Former St. Louis Cardinals defensive lineman Luke Owens grew up in Cleveland and wanted nothing more than to beat his boyhood favorites. However, the Big Red were winless in ten games against the Browns since Luke had joined the team in 1958.
“You’ve got to live around those guys most of the year the way I do to appreciate the chest-puffing, back slapping adulation they get,” Luke told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1963. “I get tired of it. We’ve tied ’em a couple of times, but never beat ’em. I’d like to blow ’em right into the lake (Erie).”
But on November 17, 1963, Big Luke finally saw his longtime dream come true when the Cardinals defeated the Browns 20-14 at Municipal Stadium.
“It’s like Christmas for me,” Owens said in the locker room as his teammates presented him the game ball.
Owens was a star two-way player at Kent State University and was selected in the third round by the Baltimore Colts in the 1957 NFL draft. He played in eleven games at defensive tackle his rookie season, but was released by the Colts at the end of the year.
(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Robert L. Burnes’ book Big Red: Story of the St. Louis Football Cardinals. Frank “Pop” Ivy was a member of the 1947 NFL Champion Chicago Cardinals and was the St. Louis Cardinals first head coach after they relocated from Chicago. He led them to a 6-5-1 record in 1960, but the team fell apart in 1961 and he resigned with just two games left in the season.)
When Pop Ivyabruptly resigned with two games left in the 1961 season, the general public impression was that he had been fired.
Walter Wolfner(the Cardinals Director of Operations) denied it vigorously. “We had no fault to find with Pop’s work, especially considering the injuries. He was under no pressure from management. In fact, I was waiting until the end of the season to talk to him about a new contract. I was shocked when he told me he wanted out.” The coach maintained that no one had pushed him, no one had leaned on him to leave. “It was my own idea,” he said.
Bill Bidwill called him “one of the great defensive players we had.”
Dale Meinert was a three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker with the Cardinals from 1958-1967. He was a college star at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1955. But instead of playing in the NFL, the Lone Wolf, Oklahoma native decided to play in the CFL for Frank “Pop” Ivy and the Edmonton Eskimos, where he won a Grey Cup Championship.
In1958, after spending a couple of years in the Air Force, Meinert rejoined Pop Ivy with the NFL Chicago Cardinals. He played offensive line his first two seasons, but defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis converted him to linebacker in 1960.
“I guess they figured I wasn’t big enough to play guard,” the 215 pound Meinert said in Bob Burnes book Big Red, “and I sort of agreed with them because those defensive tackles kept looking bigger and bigger.”
It was a decision the Cardinals and Meinert would not regret. The tall rangy linebacker intercepted a pass in his first start against the Rams in 1960 and quickly developed into an aggressive tackler and pass defender. He was named team MVP in 1961 and earned Pro Bowl selections in 1963, 1965, and 1967. He did a brilliant job quarterbacking the Big Red defense and calling all the plays.