(Editor’s Note: Mark Tomasik writes about Colts running back Tom Matte’s big game against the Cards in 1964. It was the fifth consecutive road game for the Big Red to start the season. The game was originally scheduled to be played in St. Louis but was moved to Baltimore because of the baseball Cardinals playing in the 1964 World Series against the Yankees.)
Baltimore Colts halfback Tom Matte made the longest run of his NFL career the first time he faced the St. Louis Cardinals. On Oct. 12, 1964, Matte took a handoff from Johnny Unitas and rushed 80 yards for a touchdown, helping the Colts to a 47-27 victory over the Cardinals at Baltimore. A versatile runner […]The night Tom Matte, Colts ran wild vs. Cardinals — RetroSimba
Some may remember former top pick Joe Namath spurning the Cards in 1965 to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Jets of the American Football League. It wasn’t the first time the Cardinals tangled with an AFL team over a draft selection.
Three years earlier the NFL Cardinals and AFL Dallas Texans went to court over Kentucky All-American center Irv Goode who the Grid Birds drafted in the first round of the 1962 draft. Shortly after signing with the Big Red, it was reported that the Texans claimed to have inked Goode to a contract just a few days earlier. But the Kentucky native had no plans to play in Dallas.
“I’m working for the Cardinals this summer,” Goode told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in June of 1962. “My wife and I are staying with her folks in Kirkwood.”
It took a few months, but ultimately a judge ruled that Goode belonged to the Cardinals. The 6-foot 4-inch 240 pound lineman arrived at his first training camp and realized he wasn’t going to get much action at center behind Bob DeMarco. But, an injury to starting left tackle Ed Cook provided an opportunity for Goode to not only learn a new position, but get playing time.
“I like it,” Goode said of his new position in a St. Louis Post Dispatch interview in September 1962. “When Ed Cook got hurt and they tried me at tackle, that was the longest I had got to play in a long time.”
“It’s different. It’s more man against man. Playing center your first concern is making the snap, getting the ball back right. Then in your blocking you usually drop back and just help out.”Continue reading
A golf outing and Memorial were held last week in honor of longtime Cardinals and Rams coach Jim Hanifan who passed away last November at the age of 87.
Many of Hanifan’s former players and fellow coaches attended the Thursday Memorial Service including Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Dick Vermeil, Carl Peterson, Luis Sharpe, Adam Timmerman, and dozens of others.
Dierdorf and Vermeil gave eulogies, Jackie Smith sang Danny Boy, and countless stories were told by friends and family into the night.
On Wednesday, the first annual Jim Hanifan Memorial Top Golf outing was held to benefit Cherish. Many former players were in attendance such as Mel Gray, Johnny Roland, Joe Bostic, Irv Goode and Willard Harrell. A good time was had by all.
Hanifan’s daughter Kathy, son Jim, and grandson Austin were in town to participate in the celebration of his life.
Hanifan was the offensive line coach for the Cardinals from 1973-1978 and was head coach from 1980-1985. He later returned to St. Louis and became the offensive line coach for the Rams under Dick Vermeil in 1997 where he would remain until 2002. A couple of years later he moved to the Rams radio booth and became a beloved straight-shooting sidekick of Steve Savard. Hanifan remained in St. Louis until his death in 2020.Continue reading
Charles Pierre Latourette’s childhood dream was to someday become a surgeon.
“I’d like to think that some day I can do just in part for other people what Dr. (Fred) Reynolds (The Cardinals team physician) did for me,” Latourette told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1970.
Latourette was a football star at Jonesboro (AR) High School and played college ball at Rice University where he was an All-Southwest Conference safety. In 1965, Latourette returned a kick that helped the Owls, who were four touchdown underdogs, upset Texas 20-17.
Latourette made it clear to pro football scouts that he planned to study medicine after graduation. “Forget me in the draft,” he warned. As a result, he was not selected by a professional team in the 1967 NFL Draft. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t wanted.
The Denver Broncos and Cardinals both offered him rookie contracts in 1967, so he thought it over and decided to give pro ball a try before entering med school. He chose to play for the Cardinals.
“Even though Denver offered more outright, I figured I might as well go all out and try to play with the best,” the 6-foot, 190-pounder told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1967.Continue reading
While Cardinals safety Larry Wilson rightfully became a national darling, many believed Jimmy Hill was the best cornerback in the NFL in the early 1960s.
The Dallas, TX native was a star offensive end at Booker T. Washington High School where he was named to the all-Texas team in 1945 and 1946. He caught 134 passes and scored 16 touchdowns or the Bulldogs and also set a high school record in track and field in the low hurdles.
Hill attended Sam Houston State College in Austin, TX where he starred in four sports. He was named All-American honorable mention in 1948 and 1949 as a running back and once ran for 5 touchdowns in a game. In addition to football, Hill was a sprint champion in track racking up a 9.5 mark in the 100 yard dash and also starred on the baseball and basketball teams. He was named the school’s best all-around athlete his last three years in college.
Hill was good enough in baseball as a pitcher to garner interest from the Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians. In 1950, he was offered a contract by the Montreal Alouettes to play football in the Canadian Football League and the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League, but he decided to teach and coach football after college.Continue reading
“If you are a coach, you coach; if you are a scout, you scout,” Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill once said. “We believe in a policy of separation.”
More times than not, that policy did not work for the St. Louis Football Cardinals.
After the 1973 NFL draft, the Cards promoted Kentucky native George Boone to the position of director of player personnel. From 1974 to 1987 only the Green Bay Packers had fewer collective Pro Bowl appearances among their draft picks.
And only three teams saw a higher percentage of their number one draft choices fail to develop into quality players.Continue reading
(Editor’s Note: This story was written by Kay Burnett and originally published in a 1978 Edition of Pro! Magazine.)
It’s three-fourths of the way through the 1978 season—time to check on yourself just to make sure you haven’t blown all your tubes watching 11 successive Sundays of Cardinal and NFL football.
Like all good psychological tests, this one begins with a variation of the word association challenge. If you’re a Cardinal fan, your tester says “Big” and you say “Red.” He says “long bomb,” you say “Hart to Gray.”
He tosses out the time-worn football phrase, “three yards and a cloud of dust,” and your immediate response is the name of just one standout Cardinal running back.
If you miss this one, you will be declared legally a victim of amnesia for the past six years, the time 6-foot, 225-pound Jim Otis has played for the St. Louis.Continue reading
Dedicated to the former, players, executives, and broadcasters who were part of the St. Louis Football Cardinals family.Continue reading
Larry Wilson was a humble man, from humble beginnings who never forgot where he came from. Wilson was born and raised in the small town of Rigby, Idaho and would later become the greatest athlete in Rigby High School history, earning 16 Letters in football, baseball, basketball and track. Larry went on to star at the University of Utah and then with the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League.
On July 7, 1967, the town honored Larry Wilson by retiring his high school number 7 and naming their football field “Larry Wilson Field.” Over 300 friends and acquaintances of Larry descended on Rigby to help honor “Willy.” Even Cardinals vice president Bill Bidwill flew in unexpectedly to participate in the celebration.
According to Wilson family friend, Michelle Barber, the name Larry Wilson Field was supposed to remain in perpetuity. However, when the new high school was built in the early 1990s, Larry’s name was removed and replaced with the name of a local doctor who never played ball in Rigby.
Michelle grew up watching Larry play football and said she and her late father, Dean Allgood, would watch the Cardinals whenever they were on television. Dean was a good friend of Whitey Wilson (Larry’s father) and the family felt terrible when Larry’s name was removed from the field.Continue reading
John Barefield spent only three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, but with all due respect to Conrad Dobler, there may not have been a larger character. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker was the Cards second round draft pick in 1978 out of Texas A&I University where he was known for wearing quarters in his ears, stalking cemeteries at night, writing poetry about his tackles, and going by the name of Doctor Doom.
“I know I’m strange. I’ve got a strange mind,” the flamboyant linebacker said at a rookie workout at Busch Stadium in 1978. “I see visions, vibes and things. I was going to leave my Dr. Doom cap back at college, but I found myself putting it back on.”Continue reading
Stump Mitchell rushed for 1,647 yards his senior season at The Citadel, second in the nation to South Carolina’s George Rogers who was rewarded with the Heisman Trophy and selected as the first overall pick in the 1981 NFL draft.
Meanwhile, Stump waited patiently for the telephone to ring while running backs were coming off the board left and right.
“I was waiting and praying,” the 5-foot-8 190 pound Georgia native told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1981 interview..
Late in the second day of the draft, Stump picked up the ringing phone and heard St. Louis director of pro personnel Larry Wilson telling him, “Congratulations, you’ve been selected by the St. Louis Cardinals.” In response, Stump couldn’t contain his mood.
“He was mad,’ Wilson remembered. “He told Jim Hanifan (then Cardinals head coach) and me, both of us, that he was going to make our ball club, that he was better than a ninth-round choice, that he was going to make us forget about Ottis Anderson.”Continue reading
Ken Gray was part of the greatest draft class in Green Bay Packers history. The Texas native was taken in the 6th round of the 1958 draft along with future Hall of Famers Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, and Jerry Kramer. The Packers also nabbed future All-Pro linebacker Dan Currie.
Gray and Kramer battled for a roster spot throughout training camp. A coach actually told Kramer that he would probably be traded because they had too many guards. But it ended up being Gray who was among the last cuts just before the start of the season. After his release, Packer head coach Ray “Scooter” McLean told Gray that he “would play somewhere in this league.”
“My heart went to my feet,” Gray said in a 2015 story in the Picayune, but what could I say? Those experiences make you a better person and better player.”
Based on the talent of both Kramer and Gray, the Packers should have kept both players as they would have made quite a tandem at guard over the next several years. The Packers went 1-10-1 in 1958 and McLean was fired and replaced with Vince Lombardi.
Meanwhile, Gray signed with the Chicago Cardinals and played defense his rookie season. He was moved back to guard in 1959, gained 30 pounds and was named to his first Pro Bowl two years later.Continue reading
“Best of luck to him,” Cardinals director of operations Joe Sullivan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after star running back Terry Metcalf announced he was taking his talents to the Canadian Football League in March of 1978. “Money is a great thing to have in life when you’re young.”
Metcalf signed a seven-year, $1.4 million contract with the Toronto Argonauts after turning down a 3-year, $240,000 offer from the Cardinals and curiously similar proposals from other NFL teams. Metcalf was looking for a reported $300,000 yearly contract.
“I wouldn’t have made as much in five years in St. Louis as I’ll make in one year in Toronto,” Metcalf told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the deal was announced. “I laid in bed all Saturday night thinking about it. There were a lot of doubts in my mind, but I have to do what’s right for me.”
Metcalf added, “I thought I would still be in the NFL, but nobody seemed willing to want to talk. So I had to look elsewhere.”
The 26 year old Metcalf was known as “The Franchise” in St. Louis. He was the Cards third round draft choice in 1973 out of Long Beach State and quickly became one of the greatest all-purpose backs the game had ever seen.
In 1974, Metcalf became the first NFL player to average 30 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return in the same season. The following year he set an NFL record with 2462 combined yards and became one of only four players to account for touchdowns by rushing, receiving, kick return, punt return, and passing in a season.
“He did everything for us except drive the bus to the stadium,” Dan Dierdorf said of Metcalf in a 2018 interview on KFNS radio.Continue reading
(Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of a story written by Howard Balzer on August 3, 1994 about Jackie Smith’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame)
MAKING A HALL by Howard Balzer
Canton, Ohio—Friends, fans and family.
On another sun-splashed Saturday in the city where professional football was born, a new class of the game’s greats was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Friends, fans and families came from far and wide to honor them and show their love. Emotions were high as even the most stone-faced among them broke down. No matter what was said beforehand, the new Hall of Famers become overwhelmed by the moment, by the hospitality of the volunteers, by the fans lined deep on the sidewalks waving during the parade Saturday morning.
For Jackie Smith, the weekend was a whirlwind of non-stop action. He seemed to be operating on adrenaline alone, overcome by what is happening, surrounded by friends, fans and family.
Friends: They came from everywhere, including teammates Charley Johnson, Jim Hart, Larry Stallings, Bill Koman, Terry Miller, Steve Jones, Tim Kearney, Kurt Allerman.Continue reading
(Editor’s Note: This is a short excerpt from Robert L. Burnes book Big Red: Story of the Football Cardinals, published in 1975 )
To present a picture of Wally Lemm, the best approach perhaps is to indicate what he was not as a coach. He was not, for instance, the bristling, driving type of coach Vince Lombardi was. Nor was he the perfectionist that Paul Brown always has been. Nor the fundamentalist that Tom Landry has been. Nor was he a devotee of the George Allen system which dictates that twenty hours of every working day, seven days a week must be a given over to making the football team a winner.
If he resembled any man, in approach to the job if not in flamboyancy, it was probably Jim Conzelman. Jim Conzelman always said “football is supposed to be fun” and Lemm echoed the sentiment. football was a major part of Jim Conzelman’s life, yet he walked away from the game several times and found other pursuits equally rewarding. So did Wally Lemm.Continue reading
Ernie McMillan grew up in Chicago where he lettered in baseball, basketball and football at DuSable High School. He attended the University of Illinois, but didn’t play much his first three years.
“I had wanted to go to Arizona or some other college far away, but my mother didn’t want me to be too far from home,” Ernie said in a Post Dispatch story in 1969.
McMillan was used primarily as a blocking tight end at Illinois and caught only 7 passes in his college career, but the Cards drafted him in the 13th round of the 1961 NFL draft. The 6-foot-6 McMillan reported to camp at 283 pounds and requested to switch to tackle just a few days into practice. The Big Red agreed and it was a move neither would regret.
“When Billy Bidwill came to Illinois to sign me, I told him I didn’t think I could make the team,” McMillan told attendees at the annual kickoff luncheon in 1961. “I taught school for six months and I realized there had to be a better and easier way to make a living, so here I am.”Continue reading
Frustrated about lack of playing time under head coach Wally Lemm, Big Red star running back John David Crow requested a trade after the 1964 season.
Crow won the Heisman trophy at Texas A&M in 1958 and was later the Chicago Cards first pick in the NFL draft. The team moved to St. Louis in 1960 where Crow became a star. His 1,533 total yards and 5.9 yards per carry were tops in the league in 1960 and he scored scored 17 touchdowns in 1962.
However, Crow struggled with injuries during his time in St. Louis. In 1961 he suffered a broken leg. In 1963 a knee operation limited him to just nine carries.
Most people are aware of the historic struggles the St. Louis Cardinals had when it came to the NFL draft. There were some very good drafts over the years (1979-1983 for example), but more times than not, the Big Red left their fans scratching their heads (“They drafted a girl!”).
I thought it would be fun to go back and rank the all-time Big Red draft picks by round. Many on this list were no-brainers, but there were a few very competitive rounds. I’m sure everyone will agree that some of the greatest names in Cardinals history are on this list, including four Cardiac Cards offensive lineman, and all four Hall of Famers. But I also learned something about the Cards top 16th and 20th round picks, Jimmy Lee Hunt and Tom Day. Both were released by the Cardinals and both went on to become stars in the AFL. Hope you enjoy!
ALL-TIME ST. LOUIS CARDINAL DRAFT PICKS BY ROUND
ROUND 1 – ROGER WEHRLI (1969)
Wehrli was a consensus All-American at Missouri when the Cards selected him with the 19th pick in the draft. He went on to a 14 year career in St. Louis that included 3 All-Pro and 7 Pro Bowl selections. He had 40 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries and was the longtime holder for Big Red kickers. He returned a fake FG for a TD in his final NFL game in 1982. Roger Staubach called him the best cornerback he ever played against. Wehrli was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Hanifan became the Cardinals head coach on January 30, 1980. Below is Coach Hanifan’s account of how he was hired. It was taken from an excerpt of his book Beyond Xs and Os: My Thirty Years in the NFL)
My name had come up when there were openings for head coaching jobs in the NFL, and i really thought if I kept my nose clean I would have a shot at getting one of those jobs. I just didn’t think it would be in St. Louis.
Even though I really did want the job, it still caught me a little off guard when Don (Coryell) walked into my office and said Bill (Bidwill) had called to request permission to speak with me. I didn’t hear from him until a week later. We were coaching at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and after the game I was back in my hotel room packing and getting ready to leave for the airport when Bill called. We agreed to meet two days later in San Diego.
The day that Bill arrived, it was pouring down rain. I agreed to meet him in a parking lot, because he wanted to be very secretive. I told him to follow me, and we would stop off and have lunch at a Mexican restaurant that was on the way to my house. It was managed by my friend Ray Ogas, who now works for the Rams.Continue reading
Picking eighth in the 1970 NFL draft, the St. Louis Football Cardinals selected running back Larry Stegent out of Texas A&M.
“It’s unbelievable—I’m overwhelmed,” Stegent said in a St. Louis Post Dispatch interview after the draft. “I didn’t feel I’d be picked until much later. I didn’t really think anyone wanted me that much.”
Stegent was an All-American high school halfback and Southwest Conference all-star his sophomore and junior seasons at A&M. The Houston native was slowed by injuries for much of his senior season, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from drafting him ahead of All-American running back Steve Owens from Oklahoma.
“Owens is a straight-ahead type runner,” Big Red head coach Charley Winner said. “We think Stegent can go outside for us, and he’s a good pass receiver.
Unfortunately, Stegent would never “go outside” for the Cards and became yet another Cards first round disappointment.