Even though he was playing in the game, Joe Bostic missed the infamous Woody Hayes punch in the 1978 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., that led to the firing of the iconic Ohio State coach.
Bostic, a Clemson guard, was on the sideline with the rest of the Tigers’ offense when late in the game Clemson defensive lineman Charlie Bauman intercepted a pass by Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter, essentially sealing a 17-15 Clemson victory.
After Bauman ran out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline, an enraged Hayes came up, grabbed the back of Bauman’s jersey and punched Bauman just below the neck. Penalty flags went flying as Bostic and the Clemson ran on to the field, but Bostic didn’t know what the flags were about.
When the game ended, after midnight, Bostic sprinted off the field to the locker room, where he quickly showered, dressed and departed the stadium before all of his teammates had even left the field. He had a 9 a.m. flight the next morning to Honolulu, where he would start in the Hula Bowl, and he wanted to get back to his hotel room.
At 6 a.m. the next morning, the phone rang in Bostic’s room. It was his mother.
“Woody Hayes got fired,” she said.
“Really? Wow,” said Bostic
“He hit Charlie Bauman last night.”
“Where?” asked Bostic, thinking there might have been an incident in the hotel lobby.
“In the game,” his mother replied.
“So that’s what all that commotion was about,” Bostic said. “First I’ve heard about it.”
But it wouldn’t be the last time Bostic crossed paths with Hayes.
Several months later, Bostic was a rookie on the St. Louis Cardinals, having been drafted in the third round. One night, an organization called The Knights of the Cauliflower Ear honored the team at a preseason banquet, where the guest speaker was … Woody Hayes.
Before the dinner, the Cardinals players formed a line to meet Hayes. The former Ohio State coach walked down the line, shaking hands and saying hello to each of the players. Finally, he reached Bostic.
“Hey young man, how are you doing?” Hayes asked.
“I’m doing fine,” Bostic said, shaking Hayes’ hand.
“Where did you go to school,” Hayes asked.
“Clemson,” answered Bostic. Hayes stared Bostic in the eye momentarily, turned around and walked away without speaking to another player.
(About the author: Dennis Dillon covered the Big Red for the St. Louis Globe Democrat from 1978-1983 and was an editor, managing editor, and writer at The Sporting News from 1985-2011.)