Tex Schramm, former President and General Manager of the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years, passed away on July 14th. Schramm was 83 years old. He was one of the great innovators in NFL history. The combination of Schramm, Tom Landry and Gil Brandt (the latter was their talent scout and drafting guru) made the Cowboys the excellent franchise it was, with owner Clint Murchison, Jr. smart enough to stay out of their way. For much more on Tex Schramm, see my feature article dated February 6th. of this year.
The NFL season opened on June 27th. as the New England Patriots hammered the Miami Dolphins, 25-8. Wait a minute now; that wasn’t a football game. It was actually a baseball game; Boston’s Red Sox bombed the Florida Marlins by the above-mentioned score, 25-8. Boston actually scored 14 runs in the first inning, and scored 10 runs before making an out. So here’s the deal; should a team run up a score on its opponent? If you’re the manager or coach of the team doing all the scoring, do you tell your boys to let up, or maybe even put in your second stringers? Or do you ascribe to Leo Durocher’s doctrine of "nice guys finish last," and make sure that what happened to the Seattle Mariners on August 5, 2001 doesn’t happen to you. Seattle was up on the Cleveland Indians, 14-2; Cleveland won the game, 15-14. I can site many examples of incredible comebacks like this one in all sports (you need look no further than Durocher himself, and his Giants’ great comeback in the 1951 pennant race); you never know when the worm is going to turn in any given situation, and make you look terrible. So I see nothing wrong with making sure you win; when you have an adversary, then it is incumbent upon you to put your opponent away. And if you’re the Boston Red Sox, you’d better make sure you win when you can before the historical September dive rolls around.
Story of the Week
Pete Rozelle was named 1963 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. His shrewd handling of the office of NFL commissioner for 30 years did as much to popularize the game as any league or team exec, before or since. He took full advantage of that thing called television, and made certain the NFL profited handsomely from it throughout his tenure.
He faced two very difficult decisions that year. The first came on April 17. After notifying the parties involved, he announced that Packers running back Paul Hornung and Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras were suspended from the NFL indefinitely for gambling on football games, this after a thorough 10-month investigation.
In handing down this harsh penalty, Rozelle took some risks. The suspension of Hornung, one of the game’s glamour players, meant the loss of a powerful drawing card. Karras wasn’t exactly chopped liver either. And the acknowledgement of wrong doing cast a cloud of suspicion over the NFL. Both star players sat out the 1963 season before being reinstated in 1964.
Largely because of his handling of the crisis, Sports Illustrated named Rozelle the recipient of the prestigious award; he was the first non-athlete to receive it.
But if 1963 was the year in which the commissioner most distinguished himself, it also was when he was most harshly criticized.Critics arose in force when Rozelle announced that regular-season games would be played as scheduled on November 24, two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Although it was a measured decision (Rozelle conferred with White House press secretary Pierre Salinger, who thought the games would be a healthy diversion at this time of tragedy),
Rozelle’s detractors were no less angered at the perceived insensitivity. Philadelphia Eagles owner Frank McNamee refused to attend his team’s home game against the Washington Redskins. He announced that the game was being played by order of the commissioner, and he, McNamee, would be at a memorial service instead. He was joined by other team officials and players as well. Interestingly, the AFL did, in fact, postpone its schedule that Sunday.
Years later, Pete Rozelle did admit that it was the one decision in his long and successful tenure as NFL commissioner that he would have changed if he had the chance. But he certainly did not have to apologize to anyone for the brilliant job he did while commissioner of the National Football League for three decades. Rozelle’s insight was the catalyst to the great popularity the NFL has enjoyed, and will, no doubt, continue to enjoy.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who holds the career record for highest batting average in World Series competition with at least 50 at-bats to qualify? Bobby Brown of the Yankees in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s at .439. After his playing career, he was Dr. Bobby Brown, a successful surgeon for 30 years, before serving as President of the American League from 1984-1994.
Trivia Question of the Week
What ominous commonality do Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie share? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.