Big Red Legends: Larry Wilson

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.

Larry Wilson takes the field for the final time in 1972.

EARLY LIFE

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.

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Where are they now: Neil O’Donoghue

A very good article on former Big Red kicker Neil O’Donoghue by Ian McCourt of the Guardian. Neil is currently living a quiet life in Florida and appears to be doing well.

Neil O’Donoghue: From ticket collector in Dublin to NFL field of play

Ian McCourt@ianmccourt

Fri 9 Sep 2016 05.00 EDTLast modified on Mon 27 Nov 2017 02.59 EST

Neil O’Donoghue playing for St Louis Cardinals
 Neil O’Donoghue’s time at St Louis Cardinals was a bumpy one. Photograph: George Gojkovich/Getty Images

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.”

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Big Red Legends: Johnny Roland

Johnny Roland takes a handoff from Terry Nofsinger in a 1966 game.

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.

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The Green Bay Packers 1958 Draft Class: Jerry Kramer vs. Ken Gray

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.

Bob Fox

Jerry-Ken 2

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…

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Big Red Alumni Gather for Annual Christmas Party

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.

Cardinals linebacker Bill Koman: Tough, opinionated

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.

RetroSimba

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…

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Sonny Randle and his greatest game for Cardinals

Great story on former Big Red receiver Sonny Randle’s big day in 1962. No one scored more touchdowns in the decade of the 1960s than Sonny Randle. Great receiver!

RetroSimba

(Updated Nov. 4, 2019)

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…

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JIM BAKKEN: Tough Act to Follow

Jim Bakken played 17 seasons and is the Cardinals all-time leading scorer with 1380 points.

For a team who struggled finding a punter during their 28 years in St. Louis, the Big Red had no worries at place kicking. Not until 1979, that is. Jim Bakken became the team’s full time kicker in 1963 and would go on to play 17 seasons becoming the organization’s all-time leading scorer. Bakken once kicked seven field goals in a game, was a four-time Pro Bowler, two-time All Pro, and two-time all-decade player in the 60s and 70s.

When he retired, Bakken was the third-highest scorer in NFL history. He led the league in field goals and accuracy twice, and led it in scoring once. He finished in the top six in field-goal percentage nine times and was in the top three of field goals made five times. Remarkably, Bakken is not in the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

The Cardinals struggled to find a replacement for Bakken after his retirement. Most notably, they drafted Steve Little in the first round of the 1978 draft to replace Bakken. Little lasted two and a half forgettable seasons in St. Louis. They brought in veteran Neil O’Donoghue who seemed to miss big kick after big kick and then spent a second round pick on John Lee in 1986 who couldn’t kick without a tee.

Let’s go back and take a look at the ten kickers who attempted to replace Jim Bakken.

Steve Little (1978-1980)

Steve Little was a College All-American at Arkansas, but struggled adjusting to the NFL.
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The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals (10-1)

With the NFL celebrating its centennial season in 2019, the league will soon be announcing its top 100 players of all-time. I thought it would be fun to look back and rank the Big Red’s top 100 players who played in St. Louis.

The Cardinals moved from Chicago after the 1959 season and played 28 years in St. Louis before Bill Bidwill moved to the desert in 1988. Several great players played under the arch during this period including four Hall of Famers.

These rankings are only based on the player’s time spent in St. Louis. Consideration was given to the player’s statistics, All-Pro/Pro Bowl selections, team leadership, and impact in the community. It is next to impossible to compare eras, so many of these picks were very difficult.

The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 10-1

10. Charley Johnson (QB)

QB Charley Johnson played 9 seasons with the Cardinals.

Pro Bowl QB Charley Johnson was the Cards 10th round pick out of New Mexico State in 1960. Johnson 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), yards (3045), and TD passes (28) in 1964 when the Cards missed playing for the NFL Championship by a half game. 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. A late season injury in 1966 cost the Cardinals another shot at a championship and a stint in the Army Reserves cost Johnson parts of two seasons during his prime as he lost his job to Jim Hart. Johnson was traded to Houston after the 1969 season and finished his career with the Broncos. Off the field, Johnson obtained a chemical engineering degree at New Mexico State and later earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Washington University while playing with the Big Red.

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The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals (20-11)

With the NFL celebrating its centennial season in 2019, the league will soon be announcing its top 100 players of all-time. I thought it would be fun to look back and rank the Big Red’s top 100 players who played in St. Louis.

The Cardinals moved from Chicago after the 1959 season and played 28 years in St. Louis before Bill Bidwill moved to the desert in 1988. Several great players played under the arch during this period including four Hall of Famers.

These rankings are only based on the player’s time spent in St. Louis. Consideration was given to the player’s statistics, All-Pro/Pro Bowl selections, team leadership, and impact in the community. It is next to impossible to compare eras, so many of these picks were very difficult.

The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 20-11

20. PAT TILLEY (WR)

Pat Tilley was like Denny’s. He was always open.

Pat Tilley played 11 seasons for the Big Red and retired as the second leading pass catcher in team history. The Louisiana Tech product was the Cards 4th round pick in 1976 and shared the team rookie of the year honor with Mike Dawson. Tilley scored his first NFL touchdown in the ’76 season opener against the Seahawks. Teammates Mel Gray and Roy Green got all the headlines, but Tilley led the team in receiving from 1978-1982 earning one Pro Bowl appearance in 1980. He started every game but one from 1978-1985. His best season was in 1981 when he caught 66 passes for 1040 yards and three TDs. Tilley finished his career with 469 receptions, 7005 yards and 37 touchdowns.

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