Saturday, November 10, 2007

RIP (Again): George Gipp

The DNA test results from the exhumed body of George Gipp are back and guess what - he didn't father an illegitimate daughter. I wrote a post about this when it happened and questioned why the family might have disturbed his grave. My online friend Abi did some Googling and discovered posts on a genealogy bulletin board that indicated Gipp may have fathered an illegitimate daughter.

The whole story is bizarre and sounds like it was motivated by greed. From the NYT:
“It was crazy what went on at the cemetery,” said Karl Gipp, a distant relative of Gipp’s and the court-appointed representative of the estates of George Gipp and his sister Bertha Gipp Martin. “It was like a circus, what went on out there. I was furious then and I’m still furious. There was no reason for it, and these people really did a disservice to our entire community.”

One of the people to whom Karl Gipp is referring is Mike Bynum, a Birmingham, Ala., author of six sports books and editor of many more, who started this latest chapter in the Legend of George Gipp in August of this year while doing research online. He happened on a posting from August 2005 on a genealogy Web site by a woman looking for information about the George Gipp family. Bynum said he located the woman, Ellen Easton, and began talking to her about finding out whether her mother, known as Bette Easton, born four days after Gipp’s death, was the daughter of George Gipp.

Bynum was hopeful that the manuscript he was working on would become more interesting to publishers because of the paternity question. Less than two months later, Bynum invited a production crew from the new ESPN show “E:60” to be on hand for the exhuming of Gipp’s remains in Laurium, Mich.

Easton declined to comment directly about her dealings with Bynum, but she said in an e-mail message that she and her sister, Paula Krebes, were “appalled” when they learned Gipp’s body had been exhumed to obtain DNA that would establish whether he was their grandfather. “We had been convinced there was a lock of hair to compare DNA to,” Easton wrote. Krebes wrote in an e-mail message that she did not learn about the exhumation until Bynum called her four days after it occurred. “I vaguely remember hanging up on him as he began to describe the process the lab would be using to extract DNA from bones,” she wrote.
I think appalled is an appropriate response. It certainly sounds like Bynum was hoping to uncover something juicy about the Gipper and make a fortune in the process. What's Bynum's response to all of this? From the DetNews:
Bynum, who helped set up the exhumation and DNA tests, said he was just trying to bring two families together, not promote his book.

"That's the least of anyone's interest," he said about the tome, which will be published in the fall.
So what was the rush? According to Torger Omdahl, a lawyer in Iron River, Mich., representing the Gipp family, "Proper procedures were totally ignored. For someone interred 87 years, a disinterment should be done almost like an archaeological dig. They went in there with a backhoe and at first had the wrong gravesite and dug up Bertha Gipp’s skeleton.”

And questions have even been raised about the way Rick Frueh, a great-nephew of George Gipp who worked with Bynum on the exhumation, went about obtaining the required legal approvals. It turns out he'll receive royalties from the book, although he claims that has nothing to do with why he helped Bynum.
Frueh, in a written statement that Bynum helped prepare, said he was trying to help a family that may have been related to him as it tried to solve a mystery.

"Helping family is the strongest act of love that we can offer each other," Frueh wrote.
Yeah, right. I think he meant to say "helping myself to some family money." The whole situation is sad and gruesome, and Bynum, Frueh and ESPN will come out winners and make money on the publicity they've generated, but at least the Gipper still has his reputation intact. Now, please, let the man rest in peace.


abi said...

Thanks for updating us on this story.

This guy Frueh sounds like a piece of work, claiming to have dug up his great-uncle (not to mention Bertha) out of love, not the promise of fatter royalty checks.

I wonder how typical it is for someone who is a source of info for a biography to get royalties from the book?

Anonymous said...


The neice of the Gipp's and distant cousin to The Gipper

Kathy said...

Abi, I can't answer that question. I suspect that authors don't like to give up anymore than they have to. In Bynum's case, he probably needed to wheel and deal in order to get Frueh's cooperation.

Anonymous, if you really are related to the Gipper, you have my sympathy. I think it was a sad situation all the way around, and as it turns out, it didn't change a thing about the way the world viewed him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous,

This should have been handled as a family unit..........but the opportunity wasn't given.

This was a down right dirty bomb dropped on a good family who was blind sided with no knowledge what so ever of any (including Freuh )possible existing family members as well as no knowledge of a desecration.

We found the Easton' family forum site attached to Bynum while googling him after the desecration.

Why in the world would Mr. Bynum do something like that. He knew My family existed since apprx Aug 07 and from all the reports he apparently knew the Easton's existed also.....................

An article stated that Mr Bynum stated this was a private matter.......... for who? ......... He brought espn with him.......and who apparently financed it according to Mr.Freuh when asked.

........................... a lot of people are hurt, angry, exploited, to say the least, and myself, its wrong, it's all wrong, I am just in shock still. I was present.

Since when do you use earthmoving equipment,A BIG MACHINE, a gigantic back hoe to trample on other sites as well as rip the lifeless bodies apart of the deceased who were resting and have a camera and man plastered on top of it the whole time,.not 1 or 2 but a few bodies being disturbed................................. Dirty Money Dog and Pony Show .............Shame on all who would attack a family with such an enormous impact, and shame on those who did not exercise exhausting all means possible of trying to locate existing family members and discussing this sensitive matter with the family AS A FAMILY UNIT. It is my wish that the fullest extent of the law will be exercised, all the wrongdoings will be rectified.
Our thoughts are with the Easton's during this trail in our lives as well, it is to my believe that they had no idea either.
May the deceased now rest.

The niece