Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 OCT. 17, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T he 1920s spawned many of the greatest titans in Notre Dame football and school lore, in- cluding Knute Rockne, George Gipp and The Four Horsemen, plus the 1927 enrollment of Frank Leahy. Sometimes overshadowed was 1928 football captain Fred Miller, who became the ultra-successful president of Miller Brewing Co. from 1947-54 and perhaps the closest con- fidant to Leahy (1941-43, 1946-53) at a time when the Fighting Irish had five unbeaten seasons and three con- sensus national titles in eight years. He also is recognized as one of the greatest civic leaders ever in Mil- waukee before tragically perishing in a plane crash at age 48 on Dec. 17, 1954, with son Fred Jr., a junior at Notre Dame, and two pilots. Miller's grandson Phil Eck, whose father Albert is a 1958 Notre Dame graduate but no relation to huge Notre Dame benefactor Frank Eck, was born eight years later. His re- search and fascination with his grandfather's life led to seven years of research and writing, and then fi- nally the publishing of Remember- ing Fred Miller from Notre Dame to the High Life, a 260-page, hardbound book printed this spring. (Eck will do a book signing at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore the weekend of this year's Stanford game). Much of the work is comprised of memories from such luminaries such as Notre Dame Heisman Trophy win- ners John Lujack, John Lattner and Paul Hornung, but also nearly 50 other top athletes, including Pro Football legends Frank Gifford and Y.A. Tittle and baseball's Bobby Thomson, who hit "the shot heard 'round the world" in 1951 for the New York Giants. Inspiring the work were two events in 2007 attended by Eck. The first was Miller 's posthumous induction into the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame, and the second was the 50th anniversary of the 1957 World Series champion Mil- waukee Braves (led by Hank Aaron), who Miller brought from Boston. "They did a slide show, and the first slide was Fred Miller in the lead car welcoming the Braves to Milwau- kee," Eck noted. A favorite chapter for Eck was "Never Far From The Tenets Of Rockne" that Miller applied to his brewing company while building an esprit de corps within the infrastruc- ture and making the beverage into a premium brand. "These letters he wrote to employ- ees at Miller, they mentioned Notre Dame and Knute Rockne so often," Eck said. "Guys like Fred Miller, who was a tackle, were the 'pluggers' he usually made the captain to make them more appreciated and recog- nized. That's from who he learned how to treat everyday people. "He took it from a regional brew- ery ranked 20th in barrels produced and got up to fifth nationally at the time of his death." To this day, many people who retired from Miller Brewing or MillerCoors — the last share in the company passed out of the family in 1969 — hold a monthly gathering. Eck said when he attended one of them he was touched at how he was treated with reverence by the former employees just because he was the grandson of Fred Miller, who fathered eight children. "The things Fred Miller did for the employees in the 1940s and 1950s carried on when they were work- ing, paid for medical bills, put kids through college," said Eck, who played soccer at Quincy College and has been a teacher/coach at Spring- field (Ill.) for the better part of two decades. "It carried over to people in the next generation. Many would repeat, 'He's our hero.'" Often referred to as "the sports- minded president of the Miller Brew- ing Co." in his day, Miller in 1953 was the linchpin behind Major League Baseball's first franchise move in 50 years. For 50 years MLB had the same 16 teams in 10 cities before Miller built a stadium lease, incentives of ticket FRED MILLER & THE HIGH LIFE New book chronicles the life and sudden death of a Notre Dame and Milwaukee titan As a senior tackle, Miller (left) was selected to captain Knute Rockne's 1928 Fighting Irish. PHOTO COURTESY THE MILLER FAMILY

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