Coach Jim Hanifan Memorial Held in St. Louis

A golf outing and Memorial were held last week in honor of longtime Cardinals and Rams coach Jim Hanifan who passed away last November at the age of 87.

Many of Hanifan’s former players and fellow coaches attended the Thursday Memorial Service including Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith, Dick Vermeil, Carl Peterson, Luis Sharpe, Adam Timmerman, and dozens of others.

Jim Hanifan

Dierdorf and Vermeil gave eulogies, Jackie Smith sang Danny Boy, and countless stories were told by friends and family into the night.

On Wednesday, the first annual Jim Hanifan Memorial Top Golf outing was held to benefit Cherish. Many former players were in attendance such as Mel Gray, Johnny Roland, Joe Bostic, Irv Goode and Willard Harrell. A good time was had by all.

Hanifan’s daughter Kathy, son Jim, and grandson Austin were in town to participate in the celebration of his life.

Hanifan was the offensive line coach for the Cardinals from 1973-1978 and was head coach from 1980-1985. He later returned to St. Louis and became the offensive line coach for the Rams under Dick Vermeil in 1997 where he would remain until 2002. A couple of years later he moved to the Rams radio booth and became a beloved straight-shooting sidekick of Steve Savard. Hanifan remained in St. Louis until his death in 2020.

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Forgotten Big Red Stars: Ken Gray

Ken Gray was part of the greatest draft class in Green Bay Packers history. The Texas native was taken in the 6th round of the 1958 draft along with future Hall of Famers Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, and Jerry Kramer. The Packers also nabbed future All-Pro linebacker Dan Currie.

Ken Gray was a 6x Pro Bowl guard with the Cardinals from 1958-1969.

Gray and Kramer battled for a roster spot throughout training camp. A coach actually told Kramer that he would probably be traded because they had too many guards. But it ended up being Gray who was among the last cuts just before the start of the season. After his release, Packer head coach Ray “Scooter” McLean told Gray that he “would play somewhere in this league.”

“My heart went to my feet,” Gray said in a 2015 story in the Picayune, but what could I say? Those experiences make you a better person and better player.”

Based on the talent of both Kramer and Gray, the Packers should have kept both players as they would have made quite a tandem at guard over the next several years. The Packers went 1-10-1 in 1958 and McLean was fired and replaced with Vince Lombardi.

Meanwhile, Gray signed with the Chicago Cardinals and played defense his rookie season. He was moved back to guard in 1959, gained 30 pounds and was named to his first Pro Bowl two years later.

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Big Red Legends: Jackie Smith

(Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of a story written by Howard Balzer on August 3, 1994 about Jackie Smith’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame)

MAKING A HALL by Howard Balzer

Canton, Ohio—Friends, fans and family.

On another sun-splashed Saturday in the city where professional football was born, a new class of the game’s greats was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Friends, fans and families came from far and wide to honor them and show their love. Emotions were high as even the most stone-faced among them broke down. No matter what was said beforehand, the new Hall of Famers become overwhelmed by the moment, by the hospitality of the volunteers, by the fans lined deep on the sidewalks waving during the parade Saturday morning.

For Jackie Smith, the weekend was a whirlwind of non-stop action. He seemed to be operating on adrenaline alone, overcome by what is happening, surrounded by friends, fans and family.

Friends: They came from everywhere, including teammates Charley Johnson, Jim Hart, Larry Stallings, Bill Koman, Terry Miller, Steve Jones, Tim Kearney, Kurt Allerman.

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Big Red Draft: All-Time Picks by Round

Most people are aware of the historic struggles the St. Louis Cardinals had when it came to the NFL draft. There were some very good drafts over the years (1979-1983 for example), but more times than not, the Big Red left their fans scratching their heads (“They drafted a girl!”).

I thought it would be fun to go back and rank the all-time Big Red draft picks by round. Many on this list were no-brainers, but there were a few very competitive rounds. I’m sure everyone will agree that some of the greatest names in Cardinals history are on this list, including four Cardiac Cards offensive lineman, and all four Hall of Famers. But I also learned something about the Cards top 16th and 20th round picks, Jimmy Lee Hunt and Tom Day. Both were released by the Cardinals and both went on to become stars in the AFL. Hope you enjoy!


ALL-TIME ST. LOUIS CARDINAL DRAFT PICKS BY ROUND

ROUND 1 – ROGER WEHRLI (1969)

Wehrli was a consensus All-American at Missouri when the Cards selected him with the 19th pick in the draft. He went on to a 14 year career in St. Louis that included 3 All-Pro and 7 Pro Bowl selections. He had 40 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries and was the longtime holder for Big Red kickers. He returned a fake FG for a TD in his final NFL game in 1982. Roger Staubach called him the best cornerback he ever played against. Wehrli was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.

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Forgotten Big Red Star: Dale Meinert

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.

Dale Meinert played 10 seasons with the Cards

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.

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Remembering the Big Red’s trip to Japan in 1976

The St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers became the first teams to play an NFL game outside of North America on August 16, 1976.

The game was called the Mainichi Star Bowl and was sponsored by the Mainichi Daily News, an English-language newspaper in Tokyo. However, a lettuce farmer from California, Frank Takahashi, was the sole promoter of the game. A self-described “football nut,” Takahashi foot the entire bill for the exhibition contest.

“If we have a sellout, I will break even,” Takahashi told Doug Grow of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1976 interview.

Unfortunately, the game was not a sellout and Takahashi reportedly lost tens of thousands of dollars to bring the NFL to Japan.

Regarding the game, Jim Hart’s 60 yard touchdown pass to Ike Harris helped give the Cardinals a 20-10 victory. It was the Cards second victory of the preseason.

The Cards and Chargers played the first NFL game outside of North America in 1976.
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Big Red Tragedy: J.V. Cain

Desperate for defensive line help in the 1974 NFL draft, Big Red personnel director George Boone shocked everyone when he selected tight end James Victor Cain with the 7th overall pick in the draft.

“We didn’t feel we could pass up a guy like that,” Boone told the St. Louis Post Dispatch after the Cardinals picked the Colorado All-American.

The Big Red already had a pretty good tight end in future Hall of Famer Jackie Smith, so they worked Cain out at both tight end and wide receiver during his first training camp. And it didn’t take long for the tall, rangy Houston native to make an impression with his new teammates in St. Louis.

J.V. Cain caught 76 passes for 1014 yards and 9 touchdowns in four seasons with the Cardinals.

“You seldom see a wide receiver hit people all over the field the way J.V. does,” reserve quarterback Bill Bynum said. “He’s so big and strong that he can get down into the pattern quickly and doesn’t have to worry about having trouble releasing from the linebacker.”

“Cain is just super,” head coach Don Coryell said. “He catches everything. That’s what I like about him. He’s a tremendous athlete.”

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Remembering the ’66 season with 66 days till the Cardinals’ season opener

We are one day closer to the start of the 2020 NFL season. As of today, Thursday, there are 66 days until the Arizona Cardinals are supposed to open …

Remembering the ’66 season with 66 days till the Cardinals’ season opener
The 1966 St. Louis Football Cardinals

Remembering the ’65 season with 65 days till the Cardinals’ season opener

We have moved one day closer to the start of the 2020 Arizona Cardinals season. As of Friday, there are 65 days until their scheduled season opener …

Remembering the ’65 season with 65 days till the Cardinals’ season opener
1965 St. Louis Football Cardinals

Remembering the ’64 season with 64 days till the Cardinals’ season opener

We have made it another day closer to the start of the 2020 NFL season. The Arizona Cardinals are scheduled to make their 2020 regular season debut …

Remembering the ’64 season with 64 days till the Cardinals’ season opener

Pete Retzlaff matchups vs. Cardinals were NFL classics

RetroSimba

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.”

Retzlaff had multiple impressive…

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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.

1974: Revisiting one of the Great Games in Big Red History

The Cardinals and QB Jim Hart had not beaten the Cowboys since 1970.

The 1974 St. Louis Football Cardinals were off to their best start in eight years. They had won their first four games of the season, however many “experts” still had their doubts. And who could blame them? The Big Red were coming off three straight 4-9-1 seasons and three of their early victories were against less than top-tier opponents. To add insult to injury, Dallas was coming to town and, despite a 1-3 record, the Cowboys were favored by three points over the Cards.

“I love it,” quarterback Jim Hart told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “I like going into a game as the underdog. I don’t think that the Cowboys, with their history of success, really take us seriously, even if it’s possible that a 1-3 team would be complacent.”

One reason the Big Red were underdogs was that they hadn’t beaten Dallas since their 38-0 win on Monday Night Football in 1970. They had lost six in a row to the Cowboys by an average score of 30-11. And the Cowboys certainly didn’t feel like they were playing poorly in 1974. They had lost three straight games for the first time in ten years, however two of their losses were on last-minute field goals-one of which they believed wasn’t good. But, head coach Tom Landry knew that another loss would probably keep them from making their ninth straight post-season appearance.

“We’ve got to beat the Cardinals,” Landry said. “We’re surely not out of the race yet.”

So the stage was set for a mid-October showdown on a warm sunny day at sold out Busch Stadium. The 4-0 Cardinals vs. the 1-3 Cowboys.

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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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Big Red Alumni Gather in Des Peres

Gallery

This gallery contains 13 photos.

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

Where Are They Now: Tom Banks (Part 2)

11-6-77 Tom Banks at Minny

Part 2 of my interview with former All-Pro center Tom Banks. We discuss the Cardiac Cards and his teammates. Yes, there will be a Part 3, as we spent another 25 minutes on the phone again on Friday!

Where Are They Now? Tom Banks (Part 1)

Where Are They Now: Tom Banks (Conclusion)

Q: Let’s talk about the Cardiac Cards and the offensive line. You guys set an NFL record by allowing only 8 QB sacks in 1975 and you also blocked for the NFC’s leading rusher that season, Jim Otis.

Banks: It was a great offensive team. We had great receivers, Metcalf and Otis in the backfield, plus Steve Jones was the third back who came in on short yardage situation that gave us some real power. The main thing was Jim Hanifan put this group together. It was my sixth year, Dan’s fifth, Conrad’s fourth, Bob Young had been around awhile, and Jim developed Roger Finnie to take Ernie’s (McMillan) place and it was just a really good offensive line. We started running the ball consistently up the middle and we had outside ability so it really opened up the passing game so much because they had to play the run first. When you have to play the run, you can’t pin your ears back and rush the passer. The main thing is we worked to get that running game better every day. You know, people talk about wanting to emphasize running the ball effectively, but it comes down to one thing. You’ve got to get down and dirty every day. And it’s hitting, and now I don’t think they put pads on during the week, but that’s the only way to do it.

Q: Talk about some of your fellow offensive lineman. You mentioned Bob Young earlier. How about Conrad Dobler?

Banks: Conrad got cut in training camp in 1972 and we reminded him of it all the time. He was a defensive lineman in college and had no experience playing offensive line. He had no technique. He tried to do things the way the coaches told him, and he didn’t do very well, so they let him go. We had some injuries and he came back a couple of weeks later. He decided he was going to kick somebody’s ass every day. And that’s what he did! (laughing) Our defensive guys hated him. They hated practicing against him. Conrad’s theory was “I tried it your way and it didn’t work, now I’m going to try it my way.” And he knew one thing. “If I kick this guy’s ass across from me, someone’s going to pat me on the back and say good things about me.” And that’s what he did.

Dobler and Banks

Tom Banks and Conrad Dobler

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BIG RED ALL TIME TEAM ANNOUNCED

Almost 3000 votes cast for Big Red greats.

The St. Louis Football Cardinals called St. Louis home from 1960-1987 and although they didn’t enjoy a lot of success on the field, they definitely had their share of great players and characters. From Hall of Famers Jackie Smith, Larry Wilson, Dan Dierdorf and Roger Wehrli to Jim Hart, Conrad Dobler, Roy Green, and Terry Metcalf.

Facebook and Twitter fans recently had the opportunity to vote for the All-Time Big Red Team. Some may argue that this list should be called the All-Time Favorites Team, but I think the fans did a good job overall. Unfortunately, many players from the 1960s era didn’t get a lot of votes, but I’m guessing it’s because most Facebook and Twitter users are too young to remember the great offensive line of the 60’s like Bob DeMarco, Ken Gray, Irv Goode, and Bob Reynolds. However, Jerry Stovall, Pat Fischer, and Dale Meinert were voted to the team as well as Hall of Famers Jackie Smith and Larry Wilson.

The All-Time team is led by head coach Don Coryell who coached the Big Red from 1973-1977. The team was known as the Cardiac Cardinals as they always had a knack of coming from behind late in games. The Cards had 8 games decided in the final minute of play in 1975 and won seven of them. Coryell led the Big Red to NFC East Titles in 1974 and 1975.

The offense is led by #17, Jimmy Hart who is still the Cardinals all-time passing and TD leader. O.J. Anderson and Terry Metcalf were voted as the top running backs. O.J. is the all-time Cardinal rushing leader and there was no one in the NFL more exciting than Terry Metcalf in the 1970s. The most competitive position was wide receiver. Roy “Jet Stream” Green was the top vote getter, followed by the speedster Mel Gray and sure handed Pat Tilley. Of course the Hall of Famer Jackie Smith was voted the top tight end in a landslide over the late J.V. Cain. The offensive line is dominated by the group who only gave up eight sacks in 1975. Tom Banks was voted as top center, Conrad Dobler and Bob Young are the guards and Dan Dierdorf and Ernie McMillan are your tackles.

While the defense may not have as many big-names as the offense, there are two Hall of Famers in the secondary. The defensive line is represented by three members of the 1980s Cardinals. Al “Bubba” Baker and Curtis Greer who combined for 54 sacks in 1983-1984 are the defensive ends, and David Galloway and Bob Rowe are the defensive tackles. Former number one draft pick E.J. Junior was the top vote-getter at linebacker, followed by Larry Stallings, and a tie between Dale Meinert and Mark Arneson. Hall of Famer Roger Wehrli and Pat Fischer are the cornerbacks and Hall of Famer Larry Wilson and Jerry Stovall were the top vote-getters at safety.

The Cardinals all-time leading scorer, Jim Bakken was voted to the team as the kicker and Carl Birdsong the punter. Terry Metcalf edged Stump Mitchell as the all-time kick/punt returner. Metcalf set numerous NFL records returning kicks in 1975.

Congratulations to the All-Time Big Red Team members!

ALL-TIME TEAM3