by Dena Rose

Rooney family member brings an old family photo to life and unveils the only known tribute to the Hope Harvey Football Club and the sandlot teams of the 1920s.

Considered the very roots of the Pittsburgh Steeler Football, the Hope Harvey Football Club was the first sports team managed by legendary Art J Rooney and the only time Rooney and his brothers, Dan, Jim and Vince played together on a team. This week, 23 members of one of the best-known sandlot football clubs of the 1920s will come to life as Kathy Rooney and sculptor Ray Sokolowski unveil a work of art that carries both personal and historical significance. The piece, inspired by an old Rooney family photograph, will be introduced during private reception, set for Thursday, October 9 (5:30 PM to 8:00 PM) at the Hot Metal Grille, Southside.

"While this was a meaningful project for us, we also felt its importance from a historical perspective, says Kathy Rooney. "We wanted to honor my father and uncles, but the work also recreates a time in football history – these were hard playing sandlot teams who made their own uniforms and passed the hat for their paychecks, they are the true spirit of the game," she adds.

Kathy, an accomplished illustrator and the youngest daughter of Vince Rooney, worked with figurative artist and husband Ray to create what may be the only known replica of the team which included the popular "Northside eleven." Each Hope Harvey player is depicted in the sculpture, exactly as he appears in the team photo dated 1923. The sculpture took more than (one year???) to complete and the signed and numbered figures were hand-sculpted then cold cast in nickel resin.

The exhibit will remain at the Hot Metal Grille throughout the month of October. An exclusive limited edition series is available for purchase by collectors. For more information on the sculpture visit www.krooney.net.


• The Hope Harvey Football Club was organized in Pittsburgh in the early 1920s.

• This club, the first football team managed by Art J. Rooney, may be considered the very roots of Pittsburgh Steeler Football. Rooney would later become a beloved sports legend and earn his place in The Pro Football Hall of Fame as founder and leader of one of the NFL’s most notable organizations.

• While the sport’s formal national league began organizing in 1920, the city of Pittsburgh did not field a team in the NFL until 1933, due to the PA state "blue law". While this legislation prohibited charging admission to sporting events on Sundays, there were several football clubs who played sand lot and semi pro ball on Saturdays. These teams would pass the hat to collect contributions from fans
and split the proceeds among players after paying expenses

• Touted in its day as one of the hardest teams to defeat in Pittsburgh, The Hope Harvey Football Club earns a further place in history because the "north side eleven" included four of the Rooney brothers as team members. Art J. Rooney (or "Artie" as he was called) managed, coached and played quarterback alongside his younger brothers Dan and Jim Rooney. The younger of the Rooney boys, Vince served as ball boy.

• This time in history counts as the only time the Rooney brothers played football together. And, it marks the very beginning of Art J. Rooney’s long-standing career in football. In his time he was known as a star baseball player and boxer, with The Hope Harvey Club he also became one of the biggest stars in sandlot football. And, the Hope Harvey years stand as the only period when he managed, coached and played on a team.

• The origins of the club’s name: The team’s locker room was housed in Pittsburgh’s Hope Fire House, in the heart of the Northside. Dr. Harvey, a local physician, was sponsor and unofficial team doctor.

• The team’s uniforms were handmade by the players or members of their families so each one was sewn differently.

• Kathy Rooney, the youngest daughter of Vince Rooney is a professional illustrator and partner in Rooney and Ray Arts, Inc. She owns a print of an original Rooney family photo, one that depicts the entire Hope Harvey team line-up with Art, Dan, Jim and Vince Rooney included in the picture.

• Kathy and her husband Ray Sokolowski, an accomplished figurative sculptor, decided to bring this photo to life. As a tribute to Kathy’s late father and uncles, Ray Sokolowski handcrafted an exclusive multi-piece original sculpture of the Hope Harvey team. Each individual player is modeled after an actual team member and stands approximately 14 inches high.

• The sculpture consists of 23 signed and numbered figures, each cold cast in nickel resin. A priceless piece of sports history, the only sculpture of the Hope Harvey Football Club (players will not be sold individually) is available to collectors through Rooney and Ray Arts. The exclusive series will include only 30 sets. For more information visit www.krooney.net

Note: the facts were compiled from research information supplied by writer and Rooney biographer, Rob Ruck and his assistant, Maggie Patterson.

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