Big Red Legends: Sonny Randle

Ulmo Shannon “Sonny” Randle was born in Washington, DC, on January 6, 1936, to Ulmo S. and Lillian D. Randle. Sonny attended Fork Union Military Academy where he excelled in track and field but didn’t play football until his senior season.

Randle enrolled at the University of Virginia, walked on, and eventually earned a scholarship. In 1958, Sonny was an honorable mention All American when he caught 47 passes and was the country’s top kick returner, averaging 24.1 yards.

The Chicago Cardinals drafted Randle in the 19th round in 1958, but the speedster struggled to adapt in the NFL catching only 15 passes his rookie season.

However, with the help of teammates Dick “Night Train” Lane and Jimmy Hill, Randle learned how to get “open” and would become one of the great receivers over the next decade.

St. Louis Bound

The Cardinals relocated to St. Louis in 1960 and opened the season with a 43-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Sonny caught 7 passes for 159 yards and scored three long touchdowns. “Randle had a phenomenal game,” head coach Pop Ivy stated after victory.

Sonny didn’t stop there. By season’s end, he set franchise records with 62 receptions and 15 touchdowns (still tops in Cardinals history). He was named to the Pro Bowl and first-team NFL All-Pro.

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Photo Gallery: Big Red Fan Event in St. Louis

Gallery

This gallery contains 44 photos.

Big Red alumni, friends, and fans came together for a fun afternoon on Sunday at Circa Pub & Grill in Des Peres, MO. Jackie Smith, Mel Gray, Johnny Roland, Irv Goode, Eddie Moss, Ron Yankowski, Bob Rowe, former assistant trainer … Continue reading

Forgotten Big Red Stars: Bobby Joe Conrad

Bobby Joe Conrad was born November 17, 1935, in Clifton, Texas, and attended Clifton High School, where he was an All-state quarterback. Conrad led the team to back-to-back district championships in 1952 and 1953 and, as a senior, scored 207 points and took Clifton to the state semifinals.

Conrad accepted a football scholarship from Texas A&M University to play under head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He played quarterback, halfback, fullback and end for the Aggies and was a member of the school’s 1956 SWC Championship team.

Bobby Joe Conrad

Conrad participated in the 1958 Chicago College All-Star Game and although he had never attempted a kick in college, he set a scoring record by kicking 4 field goals and 3 extra points. He also intercepted one pass in the 35-19 upset of the 1957 NFL Champion Detroit Lions.

Conrad’s play in the College All-Star game caught the attention of NFL scouts and he was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round (58th overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft. A few months later, he was traded along with safety Dick Nolan to the Chicago Cardinals, in exchange for End Pat Summerall and halfback Lindon Crow.

The Texas native intercepted four passes at defensive back his rookie season in 1958 and also did some place kicking. He was switched to a full time wide receiver in 1961 and caught 30 passes. The following season he caught 62 passes for 953 yards.

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A Memorable Monday in Dallas

On this date (November 16) in 1970, before a Cotton Bowl crowd of 69,323 and a nationwide audience watching Monday Night Football on ABC, the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys, 38-0.

It was the third consecutive shutout for the Big Red—they had blanked the Houston Oilers, 44-0, and the Boston Patriots, 31-0, in their previous two games—who became the first NFL team to shut out three opponents in a row since the 1935 New York Giants. The victory improved their record to 7-2 and kept them in first place in the NFC East Division.

For the Cowboys, who fell to 5-4, it was the first time in their 11-year history (147 games) that they were whitewashed.

Running back Johnny Roland and cornerback Roger Wehrli, a pair of University of Missouri products, were the Cardinals’ linchpins that night. 

Roland returned a first-quarter punt 74 yards for a touchdown and rushed for two more TDs (10 and 3 yards) in the fourth quarter.

Recalling his punt return, Roland, 79, said recently, “(Punter Ron Widby) kicked a low line drive and I was able to field the ball clean. I didn’t have Mel Gray-type speed, but for a big guy I was able to move pretty good.”

Wehrli, playing in only his second NFL season, intercepted two passes, broke up five others, and made three unassisted tackles. The A.P. selected him as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week.

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1964 “Mud Bowl” Tie Cost Big Red Chance for Title

On November 15, 1964, the Cardinals and New York Giants played to a 10-10 tie at Busch Stadium I in a game that is known as the “Mud Bowl.”

A torrential downpour that day turned the grass field at the stadium the Big Red shared with the baseball Cardinals into a sloppy quagmire that made it a challenge to run, throw or kick the football. It was especially sloppy in the dirt infield of the baseball diamond.

Fifty-eight years later, several Cardinals players still remember details from that game.

“The mud was so thick, it was unbelievable,” center Bob DeMarco recalled. “(Fullback) Mal Hammock nearly drowned at the bottom of a pile.”

“It was just miserable out there,” said tight end Jackie Smith who, after one reception, was knocked to the ground and “just spun on my ass.”

“The band even lost some of their shoes,” said kicker Jim Bakken. “We found shoes out on the field.” The field conditions turned Southern Illinois-Carbondale Marching Salukis into the plodding Salukis. 

Asked after the game if he had ever seen such a mess on a football field, Giants head coach Allie Sherman said, “Well, there is mud and there is mud, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deeper and stickier kind before.”

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Cards Defenders of the 60s were no Fluke

As exciting as the Cardinals’ offense was during Don Coryell’s tenure as head coach (1973-77), the defense was a poor stepchild. And for good reasons.

Sam Silas, Don Brumm, Chuck Walker, and Joe Robb bring down Cowboys running back Dan Reeves in a 1966 game in Dallas.

During the Coryell years, the Big Red defense ranked 26th (last in the NFL) in total defense in 1973, 17th in ’74, 18th in ’76, 12th in ’76 and 24th in ’77. The only defensive player who was selected to the Pro Bowl during that span was cornerback Roger Wehrli. 

A frustrated Coryell once said that the Cardinals had only two defensive players who could start for the New York Giants. The joke was that all of the defensive starters went up to Wehrli and said, “You and me, right Rog?”

But older Big Red fans might remember that the Cardinals had several good defensive players in their first 10 seasons in St. Louis (1960-69), when Chuck Drulis was the defensive coordinator.

Drulis joined the Cardinals in 1956, when the team was still in Chicago, and coached 16 seasons (through 1971), serving five different head coaches. Tragically, Drulis died at the age of 54 on August 23, 1972 when he suffered a massive heart attack on the team’s charter flight from St. Louis to Houston for an exhibition game.  

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Former Big Red Top Draft Pick Has Died

Former Big Red and Washington Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz has died at the age of 72

Butz was an All-American defensive lineman at Purdue when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft. The Chicago native arrived late to camp in 1973 because of a contract squabble but played pretty well during his rookie season. Unfortunately, Butz suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 1974 season opener and didn’t play another game for the Cardinals. The 6-foot-7, 290-pound lineman and Big Red Director of Operations Joe Sullivan could not come to an agreement on a new contract in 1974 so Butz left for Washington.

Dave Butz during his rookie season in St. Louis in 1973.

“He asked for a guaranteed, no-cut contract and he asked for multi-contracts,” Sullivan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “The things he was asking for make people fat, dumb and happy. I couldn’t agree to All-Pro wages. He’s a nice kid. There’s never been a problem with Dave . . . except money.”

Because of the Rozelle Rule, Washington was forced to turn over two first round draft picks to the Cardinals for signing Butz, but it was well worth it as the mammoth lineman would go on to play over 200 games in 14 seasons with the Redskins and helped them to two Super Bowl victories. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1983 and later inducted into their Ring Of Fame. He was also named to the second team of the 1980s All-Decade Team.

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Charley Johnson to Receive Highest Honor from New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University recently announced that former Big Red quarterback Dr. Charley Johnson is this year’s recipient of the James F. Cole Memorial Award for Service.

Johnson is one of eight NMSU alumni being honored at the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration on October 21st. They will also be recognized at the homecoming football game against San Jose State on October 22nd at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Honorees are selected by the Alumni Association Awards Committee based on personal accomplishment, professional achievement, and charitable service.

“This year’s Distinguished Alumni stand for the best of the best, contributing greatly to their career fields, giving back to society and representing NMSU boldly and brilliantly along the way,” said Derek Dictson, President, NMSU Foundation.

Johnson quarterbacked the Aggies to two winning appearances in the Sun Bowl in 1959 and 1960 and was the first two-time C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player. After graduating in 1961, he was selected by the Cardinals in the 10th round of the NFL draft. The Big Spring, Texas native took over as starter in his second season and led the Big Red to a 30-15-3 record from 1963-1966. He led the NFL in completions (223), attempts (420), and yards (3,045) in 1964. He also led the NFL in fourth quarter comebacks in 1966 and 1968 and twice threw six touchdowns in a game during his nine year career with the Cardinals. He was traded to the Houston Oilers in 1970 and finished his career in Denver where he was inducted into their Ring of Honor in 1986. See Charley’s NFL statistics.

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Gone but not forgotten—thanks to this Big Red fan

In the spring of 1988, St. Louis Football Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill pulled up stakes in St. Louis and moved his team to Arizona. They have now been gone longer (35 years) than they were here (28). They’ve been gone so long, Gen Z football fans know them only as the Arizona Cardinals and Boomers of a certain age may have forgotten they ever played in The Lou.

Gone, yes. Forgotten, no—not as long as Bob Underwood has anything to say about it.

If you’re reading this, you likely know that Underwood is the gatekeeper of the St. Louis Football Cardinals Facebook Group and other social media sites including a blog called TheBigRedZone.com. With its selection of stories, photos, videos and other features, it’s a veritable cornucopia of information about the St. Louis Cardinals (1960-87).

Underwood created photo albums largely stocked by pictures from old NFL GameDay magazines he bought on eBay. Later, he added YouTube videos. Then, on Dec. 26, 2017, he created the Facebook group for fans and former players.

Any member can post something as long as they follow four rules: 1) St. Louis Cardinals posts only; 2) Be kind and courteous; 3) Name calling and hate speech will not be tolerated; and 4) No promotions or Spam.

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