Chicago, Illinois -- In 2000, the Eastland Disaster portion of the Titanic exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry was seen by more than 800,000 visitors. And as recently as February 2015, hundreds of thousands more heard about the Eastland Disaster as it made national (and international) headlines when the Associated Press picked up the story of the discovery of the digitized film footage.
Now, for likely the first time, the Eastland Disaster will be featured as part of a national TV broadcast, and millions more people from coast to coast will hear the story of Chicago's greatest loss-of-life tragedy. On Monday, October 31, ESPN's Monday Night Football (with an average viewing audience of 9.4 million) will feature the Chicago Bears as they host their rival, the Minnesota Vikings, at Chicago's Soldier Field.
If George "Papa Bear" Halas, founder of the Chicago Bears and pioneering co-founder of the National Football League, had not been delayed in boarding the Eastland on the morning of July 24, 1915, it is very plausible that the Bears and the NFL would not be featured on Monday Night Football. Halas was 20 years old in 1915 and worked at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works as a summer hire. He played on the company sports teams and had planned to attend the picnic that morning. He was to meet his best friend Ralph Brizzolara and Ralph's brother Charles. Whereas Ralph and Charles both boarded and survived, George was running late and missed being aboard the Eastland – a fortunate bit of fate that guaranteed the future of the Chicago Bears and the National Football League. It is this century-old twist of fate in which ESPN took an interest.
NFL Features Reporter Michelle Beisner-Buck will be reporting on this story for ESPN's Monday Night Countdown, and it is anticipated that the feature will debut between the 6 and 7 p.m. CT window of the show. Michelle and other ESPN staff flew into Chicago last week to interview the Halas family and EDHS Executive Director Ted Wachholz. Chicago-based 2nd-Decade Productions was the freelance company that worked with ESPN to record the interviews.
EDHS is grateful to ESPN for giving a nationwide platform to the voices of the tens of thousands of people affected by the Eastland Disaster over 100 years ago, including the victims, survivors, and responders. Please share this post with all of your family, friends, and social media network -- it will be the first opportunity for everyone to view a national broadcast on the Eastland Disaster.
Please note: ESPN's Monday Night Countdown airs more than 2 hours before the football game, beginning at 3 p.m. Pacific / 4 p.m. Mountain / 5 p.m. Central / 6 p.m. Eastern. And while tentatively planned to debut in the 6 p.m. Central hour window, Michelle's feature on the Eastland Disaster may appear at any time during Monday Night Countdown.
***Update added to post on November 1, 2016. Did you miss the ESPN Monday Night Countdown clip about George Halas and the Eastland Disaster? No worries, you can watch it HERE .