CHICAGO (CBS) — Award-winning sports reporter and CBS 2 legend Jeannie Morris has died.
She was 85 years old.
“Our incomparable mom – and author and trailblazing sports journalist – Jeannie Morris, passed away peacefully this morning,” Ms. Morris’ adult children – Holly, Tim, Dan, and Deb – said in a statement. “We are full of gratitude for having had her in our lives. She was spectacular, and will live on in so many ways.”
During her groundbreaking 24-year broadcast career, Ms. Morris was known as a trailblazer and a pioneer. She made the job look easy – although the job was actually far from easy at the time as women weren’t even allowed in pro-sports locker rooms, let alone press boxes.
“They gave me a press pass. They had to give me a press pass. But it says on it, ‘No women or children allowed in the press box,’” Ms. Morris told former CBS 2 sports anchor Megan Mawicke in 2014. “I had a memorable experience in Minnesota once – I had to sit on the top of the press box, with the game camera, in a blizzard – and that was at a very brief time when I was both writing and doing television. I probably had more sports jobs than most of the guys in the press box.”
Ms. Morris eventually fought her way into both sacred spaces of the sports world – earning the respect of countless professional athletes, coaches, and her colleagues.
“If you talked to any of the ’85 Bears, she’d be held in high esteem,” said retired CBS 2 photographer Chuck Davidson. “She had a way to be able to connect with them.”
Ms. Morris had no idea where sports reporting would take her back in 1967, when she started writing a weekly column for a local newspaper. Her then-husband, former Chicago Bear and retired CBS 2 sportscaster Johnny Morris, recommended her for the gig.
“He said, No, I can’t write, but my wife can,’ so I got a column in the paper for $50 a week. It was fun,” Ms. Morris said. “It was called ‘Football is a Woman’s Game,’ by Mrs. Johnny Morris.”
Jeannie and Johnny Morris went on to work together for many years at CBS 2. Johnny Morris worked as CBS 2’s sports director and lead sports anchor alongside news anchors Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson and weatherman John Coughlin – among other local legends – while Jeannie Morris reported from the field and interviewed the best-known sports figures in Chicago and beyond.
Johnny and Jeannie Morris also co-hosted “The Mike Ditka Show” together on CBS 2. CBS 2’s Luke Stuckmeyer noted that he was inspired by the show and Ms. Morris’ work.
She was a trailblazer for women in Chicago sportscasting, but she also inspired girls *and* boys. I know, because I’m one of them. The Mike Ditka Show was must watch tv on a Sunday. RIP and thank you for your inspiration. https://t.co/XhgZXhsIt5
— Luke Stuckmeyer (@LukeStuckmeyer) December 14, 2020
In 1975, Ms. Morris was the first woman to report live from a Super Bowl. Although tiny in stature, she stood tall in what once was an all-boys club, breaking barriers and smashing glass ceilings.
But she told Mawicke in 2014 that she never really thought of herself as a trailblazer.
“I didn’t think about it at the time,” Ms. Morris said.
But she earned many awards and accolades – and she noted in that 2014 interview that she also got some memorable recognition from her grandchildren. When Ms. Morris became the first female winner of the Ring Lardner Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism that year, she said her grandson posted on Facebook, “About time Grammy gets credit for her badassery.”
“Great overall person,” Davidson said. “Everybody loved her, and I already miss her.”
Ms. Morris also wrote several books, including the “Brian Piccolo: A Short Season,” the 1971 bestelling biography of the Bears running back who died of embryonal cell carcinoma at the age of 26.
The Chicago Bears released the following statement late Monday on Ms. Morris’ passing: “We are saddened by Jeannie Morris’ passing and send our deepest condolences to her family. Jeannie was not only a trailblazer in the sports media landscape, but also eloquently and beautifully shared the story of Brian Piccolo’s life in ‘Brian Piccolo: A Short Season.’ Like Brian, Jeannie’s legacy will live on.”
Former CBS 2 sports anchor Howard Sudberry called Ms. Morris: “One of a kind. Brilliant, kind, generous, adventurous.”
One of a kind. Brilliant, kind, generous, adventurous. Sad, sad day. Jeannie Morris 1935-2020 – Robert Feder https://t.co/Bv2xOQeuve
— Howard Sudberry (@HowardSudberry) December 14, 2020
Ms. Morris is survived by her four children and seven grandchildren.
CBS 2’s Ryan Baker and web producer Adam Harrington contributed to this report.
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