I am an avid sports fan and wrote the book A Fan’s Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph,
Tragedy and Tough Luck to revive baseball and football in the 1970s. By writing about the athletes, coaches and games, I learned some things about myself.
I remember Lyman Bostock, an outfielder who signed a large contract with the
California in early 1978.Though he was an exceptional (.300) hitter, he batted a dismal .147 in April 1978.
He went to the owner of the Angels, Gene Autry (the singing cowboy) and
told Autry that he was giving his money back because HE HAD NOT EARNED
Bostock’s integrity was exceptional. His shocking murder a few months later was tragic.They simply don’t make athletes like him anymore.
Writing books allows me to reach people I would not otherwise reach. My writing about the “Immaculate Reception” is a case in point. On this controversial football play, it is a mystery who actually touched the ball, a question the referees had to guess in order to rule on the ending of a playoff game.
Using social media, I got the attention of one of the players involved in the play,
John “Frenchy”Fuqua. He emailed me back and told me he was going to show people like me that the play, which benefit his team the Pittsburgh Steelers, was “miraculous.”
A Fan’s Folklore informs the reader as to some of the most remarkable players and games in baseball and football history.It asks the reader to place themselves in the position of those who played the game and ask what they might have done.
Consider the so-called “Holy Roller” in which Oakland Raider quarterback Ken Stabler was about to be tackled by an opposing player as time ran out on the game.As the other player was about to grab his throwing arm and toss him to the ground, he had a split-second to decide whether to “cheat” by rolling the ball forward in the hopes a teammate could make a play or to quit by falling on the ball.
How does that sound – Be a cheater or be a quitter?
From this context, the players teach us about ethics in a way that nothing else
could. So grab this book and learn a little about yourself!
Book available here
This fan at an Oakland Raider game
Sports legends don’t just happen. They get made up! Listen to a sports fan get things right about some of the most controversial plays in football and baseball history.
The Immaculate Reception is legendary, but you will learn how and why the referees called it wrong! Imagine the headlines if the referees had called the pass, which really struck Frenchy Fuqua before its reception by Franco Harris, an incomplete pass!
“Bedlam at Three Rivers Stadium! Fans Riot to Protest Last Play Call in Steeler Defeat!”
The Reggie Jackson Hip Check doomed the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1978 World Series after the umpires missed the right call for Jackson’s interference of a thrown ball. Learn that the umpires DID NOT KNOW THE RULES! Instead of another Yankee championship, the story would read much differently.
“Dodgers Stop Yankees and Jackson in Their Tracks to Take 3-1 Series Lead!
The Rob Lytle Non-Call takes the award for not one, but two referee blunders on the same play. A premature whistle stopped a possible Raider touchdown on a Bronco fumble in the 1977 AFC Championship Game and the failure of the referees to huddle over when the whistle blew cost the Raiders possession of the ball. Instead of a Denver win and a boring Super Bowl XII, things would have been different!
“Late Stabler Pass to Casper Sends Raiders to Super Bowl to Face Cowboys!”
Read A Fan’s Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck by Dean T. Hartwell to see what sports legends are made of. Available now on Amazon and other fine sellers of books.
Rams safety Nolan Cromwell
I recounted Super Bowl XIV in my last article. In the end, the better team beat the underdog. The final score gave the Steelers a healthy 12 point advantage, but the score masked the closeness of the game.
While the Steelers had the sheer talent to come back to defeat the Rams, there was more to it than that. Plays that were a matter of inches, a player’s misfortune or other unforeseeable events turned on a dime and the game with it.
My purpose is to take one of these game-breaking plays and turn it in another direction and then estimate the result of the game from that point.
The play I chose took place with about nine minutes to go in the third quarter. The Steelers had the ball 1st and 10 from their own 44 yard line. In reality, Bradshaw passed the ball into the arms of Rams defensive back Nolan Cromwell, who, with only the Steeler end zone in front of him, dropped the ball!
Cromwell was an exceptional athlete who could have played quarterback or running back. I want this play back because his teammates have said he would have caught the ball 99 times out of 100. So here goes my projection of the rest of the game, using the real plays and results that followed to the extent practical.
Corral’s extra point after Cromwell’s touchdown makes the score 26-17 in favor of the Rams. On the kickoff, Larry Anderson takes the ball to the Pittsburgh 37 with 9:06 to go in the third quarter.
After two short runs by Harris, Bradshaw throws to Harris for a first down at the Ram 39. On the next set of downs, Bradshaw, again facing third and five, can’t find a receiver and scrambles for a first down.
A pass to Thornton gets the Steelers inside the Ram 10, but Bradshaw suffers his third interception when Elmendorf deflects a pass intended for Stallworth and Perry catches it in the end zone for a touchback.
Ferragamo and the Rams take over at their own 20 with 3:30 left in the third quarter. A couple of Tyler runs take them to the Ram 33, but a subsequent sack of Ferragamo costs them a chance at another first down. Clark’s long punt is returned by Smith to the Steeler 25 as the third quarter ends.
Harris runs left for two yards before Thornton drops a pass from Bradshaw. On third-and-eight, Bradshaw rolls the dice and hits John Stallworth in stride at the Ram 32. No one can stop the wide receiver from scoring on a 73-yard play. Bahr’s extra point makes the score Rams 26, Steelers 24.
The two teams exchange punts. The Rams get the ball back on their own 16 yard line. Two straight completions to Dennard put the ball on the Ram 48. Tyler runs for a first down and then slips on the next play. Ferragamo tries to connect with Nelson but the pass is overthrown.
This brings up 3rd down and 13 from the Steeler 47. Ferragamo finds Waddy on the right sideline for fifteen yards to get a first down at the 32.
Ferrago hands off twice to Wendell Tyler. The second rush gets the Rams to the 25. On third-and-three, Ferragamo tries Bryant, who is stopped a yard short of the first down.
After the 2 minute warning, Malavasi sends in the field goal unit. Corral runs up to the ball, but Cromwell pulls it away and makes a run for the right side. But the Steelers, who were familiar with Cromwell’s successful play against the Cowboys, stopped him short of the first down.
Steeler ball on their own 23 with 1:50 to go in the game. Both teams have all three time outs available.
Bradshaw starts by passing to Harris, who makes a gain of 14. Using a “hurry-up” offense, Bradshaw calls for a pass to Stallworth, but Cromwell breaks it up. After the Steelers are called for a false start, Bradshaw throws to Smith for a short gain before Smith gets out of bounds.
It is now 3rd and 9 from the Steeler 38 with 1:18 to go. Bradshaw decides to throw it deep to Smith, but Brown makes a spectacular catch in front of him for an interception.
After Ferragamo kneels on the ball twice, the game is over with the Rams 26-24 winners. Ferragamo takes the Most Valuable Player Award.See the actual Super Bowl XIV play-by-play here
Vince Ferragamo (15) waiting for the snap from center during Super Bowl XIV
It is almost time for the Super Bowl!
The best Super Bowl I ever saw was played between the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 20, 1980.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had won the Super Bowl three times. Their all-star cast included future Hall of Famers such as quarterback Terry Bradshaw, wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, running back Franco Harris, defensive end “Mean” Joe Greene and linebacker Jack Lambert.
The Los Angeles Rams were the first team to make it to the Super Bowl with fewer than ten regular season wins. They had lost their owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, in a drowning accident in early 1979 and his widow, Georgia Rosenbloom had won a power struggle with Carroll’s son Steven. The team’s starting quarterback, Pat Haden, broke his finger in the middle of the season and was replaced by backup Vince Ferragamo.
Few gave the Rams much of a chance. I sat down to watch the game hoping they could keep it close.
As predicted, the Steelers ran and passed their way to several scores. Bradshaw connected with Swann and Stallworth for touchdowns. Harris pounded away for yards and for two touchdowns.
But what I will never forget was that the Rams, the underdog, matched the Steelers score for score. Running back Wendell Tyler took off with the ball in the first quarter for a 39 yard run. On third-and-goal a few plays later, Cullen Bryant plowed his way into the end zone.
When the first half ended with the Rams ahead 13-10, I started to think they could actually win it.
When Ferragamo responded to a subsequent Steeler touchdown with a 50 yard pass to receiver Billy Waddy, I realized both teams were fighting it out and the ending would not be predictable.
The play of the game took place next. Ferragamo handed the ball off to Lawrence McCutcheon, who then shocked the Steelers by passing to Ron Smith for a touchdown. I can still see the Steeler defender inadvertently knocking Smith into the end zone.
The see saw nature of this game and the story line of the underdog against the heavy favorite made it the essence of football. Anything could have happened after this point and that is what makes watching games like this so exciting.
In the end, it was the Steelers who pulled off the big plays when they needed them the most. Bradshaw hit Stallworth with a long touchdown pass to put the Steelers ahead 24-19. The Rams had a chance to go ahead when Ferragamo drove the team well into Steeler territory, but Lambert intercepted him to end the last serious Ram threat.
So there was no big upset here. But Ferragamo surprised by outplaying Terry Bradshaw, who threw three interceptions. The Rams surprised by forcing the Steelers to sweat it out until the final quarter. It is surprises like these that keep me watching the Super Bowl!
This essay appears in Dean T. Hartwell's A Fan's Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luck available at Amazon.com and other retailers.
A Fan’s Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough Luckby Dean T. HartwellThe book is out NOW - get it here!I write about my favorite team, the Oakland Raiders of the mid-1970s. They are legendary to me and to the National Football League in which they played.
I recount my favorite games, Raider wins and losses. My team is the protagonist in this folklore. Their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers, play the role of the antagonists. Like the mythological character, Sisyphus, the Raiders climb up the hill every season toward the top, only to face the enemy who pushes them back down.Other events and players add to the legend. My feelings of guilt over a player who was paralyzed by a Raider. The death of a favorite baseball player at around the same time. A missed call that cost my favorite baseball team the World Series.
I realized that I was writing my own legend. Events in my own memory brought me to the point of writing this book.My burdens in life include a kidnapping, a beating and institutionalization. I do not compare my problems to anyone else's. I simply claim them as my own.At first my experiences conquered me. They were like demons I could not understand or fight against.
Then, thanks in part to writing "a Fan's Folklore," I came to understand my value as a person and the importance of looking forward. I started facing my demons and began competing against them as a football team would.
The biggest victory is to feel genuinely good about oneself. You become your own legend.
Click here to get the Kindle version!
The "Holy Roller" game is described in detail in "A Fan's Folklore."
Read this chapter in A Fan's Folklore: Six Seasons of Triumph, Tragedy and Tough luck on Amazon and other retailers!
My heart was in my throat. The television screen revealed the all-time leading scorer George Blanda knocking the dirt out of his cleats.
The Raiders lined up in field goal formation. Ken Stabler held out his hand to call for the ball from the center. The center hiked it backwards to Stabler, who put the ball down for Blanda, who booted it through the uprights.
The three points were welcome but my team, the Oakland Raiders, not only trailed by a score of 16-10, but they only had twelve seconds left IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS!
I sat there, mesmerized. In my mind, I began to play out scenarios in which the Raiders could prevail. Then the teams returned to the field for the kickoff. Raider Ray Guy kicked the ball end over end across the frozen field at Steeler Reggie Garrett ten yards away. Garrett held out his hand but the ball struck him on the shin and rebounded toward Raider Dave Casper. As soon as I saw the Steeler defenders like Jack Lambert come on to the field, I knew the referees had declared that the Raiders had possession of the ball.
After talking with Raider coach John Madden, Stabler threw the ball forty yards down the left sideline to wide receiver Cliff Branch, who caught the ball simultaneous to being tackled by defensive back Mel Blount. From the television angle, I could not see past the wall of players and fans who perched themselves right next to the field. Had Branch gotten out of bounds? If so, had he done so before the time clock went to zero?
After the announcers, whose view was no better than mine, gave conflicting accounts of the end to the play, the referees signaled that Branch had not gotten out of bounds. That was the game. But what a game!
Even to this day, I think of ways the Raiders could have advanced the last fifty-six yards in just seven seconds and with no time-outs. It has become clear to me that, like Stabler and Madden, I engage in a “chess match” with two opponents, the Steelers and the time clock. The ending to this game was football at its very best!