Don Pierson Don Pierson, a Lake Forest resident and longtime Bears beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune, recently co-authored a scrapbook for the Bears’ centennial. (Courtesy of Don Pierson)
For 40 years, Lake Forest resident Don Pierson spent most of his time at the Chicago Tribune covering the Bears and professional football.
He recently continued that work in retirement after co-authoring a new book with former Tribune writer Dan Pompei that helps mark the Bears’ centennial celebration. The book, titled “The Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook,” features Pierson and Pompei’s rankings of the top 100 players in franchise history.
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Both writers will be featured speakers June 9 in Rosemont during the “Bears100 Celebration Weekend” and also June 13 at the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff.
Pierson recently talked to Pioneer Press about the new scrapbook and the writers’ rankings.
Q: What was Virginia McCaskey’s role in this project?
A: She was our primary source as we got to talk to her for 14-15 hours of interviews, which was unprecedented. She has been around for most of the 100 years.
Q: Lists can be tricky things. Did you and Dan argue over some of the players?
A: We argued very little because I think we agree on a lot of things anyway and the other thing is 75-80 of those guys, any Bear fan could name. It is just a question of what order do we put them in and that is an impossible task anyway. The last 20 people, we might have had 30-40 candidates but it was not as hard as it looked. But we put a lot of effort into it and took it seriously.
Q: Was there one player you thought going in would make the top 100, but didn’t?
A: The first one that comes to mind for me is Leslie Frazier. Frazier probably checked more boxes with the criteria we looked at seriously and he probably would have been 101. We made long snapper Patrick Mannelly number 100 on the list and you can argue that Leslie Frazier was a better football player than Patrick Mannelly, but longevity and durability were a big part of our thinking, and Patrick Mannelly played more games than any other Bear in history. So, we thought he should be on the team from merit and also a tribute to his special teams.
Q: Is there anything you miss about the daily beat coverage?
A: If I miss anything it would be the writing element. I don’t think I would be able to do all the things that have to do be done now with the social media obligations. I’m not sure I would be capable or interested in doing that.
Q: Walter Payton was at the top of the list. Was he your personal favorite player or did you have someone else?
A: Payton was the best football player I ever saw and I’ve watched football for 60 years. But my player to cover and favorite one to watch, and my favorite one to talk to this day was Dick Butkus.
Q: What do you enjoy about Butkus?
A: The way he played speaks for itself. The way he plays defines not only middle linebacker but defense in general. Talking to him over the years, he is probably the most honest, insightful, funny and, maybe, even misunderstood I’ve ever been around. He was always delightful. That may not have been his reputation, but I always found him that way. Also, I admired his charitable initiatives, such as “I Play Clean,” which promotes drug-free sports.
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Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.