After years of being snubbed, the late Ed Salem will join the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame this week. The long, simmering feud between Alabama and Auburn officially ended on Dec. 4, 1948. The game, played at Birmingham’s Le­gion Field, would come to be known as the Iron Bowl.

The renewal, after a 41-year sabbatical, was a one-man show.

Alabama’s Ed Salem ran, passed and kicked his way for 31 of the Crimson Tide’s points in a 55-0 rout, per­haps the all-time best one­-man performance in one of college football’s greatest rivalries.

“He’d tell you, ‘I had a great game in ’48, but no one remembers that be­cause I missed the extra point that would have tied the game in ’49,’ ” said Sa­lem’s son, Jimbo. Actually, fans remember much more today.

Salem, named one of the 50 greatest players in Crim­son Tide football history during the 1992 centennial celebration, will be in­ducted posthumously into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday evening.

He will join the Class of 2010, which features Reita Clanton, Howard Cross, Robert Horry, Bobby Johns,Ronald McKinnon, George “Mule” Suttles and Ben Tamburello.

To some of the people who watched Salem, the honor is long overdue.

“He was a great athlete,” said longtime Birmingham Post-Herald Sports Editor Bill Lumpkin. “He played at Ramsay High and I covered him. He was a great run­ning back and a good base­ball pitcher, too.

“It’s a mystery to me why Ed isn’t already in there. Ed was mystified, too. And there was only one reason Ed could give for it.”

Salem, a successful busi­nessman after his football career in the NFL and CFL, found financial success with a chain of drive-in restau­rants bearing his name and bowling alleys throughout Metro Birmingham. When another NFL player sug­gested there was business to be made by organizing trips out of Birmingham to take customers to the casinos of Atlantic City, Salem discov­ered another revenue stream.

But in Birmingham, buckle of the Bible Belt, the gambling junkets didn’t go over well with everyone.

“That’s how we started in that business,” said Ann Sa­lem, his widow. “Some peo­ple are narrow-minded and think that’s not a business, but it was.”


According to Ann and Jimbo, Ed Salem accompa­nied clients on the trips but wasn’t a gambler himself. Yet that association may have tainted his name as he moved on and off the hall of fame ballot over the years.

There may have been other reasons. The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame came of age soon after Bear Bryant had established a dynasty in Tuscaloosa, and many of the accolades have gone to Tide players who starred under the coaching legend.

“The truth is, back in the ’60s and ’70s, you had more recognizable names than his,” Jimbo Salem said.

But Lumpkin still believes the reason Salem wasn’t in­ducted until now was the association with gambling.

“I know people on (the voting committee) who wouldn’t vote for him be­cause of that, yet they went on his junkets,” Lumpkin said.

Playing both ways at Ala­bama, Salem led the Tide in passing three seasons, in rushing for one season and in scoring for two. As a se­nior in 1950, he added punt returns to his resume.

While his best game was the 1948 Iron Bowl, when he passed for three touch­downs, ran for another, kicked seven extra points and played safety, Salem earned All-American status his final collegiate season while playing quarterback, defensive back and kicker.

His professional career included five interceptions as a Washington Redskins rookie defensive back in 1951, and later on he kicked a Canadian Football League record 53-yard field goal for the Montreal Alouettes.

Salem passed away on Dec. 20, 2001, long before his election to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame was an­nounced.

“In some ways, it’s 40 years too late,” Ann Salem said. “But all my sons are excited. I think it’s wonder­ful. I just wish he was here to see this.”

And, if she could only talk to him one last time, Ann’s words to him would be to the point.

“I’d tell him, ‘You finally made it.’ ”

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