John D. “Bonesetter” Reese was one of the most fascinating figures in sports, although he was really not a sportsman. He was one of the most fascinating figures in medicine, although he was not a physician. Reese fixed aches and injuries with his hands. Baseball history is loaded with references to Bonesetter Rees. Hundreds of football players used his services as well.
Bear fans will be interested in knowing that George “Papa Bear” Halas used the services of Bonesetter Reese on three different occasions. Twice while he was a student at the University of Illinois and again when Halas had injured his hip sliding into second base for the New York Yankees. These are mentioned in Halas’s autobiography, Halas by Halas.
Bonesetter’s practice was focused on treating those who labored in places like mills and factories quickly and cheaply. Before health insurance or any government benefit for those disabled, an injury could cause financial ruin to a family. Often, a visit to the bonesetter would allow a laborer to get back to the job immediately or within a short amount of time. The quick turn-around appealed to athletes as well although Rees was often disappointed by athletes who didn’t follow his instructions after treatment. Bonesetter would work with athletes if they showed up at his door, but he was always focused getting laborers back on the job.
Reese’s grandson, David Strickler, published a book on his grandfather called Child of Moriah: A Biography of John D. Bonesetter Reese in 1989.
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New Sporting Chance Press Football Book for Youth:
PAPA BEAR AND THE CHICAGO BEARS’ WINNING WAYS reviews the exciting story of George Halas and his dynamic role in professional football for those in middle school and older. Halas who was present in the first days of the National Football League (NFL) all the way into the modern age of football. Author Patrick McCaskey, a Chicago Bears Vice President and Director, is a grandson of Papa Bear George Halas. McCaskey highlights his grandfather’s life with key events from the 20th century. McCaskey follows Halas as a student, athlete, soldier, coach, team owner—a man of commerce and community. Halas’s 20th century path is laid out before readers.