February 6th. is the birth date of Babe Ruth and Ronald Reagan. Two other not-so-famous people share this same birth date; me and my friend since public school, would you believe, Neil Kessler. We’ve been friends for more than 50 years. I’m happy to state that Neil and his wife will be joining me and the lady of my choice for dinner here in Las Vegas to celebrate the fact that we’re still breathing. At our age, that fact alone warrants a celebration.
Story of the Week
His full name is Texas E. Schramm, known as Tex Schramm. He is one of the great football minds in the history of the NFL.
He was the president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1989. His Dallas teams had 20 straight winning seasons. He was a significant force in the merger of the NFL and AFL in 1966. He was the chairman of the NFL competition committee for 25 years. He authored the six-division, wild-card playoff concept for the merged NFL. He was a major advocate of instant replay, special field markings in the way of wider sideline borders as well as wind-direction strips atop the goal-posts, helmet radios for Q.B.'s, and offense-enhancing rules changes. He authored overtime for regular-season games, and putting the official time on the scoreboard. He introduced professional dancers as cheerleaders; I'm deeply grateful for that innovation alone. He left his mark on professional football, a mild understatement.
You’d logically think that Texas Schramm, what with that name and that long tenure with Dallas, was born in the Lone Star State. Not so. He was born in San Gabriel, CA. 82 years ago. But as fate would have it, he will be linked with the state of Texas and the city of Dallas forever.
The Cowboys’ success for all those years was based on the consistency and compatibility of their management. Dallas’ owner was Clint Murchison, Jr., who was astute enough in their 1960 expansion year to give the reigns of the team to Tex Schramm, and stay out of the way. And Tex was astute enough to hire Tom Landry as his head coach. Schramm and Landry had a great rapport, and the combination of the two is directly responsible for the success of the Cowboys. And they didn’t have to wait long for that success. They went to their first NFL championship game in 1966, and the rest, as they say, is history.
There were people in the NFL of yesteryear who didn’t like Schramm. They felt he had far too much power within the NFL by virtue of his close relationship with then-commissioner Pete Rozelle. And I’m sure this is going to shock you, but there are people in the NFL today who don’t like Jerry Jones, present Cowboys owner; that line would probably stretch all the way to Texarkana. (I criticize the disrespectful way Jerry Jones handled the exit of Schramm and Landry from the Cowboys, but one must give him credit for his desire to win.) Although Schramm and Jones reside in the same city, dinner dates have never been exchanged in the many years since their hello and quick goodbye at Valley Ranch. Once Schramm was gone from the Cowboys, an executive-level leadership void developed that has never been filled on "America’s Team."
What Schramm brought to the Cowboys and the league was a strong personality, a fertile and imaginative football mind, and a fierce and loyal love of the NFL. Tex never played a game beyond his high school days in San Gabriel, CA., but he was and is a football genius to the core. He remains sharp and in tune with the NFL, as is evidenced by the constant phone calls he gets from NFL people and media people striving for his opinions regarding football subjects.
Texas E. Schramm is rightfully enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, because of his vast contributions to the league.
Last Week’s Trivia
Where did Wayne Gretzky make his professional debut? Gretzky first appeared as a professional with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1978-79. FYI, Mark Messier was signed just after the Racers sold Wayne Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers.
Trivia Question of the Week
If I have to remind you that Kirk Gibson made one plate appearance in the 1988 World Series as a pinch hitter, and drilled a game-one game-winning two-run home run off Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth, you should be reading Heidi instead of this. Who was the Dodger on base who scored ahead of Gibson on that most famous home run? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.