Posted on March 23, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
Second in a blog series.
The interview process all began with two Kielys and one bacon cheeseburger.
Incredible on all counts.
We met at Tessaro’s in Bloomfield, by the choice of longtime Steelers PR man Ed Kiely and his local-television-production son Kevin. The choice was inspired, the company was keen and the burger was. . . put it this way, I’m jonesing for another one just by typing this.
But this sojourn into the book project known as “The Steelers Encyclopedia” isn’t about food. Rather, the aim is to fatten the noggin, engorge a wide-sweeping Steelers tome with tales, anecdotes and colorful repartee never published before. If I have to consume for the consumer, so be it. (Hopefully, the book will be as comforting and filling as the food!)
On a lovely May Friday, over an unkosher bacon, provolone and medium-rare burger — even though I asked for well done — the adventure began with the main Steelers Kielys except Tim, who lives in Atlanta and produces the popular TNT NBA studio show. That makes him Charles Barkley‘s keeper. That also makes him the boss over one of American TV’s most popular sports reports.
Their sister and Ed’s daughter Kathy, who once shared a limo after a New York-area game with a hurrying Terry Bradshaw, went into political journalism rather than sports. She works inside the Beltway for an online site after a career at USA Today and other newspapers. So not every Kiely went into sports.
While the Kielys themselves are an interesting clan, they walked for years alongside the Rooneys and walked among the Steelers since World War II. So they were a grand place to start the interview process.
Kiely was a sharp 93, by the way, when we sat down. And he drank only coffee for lunch. No wonder he keeps such a girlish figure.
He is a clever man, and I say that not merely because he also started out a journalist. This Morningside guy was, as he kidded, “catching up to Red Smith [the famed New York Times columnist], then they drafted me.” That was 1940. That was the Air Force, who sent him to the South Pacific as an intelligence officer. Intelligent, indeed.
The Chief wanted him as his “press agent,” as they were called in those post-war days. So he even came to New York, where Kiely returned to work for the International News Service that was a forerunner to the more modern wire services. When his father took sick, he relented, accepted Rooney’s offer and came home.
He hardly left The Chief’s side for the next 40 years.
“I traveled all over with him. It really was an education, I tell you. Because he knew so many people. “ One Washington, D.C., breakfast in particular, the Chief ran into a friend who just so happened to be a member of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cabinet. Another time, in Chicago, a phone caller to their hotel room turned out to be someone calling for Mayor Richard Daley, who requested an audience with The Chief.
Ed Kiely called his boss and friend “just an ordinary bloke” who remembered, and was remembered by, so many different folks.
Kevin Kiely recalled The Chief’s love of baseball, Chuck Noll‘s love of a political argument with Ed Kiely, and post-practice sessions with an All-Star cast of ballboys — though mostly he and brother Tim ended up with red-cross bruises on their chests from where the noses of full-speed passes landed from the hands of Joe Gilliam and Bradshaw.
By the time he was of driving age, Kevin became a pseudo-chauffeur. He remembered one trip with The Chief in the front seat beside him and his dad alone in the back. The Chief asked the kid for his thoughts of the mid-1980s Steelers, and, well, by this time they were all basically family. So Kevin told him: “Mark Malone stinks.” The driver soon got a cuff on the back of the head. Whether it came from the PR man, the father, or both, remains unclear.
But, hey, gotta save good stuff for the book, right?
Next “The Steelers Encyclopedia” blog comes Friday, March 30