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.
The 12th annual Jim Hart Celebrity Golf Classic and Casino Night was held on April 28th and 29th at the Legends Country Club in Eureka, MO. Several alumni and celebrities attended including Jim Hart, OJ Anderson, Roger Wehrli, Mel Gray, … Continue reading →
For one glorious season, St. Louis Cardinals running back MacArthur Lane rumbled through defenses like a heavy-duty Mack truck and rushed for more touchdowns than anyone else in the NFL.
Lane died May 4, 2019, at 77. He played in the NFL for 11 seasons with the Cardinals (1968-71), Green Bay Packers (1972-74) and Kansas City Chiefs (1975-78).
His most memorable year was 1970, his third Cardinals season, when his skills as a punishing rusher with a linebacker’s approach were in peak form. Lane, 6 feet 1 and 220 pounds, rushed for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games that season. He also had 32 receptions, including two for touchdowns. Lane was the 1970 NFL leader in both rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.
Born in Oakland in 1942 and named in honor of U.S. Army general Douglas MacArthur, Lane’s 1970 performance prompted Sports Illustrated to note, “MacArthur Lane gives…
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…
On the eve of the 2019 NFL Draft, let’s take a close look at the 31 St. Louis Football Cardinals first round draft picks.
The Big Red drafted four quarterbacks who combined to start only 5 games for the team. Two Hall of Famers were drafted, but only one actually suited up in St. Louis. Of the 31 top picks, 12 can be considered busts. Many of these picks were made by the late George Boone, who was the team’s long time player personnel director. He may or may not have had incriminating photos of owner Bill Bidwill.
And so, here’s my ranking of the Big Red first round draft picks, worst to first. Let me know what you think!
31. Clyde Duncan WR (1984 – 17th Pick)
The Big Red passed on eventual rookie of the year Louis Lipps and drafted Duncan after one good college season at Tennessee. There was only one problem according to then head coach Jim Hanifan, “He couldn’t play.” Duncan, who was admittedly surprised to be a first round pick, held out of training camp and then suffered a shoulder injury. He caught only four passes in his career and was out of football after two season.
30. Larry Stegent RB (1970 – 8th Pick)
The Big Red drafted the injury prone running back out of John David Crow’s old school Texas A&M. The Cards drafted him despite Stegent playing very little his senior season. He was injured before training camp in the College All-Star game and then tore knee ligaments on his first preseason carry and was out for the year. He caught one pass in 1971 and tore up his other knee and never played another down in the NFL.
29. Kelly Stouffer QB (1987 – 6th Pick)
On the 10th anniversary of the Steve Pisarkiewicz pick, the Big Red reached for the relatively unknown Stouffer out of Colorado State who also admitted he was shocked to be taken that early in the draft. He also held out of training camp and never signed with the Big Red. He was traded a year later to Seattle for three draft picks where he started 16 games in four seasons.
I’m posting last week’s column in this space because, well, because I was pretty pleased with how it came out, and as a writer, that doesn’t always happen. So allow me to feel good about myself for a bit. And if you missed the column about local sports star Steve Jones and his ties to the NFL’s Cardinals, here you go:
For The Birds
They get together every year now.
Before 2007, that didn’t happen. After all, the morning after the team he owns, the Arizona Cardinals, punched its ticket for the franchise’s first Super Bowl, notoriously frugal owner Bill Bidwill drank day-old coffee — grounds that were made 24 hours earlier, and rewarmed twice.
But he said he drank it smiling, so there’s that.
Since Bill’s boy Michael took over football operations, though, former Cardinals, be they of the Chicago variety, who last won the franchise a championship…
Prentice Gautt is a name that may not be familiar to younger generations of football fans. But the former Oklahoma Sooner, Cleveland Brown, and St. Louis Cardinal running back was a pioneer in the 1950s, becoming the first African-American to play football at OU, joining the team just one year after most racial restrictions were lifted at the school.
Gautt became a two-time All-Big Eight running back, led the team in rushing his junior and senior seasons, and earned MVP of the 1959 Orange Bowl. He was named an Academic All-American his senior season.
Although Gautt excelled on the gridiron, he faced many of the same racial obstacles encountered by Jackie Robinson off the field. Many local restaurants refused to serve him and he was not allowed to stay in some hotels with the rest of the team. Gautt also went through verbal and physical abuse at OU, including late hits in practice.
Former Big Red greats, cheerleaders and fans convened at The Village Bar on December 9 to watch the Cardinals take on the Detroit Lions. Greg Marecek was there signing his book “The St. Louis Football Cardinals: A Celebration of the … Continue reading →
As everyone may have guessed, Coach Hanifan was the star of the luncheon telling the packed house how he fell in love with the St. Louis community and the fans after arriving in 1973. “When I first arrived here with Coach Coryell, it took a little while to get used to the area and the people. At the conclusion of that first season, we went 4-9-1. Even with a poor record, there was something special taking place at that time. When I looked into the locker room, I could see the players getting involved in the game and getting involved in the community. And, I myself, had that same experience. Being around the people in the community and truly enjoying being in St. Louis. I used to say, ‘What in the hell do I see here that makes me feel this way?’ You know… there are no mountains, no oceans here… forget about that. So, it has to be the people. The people are what makes St. Louis so great. And that’s why I continue to live here after I retired.”
Former Big Red head coach Jim Hanifan
Former Big Red Pro Bowl center Bob DeMarco recounted playing at old Busch Stadium (Sportsman’s Park) and how fans in the temporary bleachers would offer the players some bourbon on cold Sundays in the mid-60s.
Many thought Mel Gray was too small and had questionable hands coming out of the University of Missouri in 1971. However, no one could question his speed and athleticism. In high school, Gray tied Jesse Owens’ record with a 9.4 in the 100 yard dash and he later became an All-American in track and field at Mizzou. Gray was working in a California book store in 1971 when a friend informed him that he had been drafted. He initially thought he was headed to Vietnam, but soon discovered the St. Louis Cardinals had selected him in the 6th round of the NFL draft. Gray spent the next 12 seasons in St. Louis burning NFL secondaries, delighting fans, and fighting with Big Red management (as did many other players). I recently sat down with Mel Gray to chat about his time at Mizzou and career with the Big Red.
Q: You’re a California native. How did you end up at Mizzou?
GRAY: I wasn’t a bad kid, but I got in trouble a lot because of the guys I hung out with. My mother wanted me to leave. I could have gone to USC or UCLA, but my mother said, “no, I want you out of California.” And Mizzou was the only school who would let me play football and run track. (Gray spent his freshman year at Ft. Scott Jr. College in Kansas)
Q: Was there a culture shock moving from California to the Midwest?
GRAY: When I signed with Missouri it was 80 degrees and sunny. But by November (1968) it was 10 degrees. I never experienced anything like it. I stayed in my room for two weeks under an electric blanket. One day, the coaches knocked on my door and asked me why I wasn’t in class. I said “have you been outside?” So they went over and looked in my closet, looked at each other, and then left. I climbed back under the covers and thought they were going to send my butt home! But they came back later with boxes of thermal underwear, sweaters, socks, scarves, jackets… It definitely took a while to get used to the cold weather!