The Rise of Charley Johnson

(Editor’s note: This story is a reprint from the January 1966 issue of Sport Magazine and was written by John Devaney.)

In sports, some success stories begin with a dream. Here is how one dream of playing professional football came true — at almost impossible odds.

By JOHN DEVANEY

The quarterback was sitting bare-chested, on the edge of the rubbing table. He was holding a white towel to his face, and a large crimson stain was slowly spreading over the towel because blood was pouring from a gash in his chin. The quarterback didn’t seem to notice the blood. He was staring at the floor with the rapt concentration of someone watching scenes from his life flash, one by one, on a movie screen.

This was Charley Johnson, St. Louis Cardinal quarterback, in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium one afternoon late this October. Minutes before he had run off the field, plunging almost blindly through the swirling crowd, after New York had beaten St. Louis 14-10. Twice in the game’s closing minutes Johnson had brought the Cardinals inside the Giant 25, and twice he had failed to get the touchdown that would have won.

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The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals (30-21)

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: 30-21

30. PAT FISCHER (CB)

Pat Fischer played 17 seasons in the NFL, 7 with the Cardinals.

Pat Fischer was the Cards 17th round draft pick in 1961 out of Nebraska. The 5’9″ cornerback was given little chance to make the team, however he impressed coaches with his desire and played special teams for a couple of years before getting his chance to start full time. In 1963, Fisher had 8 interceptions and then followed that up with his best season of his career in ’64 when he picked off 10 passes and scored three TDs He was named to the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors in ’64. He left the Big Red over a salary dispute in 1967 and signed with Redskins where he played 11 more seasons. Fischer finished his seven year St. Louis career with 29 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries and 4 touchdowns.

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Why Cardinals preferred John David Crow over Jim Brown

Excellent recount of how the Big Red reportedly turned down an offer of Jim Brown for John David Crow. In hindsight, the Cards should have made this trade, but Crow would have been a Hall of Famer himself if not for injuries in 1961 and 1963.

RetroSimba

The NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals may have rejected a chance to acquire running back Jim Brown.

On Feb. 4, 1961, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported the Cleveland Browns twice offered to trade Brown to the Cardinals for running back John David Crow, but were turned down.

The Cardinals confirmed the story and the Browns denied it.

In retrospect, the Cardinals should have done the deal if given the chance, but at the time the decision wasn’t so obvious.

First-round picks

The potential blockbuster featured two of pro football’s premier players.

Brown, who played college football at Syracuse, was selected by the Browns in the first round of the 1957 draft and went on to lead the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons.

Crow, the 1957 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the first round of the 1958 draft. He was…

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