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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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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Where Are They Now? Former Big Red Running Back Willis Crenshaw

Imagine what it would be like to play for the professional football team in the city where you were born and raised.

Willis Crenshaw didn’t have to imagine it. He lived it.

Crenshaw, who grew up in St. Louis’ Central West End, was a two-sport star for Soldan High School and a football player at Kansas State University for three years. The Cardinals selected Crenshaw in the ninth round of the 1963 NFL draft. A multi-talented offensive back who could run, block and catch, Crenshaw played six seasons for the Big Red (1964-69) before finishing his NFL career with the Denver Broncos (1970). 

What was it like playing in front of family and friends at Sportsman’s Park and, later, Busch Stadium—venues located only a few miles from his neighborhood?

“I felt fortunate to be able to do that because there were a lot of guys who wished that was their situation,” Crenshaw said. “The whole thing was just an amazing experience for me.”

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Big Red Flashback: O.J. Anderson’s Historic NFL Debut

After Cardinals management decided not to retain star running back Terry Metcalf in 1978, new head coach Bud Wilkinson searched the entire season for an outside threat to complement the inside running of Wayne Morris and Jim Otis. That problem was solved in 1979 after the Big Red selected Ottis Jerome (O.J.) Anderson with the eighth pick in the 1979 NFL draft.

“His durability, his speed, his attitude, his ability to catch the ball,” a pleased Bud Wilkinson told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the Cards chose the West Palm Beach, Florida native. “There were so many factors. This is something we’ve been discussing for three months. There was no doubt who we wanted. The question was whether he’d be available.”

Cardinals personnel director George Boone added, “We feel that he has the great moves that we’ve been hunting for. We haven’t had those in quite a while.”

“I always believed I was the No. 1 back in the country,” Anderson told the Post Dispatch. “I was happy to be picked in the first round, but I wasn’t surprised.”

Playing in the shadow of Chuck Foreman at the University of Miami (FL), Anderson set several school records including Foreman’s single-season rushing record in 1978.

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Jim Hart: Where is he Now?

This is the last story in a five-part series about former quarterback Jim Hart, the Cardinals’ all-time leading passer.

Most evenings, before he goes to bed, Jim Hart will walk into the living room of his house in the tiny Island Walk section of Naples, Fla., where lakes run behind the houses and neighboring streets are connected by Venetian-style bridges. There he will sit down on a bench, put on headphones so as to not disturb his wife, Mary, and start playing the electric organ. 

Yes, the former football player is a musician.

Hart started out playing the accordion while growing up in Evanston, IL. Later, when his parents bought an organ, he learned to play that instrument, too. Organ music captivates him and brings a calming closure to his day.

His repertoire includes a variety of songs: hymns, country western songs, and show tunes. Before he knows it, an hour, maybe two, has passed. He always finishes with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Let there be Peace on Earth.” 

“It’s a very peaceful ending to the day,” Hart says. “It makes me feel good, and I’m ready to turn in.”

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Jim Hart: The Final Years

This is the fourth in a five-part series of stories remembering Jim Hart, the Cardinals’ all-time passing leader.

The latter years of Jim Hart’s Cardinals career (1978-83) were marked by seminal events that tested both Hart’s and the team’s resolve.

Jim Hart against the New York Giants in 1979.

There was the death of tight end J.V. Cain; a war of wills between coach Bud Wilkinson and owner Bill Bidwill that resulted in Wilkinson’s ouster; the arrival of quarterback Neil Lomax that led to Hart’s demotion; and, finally, Hart’s unceremonious release by the team. 

It was a mostly distressing time, coming on the heels of the “Cardiac Cards” era, a stretch (1974-76) under coach Don Coryell during which the Big Red posted three double-digit winning seasons, made two playoff appearances, and sent multiple players to the Pro Bowl.

After Coryell left, Bidwill shocked the NFL world when he named Bud Wilkinson as the team’s new head coach in 1978. Wilkinson was a legendary college coach who guided the University of Oklahoma football team to glory from 1946-63, but now he was in his early 60’s and hadn’t been on a sideline for years.

Although Wilkinson kept the Coryell offense, the Cardinals started 0-8 in his first season and finished with a 6-10 record. Despite that, Hart recorded career highs in pass attempts (477), completions (240) and yards (3,121).

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