Dante “Gluefinger” Lavelli

On holiday in Columbia, South Carolina, we were sat in a bar on Two Notch Road and I was reading a magazine called Sports Illustrated when I spotted a photograph of a store in Cleveland, Ohio, with the name Lavelli above the shop window.  Weeks later we had returned to England and I had picked up the magazine again when I noticed that the Cleveland shop window had a telephone number next to it.  Magnifying glass in hand I quickly wrote down the telephone number and dialled.  The distinctive sound of an American telephone rang in my ear as I waited with baited breath.  “Hello” a voice said, “can I speak to Dante Lavelli please”, I asked, “That’s me” came back the distinctive reply.  I explained that I was calling from England and could he talk about football and his career with the Browns and how did he rate Don Hutson.  The conversation was easy and what a really nice man Dante was, so interested in my interest in the game and willing to talk to a complete stranger.  We didn’t remain that for long though and kept in touch.

Two days later my phone rang and the booming voice of Ray Nitschke said, “Hey coach, how are you doing?  Have you talked to any Hall of Fame wide receivers lately?"  Dante had telephoned Ray and said about this guy from England calling him and did he know me.  Ray & Dante laughed and Ray explained about my interest in football.  Soon after I got a letter from Dante which I will transcribe in case it is difficult to read.  He was answering many of the questions I had asked him.

Hello the “Laddie”

Sure was nice to get your letters and I can’t believe how much you know about the Yankees, 49’ers, Colts and the All American Conference.  I called Ray N. which you know by now and we have become great friends.  We got our 1st big snowfall, 14 inches and has stopped everything.  I hope by now you have won your games.  The Art Modell has crushed our City and State of Ohio.  I landed in Liverpool and trained at Evermeer Park Camp, took a train to Southampton and landed in the water at Omaha Beach and walked across France to the front in Hurtgen Forest as a replacement and with luck came through “The Bulge” and ?????  I was Don Hutson’s sponsor when he went into the Hall of Fame.  Great man and still living.  My nickname was “Gluefinger” but on car plates was” Mr Glue due to the amount of letters that I could use.



Not only was my friend a great footballer he was also a war hero

© Soccer Nostalgia

Design: David Ainsworth