Texas Stadium tribute to feature ‘Hole in the Roof’
By Deb Silverthorn
The Dallas JCC’s Margot Pulitzer Rosenberg BookFest enters the college football bowl and playoff season with a touchdown. It will present “Hole in the Roof: The Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison, Jr., and the Stadium That Changed American Sports Forever” at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the Aaron Family JCC. Authors Michael Granberry and Burk Murchison will be on hand for BookFest’s final 2022 chapter. The BookFest is presented by the Aaron Family JCC and Central Market.
“The Cowboys may be America’s team, but they are our city’s team first and Michael and Burk are going to bring us a great evening,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, the J’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living and BookFest producer.
“Michael has been a friend to the JCC’s BookFest and Israeli Film Festival for years,” said Weiss Crane, “and we’re thrilled for him to lead a conversation of his own book. It’s going to be a very exciting evening.”
“Hole in the Roof: The Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison, Jr., and the Stadium That Changed American Sports Forever” is, through Murchison’s eyes and Granberry’s pen, the story of Texas Stadium and its trademark hole in the roof. All-time Cowboy great and NFL Hall-of-Famer Drew Pearson wrote the forward.
For more than a decade the writers researched, conversed and organized their book — all while Granberry continued to write for the Dallas Morning News and Murchison led, with his brother Robert, their Murchison Capital Partners private equity investment firm.
“I grew up in a time of significant news events. There was the Cuban Missile Crisis and President Kennedy getting shot, and my Mom was a great storyteller. I thought journalism was a career where I could help make sense out of ‘big, scary events,’” said Granberry, a Dallas native and W.W. Samuell High School and Southern Methodist University graduate.
“I loved my Dad, but he had a sales job and I knew I didn’t want to be an office guy. I always read the paper and that was an era of phenomenal local sports writers like Gary Cartwright, Dan Jenkins, Blackie Sherrod and Bud Shrake,” said Granberry. “I started working at the Morning News on weekends — I was still in high school in 1969 — then submitting stories for them and then the Dallas Times Herald.”
At SMU, Granberry wrote a piece where he realized the substance and the impact writing could have. “It was a time of great racial tension and SMU had a Top 10 golf team, but a coach refused to recruit the top high school golfer in the nation because he was Black,” he said. “He blamed it on SMU practicing and playing at a private country club, but it turned out he was the developer and part owner of that club.”
Granberry wrote the article, and the coach was dismissed. The impact wasn’t lost on him, nor was his opportunity to intern at The Washington Post during the summer of ’73, working in the same newsroom as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward at the height of the Watergate scandal.
The son of Mina Gene and Hank, and brother of Suzanne Updegraff and Mark and Larry, Granberry spent 18 months as the sports editor of the Anchorage Times in Alaska before returning to the DMN. After two years he moved to the West Coast, where he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, covering San Diego sports.
It was in San Diego that Granberry met then Los Angeles Times theater critic Nancy Churnin. Since 1990, Granberry has been married to Churnin, who also spent 20 years at the Dallas Morning News. She is now an award-winning children’s book author who has also graced the JCC BookFest. The couple are the parents of Ted (Nora Gonzales), Sam (Cydnee Cox), David and Josh (Anna Sergiovanni), with whom watching the Dallas Cowboys is the best of bonding time. Granberry has thousands of articles under his byline, but “Hole in the Roof” is his first book.
Granberry has followed the Cowboys since his childhood. “My dad and I shared a love of the Cowboys, and we’d go to the games, when not many were showing up to the Cotton Bowl. That changed,” he said.
In 1966, Clint Murchison, Jr., began seriously talking of building a new stadium; Texas Stadium was subsequently built. With the Cowboys’ first game there on Oct. 24, 1971, it was a dream come true for him and the foundation of what stadiums and arenas around the world would build on.
Irving became the home of Texas Stadium when Murchison, Jr., and then Dallas Mayor J. Erik Jonsson wouldn’t “play ball,” says Granberry. “He didn’t want to tamper with the Cotton Bowl, Fair Park or any of the changes to Downtown Dallas that Clint was proposing. The end result? The ‘Dallas’ Cowboys haven’t played a game in Dallas since 1971.”
“Working with Michael has been wonderful. I provided the memories and lots of research and connections, and he wove it all together beautifully,” said Murchison. Murchison has also published, with Beryl Hutchison, “The Island Remembered,” a book of memories and recipes of Spanish Cay, a private Bahamian island his father owned for more than 30 years.
Murchison, the second child of Jane and Clint Murchison, Jr., is the brother of Clint III, Coke Anne and Robert. He was 12 when his father bought the Dallas Cowboys, and it was a life to dream about. After years at St. Mark’s School, he graduated from his father’s alma mater — The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey — and then Wesleyan University, before returning to Dallas to work with his family.
Over the years, Murchison, Jr., suffered great debt and significant medical issues. He filed for bankruptcy in 1985 and died two years later.
“At the heart of the book is the brilliance of Clint Murchison, Jr., and we see decades later how Jerry Jones took his $140 million investment in the Cowboys and Texas Stadium and turned it into a more than $8 billion juggernaut,” said Granberry.
“Jerry put Clint’s concept of what a stadium could mean on steroids,” he continued, “but I think the originator would be horrified by what it became — the excess and expense, the lack of loyalty to the fans and the inability for many families to make going to the game a regular, if ever, thing.”
For Murchison, it was the next generation who unknowingly inspired their father to look further into their family’s history.
“In April 2010, my kids wanted to go to the demolition of Texas Stadium,” said Murchison. From a prior marriage, he is the father of sons David and Burk Jr (Laura) and their daughter Maris; and he and wife Elise, whom he married in 1982, are the parents of daughter Elise (Andrew) Aberg and their children Drew, Charlie and August; son Will (Lucy) and their children Eleanor, William, George and Henry; and son Clint.
“I didn’t want to go but we did, and the stadium was there and then it wasn’t,” he said. “It was gone. I’d drive by in the months afterward and saw just the cleared area. I thought people would forget the stadium; they’d forget the story.” A year later, in 2011, he and Granberry began working together and Murchison found himself peeling back the onion of his family’s history.
These authors have told the story. With memories of many who have passed away since, they began their effort. There are serious moments and lighthearted ones; there are contributions beyond the Cowboys that Murchison, Jr., made; and there are lessons to be learned. The evening at Dallas JCC’s Margot Pulitzer Rosenberg BookFest is certain to explore so much.
BookFest continues into the year 2023 on Jan. 26 with Dr. Fayne Frey and her “The Skin Care Hoax”; Feb. 21, Zach Bodner and “Why Do Jewish?”; Feb. 22 with Pam Jenoff and her “Code Name Sapphire”; March 15 with a cooking demo and discussion with Shannon Sarna and her “Modern Jewish Comfort Food”; and March 22 with Michael Roizen and his “The Great Age Reboot.”
To register for JCC BookFest events, and to order “Hole in the Roof: The Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison, Jr., and the Stadium That Changed American Sports Forever,” visit jccdallas.org/special-events/bookfest.