Red Grange, football’s “Galloping Ghost” who starred as a running back at Illinois and later in professional football, died early today at a Lake Wales hospital. He was 87.
Grange died of complications from pneumonia about 3 a.m., said his wife of 49 years, Margaret Grange. He had been in the hospital since July.
Grange, one of the storied players of the game and one of 17 charter members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made his jersey number, 77, famous during the years 1923-25 at Illinois.
His blazing speed and electrifying performances helped catapult football from the inside sports pages to front-page headlines.
He spent 13 years as a player, coach and promoter of pro football. He was in New York several years with a team called “Red Grange’s Yankees,” and wound up his playing days in 1934 with the Chicago Bears, finishing his career as a pass receiver and defensive back. Grange scored 56 touchdowns in his pro career.
When Grange first tried out at Illinois, he was put on the seventh team. Within a week, he was in the starting lineup.
In 1924, against Michigan, he played what became known as the greatest game of his career.
The game was rated even when Grange took the opening kickoff and went 95 yards for a touchdown. Within the game’s first 12 minutes, he had also run for touchdowns of 70, 57 and 43 yards. Exhausted, he rested against the goal post after his fourth score.
Grantland Rice wrote the following words about Grange: “A streak of fire, a breath of flame, eluding all who reach the clutch; a gray ghost thrown into the game that rivals’ hands may never touch. . . . “