Video: Jeannie Morris joins Phil Ponce on “Chicago Tonight” on March 31, 2014.
Trailblazing sports reporter Jeannie Morris, the first woman to cover the Super Bowl who is perhaps best known for her book “Brian Piccolo: A Short Season” that was later turned into the film “Brian’s Song,” died Monday. She was 85 years old.
In 2014, Morris appeared on “Chicago Tonight” just before she became the first woman to win the Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports journalism. She told host Phil Ponce she got into sports writing when her former husband, retired Bear Johnny Morris, was offered a newspaper column.
“He said, ‘I can’t write, but my wife can.’ And they said, ‘Well, have her send us a couple of columns,’ so I did,” Morris recalled. “But I was more interested in writing sports, and they wanted me on the women’s page, and that was a challenge.”
After making her way to sports, Morris said she navigated often sexist environments with a mix of tenacity, finesse and the element of surprise.
“There’s something about defying expectations that gives you an advantage. … I wasn’t crashing locker rooms. I’d say, ‘I won’t go in your locker room, but you bring that guy right out here.’ So, I would get one-on-ones with people, all of the men in their …” she said, trailing off with a laugh.
Morris said she wasn’t shy about sticking up for the right to do her job, as she did when baseball legend Ted Williams was in town during his managing career for a game against the White Sox.
“He couldn’t tolerate me being anywhere near his dugout,” Morris said. “I thought it was funny – he’s Ted Williams! … I didn’t mind having a little confrontation with him. I told him I was here interviewing somebody and I lived in Chicago and he didn’t!”
Morris had reportedly been undergoing cancer treatment for the past year. She died at home.