The Steelers' success started in... Saratoga?

art rooney statue

Art Rooney, the guy in the middle (the bronze one), could really pick 'em.

Yep, it's true. Or, at least -- like most good stories -- it's probably true.

Legend has it that Art Rooney, the founder of the Steelers, was able to afford the $2,500 NFL franchise fee after a longshot came in for him at the Saratoga Race Course in 1933.

But get this: that wasn't even Rooney's best day at Saratoga. He had an even bigger score four years later. In fact, it may have been the best day anyone has ever had at Saratoga.

Rooney's luck started at a track in Yonkers where, depending on the who's telling the story, he turned either $10 or $500 into $100,000. The next day he took that 100k to Saratoga and blew the roof off the place, reportedly winning six races in a row.

There's some dispute as to how much Rooney walked away with (some figure it was as much as $250,000) -- but apparently it was enough that officials at Saratoga offered him a Brinks truck to cart all the money away. (This post at the blog Foolish Pleasure is a great account of Rooney's score.)

Let's just figure that Rooney won about $300,000 over those two days -- that's about $4.5 million in today's dollars. It's said that the money allowed Rooney to keep the Steelers afloat during the Depression and set the foundation for one of the NFL's most successful teams.

photo: Flickr user Jessa B.C.


I love American Dream stories, were joe nobody can make something of himself by working hard for a while and then going to the track and winning boat loads of money....

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