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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/14/2016

      PLEASE NOTE- The University of Notre Dame and College Football Hall of Fame have been attempting to get these items for display purposes for decades however the family never let them out of their possession. This is a rare opportunity to own the most treasured items of the most iconic figure in Notre Dame and college football history. It also is an opportunity for a great benefactor to loan or donate these items to be preserved and displayed for all to see.     

One of the six passengers on Western Airlines flight 599 was a tall, powerfully built man who stood out from the others on the flight. As the plane winged west from Kansas City, the distinguished man returned a small, well-used prayer book to his travel bag and checked the time on his gold pocket watch. In a few hours they were scheduled to arrive in sunny Los Angeles. Air travel back in 1931 was mostly reserved for wealthy businessmen or the well-to-do, but this man was neither - he was the most famous and recognizable football coach in the country.

      Knute Rockne was born in Norway in 1888 and came to America as a young boy. He learned football on the streets of his Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago and saved every penny he earned in order to attend Notre Dame University. It was there in 1913 that Rockne single-handedly changed the way football was played. Facing the tough West Point squad, Rockne led his team in a relentless drive featuring long forward passes. This new technique handcuffed the Army team and Notre Dame won 35-13. Rockne's exploits won him the All-American honors in 1913 and he graduated the following spring with a degree in pharmacy. Newly married to his beloved wife Bonnie, Rockne embarked on a career in pharmaceutical research. But his love of football pulled at him and he found he couldn't say no to an offer to play pro football. Rockne and his former Notre Dame teammate Gus Dorais reunited on the Massillon Tigers where they introduced the revolutionary forward pass technique to the professional ranks. Rockne played pro ball through 1917 and then retired to take the job he would be forever known for - coach of the Fighting Irish. In his thirteen years at his alma mater, Rockne turned the university's football program into a financially successful victory machine. in 1919 his Fighting Irish went undefeated and took the championship. This was the storied squad of Curly Lambeau, Leo Bahan and George Gipp. Such was the esprit de corps Rockne instilled in his players that as Gipp lay dying of a strep throat infection, he uttered the famous words to Coach Rockne: 

      "Win just one for the Gipper".

      At the same time his drive and enthusiasm was inspiring Notre Dame to become the best football program in the land, the school's strong Catholic ties in turn inspired Rockne to convert to Catholicism. On November 20, 1925, the eve of both his son's First Holy Communion and a tough game against Northwestern, Rockne was baptized by Father Vincent Mooney. To mark the occasion Fr. Mooney gave the coach a prayer book and rosary beads. These two items held such deep meaning that they joined the gold pocket watch given to him by his wife as the three things that never left his person. In just over a decade Rockne won 105 games against 12 losses and 5 ties, making him the most successful college coach up to that time. His teams won three championships which in turn made the name "Notre Dame" synonymous with college football success.

      It was that same success that necessitated his flying to Los Angeles that March day in 1931. Universal was filming a football picture called "The Spirit of Notre Dame" and Rockne was invited to be the technical advisor. He never made it. In the skies above Bazaar, Kansas Flight 599's Fokker Tri-motor lost a wing and crashed in a lonely pasture. 

      There were no survivors. Rescuers at the scene recovered Knute Rockne's body, his rosary clutched in his hand, pocket watch tucked in his vest and prayer book in his travel bag.

      America mourned as word quickly spread of Rockne's death. The President of the United States called Rockne's death "A national loss" and more than 100,000 people turned out to pay their respects to the Notre Dame legend. The eulogy delivered by Fathers Mooney and Brennan was broadcast not only across America but to Europe, Asia and South America. Knute Rockne was gone but he was far from forgotten. To this day his name remains forever intertwined with Notre Dame and football in general and his legacy has been preserved in several movies and countless books and articles.

      This incredible lot contains two of the articles that meant so much to Knute Rockne that he carried them with him on his last flight: his pocket watch and prayer book. The gold pocket watch was gifted to him by his wife Bonnie on the couples' first Christmas together as husband and wife in 1914. The gold Chesterfield pocket watch has been engraved with "KKR" for Knute Kenneth Rockne" and bears the name "SOUTH BEND" on its face. The watch is attached to 12" of gold chain on which a small gold cased pocket knife has been attached. The watch shows light, even wear as you would expect from a treasured gift kept close to one's body for over a decade. The crystal is intact as are the hands and chain loop and the watch still operates. 

      The gold case shows the expected light wear and the "KKR" Art Deco engraving is easily read. The small knife has two functioning blades and its case shows light scuffing from natural wear.

      Rockne's treasured pocket prayer book is titled "Catholic's Manual" in gold on its spine. As Rockne was a devote Catholic, his personal prayer book shows great use. It's stiff 3 1/2 x 5" outer cover has gone missing leaving the interior cardboard backing. Opening the book reveals an inscription written by Fr. Mooney the day Rockne was baptized: "Notre Dame 11/20/1925 To Knute Rockne- a loyal friend- May the blessing of God descend upon you and yours and remain forever. Devotedly, Father Vincent Mooney, CSC, Class of 1916". The opposite page has an inscription added by Fr. Mooney after the crash that took his friend's life: Rock killed when Plane crashed near Bazaar, Kansas The Date March 31, 1931 This book, found in his traveling bag, near his body. Also: his Rosary found in his hand. I gave Rock this prayer book Nov. 21, 1925 at his 1st com., St. Eds, I baptized him in chapel Nov 20-1925." The original inscription was written by Fr. Mooney in pencil and later traced over in black fountain pen for posterity. Next to it is a cloth sacred heart badge stapled to the page, below which is written in black fountain pen: "This S.H. Badge found in his pocket." The prayer book's interior shows much use by Rockne and remains a poignant reminder of his religious devotion and close friendship with Fr. Mooney.

      The other pieces in this collection pertain to Rockne's funeral in South Bend. Three 3x5" typed index cards contain an outline of Rockne's life and career and were used by Fr. Mooney while giving his friend's eulogy. 

      Some of the interesting topics Mooney wished to talk about include Rockne's hobbies (bike races - flute - theatre and jazz musician Paul Whiteman), Athletic achievements (Marble Champ - Pole Vault - Baseball Pitcher) and on selecting a successor: (No room at Notre Dame for another Rockne while I am here - One is enough)". These were the notes prepared for Frs. Mooney and Brennan's recorded eulogy/biography which was captured on the record album which is included in this group. The reverse side features a studio produced version of Rockne's funeral. A 3" x 5" prayer card completes this collection. The card's front has a color illustration of Jesus Christ and the reverse has a short prayer with "In Memory of Knute Rockne Died, March 31, 1931. The card has been preserved in a clear screw-down case.

      This special group was entrusted by Rockne's widow Bonnie to Fathers Mooney and Brennan. Fr. Mooney received the prayer book and Fr. Brennan the gold watch after he celebrated a mass in Rockne's honor. Upon Fr. Brennan's death, the watch was willed to his brother Ed who also received the prayer book when Fr. Mooney passed.  Ed entrusted the reunited group to his wife Iris who in turn passed the group to her daughter Sarah who presented them to her son Michael Lopez, the current consignor. 

      These treasures have never been offered at auction before, and have only very rarely been seen outside the Brennan/Lopez family household. The prayer book and watch have been the subject of several articles during the past 30 years including features in the Post-Tribune, Times of Northwest Indiana and Notre Dame Magazine.

      Due to their historic nature and direct link to the man whose very name embodies collegiate football, these cherished pieces would make a most poignant exhibit if loaned to Notre Dame or the College Football Hall of Fame where they could be appreciated by the widest audience possible. 

      This is the once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain the items that meant most to the man whose faith and leadership inspired a nation. The group is accompanied by signed affidavits attesting to the provenance of the items from Michael Lopez, direct descendant of Frs. Mooney and Brennan. Also accompanied by articles and provenance tracing the ownership of these items from Rockne to Frs Brennan and Mooney (the priest who baptized him in 1925 prior to his son's wedding) to their descendant Michael Lopez, our consignor.

Bidding
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $100,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.:
Estimate: $400,000+
Number Bids: 2
Auction closed on Sunday, August 14, 2016.
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