. He started his playing career with the legendary Cleveland Browns. They won three NFL titles in the 50s, under the great coach/manager Paul Brown. John coached in the NFL for thirty-five of those 43 years as an assistant, except for one year, 1972, when he served as the head coach for the Baltimore Colts.
If you know anything about pro football, then you know that “Sunday,” game day, is the day of the week that really counts. On many of those Sundays, Gerry was with his dad at the ball park; whether it was in Philadelphia, Baltimore and/or Miami. He filled roles for the team, such as the “ball boy.” This meant he made sure that if a football during a game went out of bounds on his side of the field, that he had to have another one ready to give to the referee.
Gerry, during this period, saw a lot of his dad. This included witnessing many of the highs and lows of his coaching career, the worst of which was his sacking as head coach when he was in Baltimore by a dork head of a general manager, Joe Thomas. Trust me, nobody in Baltimore liked Thomas. Most wanted to run him out of town on a rail or worse.
Parts of Gerry’s book even made me cry. It brought back memories of my relationship with my father, Richard “Dick” Hughes, long dead now. He was a boss on the Baltimore docks for the Alcoa Steamship Company. I worked with him for five years on the piers in Locust Point and got a chance to see up close what made him tick.
Getting back to Gerry – when his older brother Joe died, it was a very hard blow to the family. It caused a rift between his parents, which never truly healed.
What’s clear from Gerry’s telling of the family history is airing sensitive subjects wasn’t a strong suit for any of the players. John could easily fly off the handle, like my dad, on almost any subject, especially religion. The default conduct in the Sandusky home, as in many households of that day, was just to muddle along, keeping the strong emotions covered and deeply buried.
I remember 1959, John’s first year with the Colts as an assistant coach. It ended well. Baltimore won the championship, beating the New York Giants, Dec. 27th, 31-16, in the title game at fabled Memorial Stadium on 33rd St. I was there that day as was my cousin, Herman Krueger. Some thug stabbed Herman for no good reason. Fortunately, a pretty tough longshoreman, he survived.
John Unitas, Baltimore Colts Legend
Some of Gerry’s book is by necessity focused on the convicted sex pervert and ex-assistant coach at Penn State University, Jerry Sandusky. No relation to Gerry at all. The pain this similarity in names has caused Gerry and his family borders on a horror story. After the scandal broke, he became an “instant pariah.” Gerry reserves a whole chapter, “The Meaning of a Name,” for how he and his young family found the fortitude to stand up to this controversy. Indeed, it’s an inspiring tale how they did it.
There is so much more in this book to take in. Coach John, all 300 pounds of him, came originally out of South Philly and then the University of Villanova. He liked his beer once in a while, singing in the church choir and belting out Irish tunes, such as “Danny Boy!” Hell, that’s enough to make him a huge favorite of mine.
In conclusion, let me confess, I was and always will be a diehard Baltimore Colts’ fan. So, I will end this review of Gerry’s wonderful tome by quoting a line of his that stands out for me.
He wrote: “I only saw or heard my father cry three times in my my life, when my brother died, when my mother died, and when John Unitas died!”
– See more at: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/gerry-sandusky-scores-winning-touchdown-forgotten-sundays/2014/07/05#sthash.BFU5V7Ee.dpuf
Baltimore Post-Examiner – Bill Hughes
“Inside a sport so clearly measured by lines, scores, and time, Forgotten Sunday’s takes readers into a world not often explored in football, a world of relationships. This book delves between the games that define careers and explores the relationships that shape lives, transcend generations, and ultimately give strength and value to a name.”
Adam Schefter – ESPN
“If you’ve ever had a coach, a mentor, a teacher who helped you become something special, then you understand John Sandusky. He didn’t seek the spotlight. He helped others shine. This book provides a unique insight how John played a key role in our success, but even more important it shows from a personal perspective how he was able to stand up to pain and loss without losing character or integrity. It paints a picture of a great coach and a great family man.”
Bob Griese – Former Miami Dolphins Quarterback, NFL Hall of Famer
“My father meant the world to me and taught me so much about baseball and life. It was heart-warming to read the story of Gerry and his Dad in this wonderful book.”
Brooks Robinson – Baseball Hall of Famer
“John Sandusky was more than a coach — he was a role model who showed everyone around him how to balance professional and personal responsibilities. . . . Those twin loves — football and family — are described in eloquent detail by his son, Gerry, in “Forgotten Sundays,” a loving portrait of a great coach and a great man.”
Dan Marino – Former Miami Dolphins Quarterback, NFL Hall of Famer
“I was a player for the Miami Dolphins during the trials and tribulations described in the book. Well written with a lot of thought and love. You don’t have to play football to feel the impact of this book. This will inspire you to think long and hard about the value of a name and how men communicate life’s important lessons to each other–frequently without saying a word.”
Don Strock – former Miami Dolphins quarterback
“An excellent account of the emotional roller coaster of the NFL and the impact this has families”
Larry Csonka – Former Miami Dolphins Running Back, NFL Hall of Famer
“Forgotten Sundays has the distinct flavor of a great football book…however, its about so much more…it’s about family, it’s about growing up and it’s about a very special father-son relationship…”
Mike Mayock – Color Analyst, NBC and NFL Network
“William Faulkner said, ‘The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man. It can be one of the pillars to help him endure and prevail.’ This book by Gerry Sandusky is a piece of poetry, a beautifully told story about what makes the game of football in modern America the essence of a man’s life – the twin pillars of faith and family.”
Sal Paolantonio – National Correspondent ESPN and author of How Football Explains America
“This is a powerful story filled with emotion and insight about a father, a son, and football.”
Roger Goodell – NFL Commissioner
“A father gives you much more than a name. He gives you pride, honor and love. This is the story of how a son refused to let all that be taken from him, no matter the price.”
Rick Reilly – ESPN commentator and essayist
“Gerry Sandusky has truly lived the football life. Forgotten Sundays is a poignant look at growing up in the NFL and what family meant to him.”
Fred Gaudelli – producer, NBC’s Sunday Night Football
“One needs a box of Kleenex, but not many hours to read this memoir of love, loss and triumph that flows like a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Gerry Sandusky is a long term friend, but I did not know he was such a gifted writer. This book will make you appreciate your loved ones even more.”
Dr. Ben Carson – Professor Emeritus of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Medicine Chairman
“A career in professional sports (or coaching if you want) represents a shared sacrifice for an entire family but that sacrifice can also bring families together. In Forgotten Sundays Gerry Sandusky perfectly encapsulates and describes that unique dynamic.”
Ross Tucker – Former NFL player, Radio host, color commentator, and host of “The Ross Tucker Football Podcast”
“Gerry Sandusky captures your attention from the very first sentence. This a rare, in depth look at a life spent in and around the NFL that few will ever experience. If you love football, you will truly enjoy this emotional, real life story that everyone can relate to. A must read.”
Sean Landeta – former NY Giants and Philadelphia Eagles punter