A V A I L A B L E N O W
In City of Champions, Hank Gola, a veteran and award-winning football writer, unveils a long-forgotten game through research spanning newspaper accounts, over 75 personal interviews, letters, oral histories, game films, recordings and photos.
Gola mines stories of the towns and the lives of the players and coaches--detailing the grit (and wild strokes of luck and fortune) that led up the Christmas night game. In a larger context, these two teams and the landmark 1939 season mirror interwar America, offering new perspectives on some of the pressing cultural, economic and socio-political issues of the era. Above all, City of Champions is a story of everyday heroes and lives well-lived.
Chapter 18: The Trip
It was as if everyone from the city of Garfield had chipped in for an Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstakes ticket and collectively hit the jackpot. Against odds that seemed just as long . . . their Boilermakers were going to Miami.
Paperboys around town delivered the glad tidings that rainy morning. The Herald-News screamed, “GARFIELD TO PLAY MIAMI CHRISTMAS” across its front page, pushing the war news down below the fold...
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
"So rich and so unforgettable and so inspirational...City of Champions should be told across America. It's that good."
— Peter King, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports
Hank discusses City of Champions on the Blake and Sal Show
Hank sits down with Al Kachadurian, 95. Having played against the '39 Boilermakers for Paterson Eastside, Al provides unique insights into high school football and life in general at the time.
"In his book, City of Champions, Gola seamlessly weaves the narrative of that team into the fabric of a tumultuous time - the winds of World War II were already swirling - while relating a tale with lessons that remain relevant today, as children of Polish and Italian immigrants, first generation Americans, came together under charismatic coach Art Argauer to achieve a common goal and unite a town.
And like the finest works from the genre, including Friday Night Lights and The Junction Boys, Gola crafts a story that transcends sports, the powerful imagery making clear why that season, and one incredible game, was so important to an industrial mill town along the Passaic River during the Depression."
"Beautifully written, painstakingly reported, and lovingly told, City of Champions is mesmerizing. Hank Gola passionately tells the story of a long-ago football game that was so much more than just a sporting event. It’s a brilliant look at who we once were ― and in some cases ― who we might want to be again."
—Jimmy Roberts, NBC, Golf Channel
"Gola’s book is a vivid read, showing how high school football brought together communities during a troubled time."
—Ed Sherman, Chicago Tribune
" ... a thoroughly researched and thoroughly engrossing work ... This is an excellent piece of sports writing, made even stronger by how it treats its characters."
"Veteran New York Daily News sports-writer Gola delves deeply into a fascinating forgotten story of a national champion high school football team from his hometown of Garfield, NJ. The book depicts life there during the Great Depression. Garfield was an industrial mill town, largely populated by Polish, Italian, and German immigrants, whose sons were brought together by a charismatic young coach to win consecutive state championships in 1938 and 1939. The team was then invited to Miami's Orange Bowl to face powerful Miami High in a charity game for the national championship. Gola covers the back-grounds of both cities, teams, and coaches, as well as the trip South and the game itself —won on a field goal in the closing minutes by Garfield star Benny Babula. Many of the players would serve overseas just a couple years later, and some would not survive the war. Gola tells their story with respect and admiration. VERDICT Extremely well done. Impeccably researched, with writing that is warm and moving. This beautiful book deserves the broadest of audiences."
"A marvelous David and Goliath story. Gola’s compelling narrative is filled with rich detail bringing the reader back to a long-ago era when Miami and the country were dramatically different from today."
—Paul S. George, History Miami Museum
"Throughout, Gola weaves a compelling tale, transporting readers until they are sitting in the stands watching the game, knowing almost as much about the teams as the actual 1939 fans...It is truly a book of local heroes—ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. So has Gola. With his tireless research, he has crafted a great read for fans of football and local history."
—Jack DeVries, Clifton Merchant Magazine
"Hank uses a tale passed from father to son about a legendary high school football game to transport us to a world of hometown heroes in America, from blue collar New Jersey to the segregated south. I wish I’d been in the Orange Bowl that Christmas, but Hank made me feel like I was."
—Judy Battista, NFL Network, NFL.com
"City of Champions is an absolute winner. You don't have to be a football fan to lose yourself in this wonderful story because it transcends the sport. It's about a small town and its colorful characters, including the legendary Benny Babula, whose name screams, "Football Hero." It's set against the backdrop of pre-World War II America, creating many twists and turns. Hank Gola's passion for his hometown oozes in every paragraph. His storytelling is so rich and detailed that it seems like you're watching a movie, not reading a book. You'll feel like you grew up in Garfield, New Jersey after reading this. Go Boilermakers!"
—Rich Cimini, ESPN football
"Football fans will relish this history of a bygone era in the sport—complete with 45 photos—and delight in the many anecdotes (the Garfield team’s stay at the upscale Alcazar hotel is particularly endearing) and play-by-plays of Miami’s Davey Eldredge muscling through Garfield’s defense and Benny Babula’s game-winning field goal."