I Should Have Taken Up Golf

Yes, I played a bit of football in my time.  I am reminded every morning when I roll out of bed.  My joints, ligaments and tendons serenade the early light with “Snap, crackle and pop.”  I did enjoy the game of football, but I had no idea that my body would pay for the pleasure for the rest of my life.  I should have taken up golf.  Then the worst thing that could have happened to me was hitting my ball out of bounds.  Golf is a game where a “late hit” means a slice, not a separated shoulder.  The game is played at a walk, and no one ever sweats.  A “bad lie” is a ball buried in the sand, not a pile up at the goal line against Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears.  A “career-ending play” is scoring a 6 on a par 3.  The most terrifying thing a golfer ever sees is a twenty-foot downhill putt.  You never hear words like blitz, cover two, or spearing.  The word “rough” refers to tall grass, not J.J. Watt.   You don’t have to stand in a pocket, nor do you need a cut man on the sideline.  Canes and wheelchairs are off limits on the golf course, because most likely you will never need a knee operation.  You don’t have to block anybody while playing a round, and you get to keep your teeth.  Missing the “cut” in golf refers to their score when it is not in the low 60’s, not stitches.

You never see a golfer with a mark on him.  His nose isn’t bleeding, his eyes are clear, and you can understand him when he speaks.  Golfers don’t need crutches, and no one has ever seen Tiger Woods carried off the golf course on a stretcher.  I could have traded a torn meniscus and sprained ankles for playing golf until I’m 60.  The playing surface in golf is soft and beautiful, and the holes are guarded by trees that you can hit over or sand traps that you can go around; the holes are not guarded by guys named Mike Singleterry or Lawrence Taylor.  The toughest part of a round of golf may be taking off one of your shoes to play your ball out of a water hazard.   These guys make millions of dollars without bruising a rib or sustaining a concussion, and it’s hard to fracture your thumb on a six iron.  Heck, there’s no heavy breathing, no heavy lifting; and a guy carries their clubs for them.  They can make 1.2 million on a weekend, and they don’t have to knock down linebacker Ray Lewis.  I’ve never seen a disabled list in professional golf.

Playing golf is like finding money.  Jordan Spieth is never going to be able to tell if it’s going to rain by the feeling he gets in his knees, yet Tony Romo gets headaches for a living.  These guys go through life with a sun tan, wearing the best fashioned clothes, laid out for them by style coordinators.  When they finish a tournament, they don’t have to soak in a tub of ice or inflate a collapsed lung or get their blood to clot.  Yet, people are in awe of them because they once shot a 66 at The Masters.

The parent, who buys their child a football, a pair of shoulder pads or a helmet should have to see a psychiatrist.  Golfers are the luckiest guys in sports.  I should have taken up golf.




Andy Purvis



By 1967, Mickey Mantle was the only reason left to go to a Yankee game.  He had fulfilled his promise to his wife, Merlyn, and hit his 500th home run on Mother’s Day.  After the game, Mantle took the time to thank the Yankees winning pitcher that day, Dooly Womack, for allowing him a chance to celebrate.  By now, Mantle had also conceded to himself and his close friends that he would never be able to catch Willie Mays statistically.

In 1968, Mantle felt lost.  He could no longer hit or run like he used to.  His body was breaking down.  “Who are these guys?”  Mantle was quoted as saying, after looking around at his new teammates.  Tony Kubek and Phil Linz had left the team by 1965; Roger Maris and Bobby Richardson were gone by 1966.  Elston Howard was traded in the middle of 1967; Yogi Berra was gone; and Whitey Ford was now the pitching coach for the Bombers.  On May 30, 1968, Mantle was his old self again.  He went 5-for-5 for the third time in his career with two home runs, a double, two singles and five RBI’s, and scored three runs.  Washington Senators’ first baseman Frank Howard said, “I’ve never seen five balls hit so hard.”  It was Mickey’s finest game since his Triple Crown season of 1956.  On June 29th, Mantle hit his 529th home run.  On July 27th of that season, he fell below the .300 lifetime batting average.  He went 0 for 12 in three straight games and knew he would never be able to return to .300.  He was ashamed and said he was going to quit.  Five days later, he was thrown out of a game for cursing an umpire; it was the seventh time in 18 years.  Six weeks later, on August 10th, he hit his 530th and 531st against the Minnesota Twins.  On August 22nd, he tied Jimmy Foxx for third place of all time, with home run number 534.

On September 17th, the Tigers beat the Yankees in Detroit and clinched the 1968 American League pennant.  The following day was a rainout.  So, on the afternoon of September 19, 1968, Denny McLain was scheduled to pitch.  McLain had already posted 30 wins, becoming the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean to accomplish that feat.  When Mantle came to the plate in the eighth inning, the fans gave him a standing ovation.  Even the Tiger players stood on the top step of the dugout andapplauded.  Everyone was a Mantle fan.  Mantle was McLain’s hero, the reason he had become a switch-hitter when he was in high school.

No one knew what McLain was about to do.  Denny called “time” and called his catcher Jim Price out to the mound.  McLain said, “Listen, he only needs one more home run to beat Foxx.  Let’s give him a shot at it.  You just go behind home plate, put your glove up, and let me see if I can hit it.”  Price understood; Mickey was his hero, too.  Price returned and got down in his crouch and gave Mickey a look.  McLain threw him a batting practice fastball.  “It was like 50 mph with an arc on it,” said McLain.  “And the dummy takes it for a strike.”  Mantle now looks down at Price and says, “What was that?”  Price responded, “I don’t know.”  Mantle says, “Is he gonna’ do it again?”  Price said, “I don’t know.”  Price now gets up and calls time again, and starts towards the mound and McLain yells for all to hear, “Just tell him to be ready.”  McLain continues, “I throw the next pitch and Mantle fouls it off and I’m thinking, oh man, now I’ve got him 0 and 2.  I’m tired of messing around; I’m just going to strike him out.”

McLain is now beside himself and he yells, “Where the hell do you want it?”  Mantle points with his bat.  “I throw one more pitch and he hits a line drive into the right field stands for home run number 535.  We all had tears in our eyes, because Mickey represented baseball in the fifties and sixties,” said Denny.  As Mick goes by first base, Norm Cash hits him on the rear with his glove.  “Nice going” and “Congratulations” are heard as he passes second and short.  As Mickey gets to third, he starts yelling “Thank you” to McLain.  “Thank you, thank you, I owe you one,” screams Mantle.  McLain says, “Mickey that’s enough.”  McLain is thinking he is going to hear from the commissioner if Mantle keeps this up.

As Mantle steps on home plate the crowd erupts and they are now standing again.  Joe Pepitone shakes his hand.  The Tigers are up again and the fans will not stop cheering; so Mickey comes out of the dugout for a curtain call and decides to head towards the mound.  “I almost wet my pants as he started toward me.  I just did not want him to get to the mound,” says McLain.  Mickey finally sat back down.  But that’s not the end of the story.

Joe Pepitone steps into the batter’s box and motions where he wants his pitch, then McLain throws a 90 mph fastball right at his head and down goes Pepitone out of the way.  “When I got up,” said Pepitone, “I looked over in the dugout and Mantle has got both of his hands over his mouth laughing his butt off.”

McLain was right and he did receive a letter from the commissioner that said he was taking the integrity of the game in his own hands.  McLain denied he intentionally threw a gofer ball to Mantle.  Famous baseball writer Red Smith had the last word when he wrote, “When a guy has bought 534 drinks in the same saloon, he entitled to one on the house.”  After the game, Mantle autographed the home run ball for McLain.  He wrote, “Denny, thanks for one of the great moments in my entire career, Mickey.”  In 1978, a fire took McLain’s home along with the baseball.  Mickey signed another ball for him.  “Until the day he died, he kept thanking me,” said McLain.

Mantle hit an uneventful home run number 536 the next day at Yankee Stadium off of Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox.  He played his last game five days later onSeptember 25, 1968, and recorded one single off Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians.  I still miss Mickey.





Andy Purvis



CBS football announcer, Tom Brookshire is remembered for one of the most-famous Super-Bowl interviews.  The 1972 Super Bowl ended with a 24-3 win by the Dallas Cowboys over the Miami Dolphins.  Tom Brookshire proceeded to interview star running back, Duane Thomas, of the Cowboys.  Thomas had not spoken to the media the entire week leading up to the big game; yet based on his performance, he was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player.  Brookshire spent several minutes praising Thomas about his performance during the game and marveling at Duane’s speed and quickness.  Finally, Brookshire asked Thomas his first question, “Are you that fast?”  Thomas answered, “Evidently.”  Dead air followed as Brookshire stood stunned by the one-word answer.  It may have been the shortest interview ever seen or heard on sports television.




Andy Purvis


There Was Magic in His Voice

“He’s sitting on 714.”  Most baseball fans believe it’s one of the top five calls of all-time.  These two guys are forever joined in baseball lore by less than forty words, spoken into microphone one early evening on April 8, 1974, by Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton, forty-one years ago.  It was the first game of the new season.  The Atlanta Braves were at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Here’s how the call sounded as Henry Aaron settled into the batter’s box.

“He’s sitting on 714!  Here’s the pitch by Downing, swinging, there’s a drive into left centerfield, that ball is gonna beee…OUTTA HERE!  IT’S GONE!  IT’S 715!  There’s a new home run champion of all-time and it’s HENRY AARON!”

It was “pure” Milo Hamilton.  For some of us, baseball is life.  I still wonder about the places he’s been, the players he’s interviewed and the scores of fans he’s entertained.  For most of us, he’s Uncle Milo.  He was family; he came into our homes 162 times a year, until these last couple of years.  I even listened to his call when I was at the Astros game.  He always stirred my imagination.  One of the secrets of baseball is that you play almost every day.  Therefore redemption was only hours away. Miloused the game to help people discover themselves.  They could use those discoveries to confront anything in their life.  Baseball is a teacher; it reveals your heart and soul and the game is designed to reveal it to you.

There will never be another like him as far as I’m concerned; I love the old man.  As he got older, he began to look tired, frail, and almost sickly until he found his way into the announcer booth or onto the field of play.  It was like flipping a switch.  A microphone made his eyes light up like lanterns.  The game simply turned him on. Milocould sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and make you laugh.  He walked every day into his radio booth intoxicated by the promise of that day’s game.  He didn’t like being surprised; he studied and saved his information in a satchel that may have been as old as him.  He loved baseball so much; even his computer wore batting gloves.  No one wanted to talk to Milo Hamilton about another announcer or player; they wanted to talk about Milo Hamilton.  The longer an announcer stays with the same team the more the fans identify with that team.  Fathers, sons, and sons of sons, we all become a part of his history.

His educated eyes could fill books with the magic of the grand old game.  Most of us know about his calls of eleven no-hitters, the grand slams, and historic home runs.  For sixty-seven years, he opened his scorecard and charted baseball history.  He taught us how to figure batting averages, told us how players got their nicknames and why.  He described routine double-plays, the importance of a bunt single, why stealing third increases the chances of scoring by nine, and the reason so many players strike out looking.  He taught us about Uncle Charlie, twin killings, chin music, and frozen ropes.  Seeing-Eye singles, right down Kirby and “Holy Toledo, what a play!” became his signature calls.  Every play reminded him of days gone by, when only the player, the city, and the circumstances were different.  I would love to see through his eyes, if only for a moment.  Listening to him call a game made me feel like a hundred dollar bill in a two dollar wallet.  Writer Phil Hirsh once wrote, “Baseball is the only game you can see on the radio.” Milomade it easy for all of us.  His canyon deep voice was unmistakable.  He was always “in” the game.  You could never tell by his tone of voice whether his team was behind or ahead.  Everybody wanted to be connected, to be a part of him.  Let’s call that a professional.

Baseball looks so easy to play from your seat.  It is, in fact, the hardest of them all.  The game moves at a pace where a grandfather can talk about what’s happening on the field with his grandson.  They see and experience virtually the same game. Milotaught me how to score a game, what to look for, how to anticipate a great play.  He gave us a history lesson every night and allowed us to dream about what it would be like to play Major League baseball.  All words seemed better to me when spoken by Milo Hamilton.

What you saw was what you got withMilo.  Not many of us find our true place in life; that does not hold true for Milo Hamilton.  I can’t imagine him doing anything else. Milohas been a part of the Dennis & Andy’s Q & A Session radio show for almost twenty years.  Three times every year he joined us on the air, live fromHouston,Texas.  My partner Dennis Quinn always referred to our interviews as “Milounplugged.”  On two different occasions, we took our show on the road toMinuteMaidPark, andMilowas nice enough to join us there, in the booth, talking baseball.  We talked old school baseball; from “Stan the Man” and “Hammerin’ Hank” to “The Ryan Express.”  We covered everything from the disappearance of the hook slide to the tragedy of steroids and everything in between.  There is never a time I did not learn something.  It has been said that the greatest classroom often lies at the feet of the elderly.  How true.

Milowas inducted into the Broadcast Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.  He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2000.  He has been an announcer for 67 years.  His first job in Major League baseball started in 1953, with the St. Louis Browns.  He has also announced for six other Major League clubs.

There were several times when Milo visitedCorpus Christi; the Hooks would set aside a suite forMiloand he always asked us to join him.  The conversation was magic as the years of baseball through his eyes came flooding back.  It was as close to baseball Heaven as I will ever get.  I once told him how much he was loved as I was leaving his company.  I think it may have surprised him.  He didn’t know how to respond, but he smiled.  I’m absolutely sure he knows he’s loved, but does not hear it enough.  We are always moreappreciative of something we had and have now lost.

Milo last visitedCorpus   Christi, January 24, 2014, with the Astros caravan.  I couldn’t wait to see him.  When he walked into the room he was surrounded by the TV guys like Custer at the Little Big Horn.  We sat and laughed and talked about the call.  He and Hank still speak with each other quite often. Milolooked good as he is winning his battle with cancer.  I’ve never met a more giving individual.  There will never be another Milo Hamilton.

Milo Hamilton passed away today at 88 years of age.  The good lord may have kissed this guy right on the forehead.  This is kind of hard for me as this is not the way I wanted to remember him.  For me,Milowill never be gone, he’s still here, and he’ll always here.



Andy Purvis


Red Rooster

This fellow was a fine defensive third baseman with five Gold Gloves to show for his work.  He was a wild, eccentric, fun-loving guy who was also a little bit crazy.  He received the nickname, the “Red Rooster.”  In a sport where players routinely make millions of dollars, this guy would arm-wrestle you for twenty dollars.  He made Nolan Ryan look kinky.  One time when Houston Astros’ teammate, Norm Miller, and his wife paid an unannounced visit to Rader’s house, Doug answered the door completely naked.

Once while being interviewed for television by Jim Bouton, Doug Rader advised all Little League players to eat their bubble gum cards along with the gum.  He said that if they ate the cards and digested the information, they would become better ballplayers.  “Bubble-gum cards are very good for a Little Leaguer’s diet,” said Rader.  Another time, Doug said, “They should only eat the cards of the good ballplayers.  Say you have a kid whose 5-foot-1 inches tall, tell him to eat a Willie McCovey card.  Willie’s 6 foot 4.  The kid may grow.  You never can tell.”  Rader went on during the interview, “Have them eat the bases and home plate, and they’ll play better.”  Doug Rader played for the Houston Astros from 1967-1975.  He recorded his first big league hit in his first at-bat.  He became known for his off-field antics around the world.  Doug would use the Astros’ locker room as a driving range, teeing up a golf ball, while guys were diving for cover in their lockers, behind trunks and under the whirlpool.  His teammates prayed they would not get hit, as golf balls ricocheted around the room.  Astros’ pitcher Larry Dierker, was asked why nobody took Rader’s golf clubs away.  “’Cause they wanted to live,” responded Dierker.




Andy Purvis



Football Coach Gene Stallings tells a wonderful story about his time spent as an assistant coach for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant.  Most of you college football fans will remember that Bryant had a tower built where he would stand and watch his Alabama Crimson Tide practice.  The old saying was that you never wanted to see him come down from that tower during practice, because somebody was going to be dismissed.  Well, on this particular day, it was the very first day of freshman football practice.  Stallings said there were about thirty wide-eyed kids with the coaches standing in the end zone, waiting for the Bear.  Bryant walked out and welcomed the guys to Alabama.  I can hear Stallings now, trying to imitate Bryant’s guttural voice.  Bear said, “I want to welcome all you boys toAlabama.  We’re gonna teach you how to block and tackle and play Alabama football.  Now, to get started, old Bear has placed five footballs down in the other end zone.  Why don’t you boys run on down there and bring old Bear back one of them footballs.” Well, Stallings smiled and said.  “You should have seen these guys take off down the field.  Thirty boys trying to impress the Bear and only five footballs were to be had.”

The year was 1959, and Lee Roy Jordan was one of those boys.  Lee Roy was tougher than a two-dollar steak and had been recruited by Auburn and Alabama, but Auburn withdrew their offer soon afterward. Alabama liked his toughness, so Jordan signed with the Crimson Tide.  On this particular day, “Lee Roy Jordan brought back three of the five footballs” said Stallings.  Needless to say, the Bear was impressed and calmly said to Gene, “Hey, Coach Stallings, I don’t think this young man will have to practice very much.”

During the three years Lee Roy played (1960-1962),Alabama lost only two games, posting a 29-2-2 record.  The Tide defense gave up 25 points in 1961 and 39 points in 1962.  The 1961 team went undefeated and won the National Championship, with Lee Roy Jordan at linebacker. “He was one of the finest players I have ever coached,” said Bear.

Lee Roy Jordan attained All-American status in 1963 and was the MVP of that year’s Orange Bowl.  In 1963,Jordan was drafted with the sixth pick in the first round, by the Dallas Cowboys.  From 1963-1976,Jordan was a member of the “Doomsday Defense.”  His teammates nicknamed him “Killer” and made him captain of the Cowboys’ defense. Jordan recorded 1,236 career tackles in 154 starts.  His Cowboy teams won five conference championships, eight divisional championships, and one Super Bowl. Jordan was the seventh Cowboy to be inducted into the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 1989.

On November 4, 1973,Jordan intercepted Kenny Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals, three times in five minutes, and returned one for a 31-yard touchdown.  He was some kind of player.



Andy Purvis


Just Another Day At the Office


Legendary baseball announcer, Vin Scully, just announced that he will return one more year as the broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It will be his 67th year behind the microphone.  Imagine that.  He started when he was 20 years old and just turned 87.  I worked for the same company for 34 years, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the red-headed tenor’s run.  Scully, a story teller if there ever was one, has seen it all.  In the first week of June, 1989, Scully called 45 innings of baseball in 29 hours.  He worked the NBC’s 10-inning “Game of the Week” in St. Louis on June 3rd, then the Dodgers’ network’s 22-inning game that very same night inHouston, then 13 more innings the next afternoon.  Scully then flew toAtlanta and called an 18-inning game with the Braves on June 5th.  It was just another day at the office for the old redhead.

The 22-inning game, which the Astros won 5-4 on June 3rd at the Astrodome, was full of wonderful, wacky events.  Here are a few.  Forty-four players were used during the 22 innings, but not one of them got more than three hits.  John Shelby of the Dodgers went 0 for 10.  Five players went 1 for 1.  Orel Hershiser worked seven innings of three-hit, eight strike-outs, shutout relief and was still unhappy about being removed in the 21st inning, by manager Tommy Lasorda.  Fernando Valenzuela played first base for the Dodgers.  Pitcher Jim Deshaies pinch-hit for the Astros.  First baseman, Eddie Murray, played third base for the first time in his career, for the Dodgers.  Neither team scored a run from the seventh inning until the 22nd.  There were only two stolen bases.  The Dodgers’ hitters went 14 for 78, and the game ended at 2:50 a.m. Central Time.

I tried to imagine how a phone call might have sounded if an Astros player were to have called his wife from the clubhouse around 2 a.m.

“Honey, I’m still at the ballpark.”

“Sure you are.”

“I promise.”

“You’re shooting pool again, aren’t you?”

“No! Honest!  Turn your radio on.  We’re still playing.”

“Nobody plays baseball at 2 a.m. in the morning.   Can’t you at least make up a decent story?”

“Look, I’ve got to go.  I’m on deck to hit next.  The Dodgers are taking Orel Hershiser out and replacing him with their third baseman.”

“You’re not only lying, you must be drunk.”

“I won’t bother coming home tonight, Honey.  I’ll just sleep here in the clubhouse.”

“Ok, Buster, but I’ll be reading that box score in the morning.  You’d better have at least nine at-bats, or I’ll be taking the kids to live with my mother.”

Astros’ first baseman, Glenn Davis, actually did sleep in the clubhouse that night, but the story of the phone call above was made up.   The Dodgers’ next-day starting pitcher, Tim Belcher, was the only Dodger that did not get into the game.  He had stayed at the hotel.  Dodgers’ third baseman Jeff Hamilton, who had replaced Hershiser, would get the loss.  Houstonwon the game when Billy Doran singled, reached second on aDavisgrounder, and then scored on a single by Rafael Ramirez.

Can you imagine how the umpiring crew of Fred Brocklander, Bob Engel, Paul Runge, and “Dutch” Rennert felt?   They did not have the luxury of spending some time on the bench every other half-inning.



Andy Purvis


Dog Days of Summer

Every wonder how that moniker came to be?  I would assume that it’s because some animals, especially dogs, do not sweat like we humans do.  Dogs get rid of their body heat by sweating through their tongue.  That’s why you see them hassling when they spend a lot of time out in the heat.  But how did baseball come to use this term?  One of the secrets of baseball, in my opinion, is that you play virtually every day.  Therefore, you do not have to wait very long to redeem yourself if you played poorly.  But 162 games in 180 days can get pretty tiring, especially in the heat of August.  This is the time of the year where players are grinding to stay healthy and push to keep their team in contention.

So, here lie the story of baseball and the dog days of summer.  On August 22, 1886, in a game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Colonels, a fellow by the name of “Chicken” Wolf, who played shortstop for the Colonels, hit a long fly ball that did not clear the outfield fence.  Red Stockings outfielder, Abner Powell, tried to run the ball down but was interfered with by a large dog that happened to be sleeping next to the fence.  This dog was disturbed by all the commotion and proceeded to chase Powell, eventually biting him over and over and then he would not let go.  Wolf continued to circle the bases and scored what was ruled a game-winning, inside-the-park home run forLouisville.  The dog days of summer had become a reality.

Chicken Wolf’s real name was William Van Winkle Wolf.  He was born inLouisville,Kentucky, on May 12, 1862.  He was a terrific player who played eleven years with the Colonels and won the American Association batting title in 1890, by hitting .363, in a 134 game season.  His salary that season was said to be 216 dollars.  The Louisville Colonels eventually became the St. Louis Browns of the American League.

Interestingly, we now have a day for fans to bring their dogs to the park for a game.  The dog days of summer live.


Andy Purvis


Friday Night Lights

The only ninth inning he had ever seen was from the bench. Over 33,000 had purchased seats but no one was using theirs now. I couldn’t help… but think of Nolan Ryan, who was in the house, the last Astros’s pitcher to no-hit the Dodgers on September 26, 1981. Our guy would face Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, in his Dodger debut, and Justin Turner with history on the line. Every pitch had a purpose now since Minute Maid had never hosted a no-hitter. It had been only nine days since the last no-hitter had been thrown in Seattle, could lightening strike again so quickly?   Thirty-year-old Mike Fiers was the other guy in the Carlos Gomez trade. He was remembered more for hitting Giancarlo Stanton last year. Fiers had been a 22nd round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. Now he was standing on the loneliest place on the diamond, the pitchers mound. His catcher, Jason Castro, had reminded him between innings to breathe.   On Friday night, August 21st, Mike Fiers threw 134 pitches for the first time ever in a Major League baseball game. He struck out ten while walking three, but more importantly, he gave up no hits. His team had scored three runs, compliments of Jake Marisnick and Evan Gattis home runs. It was the first time Fiers had ever pitched in the ninth inning or thrown more than 120 pitches. He had also never had his jersey ripped off. The score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0, It was the 11th no-hitter in Astros history. The Friday Night Lights shown brightly in Houston.  They call those fireworks.

Pre-Game Speech

Pre-Game Speech



One of the oldest rituals in sports is known as the pre-game speech, especially in the game of football.  There have been many coaches who have specialized in revving up their team before taking the field.  Knute Rockne, Don Coryell, Lou Holtz and Barry Switzer come to mind.  Frank Broyles of Arkansas was known for his fiery pre-game speeches where he would end his rant by asking one of his better players to say a prayer, before game time.  On this particular occasion, Broyles asked his team to hit their knees and said to his All-American tackle, Billy Ray Smith, “Would you say the Lord’s Prayer, Billy Ray?”  “Sure Coach” said Billy Ray.  Then Billy Ray kneeled with the rest of the team and said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”  Then he looked up and said, “How did I do Coach?”  “You did great Billy Ray, now let’s go get’em,” shouted Broyles.

Now that was funny, but there is one pre-game speech that the old pros still talk about from the 1958 NFL Championship game played in New York between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts’.  Colts’ Head Coach, Weeb Ewbank, was an interesting man.  He was usually quiet, meek, and mild-mannered in his command of the team.  But on this day, Ewbank used the very essence of reverse psychology on a team that had dominated the league that year.  The Colts led the entire league in offense and defense, and clinched their division three-quarters of the way into the season.  It had been a runaway.   Ewbanks seemed not to care about their success up to that point and opened his speech by saying that they were nothing more than a bunch of castoffs.

“Ameche:  (Alan Ameche) I didn’t like you.  I didn’t want you.  We had to draft you because the Bears didn’t take you, because they didn’t want you.  But we took you, so get it done.  Go see if you can do it,” said Weeb.  “Unitas:  (Johnny Unitas) Pittsburgh didn’t want you.  We got you for a seventy-five cent phone call.  You’ve had some success here, but I don’t know if it’s temporary or not.  We’ll see.  Taseff:  (Carl Taseff) We tried to trade you; they didn’t want you.  Lipscomb:  (Gene Lipscomb) The Rams were glad to get rid of you.  We got you for a hundred bucks.  You’ve been a problem here.  See if you can straighten yourself out today,” screamed Ewbanks.   Myhra:  (Steve Myhra – kicker) You’ve been awful.  You’ve had an awful year.  You’ve got to put those balls through the uprights.  Joyce:  (Don Joyce) The Cardinals couldn’t control you.  They were glad you came here.  Nelson:  (Andy Nelson) You were too small.  No one wanted you.  You weren’t big enough to play this game, but we gave you a chance.”

Nobody said anything while Ewbanks spoke; they just listened.  He went right down the line, made it sound like they were all a bunch of guys nobody wanted to have.  Weeb continued.  “Marchetti:  (Gino Marchetti) They said you weren’t going to get any better, but you did.  See if you can show up today. Berry:  (Raymond Berry) You aren’t fast.  One of your legs is shorter than the other and your back is bad,” said Weeb.

Weeb Ewbanks closed his pre-game speech after chewing everyone out by saying, “Remember this:  If you want to do anything, you got to do it inNew York.”  There was really nothing else to be said. “That was some speech,” said Gino Marchetti.  “It worked like charm.”

On December 28, 1958, everything changed for professional football as 45 million people watched the first televised NFL Championship game.  For the first time ever the game had to be decided in “sudden death” overtime.  The Baltimore Colts outscored the New York Giants, 23-17.



Andy Purvis