That Time Jim Hanifan crashed Bud Wilkinson’s Car Into a Train

Most St. Louis football fans probably remember Jim Hanifan from his assistant coaching days with Don Coryell and the Cardiac Cards or when he was the Big Red head coach from 1980-1985. Younger fans may remember his time with the St. Louis Rams or later as the straight-shooting beloved analyst in the Rams radio booth with Steve Savard.

But some forget that Jim Hanifan was one of the few assistant coaches who stuck around for a year after Don Coryell left the Cardinals in 1978. Owner Bill Bidwill shocked the football world when he hired college coaching legend Bud Wilkinson, who led Oklahoma to three national championships and 14 conference titles. At the time, Hanifan had a year left on his contract, but he also had several offers to leave St. Louis.

Jim Hanifan (L) coached the Cards offensive line under Bud Wilkinson in 1978.

“I had options,” Hanny wrote in his book Beyond Xs & Os, My Thirty Years in the NFL. “At least six teams were vying for my services. I thought I was back in high school, being recruited all over again.”

Hanifan decided to stay in St. Louis and work under Wilkinson, a man who he once said “probably has more charisma than anybody I have ever met in my life.”

Continue reading

Former Big Red Coach Jim Hanifan Passes Away at 87

St. Louis has lost yet another institution with the passing of the beloved Jim Hanifan who coached with both the Big Red and St. Louis Rams.

Hanifan was the offensive line coach for the Football Cardinals from 1973-1978 and then head coach from 1980-1985. He later won Super Bowl rings while coaching with Washington and the St. Louis Rams. Many younger St. Louis NFL fans will remember Hanifan in the Rams radio booth from 2004-2008.

Jim Hanifan coached with the Cards for 12 of the 28 seasons they were in St. Louis.

Hanifan was known as one of the top offensive line coach’s in the history of the NFL. His 1975 Big Red offensive line of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Tom Banks, Bob Young and Roger Finnie allowed only 8 sacks the entire season, an NFL record at the time. His first season in Washington, his offensive line gave up only 9 sacks as the Redskins went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. And Hanifan coached a St. Louis Rams offensive line that protected Kurt Warner during the Greatest Show on Turf years which included two Super Bowl appearances and a Championship.

Coach Hanifan loved St. Louis, his former players, and the thousands of friends that he made over his 60+ years in football. He will be greatly missed.

Tributes started pouring in on social media just a couple of hours after the learning of Coach Hanifan’s passing.

Continue reading

The Rise of Charley Johnson

(Editor’s note: This story is a reprint from the January 1966 issue of Sport Magazine and was written by John Devaney.)

In sports, some success stories begin with a dream. Here is how one dream of playing professional football came true — at almost impossible odds.

By JOHN DEVANEY

The quarterback was sitting bare-chested, on the edge of the rubbing table. He was holding a white towel to his face, and a large crimson stain was slowly spreading over the towel because blood was pouring from a gash in his chin. The quarterback didn’t seem to notice the blood. He was staring at the floor with the rapt concentration of someone watching scenes from his life flash, one by one, on a movie screen.

This was Charley Johnson, St. Louis Cardinal quarterback, in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium one afternoon late this October. Minutes before he had run off the field, plunging almost blindly through the swirling crowd, after New York had beaten St. Louis 14-10. Twice in the game’s closing minutes Johnson had brought the Cardinals inside the Giant 25, and twice he had failed to get the touchdown that would have won.

Continue reading

Cardinal Great Larry Wilson Passes Away at 82

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for St. Louis sports fans. We lost baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock on September 6 and on Friday we learned of the passing of former Big Red great Larry Wilson.

Wilson played college ball at the University of Utah and was the Chicago Cardinals 7th round draft choice in the 1960 NFL draft. He went on to a 13 year Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

The Rigby, Idaho native played in 8 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro five times. He was selected to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, the 75th Anniversary Team, and the NFL 100 All-Time Team. Wilson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1966 and is the all-time Cardinals leader in interceptions with 52. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

Wilson was a member of the Cardinals organization as a player, coach, and executive for over 40 years. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill had this to say about Wilson.

“Besides my father, Larry Wilson was the most influential male figure in my life. He was someone who truly lived his faith and demonstrated it daily in the kindness he showed every single person he met. Any of us lucky enough to be in his orbit – whether that was for a few minutes or four decades – was always better off from the experience. I will remember Larry Wilson first as a fantastic person but then obviously as one of the greatest players the National Football League has ever seen. It’s fitting that his passing coincides with the league’s 100th birthday because his toughness and the way he revolutionized his position make him one of our game’s most unforgettable figures. Whether on the field playing with casts on both hands or brightening the lives of every person he knew, Larry’s selflessness defined who he was and how we will all remember him.”

Larry Wilson is survived by Nancy, his wife of 40 years, as well as daughter Christie, son Larry Jr., numerous grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Joe Bostic Remembers Humorous Encounter With Woody Hayes

By Dennis Dillon

9/12/2020

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.

Former Big Red Lineman Joe Bostic was a member of the 1979 Clemson Tiger team that defeated Woody Hayes’ Ohio State Buckeyes 17-15.

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

Continue reading

Johnny Roland: All He Does Is Win Football Games

(Editor’s Note: This story was authored by former St. Louis Globe Democrat sports writer Rich Koster and was originally published in Sport Magazine in July 1967)

To appreciate Johnny Roland’s talent, you must be aware of his shortcomings. In a game dominated by specialists, he has no specialty. He’s not as fast as Gale Sayers, as quick as Leroy Kelly, or as powerful as Ken Willard. He’s never run a 10 second 100 and when he throws a football it frequently wobbles or floats. On the longest run of his rookie year, a mere 50 yards from scrimmage, he was hauled down from behind in the open field. He tabulated over 80 yards rushing in only one game and he average an unspectacular 3.6 yards per carry over the season.

So how did the 6-2, 215-pound Roland emerge as the NFL’s Rookie of the Year? And what made him worth a $300,000 bonus contract to the St. Louis Cardinals?

Simple. He wins football games. He wins them the way Frank Gifford used to. And Paul Hornung. With the relentlessness of that 3.6 yard average and the lighting of the big play. He succeeds with versatility. He wins with his head . . . and heart.

A confirmed non-specialist in a world of specialists, Johnny Roland has his shortcomings on the football field. He doesn’t move too fast, he can’t run over people and he throws a wobbly option pass

“Some guys in this league play three or four games a season,” suggest Abe Stuber, who excavates college material for St. Louis. “Roland has shown he plays them all. He gives 100 percent all the time.. That puts him in a different category from the others.”

Continue reading

Remembering Former Big Red Broadcaster Bob Starr

Bob Costas called Bob Starr “the greatest football announcer I’ve ever heard.”

“He was a good baseball announcer, but a great football announcer,” Costas told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1998.

Starr was hired by KMOX radio in 1972 to become the radio voice of the Big Red and Missouri Tigers, a job he would hold until 1979. He later became the busiest broadcaster in town when he was hired by the baseball Cardinals to replace Jack Buck, who briefly left the team to host a studio show on NBC.

Bob Starr (R) and E.J. Holub pose for a photo in the Big Red booth in 1975.
Continue reading

How the Big Red Helmet Cart Almost Took Out Lou Brock

By Lori Greenstein

Long, long ago in a place called the Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium, a couple of minor miracles occurred.

Bill Bidwill bought the nifty Golf Cart shaped like a football helmet, featuring a giant Cardinal bird head decal. He strolled into our PR office, smiled and asked if I’d like to drive the new golf cart. “Heck yes!”, I said. I didn’t bother to tell him I’d never driven one before!

Bill Bidwill and family with the Big Red Helmet Cart (circa 1987)

It was parked outside the double doors separating the football and baseball offices in the stadium. He showed me how to start it, where the brake and the go pedal was. He told me to have fun.

I was terrified. What if I wrecked it? He went back into the offices and I turned the key. Off I went, at a snail’s pace to begin. Down the main concourse I went, wearing a huge smile, I am sure.

The longer I drove it, the more confidence I gained and the faster I went. That was a big stadium, with a whole lot of concrete concourses, which took me up to the top of the stadium, around it and then back down. I grew braver with each passing moment.

By the time I was coming down the last ramp, it was floored! And just as I came into view of the parking place across from the baseball home plate netting, the door opened and a young man walked into my path. I screamed “Woman at the wheel”, he turned his head, saw me and set a new land speed record to safety on the other side of the concourse, behind the net.

That was a historic moment. To this day, I maintain that the Cardinal golf cart and I scared the SPEED into LOU BROCK. It might have been about the time he started stealing bases and setting records. ‘Nuff said.

(Editor’s Note: Lori Greenstein served as the Football Cardinals Assistant Public Relations Director from 1965-1971)

Where are they Now? Former Big Red Lineman Joe Bostic

By Dennis Dillon

9/5/2020

It was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2014, but Joe Bostic wasn’t exactly feeling the holiday spirit. He lay in a hospital bed at his home in Greensboro, N.C., unable to straighten out his legs, both of which were in braces. Double quadriceps surgery had made the former St. Louis Cardinals offensive lineman a prisoner in his own house.

While carrying a bag up some stairs, Bostic had slipped and his right quadriceps muscle had detached from the knee. When he shifted his weight to his left knee, that quadriceps also tore.

After surgery, Bostic was confined to bed for eight weeks.

“It was unbelievable,” says Bostic, who played for the Big Red from 1979-1988. “I was like, I don’t know if I can do this. I finally said, ‘God, you get me out of this bed, I’m going to keep moving. I’m not going to sit around on my rear end. I’m going to get going.

“He got me out of that bed, so I’ve been trying to keep my word.”

Joe Bostic played in 132 games in 9 seasons with the Cardinals.
Continue reading

Has the Pro Football Hall of Fame Forgotten about Don Coryell?

“Coryell was an innovator, but he was more than that. He was a coach who turned around the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers and made both into offensive juggernauts—not just good, but record-setting offensive teams.” – John Turney

NFL Historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal writes about how the chances of former Big Red head coach Don Coryell making the Pro Football Hall of Fame appear to be slipping.

Read Turney’s full story at SI.com here.

History of the Cards/Chiefs Missouri Governor’s Cup Games

The Missouri Governor’s Cup was awarded to the winner of the annual meetings between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.

The first Governor’s Cup game was played two seasons after the NFL/AFL merger agreement in 1966. The contest was played on August 17, 1968 at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City in front of 47,462 fans. The Chiefs held on for a 13-10 victory.

The Chiefs pretty much dominated the Governor’s Cup series with a preseason record of 13-6-1. The Chiefs held 3-1-1 regular season advantage over the Big Red as well.

Here is a summary of the 20 preseason Missouri Governor’s Cup games played between the Chiefs and Cardinals.

Continue reading

Remembering the Big Red’s trip to Japan in 1976

The St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers became the first teams to play an NFL game outside of North America on August 16, 1976.

The game was called the Mainichi Star Bowl and was sponsored by the Mainichi Daily News, an English-language newspaper in Tokyo. However, a lettuce farmer from California, Frank Takahashi, was the sole promoter of the game. A self-described “football nut,” Takahashi foot the entire bill for the exhibition contest.

“If we have a sellout, I will break even,” Takahashi told Doug Grow of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1976 interview.

Unfortunately, the game was not a sellout and Takahashi reportedly lost tens of thousands of dollars to bring the NFL to Japan.

Regarding the game, Jim Hart’s 60 yard touchdown pass to Ike Harris helped give the Cardinals a 20-10 victory. It was the Cards second victory of the preseason.

The Cards and Chargers played the first NFL game outside of North America in 1976.
Continue reading

They Called Him Dirty: Conrad Dobler

(Editor’s Note: Former St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist and Cards beat writer Jeff Meyers wrote this story a few years ago on Big Red guard Conrad Dobler and has been kind enough to share it here in the Big Red Zone)

As his autobiography “They Call Me Dirty” suggests, Conrad Dobler inflicted a world of hurt during his 10 years as a leg-whipping, eye-gouging, gut-punching, head-slapping and  — famously — finger-biting offensive lineman in the brutal world of professional football.

Dobler dished it out but also took his share of hits. Knee and shoulder injuries put him on the operating table and broken fingers mangled his hands. Perpetual pain became part of his job description. Pain management was assigned to the coach. Playing with pain was the order of the day.

“Coaches get you motivated, they train you mentally to go out there and play through the pain,” the former All-Pro guard said. “It starts in training camp when you have to practice with injuries, You’ve heard the old saying: ‘Can’t make the club in the tub.’ The goal of the coaches is to get us in ‘playing shape,’ which means to reach a higher threshold of pain. You learn to live with it and say ‘it is what it is.’ ”

Conrad Dobler was named “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player” by Sports Illustrated in 1977.
Continue reading

Big Red Tragedy: J.V. Cain

Desperate for defensive line help in the 1974 NFL draft, Big Red personnel director George Boone shocked everyone when he selected tight end James Victor Cain with the 7th overall pick in the draft.

“We didn’t feel we could pass up a guy like that,” Boone told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the Cardinals picked the Colorado All-American.

The Big Red already had a pretty good tight end in future Hall of Famer Jackie Smith, so they worked Cain out at both tight end and wide receiver during his first training camp. And it didn’t take long for the tall, rangy Houston native to make an impression with his new teammates in St. Louis.

J.V. Cain caught 76 passes for 1014 yards and 9 touchdowns in four seasons with the Cardinals.

“You seldom see a wide receiver hit people all over the field the way J.V. does,” reserve quarterback Bill Bynum said. “He’s so big and strong that he can get down into the pattern quickly and doesn’t have to worry about having trouble releasing from the linebacker.”

“Cain is just super,” head coach Don Coryell said. “He catches everything. That’s what I like about him. He’s a tremendous athlete.”

Continue reading

Where are They Now? Pat Tilley

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Former St. Louis Globe Democrat and Sporting News writer Dennis Dillon recently caught up with Pat Tilley and is kind enough to share his story here in The Big Red Zone)

Pat Tilley described the catch as “incredible.”

No, the former Cardinals wide receiver was not talking about his one-handed, backhanded grab for a touchdown against the Baltimore Colts in 1980, arguably the most memorable of his 468 receptions during an 11-season career with the Big Red. He was referring to the 120-pound striped marlin he and his wife, Susie, reeled in recently while fishing the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Certainly, it will make for a much more pleasant memory than Tilley’s visit to Cabo three years ago. Back then, he woke up one morning and couldn’t speak. He had suffered a stroke.

Continue reading

Former Cardinal Vai Sikahema honored for work as TV news anchor

Congrats to former Big Red kick returner Vai Sikahema for being inducted into the Emmy MidAtlantic Silver Circle Society for his 25 years of dedicated work in television news. Sikahema was a two-time Pro Bowl kick returner for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986 and 1987. He was a 10th round pick out of BYU in ’86.

Arizona Cardinals fan might not remember Vai Sikahema’s days with the team because they were a long time ago. He was drafted when the team was still …

Former Cardinal Vai Sikahema honored for work as TV news anchor

Remembering the ’66 season with 66 days till the Cardinals’ season opener

We are one day closer to the start of the 2020 NFL season. As of today, Thursday, there are 66 days until the Arizona Cardinals are supposed to open …

Remembering the ’66 season with 66 days till the Cardinals’ season opener
The 1966 St. Louis Football Cardinals