Big Red Legends: Larry Wilson

From a seventh round draft pick to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Larry Frank Wilson played the game with sheer determination, guts, and maximum effort. He played thirteen seasons with the Cardinals earning 8 Pro Bowls and was named to five All-Pro teams. He is a member of the 1960s All Decade Team and is still the organization’s all-time leader with 52 interceptions.

Larry Wilson takes the field for the final time in 1972.

EARLY LIFE

Wilson was born and raised in Rigby, Idaho where he faced adversity as a youngster. His mother died of spinal meningitis when he was just ten years old and his father was a truck driver, so Larry helped rear his younger brother, John. As a teen, Larry worked ten-hour days harvesting potatoes, but his father encouraged him to play sports. Larry was a tremendous all around athlete, earning 16 letters in high school. He broke the state high jump record and was a very good baseball and basketball player.

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Where are they now: Neil O’Donoghue

A very good article on former Big Red kicker Neil O’Donoghue by Ian McCourt of the Guardian. Neil is currently living a quiet life in Florida and appears to be doing well.

Neil O’Donoghue: From ticket collector in Dublin to NFL field of play

Ian McCourt@ianmccourt

Fri 9 Sep 2016 05.00 EDTLast modified on Mon 27 Nov 2017 02.59 EST

Neil O’Donoghue playing for St Louis Cardinals
 Neil O’Donoghue’s time at St Louis Cardinals was a bumpy one. Photograph: George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Neil O’Donoghue was 17 years old when he was working as a ticket collector in Heuston station, Dublin, while playing part-time for Shamrock Rovers. Never much of a student, prospects were few and far between for him and Ireland seemed small and suffocating. He had already worked as a labourer in London when one day, he was approached by his brother’s friend, who asked him if he was interested in a scholarship to the US. O’Donoghue decided to chance his arm. “My idea was to come over here for a year and have a good time,” he says. “As it turned out, I fell in love with the place.”

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Big Red Legends: Johnny Roland

Johnny Roland takes a handoff from Terry Nofsinger in a 1966 game.

Some consider Johnny Roland the greatest football player in Missouri Tiger history. And if it weren’t for a knee injury suffered late in the 1967 season, he may have become the greatest running back in St. Louis Football Cardinals history.

John Earl Roland was born on May 21, 1943 in Corpus Christi, TX. He was a natural athlete, throwing two no-hitters while playing baseball in middle school. He also ran track and starred in “B” team football his freshman year at Miller High School in Corpus Christi where he ran for a 50-yard touchdown on his first carry. As a high school senior, Roland earned all-state honors rushing for 1224 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.

BOOMER SOONER DENIED

Roland had over 50 colleges interested in him after his sensational high school career. He signed a letter of intent to play for Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma in June of 1961, but later decided to attend Mizzou.

“I decided I would rather not live in Oklahoma,” Roland told the St. Louis Dispatch in 1966. “I thought my best opportunities might come in the state where I attended college and I felt I definitely would prefer living in Missouri to living in Oklahoma.”

Although letters of intent were not binding at the time, Oklahoma filed a complaint with the Big Eight Conference charging that Mizzou hid Roland out in a Columbia motel until he enrolled.

“Actually, that’s not true,” Roland recently said. “I was working in Kansas City.”

The complaint was denied and Roland became a Missouri Tiger.

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1960: Why the Cardinals left Chicago

Walter Wolfner, Commissioner Pete Rozelle, and Bill Bidwill at the March 1960 league meetings in Los Angeles, CA.

The Arizona Cardinals were founded in Chicago as the Morgan Athletic Club in 1898 and were charter members of the National Football League in 1920. During their stay in the Windy City, the Cardinals won a controversial NFL Championship in 1925 and another in 1947, just after team owner Charles Bidwill passed away. After losing in the 1948 Championship game, the Cardinals fell on hard times. They went through a number of head coaches, losing seasons, and were struggling financially.

WALTER WOLFNER

Violet Bidwill had taken control of the team after her husband Charles’ death in 1947. Two years later, Ms. Bidwill married Walter Wolfner, a one-time St. Louis coffee broker. In 1951, Wolfner was named managing director of the team, with Charles “Stormy” Bidwill the president, and Bill Bidwill the vice-president. The fact that Wolfner had control of the team was the first step in the Cardinals moving to St. Louis.

Chicago Cardinals owner Violet Bidwill Wolfner and her husband Walter Wolfner

In 1954, the Cardinals would play their first charity exhibition game in St. Louis. They lost 30-0 to the Philadelphia Eagles, but Wolfner would sign a ten-year agreement to play an annual exhibition game at Sportman’s Park. The game would become known as the Cardinal Glennon charity game and it would become a fixture on the Cardinals pre-season schedule for over 20 years.

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The Green Bay Packers 1958 Draft Class: Jerry Kramer vs. Ken Gray

Nice story on the Packers 1958 draft which included their 6th round pick Ken Gray. Gray was the last player cut by the Packers and would sign as a free agent with the Big Red where he would go on to an All Pro career.

Bob Fox

Jerry-Ken 2

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the greatest draft class the Green Bay Packers ever had in their history.

That would be the 1958 draft class. In the first round, the Packers selected Dan Currie. In the second round, the Packers selected Jim Taylor. In the third round, they selected Ray Nitschke, and in the fourth round Jerry Kramer.

All four of those players had excellent careers in the NFL, with two of them (Taylor and Nitschke) getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Kramer should most definitely be in Canton as well.

Currie was named All-Pro three times and was selected to one Pro Bowl.

Taylor was named All-Pro six times and went to the Pro Bowl five times, plus was named NFL MVP in 1962.

Nitschke was named All-Pro six times and for some reason only went to one Pro Bowl. No…

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Remembering Violet Bidwill Wolfner: First Female NFL Owner

Violet Bidwill-Wolfner

Violet Bidwill became the first woman to own an NFL franchise after her husband passed away in April 1947. Charles Bidwill had purchased the Chicago Cardinals in 1933 and would eventually acquire horse and dog tracks in Chicago and Florida, all of which Ms. Bidwill inherited at the time of Charley’s death.

Violet Bidwill was born Violet Fults in Red Bud, IL (40 miles southeast of St. Louis) on January 10, 1900. Her father died when she was just four years old and her mother worked as a waitress. Violet met Chicago sportsman Charley Bidwill in the 1920s and were soon married. Charles “Stormy” Bidwill Jr. was born in 1928 and younger brother William (Bill) Bidwill was born three years later. The boys would later learn, after Violet’s death, that they had been adopted.

Violet was a tall, beautiful, soft-eyed woman, who former Cardinals head coach Jim Conzelman and others described as so shy that she was uncomfortable except in the presence of her family and close friends. Youngest son Bill would acquire this same trait.

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Cardinals Defensive Coach Chuck Drulis: Innovator, Controversial

Chuck Drulis was a defensive coach with the Cardinals for 16 seasons.

The late Chuck Drulis was known for his defensive talents. Some said that he was a generation ahead of his time. “He was a defensive genius,” linebacker Jamie Rivers told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1972.

The Pennsylvania native was a star offensive lineman at Temple before playing seven seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. He arrived in Chicago in 1956 as a defensive assistant under Cardinals head coach Ray Richards and would serve under five different head coaches until his sudden death in 1972. Drulis was also credited with two victories when he shared head coaching duties after Frank “Pop” Ivy resigned with two games left in the 1961 season.

WILDCAT

Drulis made his mark by devising the “safety blitz.” It involved a defensive back bursting through the offensive line just as the ball was snapped in a frantic attempt to sack the quarterback. Drulis called it the “Wildcat” and he had been tinkering with it for a couple of years, but needed a player who had the toughness and nerves of steel to successfully carry it out. That player arrived in 1960. Larry Wilson was drafted as a running back out of Utah in the eighth round of the draft, but was converted to safety by Drulis in training camp. After struggling early, Wilson showed just enough to make the team. He ended up starting 11 of 12 games his rookie season intercepting two passes.

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Big Red Alumni Gather for Annual Christmas Party

Several former St. Louis Football Cardinals alumni recently gathered in Chesterfield for the annual Christmas Party. Among those in attendance were Coach Jim Hanifan, Johnny Roland, Mel Gray, Jackie Smith, Bob Rowe, Mark Arneson, Tim Kearney, Ron Yankowski, Ernie McMillan, Eddie Moss, Mike Wood, Terry Miller, Eric Williams, Keith Wortman, Willard Harrell, Jim Otis, Herschel Turner, Tim Van Galder, Jerry Holloway, former Big Red PA announcer Jim Holder, former Mizzou and Dallas Cowboys player Howard Richards, former MIzzou and Raiders player Gus Otto, and Big Red Line cheerleader Melodee Hinkle.

1987: Revisiting Greatest Big Red Comeback

The NFL was coming off another strike and the Big Red were on a three-game losing streak. They were facing a bad Tampa Bay team and owner Bill Bidwill was talking about leaving town. It’s a wonder that even 22,449 fans showed up to see the Cardinals play the Buccaneers on a dreary, rainy Sunday in early November.

And like many fans, the Cards were no-shows themselves for the first three quarters of the game spotting the Bucs a 28-3 lead. As St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Kevin Horrigan wrote, “As the fourth quarter began, the Bucs are up by 25 points and it’s so quiet you can hear the cheerleaders, which is a bad sign. NFL cheerleaders are designed to be seen, not heard.”

But the game was far from over. The Big Red erupted for four touchdowns in the final 12:42 to win the game 31-28. It was the largest fourth quarter comeback in NFL history.

“Just another laugher,” said Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill who was accompanied by detectives after receiving a death threat prior to the game.

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Cardinals linebacker Bill Koman: Tough, opinionated

An excellent piece by Mark Tomasik over at RetroSimba on the late Bill Koman who passed away on November 1st. Koman played in 120 straight games for the Cardinals back in the 1960s and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

RetroSimba

Bill Koman was a talented, durable outside linebacker and one of the respected leaders of the Big Red defense of the St. Louis football Cardinals in the 1960s. He also was outspoken and controversial.

Koman died Nov. 1. 2019, at 85. He played 12 seasons in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts (1956), Philadelphia Eagles (1957-58), Chicago Cardinals (1959) and St. Louis Cardinals (1960-67). He owned a real estate development and construction company and built it into a successful business in St. Louis.

Koman is remembered as a devoted family man, business owner and philanthropist.

Will to succeed

William John Koman Sr. was born in 1934 in Ambridge, Pa., located on the Ohio River 16 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The town was formed by the American Bridge Company and attracted thousands of immigrants to work in the steel mills.

Koman grew up in nearby Aliquippa, Pa., and when he was…

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