On July 15, 1959, half-a-million steelworkers walked off the job – the largest single strike in U.S. history. Steel production, the lifeblood of American enterprise, ground to a halt. With an economic crisis looming, and with the nation’s industrial inertia at a standstill, weary eyes in the foothills outside Pittsburgh turned to Braddock, PA, an iconic steel town on the Monongahela River and home to a high school football team on the verge of greatness.
Coach Chuck Klausing and his Braddock High Tigers had quietly gone five seasons without losing a game. On the eve of a sixth season, the Tigers stood within reach of the national record for most consecutive games without a loss. It would take another incredible run to make history.
In STRIKING GRIDIRON, Greg Nichols artfully plaits the hopes of a town, the highs and lows of a run at perfection, and the humanity of a coach during the steel strike that decimated Braddock’s economy and augured the end of America’s Golden Age. With a dancing quarterback, a trio of world-class runners, and a mixed-race team forced to confront the bigotry of the 1950s head-on, this story comes to life in a page-turning narrative that puts you right in the action.
“Not since Friday Night Lights has a writer portrayed a powerhouse high school football team and its coach as vividly as Nichols does the Braddock High Tigers; but Nichols tells a larger tale as well, that of the mid-century American working man whose livelihood may not last the season. The combination is unbeatable.”
-Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life
“I was rather unsure myself when I started out in the scouting department for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Someone recommended I talk to Chuck Klausing. He was one of the greatest coaches in Pennsylvania, and it didn’t take me long to figure out why. We’d watch game film together and he would spot every mistake every player made. Chuck saw the details, and so does Greg Nichols. This book puts you down on the field and takes you out to the streets of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a gritty mill town that faced long odds during the strike of 1959. This is the way a sports book should be written.”
-Art Rooney Jr., Vice President, Pittsburgh Steelers
“If you wish to read a heart-warming story, I recommend you read Greg Nichols’ story of how a football team helped heal a town in Western Pennsylvania. Chuck Klausing was the football coach at Braddock High School at the very early stage of his coaching career. I had the opportunity of working with Coach Klausing while I was head football coach at West Virginia University. He was probably the best hire I ever made. I will say he was the wisest coach I ever had. Read this story and you will see what America is all about.”
-Bobby Bowden, NCAA record holder for most wins and bowl wins by a Division 1 FBS coach
“If it is possible for a town to die of a broken heart, Braddock is it. Ninety percent of our population is gone, along with the amazing, true story of the Braddock Tigers, if not for the scholarship of Greg Nichols. Braddock, conceived in struggle, was built by the heroic sacrifices of tens of thousands of immigrants. There is so much history here – history that literally shaped our nation – from the French and Indian War to Andrew Carnegie. In Striking Gridiron, Greg has painstakingly related (thereby, preserved) one of Braddock’s most accessible and relatable historical struggles: football. As mayor, I am humbled and grateful for what Greg has achieved with this important book.”
-John Fetterman, Mayor of Braddock, PA
“Greg Nichols couldn’t have written it better if he’d been on the sidelines with us.”
-Chuck Klausing, coach of the 1959 Braddock High Tigers
“Can a team make a town forget defeat? There is tragedy in Striking Gridiron but much more importantly there is also glorious triumph. Greg Nichols takes you back to 1959, on the banks of the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania, and puts you on the cinder-covered field with the Braddock Tigers as they set records and win games against the backdrop of a devastating steel strike. Nichols has crafted not only a richly detailed chronicle of that memorable season but also the tale of a team’s heroism and a town’s redemption.”
-Mark Beech, Sports Illustrated staff writer and author of When Saturday Mattered Most
“Greg Nichols has written a phenomenal account of a football team on the eve of a national winning record, set in a Pennsylvania steel town during a calamitous 1959 worker’s strike. A deeply inspiring story of a coach who knew how to win, not just on the field and in the locker room, but in the community, and how to overcome racial prejudice and treat all as one. Striking Gridiron is a compelling read with character that won’t let go.”
-Douglas Whynott, author of The Sugar Season