It didn’t take long after the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960 to realize they would need a new quarterback if they wanted to compete for an NFL Championship.
King Hill started the inaugural game in Los Angeles in 1960, but was benched at halftime. Backup QB John Roach was benched at halftime the following week. Hill, Roach and former Notre Dame star George Izo combined to complete only 44% of their passes and throw 25 interceptions in 1960. Some claimed that running back John David Crow threw the ball better than all three quarterbacks.
In 1979, Kirk Gibson rejected a chance to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.
That’s because he was committed to playing baseball, not football.
On May 4, 1979, the St. Louis football Cardinals selected Gibson, a wide receiver at Michigan State, in the seventh round of the NFL draft.
A year earlier, June 1978, Gibson had been chosen by the Tigers in the first round of baseball’s amateur draft and signed a $200,000 contract with Detroit. The outfielder spent the summer of 1978 playing for the Tigers’ Class A Lakeland (Fla.) team managed by Jim Leyland before returning to Michigan State for his senior football season.
Gibson established school single-season records for receptions (42) and receiving yards (806) in 1978. He finished his Michigan State football career with four-year totals of 112 receptions, 2,347 yards receiving and 24 touchdown catches, all school records.
Gibson would have been “a certain first-round pick” in the 1979…
Pete Retzlaff was a Philadelphia Eagles receiver who was difficult to defend because of the precise pass patterns he ran and his reliable hands. Initially a flanker and split end, Retzlaff became a tight end and was instrumental in transforming the position.
During his 11 NFL seasons (1956-66), all with the Eagles, Retzlaff developed a respect for St. Louis Cardinals safeties Jerry Stovall and Larry Wilson. In 1965, Retzlaff told The Sporting News, “St. Louis has the toughest defensive backs. Larry Wilson was real tough when he played me, but now I find Jerry Stovall even tougher to shake. Jerry has to be the most improved player at his position in the league.”
Retzlaff later told the Akron Beacon Journal, “Once, after we’d played in the Pro Bowl, Larry Wilson told me he always said I was the toughest tight end he ever tried to cover.”
From undrafted free agent to one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Jim Hart’s career had more than its fair share of challenges. The Chicago area native had to overcome fan favorite Charley Johnson in the late 60s, the Bob Hollway era in the early 70s, a career threatening shoulder injury in 1973, and #1 draft pick Steve Pisarkiewicz in 1979. But he could not beat his last challenger, Father Time, which is still undefeated.
After losing his starting job to Neil Lomax, the Big Red released the 39 year old Hart in 1984. He would retire a year later as the team’s all-time leading passer, throwing for 34,665 yards and 209 TD passes. Only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton had thrown for more yards than Hart.
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.
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.
Fri 9 Sep 2016 05.00 EDTLast modified on Mon 27 Nov 2017 02.59 EST
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…