Forgotten Big Red Stars: Mal Hammack

By Bob Underwood

Many remember hard hitting Big Red special teamers like “Dr. Doom” John Barefield and Ron Wolfley, but a long forgotten “wedge-buster” from the 1960s was Mal Hammack.

Malcolm “Mal” Hammack started his career with the Chicago Cardinals in 1955. The Roscoe, Texas native played college ball at the University of Florida where he was second team all-SEC fullback. Chicago drafted him in the third round and wanted him to play linebacker, however, his weight of 200 pounds was on the light side, even in 1955.

Hammack was used sparingly at linebacker his rookie season and was soon moved to full back where he would play most of his career. But he earned his mark on special teams. Hammack was a fierce competitor, loved contact, and was known for his body-jolting blocking and tackling. He was the lead Kamikaze and captain of the special teams.

“I like to go down on punts with a chance to kill the ball close in or maybe jolt the ball out of a receiver’s hands,” Hammack told Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a 1966 interview, “but I believe the most satisfaction is in peeling back to help block for a punt return, hopeful that it might go all the way. The most satisfaction, that is, next to winning.”

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SI VAULT: HE DON’T GET NO RESPECT FROM HIS CARDINALS

(Excerpt from February 20, 1978 Edition of Sports Illustrated)

HIS PLAYERS HAVE LITTLE USE FOR ST. LOUIS OWNER BILL BIDWILL, AND THE TEAM IS DISINTEGRATING. COACH DON CORYELL AND ALL-PRO GUARD CONRAD DOBLER ARE GONE. TERRY METCALF MAY BE THE NEXT DEFECTOR.

Written by Joe Marshall

Above the hallway leading to the offices of the St. Louis Cardinals’ coaches in Busch Memorial Stadium there is a new ceiling. A leak caused the old ceiling to collapse back on Dec. 10. For St. Louis, more than the roof fell in that day. The Cardinals were springing leaks all over the place. On the heels of a 26-20 loss to Washington that ended his team’s playoff hopes, St. Louis Coach Don Coryell leveled a verbal blast at local fans and the Cardinal management. “I’m not staying in a place I’m not wanted,” Coryell raged. “I’d like to be fired. Let me have a high school job.”

Last Friday, two months to the day from Coryell’s outburst, the Cardinals patched up one of their leaks by announcing that through a “mutual agreement” between Coryell and and team owner Bill Bidwill, Coryell would no longer be the coach. Unfortunately, Bidwill’s patchwork wasn’t as neat as the handiwork on the ceiling. For the last two months the Cardinals, who under Coryell had been one of the NFL’s most successful and exciting teams, have been in turmoil, and the once dazzling Cardiac Cards were being called the Chaotic Cards.

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SI VAULT: TWO FLAGS FOR THE CARDINALS?

(Excerpt from the November 09, 1964 Edition of Sports Illustrated)

Written by Edwin Shrake

PENNANTS HAVE NOT RECENTLY FLOWN OVER THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS. THIS YEAR THE BASEBALL CARDINALS BROUGHT ONE HOME, AND THE FOOTBALL CARDINALS MAY BRING ANOTHER FROM THE SCRAMBLE OF THE NFL EASTERN DIVISION.

John David Crow

In St. Louis last week a bunch of guys with sledgehammers were knocking down an old burlesque house to clear ground for a new stadium, which means that by the spring of 1966 night baseball and Sunday afternoon football will have replaced sex in at least one area of the leafy and pleasant town on the banks of the Mississippi River. For the citizens of St. Louis, who sat 18 years in the gloom of Busch Stadium waiting for their baseball Cardinals to win another World Series, the new stadium is a merit badge for patience. A further reward may be granted to St. Louis fans before the first graffito is scratched into the concrete of the new stadium. The football Cardinals leaped off to a flourishing 3-0-1 record in the NFL’s Eastern Division.

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Forgotten Big Red Stars: Luke Owens

Posted by Bob Underwood

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.

Luke Owens led the Cardinals in sacks from 1960-1964.

“It’s like Christmas for me,” Owens said in the locker room as his teammates presented him the game ball.

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Big Red Legends: Jim Bakken

By Dennis Dillon

January 30, 2022

The record has stood the test of time. And it might just stand for the rest of time.

When Jim Bakken retired from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979, after 17 seasons in the NFL, he was the franchise’s all-time scoring leader with 1,380 points.

Forty-four years later, that hasn’t changed. Bakken still holds that record—and he may never let go of it. Of the 49 players below him on the team scoring list, most are retired or playing for another team. The only exceptions are 37-year-old kicker Matt Prater (42nd with 137 points) and quarterback Kyler Murray (tied for 47th with 120 points).

“I guess I didn’t really think about that,” Bakken says when asked if he ever imagined his record would last this long. Actually, he takes more pride in a single-game NFL record he set.

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The day Jim Brown got into a fight with the Cardinals

Jim Brown played the last regular season game of his career at Old Sportsman’s Park (Busch I) and was ejected from the game for fighting with Joe Robb. Mark Tomasik breaks it down with an excellent story below. Interesting to see Robb talk about the mutual lack of respect between the players and Big Red management even in 1965. That was a common theme throughout their stay in St. Louis.

RetroSimba

In the last regular-season game he played in the NFL, running back Jim Brown was ejected for fighting with a St. Louis Cardinals defensive lineman.

The incident occurred on Dec. 19, 1965, in the regular-season finale between the Cardinals and Cleveland Browns at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Just before halftime, Brown and Cardinals defensive end Joe Robb hit and kicked one another. The referee tossed both from the game. Brown still finished as the NFL rushing leader for the eighth time in nine seasons.

Despite a stellar performance by Cardinals safety Larry Wilson, who intercepted three passes and returned one 96 yards for a touchdown, the Browns won, 27-24, and advanced to the NFL championship game against the Green Bay Packers. Video

Brown, 29, played in the title game, won by the Packers, and then retired from football, launching an acting career with a role in the film…

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Big Red Tough Guy: Pat Fischer

Posted by Bob Underwood

Pat Fischer was a jack of all trades in college while playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He started at quarterback and defensive back his senior season and was a fabulous kick returner. The Omaha native still holds the Cornhusker record with a career average of 18.3 yards per punt return. He was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1974.

The diminutive Fischer stood just 5 foot-9 inches and was deemed by many to be too small to play in the pros, however the St. Louis Football Cardinals drafted him in the 17th round of the 1961 NFL draft.

Pat Fischer played seven seasons in St. Louis and ten in Washington.

“I was selected in the 17th round of the draft, so whenever anyone would ask I could say that I was drafted. I didn’t have to say the round, just saying that I was drafted by an NFL team was enough to impress people,” Pat told the Washington Times in a 2008 interview. 

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Big Red Alumni Hold Annual Christmas Party in St. Louis

Gallery

This gallery contains 22 photos.

Several St. Louis Football Cardinals alumni met for their annual Christmas Party on Sunday, December 19 at Circa Pub & Grill in Des Peres, MO. Circa is owned by former quarterback Jamie Martin who played 16 seasons in the NFL, … Continue reading

MacArthur Lane: From Penthouse to Doghouse

By Bob Underwood

MacArthur Lane was the Cardinals top draft pick in 1968 out of Utah State. The 6-foot 1-inch, 200 pound running back played sparingly his first two seasons in St. Louis, although he did lead the team in kick off returns in 1969.

Lane had his breakout season in 1970 when he scored 13 touchdowns and gained 1342 all-purpose yards out of the Big Red backfield. He scored 4 touchdowns against the Eagles in an October game at Busch Stadium and scored 3 touchdowns against the Boston Patriots in November.

Despite a Pro Bowl season, Lane was not satisfied. He told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he was bitter at the end of the 1970 season because, “We just stopped running the ball,” thereby diminishing his chances of gaining 1000 yards, he believed. Additionally, after a 7-2 start, the Cards lost their last three games of the season and missed the playoffs.

MacArthur Lane was the Cards first round draft choice in 1968

Lane became further dissatisfied after the Cardinals failed to sign him after his Pro Bowl season. He became surly with the press and it affected his play on the field. He rushed for only 592 yards and three touchdowns under new head coach Bob Hollway.

“I should have been signed in January of 1971,” Lane told Jeff Meyers in a 1972 interview. I got like that because I was under a lot of pressure because I hadn’t signed. There there was a lot of pressure because we weren’t winning. The pressures were there, all right, both internal and external.”

At 29 years of age, Lane took a pay cut in 1971 and was playing for 90% of his 1969 salary which was based on two unproductive years.

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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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Big Red Flashback: Vai Sikahema Returns Two Punts for TDs in 1986 Game

Posted by Bob Underwood

“Thank goodness for little return people,” Big Red head coach Gene Stallings said after the Cardinals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-17 to close out the 1986 season.

The “little return people” Stallings was referring to was 5 foot 8 inch Vai Sikahema who had just become the fifth player in NFL history to return two punts for TDs in one game.

The Cardinals and Buccaneers were arguably the two worst teams in the NFL in 1986 and they certainly lived up to that billing on this cold Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. The teams combined for 15 punts, 6 turnovers, and 500 total yards.

Vai Sikahema returning a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. He would return another 60 yards for a TD minutes later.

The Cardinals struggled on offense, turning the ball over three times and missing three easy field goals. They converted on only one of 10 third down plays and entered Tampa territory nine times, coming away with only one offensive touchdown.

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Cardinal Great Larry Wilson Passes Away at 82

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for St. Louis sports fans. We lost baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock on September 6 and on Friday we learned of the passing of former Big Red great Larry Wilson.

Wilson played college ball at the University of Utah and was the Chicago Cardinals 7th round draft choice in the 1960 NFL draft. He went on to a 13 year Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

The Rigby, Idaho native played in 8 Pro Bowls and was named first team All-Pro five times. He was selected to the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, the 75th Anniversary Team, and the NFL 100 All-Time Team. Wilson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1966 and is the all-time Cardinals leader in interceptions with 52. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

Wilson was a member of the Cardinals organization as a player, coach, and executive for over 40 years. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill had this to say about Wilson.

“Besides my father, Larry Wilson was the most influential male figure in my life. He was someone who truly lived his faith and demonstrated it daily in the kindness he showed every single person he met. Any of us lucky enough to be in his orbit – whether that was for a few minutes or four decades – was always better off from the experience. I will remember Larry Wilson first as a fantastic person but then obviously as one of the greatest players the National Football League has ever seen. It’s fitting that his passing coincides with the league’s 100th birthday because his toughness and the way he revolutionized his position make him one of our game’s most unforgettable figures. Whether on the field playing with casts on both hands or brightening the lives of every person he knew, Larry’s selflessness defined who he was and how we will all remember him.”

Larry Wilson is survived by Nancy, his wife of 40 years, as well as daughter Christie, son Larry Jr., numerous grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Joe Bostic Remembers Humorous Encounter With Woody Hayes

By Dennis Dillon

9/12/2020

Even though he was playing in the game, Joe Bostic missed the infamous Woody Hayes punch in the 1978 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., that led to the firing of the iconic Ohio State coach.

Bostic, a Clemson guard, was on the sideline with the rest of the Tigers’ offense when late in the game Clemson defensive lineman Charlie Bauman intercepted a pass by Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter, essentially sealing a 17-15 Clemson victory.

After Bauman ran out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline, an enraged Hayes came up, grabbed the back of Bauman’s jersey and punched Bauman just below the neck. Penalty flags went flying as Bostic and the Clemson ran on to the field, but Bostic didn’t know what the flags were about.

When the game ended, after midnight, Bostic sprinted off the field to the locker room, where he quickly showered, dressed and departed the stadium before all of his teammates had even left the field. He had a 9 a.m. flight the next morning to Honolulu, where he would start in the Hula Bowl, and he wanted to get back to his hotel room.

Former Big Red Lineman Joe Bostic was a member of the 1979 Clemson Tiger team that defeated Woody Hayes’ Ohio State Buckeyes 17-15.

At 6 a.m. the next morning, the phone rang in Bostic’s room. It was his mother.

“Woody Hayes got fired,” she said.

“Really? Wow,” said Bostic

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Johnny Roland: All He Does Is Win Football Games

(Editor’s Note: This story was authored by former St. Louis Globe Democrat sports writer Rich Koster and was originally published in Sport Magazine in July 1967)

To appreciate Johnny Roland’s talent, you must be aware of his shortcomings. In a game dominated by specialists, he has no specialty. He’s not as fast as Gale Sayers, as quick as Leroy Kelly, or as powerful as Ken Willard. He’s never run a 10 second 100 and when he throws a football it frequently wobbles or floats. On the longest run of his rookie year, a mere 50 yards from scrimmage, he was hauled down from behind in the open field. He tabulated over 80 yards rushing in only one game and he average an unspectacular 3.6 yards per carry over the season.

So how did the 6-2, 215-pound Roland emerge as the NFL’s Rookie of the Year? And what made him worth a $300,000 bonus contract to the St. Louis Cardinals?

Simple. He wins football games. He wins them the way Frank Gifford used to. And Paul Hornung. With the relentlessness of that 3.6 yard average and the lighting of the big play. He succeeds with versatility. He wins with his head . . . and heart.

A confirmed non-specialist in a world of specialists, Johnny Roland has his shortcomings on the football field. He doesn’t move too fast, he can’t run over people and he throws a wobbly option pass

“Some guys in this league play three or four games a season,” suggest Abe Stuber, who excavates college material for St. Louis. “Roland has shown he plays them all. He gives 100 percent all the time.. That puts him in a different category from the others.”

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How the Big Red Helmet Cart Almost Took Out Lou Brock

By Lori Greenstein

Long, long ago in a place called the Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium, a couple of minor miracles occurred.

Bill Bidwill bought the nifty Golf Cart shaped like a football helmet, featuring a giant Cardinal bird head decal. He strolled into our PR office, smiled and asked if I’d like to drive the new golf cart. “Heck yes!”, I said. I didn’t bother to tell him I’d never driven one before!

Bill Bidwill and family with the Big Red Helmet Cart (circa 1987)

It was parked outside the double doors separating the football and baseball offices in the stadium. He showed me how to start it, where the brake and the go pedal was. He told me to have fun.

I was terrified. What if I wrecked it? He went back into the offices and I turned the key. Off I went, at a snail’s pace to begin. Down the main concourse I went, wearing a huge smile, I am sure.

The longer I drove it, the more confidence I gained and the faster I went. That was a big stadium, with a whole lot of concrete concourses, which took me up to the top of the stadium, around it and then back down. I grew braver with each passing moment.

By the time I was coming down the last ramp, it was floored! And just as I came into view of the parking place across from the baseball home plate netting, the door opened and a young man walked into my path. I screamed “Woman at the wheel”, he turned his head, saw me and set a new land speed record to safety on the other side of the concourse, behind the net.

That was a historic moment. To this day, I maintain that the Cardinal golf cart and I scared the SPEED into LOU BROCK. It might have been about the time he started stealing bases and setting records. ‘Nuff said.

(Editor’s Note: Lori Greenstein served as the Football Cardinals Assistant Public Relations Director from 1965-1971)

Where are they Now? Former Big Red Lineman Joe Bostic

By Dennis Dillon

9/5/2020

It was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2014, but Joe Bostic wasn’t exactly feeling the holiday spirit. He lay in a hospital bed at his home in Greensboro, N.C., unable to straighten out his legs, both of which were in braces. Double quadriceps surgery had made the former St. Louis Cardinals offensive lineman a prisoner in his own house.

While carrying a bag up some stairs, Bostic had slipped and his right quadriceps muscle had detached from the knee. When he shifted his weight to his left knee, that quadriceps also tore.

After surgery, Bostic was confined to bed for eight weeks.

“It was unbelievable,” says Bostic, who played for the Big Red from 1979-1988. “I was like, I don’t know if I can do this. I finally said, ‘God, you get me out of this bed, I’m going to keep moving. I’m not going to sit around on my rear end. I’m going to get going.

“He got me out of that bed, so I’ve been trying to keep my word.”

Joe Bostic played in 132 games in 9 seasons with the Cardinals.
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Has the Pro Football Hall of Fame Forgotten about Don Coryell?

“Coryell was an innovator, but he was more than that. He was a coach who turned around the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers and made both into offensive juggernauts—not just good, but record-setting offensive teams.” – John Turney

NFL Historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal writes about how the chances of former Big Red head coach Don Coryell making the Pro Football Hall of Fame appear to be slipping.

Read Turney’s full story at SI.com here.

History of the Cards/Chiefs Missouri Governor’s Cup Games

Posted by Bob Underwood

The Missouri Governor’s Cup was awarded to the winner of the annual meetings between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.

The first Governor’s Cup game was played two seasons after the NFL/AFL merger agreement in 1966. The contest was played on August 17, 1968 at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City in front of 47,462 fans. The Chiefs held on for a 13-10 victory.

The Chiefs pretty much dominated the Governor’s Cup series with a preseason record of 13-6-1. The Chiefs held 3-1-1 regular season advantage over the Big Red as well.

Here is a summary of the 20 preseason Missouri Governor’s Cup games played between the Chiefs and Cardinals.

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