Eddie DeBartolo Jr. lives part time on a 3,000-acre ranch in Montana raising Clydesdales when he's not back in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio or running the family business, DeBartolo Holdings LLC, out of Tampa, Fla.
And every longtime 49ers fan knows he left his heart in San Francisco 13 years ago.
But with one phone call to his Montana ranch this afternoon, DeBartolo can finally take up permanent residence at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
For the second consecutive year, DeBartolo is one of 15 modern-era finalists for enshrinement this summer. He fell short last year, and some believe he won't be called today, either.
But he deserves to be there.
From 1977 to 2000, DeBartolo's 49ers won five Super Bowls and 13 division titles, qualified for the playoffs 16 times and had seven teams with 13 or more wins.
Players remember "Mr. D" for his generosity as well as his desire to win. His teams flew better, ate better and slept better on "business" trips than any other. The result was an NFL-record 18 consecutive road wins during one stretch.
DeBartolo knew the name of every player's wife and the birthdays of every player's children. When former safety Jeff Fuller became partially paralyzed in 1989, DeBartolo set up a trust fund that would pay him $100,000 a year for life.
DeBartolo was no saint, either. He once punched a fan in Green Bay; reportedly fired legendary coach Bill Walsh privately numerous times, only to change his mind; and lost the team and fractured his relationship with his sister, Denise DeBartolo York in 2000 after he was found guilty of a felony for not reporting that former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards extorted money from him.
With the 49ers back in the Super Bowl on Sunday and DeBartolo's nephew, Jed York, now running the family's football business in Santa Clara, it's only fitting for the patriarch of the 49ers family to finally come home, too.
To his new home, that is, in Canton, Ohio.
What to watch
Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement, 2:30 p.m., NFL Network: DeBartolo is one of 15 finalists.
What's the best part of Super Bowl Sunday?
The halftime show
All of the above
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Which Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame inductee was the best of the group?
Dusty Baker: 33%
Bill Cartwright: 16%
Kevin Johnson: 23%
Tony Lopez: 9%
Summer Sanders: 19%
Total votes: 274