Dan Rooney died this week. By all accounts he was a charitable and humble man, one of five sons of the late Art Rooney.
Were it not for Art Rooney’s gambling winnings at the racetrack, reportedly at Yonkers and Saratoga, there likely would be no Pittsburgh Steelers, at least not a Rooney-owned team. Rooney’s betting proceeds allowed him to buy the franchise in the early days of the NFL and keep it afloat during hard times. While the Steelers made him wealthy and famous, his favorite sports were horse racing, baseball, and boxing.
Rooney family members are active in racing to this day, with ownership of Shamrock Farm in Maryland, a Thoroughbred breeding facility, and Yonkers harness racing track in New York.
The Rooney family came to Pittsburgh as poor Irish-Catholic immigrants and eventually made their fame and fortune in the world of sports. Meanwhile. another Pittsburgh family with Irish roots, the Mellons, became rich beyond imagination owing to the investments of Andrew Mellon in companies like Aluminum Company of America and Gulf Oil. Andrew’s son, Paul Mellon, became a pillar of horse racing.
The Rooneys and the Mellons were vastly different in terms of background—Duquesne vs. Yale and the Pittsburgh Steelers as opposed to Carnegie-Mellon University. However, they had in common that Pittsburgh was the fountain of their success and wealth and both had a longtime devotion to the sport of horse racing.
Rest in peace Mr. Rooney.
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