The first sign that this was going to be an inauspicious weekend for the Big Red came when their Ozark Airlines charter touched down on the icy runway at Appleton International Airport—yes, that’s what they call it—less than 24 hours before their Super Bowl Tournament game against the Green Bay Packers.
The pilot tried the brakes, but they wouldn’t cooperate. The plane kept skidding down the runway. I gripped the seat handles tightly while behind me several Cardinals players screamed out in terror.
Finally—miraculously—the plane came to a stop. When it made a left turn to head for the terminal, it was only about 15 yards from a chain link fence at the end of the runway.
Shaken but safe, the players and coaches departed the plane—thanking the pilot as they exited—and boarded buses that would take them to the Paper Valley Hotel (where most Packers opponents stayed) in Appleton.
“Thank goodness for little return people,” Big Red head coach Gene Stallings said after the Cardinals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-17 to close out the 1986 season.
The “little return people” Stallings was referring to was 5 foot 8 inch Vai Sikahema who had just become the fifth player in NFL history to return two punts for TDs in one game.
The Cardinals and Buccaneers were arguably the two worst teams in the NFL in 1986 and they certainly lived up to that billing on this cold Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. The teams combined for 15 punts, 6 turnovers, and 500 total yards.
The Cardinals struggled on offense, turning the ball over three times and missing three easy field goals. They converted on only one of 10 third down plays and entered Tampa territory nine times, coming away with only one offensive touchdown.
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.
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 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.
Among the most proficient teammate combinations in professional sports in St. Louis in the 1960s were Tim McCarver catching Bob Gibson with the baseball Cardinals, Lenny Wilkens passing to Bob Pettit with the NBA Hawks and Charley Johnson throwing to Sonny Randle with the NFL Cardinals.
Randle played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-66 after entering the league with the 1959 Chicago Cardinals.
On Nov. 4, 1962, Randle had what the St Louis Post-Dispatch described as “one of the most exceptional pass-catching days” in NFL lore.
Randle had 16 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinals against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.
The only NFL player at that time to have more catches in a game was Tom Fears of the Los Angeles Rams with 18 against the Green Bay Packers in 1950.
(Today, the NFL record is held by Brandon Marshall, who…
The 1974 St. Louis Football Cardinals were off to their best start in eight years. They had won their first four games of the season, however many “experts” still had their doubts. And who could blame them? The Big Red were coming off three straight 4-9-1 seasons and three of their early victories were against less than top-tier opponents. To add insult to injury, Dallas was coming to town and, despite a 1-3 record, the Cowboys were favored by three points over the Cards.
“I love it,” quarterback Jim Hart told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “I like going into a game as the underdog. I don’t think that the Cowboys, with their history of success, really take us seriously, even if it’s possible that a 1-3 team would be complacent.”
One reason the Big Red were underdogs was that they hadn’t beaten Dallas since their 38-0 win on Monday Night Football in 1970. They had lost six in a row to the Cowboys by an average score of 30-11. And the Cowboys certainly didn’t feel like they were playing poorly in 1974. They had lost three straight games for the first time in ten years, however two of their losses were on last-minute field goals-one of which they believed wasn’t good. But, head coach Tom Landry knew that another loss would probably keep them from making their ninth straight post-season appearance.
“We’ve got to beat the Cardinals,” Landry said. “We’re surely not out of the race yet.”
So the stage was set for a mid-October showdown on a warm sunny day at sold out Busch Stadium. The 4-0 Cardinals vs. the 1-3 Cowboys.
An encounter with St. Louis Cardinals defensive back Jimmy Hill put Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr out of action.
Starr, who led the Packers to five NFL championships and twice was named winner of the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award, died on May 26, 2019, at 85. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Starr played in 10 postseason games and the Packers won nine of those.
On Oct. 20, 1963, the Packers played the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Starr started at quarterback for the 44th consecutive game.
In the third quarter, Starr was flushed out of the pocket by the Cardinals’ pass rush and took off running. After a gain of 15 yards, Starr was headed out of bounds when Hill swung a forearm into him. The force of the blow knocked both Starr and Hill off their feet.
Larry Wilson caused NFL quarterbacks to lay awake at night with worry and Bill Nelsen was no exception.
Nelsen, who died April 11, 2019, at 78, had a prominent role in the play that defined the Pro Football Hall of Fame career of Wilson, the St. Louis Cardinals safety who was as tough as any player in the NFL.
On Nov. 7, 1965, in a game between the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Wilson intercepted a pass from Nelsen while wearing casts on both fractured hands.
Wilson’s performance remains an enduring testament to his willpower and illustrates why he was so widely respected.
Wilson, who played his entire professional career (1960-72) with the Cardinals, fractured his hands in a game against the New York Giants on Oct. 31, 1965, at New York.
Cardinals head coach Wally Lemm said Wilson would play the following…
The St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskins met at RFK Stadium on December 16, 1984. The stakes were simple. A Big Red victory would give them their first NFC East title since 1975 and their first home playoff game. A loss would end their season. Turnovers and mistakes gave the Redskins a 23-7 halftime lead and it appeared the Cardinals would soon be dusting off their golf clubs. But, as it turned out, the Cards were not ready to give up.
“At halftime, we said that anybody who didn’t think we couldn’t win the game shouldn’t go back out.” — Big Red safety Benny Perrin.
The Big Red came out on fire in the second half. After a slow start to the game, Neil Lomax shredded the Washington secondary going 25 of 28 for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the with 468 passing yards, his best day as a pro. It was the most passing yards ever given up by a Redskin defense. “We were a little nervous; this was our first big game for most of us. Once we got our timing down in the second half, things opened up a little bit.”
In 1960, the Cardinals relocated from Chicago and finished 6-5-1 in their inaugural season in St. Louis. The offense featured star running back John David Crow and wide receiver Sonny Randle. However, quarterback play was inconsistent and below average. As a matter of fact, the 1960 trio of John Roach, King Hill, and first round pick George Izo would all be playing elsewhere by opening day of the 1961 season. Etcheverry, who threw for over 30,000 yards and 183 TDs with the Montreal Alouettes, was brought in to lead the team to an NFL Championship. Unfortunately, Sam injured his throwing shoulder on his first pass in training camp and struggled during his two seasons in St. Louis.
The Cardinals practiced 12-man football for 10 days in preparation for the exhibition game with the Argonauts. The game would be played in accordance with Canadian rules. CFL fields are 10 yards longer, 15 yards wider and also feature 25 yard end zones. Games are played with 12 starters. Big Red head coach Frank “Pop” Ivy was no stranger to CFL football. He won three consecutive Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos before taking over the Chicago Cardinals in 1958. Assistant coach Ray Willsey played quarterback for a season in Edmonton as well. So, the Big Red were not only bigger and stronger than their opponent, the coaching staff had experience with CFL rules and style of play.
The punishing rushes of Green Bay Packers fullback Jim Taylor shredded a daring defense of the St. Louis football Cardinals.
Taylor, who died Oct. 13, 2018, at 83, was a bruising rusher for the championship Packers teams of the 1960s. Paired in a backfield with “Golden Boy” halfback Paul Hornung, Taylor was a powerful force who twice led the NFL in rushing touchdowns and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1962, Taylor topped the NFL in rushing yards with 1,474 in 14 games. He faced the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time that season and his rushing and pass-catching skills were key to enabling the Packers to overcome a challenging defensive scheme.
The Cardinals and Packers each had 1-0 records entering their game on Sept. 23, 1962, at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Packers were the reigning NFL champions and the Cardinals were looking to establish themselves as contenders.