Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jim Hart- The Greatest Cardinals Quarterback

Nothing about young Jim Hart of the Cardinals is exactly as it is supposed to be. Maybe that is why the rookie has ripened into a pro quarterback several years ahead of schedule

By Mark Mulvoy 

You think: a quarterback in pro football; he grew up throwing a warped ball through a tire that swung from the big oak in his backyard, practicing for hours every afternoon; in high school he most likely was all-state or, at the absolute worst, all-city, and then 87 colleges tried to recruit him (maybe even The Bear or Darrell dropped around to see his family); there were two bowl games, one in Miami, the other in New Orleans, and an all-star game on a surfboard in Hawaii; he was drafted on the first round, naturally, and after signing his four-year, no-cut contract for $400,000 and two convertibles, he married the Homecoming Queen, or at least the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.

Now that you have the picture, forget about all that, please, and stop listening to those adult purists, Vince and Papa Bear and Allie, who insist it requires five years to develop a pro quarterback, because this is the new generation—not the hippies' kind or the flower power kids' kind—but the young movers' generation.

Jim Hart (see cover) is a young mover. He is the 23-year-old, baby-faced, slit-eyed ("Don't call me Chinaman") quarterback of the St. Louis Cardinals, who took over from Army-bound Charley Johnson this year and, despite all those dire things that have been said about boys in men's jobs, is one of the main reasons his boss, Coach Charley Winner, has been able to live up to his name. Then there is Randy Johnson, also only 23 and two years out of Texas A&I. He quarterbacks the Atlanta Falcons, and if he is not a winner now he will be when his expansion team grows up. Kent Nix is 23, too, and quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers. And didn't he throw 28 completions a few weeks ago? Karl Sweetan is running Detroit's offense, and Joe Namath is the New York Jets.

But of all of these it is Jim Hart who currently is stirring the imagination of the pro football fan, who always seems to see a little of himself in his latest idol. Hart is a rookie in his first full season. He plays like a kid at times, but in the fourth quarter, when the game is right there for the taking, he takes, like Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr and Walter Mitty would, working the sidelines, then crossing the defense with the play that in retrospect one realizes was the only correct call and, finally, throwing touchdowns. True, he has had a lot of interceptions, and in two games—against the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins—he committed seeming suicide by putting his club behind with an errant pass before members of the kickoff squad had time even to sit down. Far from panicking, though, he shrugged off the scores, calmly gathered his forces around him and got his team back in front. His passing just missed beating Green Bay. It did the Redskins in.

Hart, in fact, has had to rally the Cardinals from behind in practically every game they have played. They were losing to the Lions 14-0; then he threw a couple of touchdown passes, and they won 38-28. Against the Vikings in Minnesota, the Cardinals were losing 24-13 in the final quarter before Hart threw a touchdown pass that helped bring about a 34-24 win. On Hart's scoring pass, a 40-yard bomb thrown to rookie Dave Williams, he fell down in the pocket, got up, rolled to his left and lofted the ball into Williams' arms.

On the field Hart plays with an animation that could be misconstrued as hot dog if it were not so natural to him. When he completes a pass for a touchdown or a substantial gain he stands on his toes, stretching his 6'2" frame so that he looks easily half a head taller. Or he jumps up and down and triumphantly waves his right hand, the way Dolph Schayes used to signal after scoring a basket. He looks as though he has a slight paunch (don't all football players?), and if he weighs 198 pounds right now, then he'll probably weigh 210 a week after the season ends.

Hart certainly does not qualify as a normal quarterback. He has tried to throw a football through a tire only twice in his life—and he missed both times. They loved him at Niles West High School in Skokie, Ill., but neither The Bear nor Darrell nor any of the other big-time college coaches pursued him with much fervor, so he went down to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. "I could have gone to a bigger school, I guess," he says, "but I figured if I went to Southern Illinois I'd be a big fish in a small pond and get to play a lot." Southern Illinois, with some 12,500 students, was more like a Great Lake, but Hart did get to play a lot. Unfortunately, all three of his seasons on the varsity were regarded as rebuilding years. The Salukis won eight games and lost 21 during that span. "We did beat Louisville twice," Hart says.

Then came the pro draft in November 1965, and for two days 22 teams, with agents in motel rooms all over the country, selected the nation's best college football seniors. They did not, of course, include Jim Hart. "I was really let down," he says. "Several teams had contacted me and told me not to worry, that they were going to take me. The Rams seemed really interested, but then they already had Billy Anderson, the quarterback at Tulsa, as a future. He's not around now."

Hart had an in with the Cardinals all the time, however, because his coach for the last two years at Southern Illinois was Don Shroyer, who had been a Cardinal assistant for two years and now is back working with them again. "I called and said that Jimmy was one great prospect, with a great arm and a good mind," Shroyer says, "and told them to sign him before someone else got lucky. He may not have had those great statistics that other college quarterbacks had, but I started 10 sophomores with him during his last year and every time he passed he did it while he was on his back."

A few days after Shroyer's call the Cardinals signed Hart as a free agent and gave him a little money, enough for an economy import, perhaps, but certainly not a super-octane convertible. And to complete that fantasy of a pro quarterback, Hart married the girl who sat down next to him on a train taking Southern Illinois students back to Carbondale after an academic recess.

Although almost everything about Hart seems miscast, many football people are beginning to consider him the best young quarterback to play in the NFL since Johnny Unitas took over for George Shaw in Baltimore back in 1956. And he still is so young that he does not even know how to dress like a star quarterback. In contrast to the veterans, who wear conservative businessmen's suits and look as though they have just come from a client's meeting in the conference room at Batten, Barten, Dursten and Osborn, Hart arrives for practice every day looking, for the most part, like a college sophomore. His slacks are cuffed; he wears cordovan wingtips with laces and pulls cashmere V-neck sweaters over button-down oxford shirts, open at the top. And he's a brown-bagger: for lunch at Card practice he carries two ham sandwiches and a bag of potato chips packed by his wife Mary.

The ingenuousness may be purposeful. "This all worries me, being the No. 1 quarterback," he said after the Redskin game. "This could go to your head, you know, and you could change your whole personality. I try to convince myself every day that I'll always be the type of person I am now and I was last year. I'm going to work at not getting a big head. It could ruin you."

Hart has a double personality, the one he exhibits on the field—confidence and cockiness, but never with a swagger—and the one he shows everywhere else—concern for his contemporaries and regard for the proper way to live.

"He's a cocky kid when he puts on that uniform, but not that kind of cocky," says Ken Gray, the Cardinals' good offensive guard. "I mean, he's confident, and he's the boss. Johnson was confident, but he never showed it. This boy shows it to us. We kid him in the huddle and everything, but we want to make sure he never gets hit."

Against Philadelphia, Hart took a little too much time to throw a pass, and a defensive lineman enveloped him in a gorilla hug and threw him to the ground, bruising one of his ribs. Hart walked back to the huddle, shaking his head, and said, "Gee, guys, that hurt." Bob Reynolds, the tackle, muttered, "Kid, you can't take 10 seconds back here," and everyone laughed.

"He hasn't chewed us out yet for anything," says Irv Goode, the other starting guard, "but you know he will one of these days. Just like Charley used to do on occasion. I expected this kid to be scared and nervous, just a bit, you know, like any other 23-year-old would be, but he wasn't."

His youth does not make Hart humble. "They have a job to do," he says, "and I have a job to do. And the quarterback has got to be the boss on the field." He does not scare, either, as Ray Nitschke, the middle linebacker for the Packers, found out when he tried to intimidate Hart in Green Bay territory. "We had a fourth down and one," says Hart, "and when I came up over center there was Nitschke, dancing around and daring me to 'come right at me, kid." You should have seen him—that big gap in his mouth behind his face mask yelling at me. No, I didn't run at him. We went the other way and got the first down."

Each week, while Hart has been learning to turn such challenges into advantages, Charley Johnson, free from his military duties on weekends, has been suited up on the sidelines, but now as the Cards' No. 2 quarterback. In constant contact with Hart, Johnson has counseled him about the defenses, what plays might work and other intelligence. But he has played only a few minutes as Hart's understudy.

"I see him standing there on the sidelines, all alone," says Hart, "and I know it hurts him not being out on the field. This was his team. He grew up here with these same players. This was going to be their year, and now he is doing his military service."

After their victories the Cardinals, like all pro teams, generally celebrate with a party at a player's house. A few weeks ago the boys were heading for a celebration at Billy Gambrell's. As Gambrell was leaving the clubhouse, he motioned to Hart, "See you at my place." Hart looked at Gambrell rather quizzically and said, "I don't know if I can make it, Billy, I've got to see what Mary's got planned." Gambrell, a tough little flanker whose curly hair stands straight on his head, acted as if he could not believe what he had heard and walked back toward Hart. "Listen, you're the quarterback around here," he said. "You're the boss. You make the plans. Hear?"

Hart heard. "I've only been married a few months now," he said, "and you can't tell brides what to do right off. It's got to be 50-50—a compromise." Gambrell, shaking his head, said, "I don't know. We asked him to play golf with us a few Mondays ago, and he said he'd have to check with Mary first. Imagine. Our fearless leader having to ask if he can play golf on his one day off. He'll learn."

But Hart does worry about what people think of him. He played on the taxi squad a year ago, and now when he walks past members without speaking cab boys might say to him, kiddingly, "Fame. Look what it's done to Jim Hart." It may be a joke to them. It is not to Hart, who wonders about himself and frets that he may be forgetting some of his old friends.

Oddly, the pressure of a game does not bother him; anyway not the night before, when he sleeps soundly. It is Friday night that kills him. "I play the game over at least three times," he says, "deciding what I'll call. I wake up tossing and turning, and one night I was awakened by my wife screaming. She said I was squeezing her head and holding it like a football. Really weird."

Nightmarish is the word that sprang to the minds of some when it was learned that the Cardinals were forced to replace their No. 1 quarterback with a lazy-faced kid the team called Peach Fuzz ("They always ask me if I've shaved yet this week," says Hart). The standard procedure with quarterbacks such as Hart has been to condition them to the subtleties of professional play by having them relay instructions from spotters in the press box to the coaches and players on the field. After a year or two of wearing a telephone headset they were supposed to be ready to put on a helmet and take their first tentative steps on the playing field. Gary Cuozzo, George Mira, Jack Concannon and Dick Shiner, among others, were brought along this way, and Coach Winner saw no reason to change the process for Jim Hart.

"You could see that someday he would be a good quarterback," says Winner, "because he did everything a good quarterback does. I was with the Colts when Unitas took over, and although Jimmy is not a Unitas—there'll never be another Unitas, not in our time—he certainly was the best young quarterback I had seen."

Then, in November of last year, Johnson suffered what had come to be regarded as his annual injury—this time to his right knee. Terry Nofsinger, an experienced back-up man, became the regular quarterback, and Hart began his apprenticeship as a telephone operator. He became a player for the first time in the fourth quarter of the final game, when St. Louis was losing by four touchdowns.

As promising as Hart was, the Cardinals were not nearly ready to rely on him. In the off season they traded Nofsinger to Atlanta and tried to acquire Bill Munson from the Rams, or Cuozzo, still with the Colts, to back up Johnson. Neither, however, was available, and St. Louis suddenly found itself in the precarious position of opening training camp with only a brittle Johnson and an untested rookie.

Hart's reaction to his promotion by default was, as his teammates were soon to discover, typical. Rather than being awed, he was determined to be a good guy. "At camp, I made up my mind to be patient and try to learn all about quarterbacking," says Hart. "I was not going to be like some other No. 2 quarterbacks and go around asking to be traded or else. Personally, I felt that we'd get far enough in front of some teams that I'd be able to play quite a bit."

That, it soon developed, became pro football's understatement of the year. To the horror of Cardinal fans, Johnson was called into the Army, and it seemed that disaster had struck. Even Hart, with all his confidence, did not expect to remain the No. 1 quarterback for long. "Right off," he says, "J thought they would try to trade for an experienced quarterback, because I didn't think they thought I was ready."

The St. Louis management thought about getting a veteran to play quarterback, but the players available, people like Earl Morrall of the Giants and Jim Ninowski, then with the Browns, did not strike them as the answer. "We really wanted someone to build on, to grow with," says Winner. "We could see that Hart had improved tremendously, though he still threw a lot of interceptions in camp, and it was a fairly simple decision. I just told him that he was our No. 1 quarterback and that we were going to go with him all the way. We all liked him. He had confidence in himself, and he could charge the other guys. There was no question he had the ability. We just didn't know if that ability was ready to come out yet."

Hart always could pass. He throws a very light ball that receivers like to catch because it does not hurt their hands, and he can throw the ball as far as necessary with considerable accuracy. He has completed close to 50% of his passes this year, above average for a young quarterback, and he is not afraid to pass despite those interceptions.

"My high school coach in Skokie, Mike Basrak, who used to be a center for the Steelers, put all the thoughts about quarterbacking in my head," says Hart. "He told me what happens to quarterbacks who run all the time. He told me to stay in the pocket. Drop back fast. Set up. Release quickly. And that's what I try to do." ("It's damn disheartnin" for us linemen to be there, ready to hit him, and then have him get that ball off so fast," shrugged Willie Davis of the Packers.)

The exhibition season, during which the Cardinals lost four of their five games, was mostly a period of adjustment and orientation, not only for Hart but also for the rest of the Cardinals. The receivers, who were so used to Johnson that they could freelance a pattern and expect the ball to be there, now had to run strict patterns, turning at exact moments to catch a ball that should be on the mark. The offensive linemen diligently overemphasized pass blocking during their workouts, aware that a new quarterback might be subjected to sustained blitzes and that at times he might wait too long to pass.

Hart himself worked particularly hard to refine his timing on passing. Still, he threw as many as three interceptions a game during the exhibition season. Then on opening day against the New York Giants he threw four more, and the Cardinals suffered an upset.

"I think we all wanted things to come too fast," Hart says of that game. And maybe the purists were right. Kids can't play quarterback.

If the last thought crossed Cardinal minds, it was soon forgotten, as everything began to work better. Hart and his receivers synchronized their timing, and he and rookie receiver Williams, the leaper from the University of Washington who was regarded as so fine a prospect that St. Louis felt safe in trading off former All-Pro Split End Sonny Randle to San Francisco, made a slight technical adjustment that has meant touchdowns for the Cardinals. "We weren't clicking," says Williams, "and I knew something was wrong. Jimmy was throwing his deep passes on a fairly low trajectory. I told him I'd rather have him throw the ball up and let me run under it, and since then that's what we've been doing." So, against the Packers, Hart lofted two long passes that Williams stole away from Herb Adderley for touchdowns. And his interceptions, despite the five he threw Sunday in a bad game against Chicago, are about normal for the NFL.

Hart also has begun to call automatics more frequently, and the coaches now send in fewer plays from the bench. At the start of the season, for instance, the coaches called about 50% of the Cardinals' offensive plays, whereas Charley Johnson was left on his own at least 80% of the time. When the Cardinals were inside the 10-yard line during early games the coaches called all the plays, but against Washington, a few weeks ago, Hart himself signaled for a look-in pass to Bobby Joe Conrad that went for a touchdown. The experienced quarterback—say a Unitas or a Starr—might switch plays at the line of scrimmage 20% to 25% of the time. At the beginning Hart rarely checked off. Now he does it on every fourth or, at most, fifth play.

Hart, too, has been blitzed less frequently than the Cardinals expected. This possibly is because he has been able to pick up the telltale signs of the blitz early and to adjust to it with an audible. Against the Eagles, for example, he recognized a safety blitz, called an automatic and hit Jackie Smith with a 74-yard touchdown pass. He did the same thing again with a 31-yard scoring pass to Conrad. Long touchdown passes through the vacated safety area will halt blitzing every time.

It is possible that the pressures will mount on the 23-year-old Hart and that he will lose his poise, at least temporarily, before he becomes the compleat quarterback. Possible, but not probable. Saturnine Vince Lombardi, for one, is not counting on Hart to panic. "He's a professional quarterback right now," the Green Bay coach says, and he has been on the receiving end of the young mover's own style of hippiness.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Cardinals Take Wing

In 1965 Coach Wally Lemm built a title contender in St. Louis on the impious philosophy that football need not be drudgery

By Edwin Shrake

In the summer of 1945, a wartime year in which beef, gasoline and genuine football players were scarce, the Chicago Cardinals went to training camp at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis. with only 21 men. One of the first things their equipment manager, Dutch Kriznecky, did was to write on the blackboard: "Scrimmage Wednesday against the Green Bay Packers." A great fellow for a joke, that Dutch. After reading the blackboard eight of the Cardinals quit.

That left 13, and when the bobtailed scrimmage came it was the left side of the Cardinal line against the right side of the Cardinal line. A tackle asked 14-year-old Bill Bidwill, one of the two sons of the Cardinal owner, please to listen in the huddle and then stand behind the back who was to carry the ball. That was the sort of key even an exhausted tackle with sweat and blood in his eyes could read, and the Cardinal linemen survived the afternoon. They got their revenge on Kriznecky later in the season by forcing him to suit up and threatening to make him play against the Giants in the Polo Grounds. Dutch weighed about 240 pounds and most of it hung over his belt, but in the year World War II ended the Cardinals could use anybody who knew enough not to put his helmet on backward and Dutch sat on the bench with his fingers in his ears.

In the past 20 years life has been a roller coaster for the Cardinals. They had what the late Charles W. Bidwill called "my dream backfield" of Paul Christman, Pat Harder, Marshall Goldberg and Charley Trippi and won the NFL championship in 1947. They won their division in 1948. In the 1950s they reverted to lowly ways, and the few people who turned up at Comiskey Park were there to boo and throw garbage at the Cardinals and to clap like seals for the opposition.Finally taking the hint, the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in March of 1960. Now they are approaching the crest again as one of the best teams in the East and may read of another scheduled scrimmage with Green Bay—this time a real one—for the NFL championship on January 2. But despite their return to prosperity, the Cardinals are still a loose, laughing, fairly uncomplicated group that Dutch Kriznecky would have admired. The man who keeps them that way is Wally Lemm, one of the most surprisingly successful and quietly unconventional coaches whoever lived.

To a majority of his brothers in the lodge of professional football coaches, Wally Lemm is an outlaw, a maverick, a renegade—practically an impious beatnik—and some of them openly pull for him to lose. Many coaches make radical changes in their offense from game to game. Not Wally Lemm. "With all these different defenses, the players have enough to think about," says Lemm. "The more you give them, the more mistakes they will make, and errors beat you quicker than anything else." Many coaches bring their players in for morning meetings during the week, break for lunch, then resume with meetings and practice in the afternoon. Not Lemm. "We just gather once a day and not very early. The players like that arrangement, and the most important thing is to keep them satisfied," says Lemm. Most coaches spend the off-season months from January until July studying films, reading and writing scouting reports,drawing circles and X's and poking around on college campuses during spring training. So what does Lemm do? In January he goes home to Lake Bluff, Ill. and stays there until camp opens in July, except for a monthly visit of two or three days to St. Louis to see what's happening at the office. Maybe the other coaches could forgive—and even envy—Lemm's attitude toward the off-season routine, but his lack of affection for a movie projector is appalling. Filmsare what have made professional coaching a laborious, year-round job, and you do not mess with a person's method of earning a living without making that person very angry.

Lemm was a freak,anyhow, when he first went to work for the Cardinals in 1942 as a dining-hall waiter at the Carroll College camp. He was an English major who wanted to be a sportswriter—reason enough to suspect him of erratic behavior in following years—and he was a senior halfback who broke his nose six times in eight games. Lemm went into the Navy as commander of PT 114, a boat that did not become quite as famous in the Pacific as PT 109. After the war Lemm won three championships as a college coach and served a couple of hitches as a Cardinal assistant coach. In 1961 he came out of temporary retirement and took over the Houston Oilers, who promptly won nine in a row and beat San Diego for the championship. He accepted the Cardinal head-coaching job in 1962, guided them to a 9-5 record in 1963 and raised them to 9-3-2 and a Playoff Bowl win over Green Bay last season. He has a chance to become the first coach to win championships in both the current professional leagues, and in his resonant, Midwestern voice he explains that he has had a lot of fun at it. "Football is supposed to be fun," Lemm says, "and if you treat the players like adults they will usually respond like adults. The game is not really simple anymore because the defenses change so much, but we try to keep it as clear,straightforward and pleasurable as we can."

Fun or no, the Cardinals missed the Eastern Division championship by half a game last season,and there was nothing pleasant about thinking how close they had come. In the locker room of the private school at which they train on a wooded hill in St.Louis, there is a sign reminding the players that the half-game cost them$7,500 each. For that money, the sign says, each player could have taken his family on a European vacation, put a down payment on a house, paid for a college education or done a couple of other interesting things, The sign winds up by saying: IF YOU WANT THESE, HIT HARD!

The Cards this year have that extra flow of confidence that eventually produces championships,and perhaps the biggest reason is the development of Quarterback Charley Johnson (see cover). With the slender Texan on the bench resting a bruised left shoulder last Sunday, the Cards were the victims of one of Washington Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen's hot days and lost, 24-20, to a team they beat 37-16 two weeks earlier. Last season Johnson was inclined to run his offense in a grab-bag fashion, leaping from one play to the next, more on hunch than from logic. This season Johnson's play-calling has continuity. The need for that has been impressed upon Johnson by Bobby Layne, who quit the Steelers in September when his pal Buddy Parker did, and signed with the Cardinals as quarterback coach. As a player Layne was a leader, a winner and a superior technician. At Cardinal practices, Layne may be relaxed, smoking and playing catch while the defense works, but when Johnson is operating the team Layne watches him like a school master. After a series of plays Layne will call Johnson over, talk to him earnestly and emphasize his points by pounding his fist into his palm. And Johnson listens. It is not that Charley did not listen to his coaches before,but there is something different about listening to a man who has been a championship quarterback. The words penetrate and Johnson, his ice-gray eyes looking directly at Layne, obviously believes what he is hearing.

"My contribution to Charley has been overrated," Layne says. "Charley was a finished quarterback before I came here. I wouldn't trade him for any quarterback in the league, and I mean that. I've helped him with a few little things, but the main thing I've done for him is to watch him all the time. WhenI was playing I didn't have anybody to watch me constantly and I tended to get sloppy, as anybody will occasionally. One of the most vital things for a quarterback to do is to get back into the pocket and set up quickly, especially with all the blitzes you see now. Charley knows I'm watching and he concentrates on setting up fast. If you keep doing that in practice, it becomes a habit."

Layne also offers suggestions for the Cardinals' game plan, and he has taught Johnson tricks of recognizing defenses and beating blitzes, although Layne says he was never much good at beating blitzes himself. "When I saw a blitz coming, I'd keep an end, both backs and the coach back to block for me." From his seat in the press box during games, Layne observes and talks to Johnson on the phone."I'm afraid I couldn't help him against the Steelers when they used that 5-1 defense against us, though," Layne said, laughing. "Charley asked me what to do against a 5-1, and I said how would I know, just throw the ball."

Johnson, who is working toward a Ph. D. in chemical engineering, is an intelligent and honest young man who likes to think before he acts. That is a handy trait for operating the Cardinal offense, which relies heavily on audibles. Although Lemm believes in making the game as simple as possible, Johnson may change plays at the line of scrimmage as many as 25 times in a game. Lemm's theory is that audibles are easier for the players to handle than complex blocking combinations. With some teams, for example, the quarterback may select an end run only to find the defense is not aligned as he expected. The offensive linemen then call code words to each other and thereby switch their blocking combinations to make the play go. But when Johnson steps over center and finds a defense that would stop his end run he calls an audible and changes the whole play. Nearly all the Cardinals' basic plays are set up to be used as audibles.

The players have faith in Johnson this year, whereas last year they were a bit dubious."Charley is a great quarterback, he makes this team move," says his sub, Buddy Humphrey, who has been in the NFL for seven seasons with three clubs and has hardly played enough to earn a letter but is a good backup man. Johnson also has more faith in himself than he did in 1964. "I'm steadier and more consistent," he says. "I take fewer chances. I don't force a play when the odds are against it anymore. Last year I began to doubt if my approach to the game was right. In defense of myself we had three sets of running backs last year and none was alike. I got confused and couldn't organize the running game. Last year I was hot and cold. I was throwing when I should have been running. The difference this year is a maturity of decision. I can exploit the defenses better. I presume I was immature. That doesn't mean I think I've arrived as a complete quarterback. I'm still inclined to be overly cautious. I think I need a better sense of balance in running the offense. When I get into a slump, timing is usually the problem and I tend to get overanxious."

Johnson has not been in a slump this season. Before last Sunday he had passed for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 54.5 completion percentage and has thrown for more than 10,000 yards in five years. Johnson's fine start this season is due partly to his own improvement and partly to the club's. The Cardinals are wealthy in good, heavy running backs—with Willis Crenshaw, Prentice Gautt, Thunder Thornton and Bill Triplett—and have the most effective offensive line in the East. The line is young and has matured with Johnson, and the Cards use that strength to advantage. They like to run straight at the strongest of the opposing defenders, using a lot of wham plays in which one back goes through to clean house for the back following with the ball. They will pick out the opposition's toughest man—like say, the Cowboys' All-Pro tackle, Bob Lilly—and drive hard at him until they prove they can run through his area, and with that psychological edge Johnson will then step back and throw to one of his fine receivers. With Sonny Randle split to one side and Bobby Joe Conrad flanked tothe other, defenses are forced into double coverage on both, and Tight End Jackie Smith is open. Conrad, a rancher from central Texas, has already caught 23 passes, one for a 71-yard touchdown, this season. The long one was against the Steelers, and Conrad was cleared by Randle's down-field block. Randle,whose first name is Ulmo ("It's an old family name," he says, "but my son is not named Ulmo"), does not exactly specialize in blocking. When he cut down Brady Keys on Conrad's touchdown, Cardinal Publicist Joe Pollack was talking on the phone to Cardinal President Stormy Bidwill, who had stayed home because his wife was ill but wanted a long-distance commentary,nevertheless. Pollack described the play, and Bidwill's voice roared back over the phone: "Randle threw a block! Randle threw a block!" Randle really does not have to block. He has scored from 72 yards this year and has caught six touchdown passes. If the Cardinals cannot make it by running or throwing,they summon Jim Bakken, who kicked 25 field goals among the 115 points he scored in 1964 for a team record.

The offensive line—Team Captain and All-Pro Ken Gray at right guard, Ernie McMillan at right tackle, Bob DeMarco at center, Irv Goode at left guard and Bob Reynolds at left tackle—is a cohesive unit. Gray, who is from little Howard Payne College and has twice been introduced on the field as Howard Payne from Ken Gray College,says a big factor in the line's steadiness is McMillan. "Ernie is the best tackle in the East and, with Forrest Gregg now playing guard [for the Packers],probably the best tackle in the league," says Gray. "He never makes mistakes, and it's his consistency that keeps him from being noticed. He's nearly perfect. He does his job and then helps the rest of us. If there's a mix-up on our side of the line, it's me and not Ernie. There's no justice if Ernie isn't All-Pro."

The Cardinals are near the top of the league in defense as well as offense. Their defense is best known for the safety blitz by Larry Wilson. Defensive Coach Chuck Drulis, whose wife is the artist and sculptor who created the facade for the NFL Hall of Fame, began using the safety blitz several years ago with Jerry Norton. He is considering a double-safety blitz ("Drulis is a sadist," says Layne,and Drulis replies, "Quarterbacks make too much money"), which would shoot Jerry Stovall into the backfield with Wilson. But the Cardinal defense is solid enough not to have to depend on gimmicks. Left Corner Back Pat Fischer, 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds, is too small for his position, although he doesn't realize that and plays it superbly and with such intensity that he has ulcers.The other corner back, Jim Burson, came to the Cardinals in the 1963 draft as one of 13 from that crop who have made the club and now have the age and experience to form a nucleus for years ahead. The middle linebacker is Dale Meinert, a rancher from Lone Wolf, Okla. who arrived in camp this year wearing black Bermuda shorts and a cowboy hat and driving a red, air-conditioned pickup truck. Bill Koman, one of the league's more outspoken figures ("If I made as many mistakes in a whole season as Sam Huff makes in one game, I'd retire," he once said), is the weak-side backer behind End Joe Robb, the only Cardinal ever to play on a championship team.

Under Lemm's policy of fun with games, the Cardinals have flourished. They fly jets on most of their trips, their average workday is less than four hours, and they seem to believe that what they are doing is a great way to pass the time. Fischer is typical of their want-to spirit. Once last year he hit Cleveland's Jim Brownhead-on during a sweep and drove Brown back several yards. Another time Fischergrabbed a John Henry Johnson fumble and ran 49 yards to beat Pittsburgh in the last two minutes. That attitude is infectious.

There are some reminders of the Cardinal quirks of old. The Bidwill brothers appreciate a joke as thoroughly as Dutch Kriznecky ever did, but as devout Catholics they fired their cheerleaders for doing the twist while the band was playing The Notre Dame Victory March. "Sacrilege!" cried Billy Bidwill. Trainer Jack Rockwell leads the team in calisthenics, which is far from ordinary. Several of the players have formed a business syndicate to enrich their retirement years,and their first major investment was two shares of Falstaff beer. The Bidwills are very superstitious. Stormy Bidwill missed the last two Cardinal games in Pittsburgh and the Cards won both. "I guess Stormy will never go back to Pittsburgh now," says Billy.

Next season the Cardinals will move into a new 50,000-seat stadium on a rise above the Mississippi River. The stadium is not well suited to football—as no combination football-baseball stadium is—but compared to the old Busch Stadium where, from a number of seats, the fans cannot even see the field, the new park will seem lovely. And the Cards have prepared themselves mentally for nicer surroundings,particularly in the standings. "This is the second year in a row that we've been one of the top clubs," says Gray. "I think we've learned how to live with it."

Half a Game Out and One to Go

The St. Louis Cardinals ran their Eastern Division pennant halfway up the flagpole last Sunday by beating the Cleveland Browns. But the final effort on the hoist must come this week from the New York Giants

By Edwin Shrake 

The Cleveland Browns ordered four cases of champagne delivered to the Bel Air West Motel in St. Louis last Saturday night. The bottles were stacked in a refrigerator to await what the Browns hoped would be a barrage of popping corks, spewing wine and gay laughter on Sunday afternoon. A taxi was ready to rush the champagne out to the Cleveland locker room at Busch Stadium the moment the Browns were certain of defeating the St. Louis Cardinals. Fortunately, someone in the Cleveland organization had the discretion to order the champagne on consignment. By Sunday night the four cases were on their way back to the liquor store.

The celebration was to have marked Cleveland's capture of the Eastern Division championship of the National Football League. It will have to be delayed at least until this weekend, and possibly for much longer. By knocking off the Browns 28-19 Sunday before a frozen but delighted home crowd of 31,585, the St. Louis Cardinals have forced the Eastern Division decision into the final hours of the season. Everything now depends on two games: the Giants vs. Cleveland in New York this Saturday and the Cards vs. Philadelphia in St. Louis the next day. If both the Browns and the Cardinals win, the pennant will go to Cleveland by a few percentage points. But a Cardinal victory and a Cleveland loss would bring the city of St. Louis its first pro football championship and another flag to fly beside the one the Cardinal baseball team won last October.

The football Cards are the hottest team in the East and have been the most opportunistic in recent games. After an awful mid-season slump during which they lost three of four games—including two to second-division teams, Dallas and New York—the Cards have been unbeaten for the past five weeks. The only nonvictory in that period was a 10-10 tie that was played—or, rather, wallowed—with the Giants on a Busch Stadium field turned swampy by a steady, pounding rain. The Cards beat Pittsburgh twice in the last five weeks, and in one of the games little Corner Back Pat Fischer epitomized the recent St. Louis play and spirit. He ripped the ball from the arms of John Henry Johnson and ran 49 yards for the winning touchdown in the last two minutes.

Last Sunday the Cardinals needed no such desperate heroics. It was the finest day of the year for the young, scholarly St. Louis quarterback, Charley Johnson (see cover), who was presented a plaque as an outstanding alumnus of New Mexico State just before the game. A couple of hours later Johnson slumped on a bench in the Cardinal locker room, taking small puffs off a cigar and smiling at his plaque. He had a red scratch under his right eye, a long, ragged claw mark along the right side of his mouth, a bleeding cut on the back of his neck and a large, swollen purple bruise on his right biceps. Truthfully, Johnson looked as if he had spent the afternoon being wrestled and chewed by a bear. His pants were undone and wadded around his ankles, and he was too tired either to pull them up or to take them off. But he was not too tired to exult at the comeback of the Cardinals.

"After that first New York game [which the Cardinals lost, 34-17] we decided we had to double up and catch up," Johnson said. "I went back to studying hard. I started taking films home with me again. We changed our entire practice procedure and worked harder. What had happened was we had got away from our preparations during the week. We were still getting high for the games, but we weren't really prepared. You can't get ready in one day. Each game is a week-long job. We quit making that error."

For the Browns, the Cardinals had developed a game plan in which they had confidence. The earlier Cleveland game was a 33-33 tie, and the Cards knew they could move the ball on the Browns' defense. They intended to stay fairly close to the tactics that had proved effective in the first game. The running attack was to concentrate on off-tackle slants and traps. The big difference in the St. Louis offense was that Split End Sonny Randle, one of the NFL's most dangerous deep receivers, was out of this second Cleveland game because of a shoulder separation (it has finished him for the season). As a consequence, prime responsibility shifted to Flanker Bobby Joe Conrad, a drawling Texan who is a tricky receiver but does not have Randle's speed.

The Cardinals hoped to throw repeatedly to Conrad on short sideline patterns and on what, in St. Louis terminology, are called inside slips and comeback switches. On the inside slip Conrad goes 15 yards downfield and breaks across the middle. On the comeback switch Conrad goes down 15 to 18 yards, whirls and runs two or three steps back toward Johnson. The Cardinals also hoped to catch Cleveland in one of the defense patterns in which the weak-side safety crowds up almost over the St. Louis weak-side guard. In that situation Johnson would start play action toward the strong side, then stop and throw back across the field—either to Conrad or to Randle's replacement, Billy Gambrell, who would be man-for-man on the safety and was expected to be clear.

In the first Cleveland game the Browns' linebackers came up fast to cover the St. Louis backs on swing patterns. The idea this time was to swing the backs again, and if the linebackers committed themselves early Johnson would throw to Conrad on quick slant-in patterns.

The man with the primary duty of tagging along with Conrad was Cleveland Corner Back Bernie Parrish, who has his faults on man-for-man coverage but who has contributed mightily toward putting the Browns into their current lofty position and probably saved Quarterback Frank Ryan's job as well. Late in the second Dallas game the Cowboys were leading, 16-13, when Parrish intercepted a pass and raced it in for the winning touchdown. Cleveland's No. 2 quarterback, Jim Ninowski, who is capable of brilliant afternoons but is not as consistent as Ryan, was warming up on the sideline. After Parrish's touchdown, Ninowski sat down again. After that Ryan played five good games in a row, going into last Sunday.

The interception by Parrish was typical of the Cleveland defense this year. The Browns—hurt by the loss through injuries of Defensive Tackles Bob Gain and Frank Parker—play a conservative defense. They seldom blitz. They lay back and give up voluminous yardage—the most, in fact, of any team in the league—and wait for the other side to make a mistake. That style gets the Browns kicked around quite a bit, but until last Sunday they had usually managed to come up with the big defensive plays, and they ranked fourth in the league in fewest points allowed.

The thing that worried the Cardinals was stopping the Cleveland offense. It used to be that to stop Cleveland meant only to stop Jim Brown, which is a considerable chore but could occasionally be done. After Ray Renfro lost his speed several years ago and retired, the Browns did not have a really fast target for the long pass. But they found one this season in rookie Flanker Paul Warfield, who can run like a sprinter and jump like a basketball player and already has mastered moves that most receivers never learn.

To complicate the St. Louis defensive problems, Warfield—who flanks to the left side—had to be covered by Jim Bur-son, a taxi-squad graduate who moved ahead of veteran Corner Back Jimmy Hill after Hill injured a knee. The St. Louis safetymen, Jerry Stovall and Larry Wilson, would flip-flop, with Stovall moving to the strong side. One or the other thus would frequently be available to help on Warfield. But that meant the 5-foot-9, 168-pound Pat Fischer would have to go it pretty much alone on 6-foot-4, 208-pound Cleveland Flanker Gary Collins, who was Fischer's nemesis in the first Cleveland game. (Collins caught six passes for 105 yards and one touchdown off Fischer and set up the Browns' last touchdown with a long reception.)

On Saturday morning the streets of St. Louis were slick with ice after the city was sideswiped by a midwestern blizzard. The morning paper informed the Cardinals, who were due at Busch Stadium for a 10 a.m. practice, that 245 people had been treated at hospitals for injuries from falls during the freezing rain and light snow of Friday. But the Busch Stadium field, which under the best of conditions is not much softer than a parking lot, had been covered and was frozen only around the edges of the tarp. So the Cardinals stayed off the field and used the morning to watch movies of Cleveland kickoff returns. The headier preparations had already been made.

Before the 1:05 p.m. Sunday kickoff, the temperature at the St. Louis airport was 12°. Smoke from factory chimneys around Busch Stadium hung white and frozen against a gray sky. In the Christmas spirit, an airplane flew over the stadium trailing a sign that read, "Deck the halls with battered Brownies." When the tarp was rolled off the field and the snow was scraped up and banked against the walls, the ground was bare and hard. The maintenance crew spread sand on the field to improve the footing. The Browns, who had arrived Saturday night an hour late because of the storm and strong headwinds, had brought along three sets of shoes—the regular ones, tennis shoes and some German-made footwear with small rubber cleats. None were magic.

In the middle of the first quarter Conrad tried to run a down-and-out pattern against Parrish and was crowded out of it. Conrad broke back toward the center of the field, which was the correct procedure, and arrived in the same area as St. Louis Tight End Jackie Smith. Johnson threw toward Smith and then fell under a tackle, thinking the pass had been completed. But Parrish, who had come looking for Conrad, caught the ball and ran it to the St. Louis 32. The Browns had been striking at St. Louis right Defensive Tackle Luke Owens, who has a chronic bad knee, and they continued to do so as they drove to the Cardinal 15. From there, Lou Groza kicked a 22-yard field goal to put Cleveland ahead. 3-0. But holding the Browns to a field goal inspired the St. Louis defense, and for the rest of the afternoon, although Groza kicked three more field goals, Cleveland could manage only one touchdown. It came on a tremendous diving catch by Ernie Green late in the game.

With Conrad getting double coverage when he flanked to the strong side, Johnson turned to his running game. In the first quarter Running Back Prentice Gautt limped off the field and beckoned to John David Crow, who recently has been benched for the first time since he was in the seventh grade. Crow responded well, slamming for 72 yards in 21 carries, most of them in tough, battering tries in short yardage situations. But it was a pass on a broken play that shot the Cardinals ahead to stay, in the second quarter. Johnson called a pass to Gautt and Cleveland put on a blitz. Gautt stayed behind to upend a Cleveland linebacker, and Johnson threw perfectly to Joe Childress down the middle for a 46-yard touchdown.

Johnson sneaked for another touchdown in the second quarter, passed to Conrad on the inside slip for another, and the Cards led, 21-6, at the half. From then on the St. Louis team was never in danger. Johnson wound up the day completing 15 of 22 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns and running for two others himself.

Fischer, meanwhile, glued himself to Collins and did not allow the Cleveland flanker a single catch. Burson had more trouble with Warfield, who caught six for 91 yards but could not escape for a touchdown. The St. Louis defense, blitzing less than usual, kept Jim Brown down to a comparatively modest 68 yards in 14 carries. And the Cardinals hit Ryan very hard very early, causing him to hurry his passes. "I started off throwing short," Johnson said later as a doctor examined the lemon-sized lump that grew on the biceps of his passing arm after he was speared by a helmet in the first quarter. "Then they came up and I threw deep. Then they went back again, and I threw short. We stayed one jump ahead." Nearby, Guard Ken Gray, the St. Louis offensive captain, nodded. "Charley called all the right plays," Gray said. "He's never been sharper."

"We're going to prepare this week as if our Philadelphia game will be for the championship," said Johnson. "We have to think that way. We have to believe the Giants can beat Cleveland."

"We deserve to be the champions." Defensive End Joe Robb said. "We have a better team than Cleveland, especially if you take that big guy out of their back-field. If Y. A. Tittle can beat the Browns, we'll vote him a full share of the championship money."

Even if New York can beat the Browns, St. Louis is by no means home free. High and hot as they are, the Cardinals go into their game with Philadelphia suffering from what could be a critical loss: Fullback Joe Childress dislocated his shoulder in the Cleveland game, and is out until 1965. If St. Louis can overcome this disadvantage—and if old Y. A. has a great day—those four cases of champagne may still find a taker.

The Legend of Conrad Dobler


What's a little holding or eye gouging or biting among NFL players? For St. Louis' controversial Guard Conrad Dobler, 'anything' on a football field seems to be everything short of neutron warfare

By Daphne Hurford 

One of the questions on the NFL's personnel survey form is, "Did you take up football for any particular reason?" Conrad Dobler's answer was, "It is still the only sport where there is controlled violence mixed with careful technical planning. Football is still a very physical game."

What Dobler, the 6'3", 260-pound All-Pro right guard for the St. Louis Cardinals, means by "controlled violence," "careful technical planning" and "a very physical game" is that "I'll do anything I can get away with to protect my quarterback." And according to his opponents, what Dobler gets away with is holding, eye gouging, face-mask twisting, leg whipping, tripping, even biting.

Outside St. Louis Dobler is considered the "dirtiest" player in the league, someone who makes even Oakland's George Atkinson look like Mr. Clean. In fact, in one game Dobler's tactics so infuriated Merlin Olsen, the now-retired defensive tackle of the Los Angeles Rams, that Olsen swore he would never utter Dobler's name again. However, there is one player who has good reason to utter Dobler's name in his prayers—Cardinal Quarterback Jim Hart. Thanks to the protection—legal or otherwise—afforded by Dobler and his linemates, Hart has been sacked only 41 times the last three seasons, an NFL low. Among others who recognize Dobler's prowess are the NFL coaches, who have twice picked him to start in the Pro Bowl.

Dobler was just another obscure offensive lineman until 1974, his third season in the league, when some members of the Minnesota Vikings jokingly requested rabies shots before a game against the Cardinals. Suddenly Dobler had acquired an image. "What you need when you play against Dobler," said one rival, "is a string of garlic buds around your neck and a wooden stake. If they played every game under a full moon, Dobler would make All-Pro. He must be the only guy in the league who sleeps in a casket." When the camera showed Dobler going through his repertoire during a telecast of a St. Louis-Dallas game, commentator Tom Brook-shier wondered aloud. "How does he get away with it?"

Asked the same question, Dobler says that he holds no more than any other player, that he would get caught more often if he did, and that reports of his dastardly deeds have been exaggerated. In the next breath, he says that rules are made to be broken and adds, with a slightly superior air, "If you're going to break the rules, you've got to have a little style and class." Asked if he really bites opponents, Dobler usually replies that he would never do such a tasteless thing, believing as he does in good oral hygiene. Of course, he adds, "If someone stuck his hand in your face mask and put his fingers in your mouth, what would you do?"

While Dobler insists that he is an aggrieved party as far as holding is concerned, he willingly offers a few hints on the best way to hold a defensive lineman or a blitzing linebacker. "Always keep your hands inside your chest because it's much harder for the referees to see them when they're in there," he says, "and if a guy does get past you, grab his face mask, not his jersey." Dobler also recommends "hooking"—clamping the opponent with your arm and dragging him down—as an effective means of detaining defenders.

"Sometimes I hold by accident," he says. "You know, I get my hand caught in a face mask. But always remember this: at no time do my fingers leave my hand."

Surprisingly, Dobler rarely uses his tongue on rivals. "You have to get just the right comment to make them mad," he says. "Verbal abuse could take all day. A faster and more efficient way to aggravate and intimidate people is to knock the stuffing out of them." Dobler particularly likes to aggravate and intimidate other Pro Bowlers, first-round draft choices and players whose salaries are higher than his $50,000 a year. "Of course I'm vindictive," he says. "I was a fifth-round draft choice, and who ever heard of a player from Wyoming?"
Born in Chicago, Dobler grew up in the middle of the Mojave Desert at Twentynine Palms, Calif. There are seven Dobler children—Corrine. Cynthia, Clifford, Conrad, Christopher, Catherine and Cassandra—and Conrad always was considered the "meanest kid" in the family. Catherine, who was unlucky enough to win the starring role in a charming Joan of Arc game devised by her brother, says Conrad "was always mean and ornery and liked to show off his muscles." Conrad's mother Clara says her son was always compassionate and eager to help someone less fortunate, that he is definitely "a winner, not a loser" and that he has always been "just like his father." His father, a former Golden Gloves fighter whom Conrad calls "Big John," says that "Conrad plays pretty good football from what they tell me" and adds that his son "is not quite as mean as they say he is." As proof he offers a tale about Conrad, then nine, escorting his mother to the doctor after she had cut her hand and fainting at the sight of her blood.

Conrad claims he has always been motivated by a lack of peer approval. After attending a Catholic grammar school, where there were only eight students in his graduating class, he went to a large high school where he felt lost and insignificant. To gain acceptance he took up football and basketball. "I never finished a basketball game," he says. "I always fouled out. Something just seemed to come over me. I had more fouls, I think, than the second string had points." A football scholarship took him to the University of Wyoming. Recently he taunted his coach at Wyoming, Jack Taylor, saying, "I'm the only 10¢ player the Cowboys ever had. All it took to recruit me was one letter." At Wyoming Dobler maintained a B average in his political-science major and child-psychology minor.

Drafted by the Cardinals in 1972, Dobler was released before the start of his rookie season. Luckily for Dobler a number of the Cardinals' offensive linemen were injured early in the '72 season, and they re-signed him in time for their third game. "When I came back I decided that I'd just play my own game," Dobler says. "I'd do what I do best and make the other guys play into my hands, make them have to beat me."

Jim Hanifan, St. Louis' offensive line coach, says of his right guard, "You'd have to kill him to beat him." Dobler smiles. "When you're fighting in the dirt for a position, climbing up from the bottom, you know what it is to compete," he says. "If we both wanted it, I'd want it more. I'd mow 'em right down with no compassion, no mercy."

By midseason of 1972 Dobler had become the Cardinals' starting right guard, and he currently has no plans to vacate the position.

"I've thrived on criticism," Dobler says. "Tell me I can't do it, and that's all I need. When I started out, no one gave a damn who I was. I had to prove to everyone that they had a fight on their hands. All the bad mouthing I get is just fuel. If a guy says he doesn't respect me, he just makes my job that much easier." When Olsen accused Dobler of having a tremendous ego, Dobler replied, "If you don't have an ego, you're a wino." When Minnesota Defensive Tackle Doug Sutherland labeled Dobler a "marked man," Dobler said, "I'd have a lot more fun in this game if more people said they were going to get me. I've been playing dirty a lot longer than they have. Yeah, I'll get mine someday, but when I do, I'll take my portion plus some."

For all his tough talk, Dobler is often astonished when he watches himself on game films. "Sometimes I can't believe what I do, that I can fling my body around the way I do," he says. "Those things happen at the time. I couldn't repeat any one of them." Something certainly does come over Dobler during a game. The Greeks had a word for it: aristeia, that special show of valor when great warriors put forth superhuman effort. Diomedes had aristeia, so did Hector. What does Dobler call it? "I don't know. Insanity, maybe." Hanifan calls it a mean streak. But Homer and Hanifan would agree that the truly great warriors leave their whatever-you-call-it at the scene of battle, and away from the gridiron Dobler is a charmer.
Intelligent and articulate, he is quick to laugh and has a gentle, polite manner. He lights women's cigarettes, saying, "I once dated a sorority girl," and never forgets to add, "It's just an adjective" when he thinks his language might offend. His intensity shows in his chewed nails and in his restlessness; his hunger for approval shows in his attempts to entertain. He even does magic tricks. Dobler holds strong opinions, speaks his mind freely and then worries that he spoke too freely. When a player complains about Dobler's methods, Conrad simply says, "He'll get over it." But when Dobler feels he has hurt a friend's feelings, he says, "Oh, he'll get over it. But you know something, I won't."

Dobler's looks belie his 26 years. His dark brown hair is liberally dusted with gray. He limps as a result of arthritis in his knees, and he says he has "the bones of a 65-year-old man." His own private set of harpies keeps him from sleeping well, and when awake he can be described as hyperactive. He skis well, plays racquetball with grace and throws a dart with deadly accuracy.

During the off-season the Doblers—Conrad, wife Linda and 7-year-old son Mark—live in Laramie, Wyo. Dobler owns some property, including a bar called Block 11, in the town of Encampment (pop. 321) high in the Sierra Madres. The bar is so named because of zoning rules, not because Dobler thinks he can simultaneously block all 11 men on a team.

Every June there is a Woodchoppers Jamboree in Encampment, and Block 11 is the center of the boisterous nocturnal activity. Dobler always attends the jamboree, driving up from Laramie in his CB-equipped Mercedes, because it is such fun and, well, because his presence in Block 11 guarantees peace. Things can get rough in Wyoming saloons, most of which have iron bars on the windows to prevent the throwing of furniture and/or people through the glass, but no one is eager to deal with a bouncer of Dobler's size and reputation. The men's room in Block 11 is filled with raunchy graffiti expressing opinions on Dobler's athletic abilities—or lack of them. High above all the remarks, written in large letters, is: "Expletive deleted the Pine Lodge." Asked what this means, Dobler, blushing, says that the Pine Lodge is another bar in town and that he is the author of that particular piece of graffiti.

Linda Dobler, who was raised on a Wyoming ranch, will receive her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wyoming in December and intends to continue her studies until she gets a doctorate. Despite what others might think, she says she does not need it to handle her husband. She drinks tequila by the shot (no lime, no salt), manages home, family and school with ease and roundly beats her husband at tennis. She admits that Conrad has a mean streak but says it doesn't affect their life together.

Conrad worries that talk of his image as the NFL's dirtiest player will turn the officials against him. Already, he claims, he receives extra scrutiny from officials. "In one game I was called for tripping a guy who was standing up," he says. "Sure I tried to trip him, but I didn't succeed, and attempted tripping is not illegal." He pauses, then adds, "Oh, hell, the officials are only human." Some members of the Dobler clan tend to get upset when Conrad's reputation is discussed, but his mother says that she was told by an official that her son is "an intelligent player who has finesse, knows the rules and uses them to the nth degree." She is unconcerned about his image, saying, "If that helps bring in money to the stadium, well...." Linda Dobler occasionally worries about the effect Conrad's reputation will have on Mark, but the boy seems to be able to differentiate between No. 66 on the field and the person who is his father. Once when Mark was being taunted by a schoolmate about his father's play, Mark ended the discussion by saying, "He's only doing his job."

If Dobler's image has hindered his performance by making the officials more aware of him, Conrad feels it has also helped by making opponents more aware of him. "Sometimes someone will say, 'Watch out, Dobler's behind you,' " he says. "The guy stops and turns around, and that gives us the time we need to complete the play."

Dobler says defensive players fall into three categories: "The quick ones who never touch you, the strong ones who beat the heck out of you and the few who are both strong and quick. I'd rather go against a quick guy. He does certain things well, and you know what he'll do."

Dobler wonders whether it will be as easy in the years ahead, for he fears he might be mellowing. "At the Pro Bowl you get to know and like your opponents," he says. "And when you like a guy, you don't step on his fingers or kick him getting up." Last winter Dobler said he would play for five more years at the most. Now he talks about playing longer. He says he cannot imagine a Sunday without a game, although he hopes he won't play past his prime. He is aware of what happens to athletes who play too long and of the fleeting quality of fame. But it's not just the taste of stardom or the camaraderie that Dobler says he would miss. It's playing football—and playing it well.

Of course, if Conrad Dobler ever does mellow, he can use his own words to bring him back to reality: "If you ever forget that football is a violent game, they'll catch you gazing at the stars and put your lights out."

The Unhappiest Millionaire

Walter Wolfner sadly leads his football Cardinals out of Chicago and into prosperity

By Jack Olsen 

The Buddha-shaped boss of the Chicago Cardinals professional football club raised his voice far above its usual mumble, banged a heavy fist on his desk and announced his opinion of the owner of the rival Chicago Bears. George Halas, said Walter Wolfner, is an asterisk, a semicolon, an exclamation mark and an ampersand. The wallpaper began to peel in Wolfner's office, as it always does when he talks about Halas. "I refuse to mention that man's name ever again!" Wolfner went on, then mentioned "that man's name" again and again. It was a stirring, definitive display of dislike.

Nine blocks to the north, in the back room of the George Halas Co. ("Sporting Goods, Wholesale, Retail"), the object of Walter Wolfner's disaffection said simply: "Wolfner? He's a real lovable specimen, isn't he?"

The discerning reader will observe the feathery touch of irony in the Halas remark. And students of human behavior will sense immediately that some terrible battle has taken place between these two old war horses, and that Wolfner has lost and Halas has won. And the reader will be right. The Cardinals, 8,000 pounds of powerful young manhood, are moving to St. Louis, leaving a clear field in Chicago for Halas and the Bears.

For 10 years Walter Wolfner has twisted and squirmed and kicked and wrestled to avoid being forced out of Chicago. In that period Wolfner and his wife, Violet, majority owner of the Cardinals, have lost something like $1 million on their team. But no matter. They had won the more important battle. They had not given in to Halas. Money was little or no object; the Cardinals were kind of a hobby with the millionaire Wolfners.

But not even millionaires want to throw away money forever. As Wolfner said in a calmer moment last week: "It just got so that we weren't having any fun here any more." Twice the Wolfners had offered Halas big money to move out of town (once, according to Wolfner, it was $500,000; another time it was $1 million). Halas turned them down.

The fact that Wolfner has every chance to strike pay dirt in the new location seems of little or no importance to him. A football-starved city is already trying to gobble up season tickets. Joe Griesedieck, president of the Falstaff Brewing Co. and a crackerjack TV sports entrepreneur on his own, shelled out $250,000 for a 10% interest in the Cardinals (leaving Mrs. Wolfner with 84.6%), promised a $50,000 bonus if the Cards made the move and guaranteed the sale of 25,000 season tickets. Gussie Busch, Griesedieck's beer rival in St. Louis who nevertheless is mindful of his civic responsibilities, is renting his baseball park to the football Cardinals for an undisclosed sum which insiders label ridiculously low. And in three years a new river-front stadium seating 55,000 will be ready.

Back in Chicago Halas will have things all to himself, which is what he has been fighting for all along. No longer will he be barred from televising the Bears' out-of-town games into Chicago because the Cardinals are playing in town that day. The measure of what it is worth to Halas to have the Cardinals leave is the fact that he is putting up almost all of a $500,000 "moving expense" payment from the league to the Cardinals. The league, for its part, has been eager to get the Cardinals into another city because in recent years the poor gates at Comiskey Park have cost every visiting team money. Visitors have had to content themselves with the routine $20,000 guarantee instead of 40% of a fat gate. This year the guarantee will be $30,000.

So everybody should be happy now—the Cardinals, the Bears, the National Football League and the fans. As befits a winner, Halas isn't saying much. He sits behind his desk on honky-tonky W. Madison Street in Chicago and wears a look of inscrutability. "Let Wolfner do the talking," he says, and Wolfner obliges.

There has been bad blood between the clans ever since 1947. Before then, when Chicago Sportsman-Gambler Charlie Bidwill and his wife Violet owned the Cardinals, all was sweetness and light. Bidwill and Halas were close friends; more than once Cardinal Owner Bidwill lent money to Bear Owner Halas to meet a payroll, a fact which Halas has graciously acknowledged. Bidwill's interest was based not only on friendship; he owned a bloc of Bears stock. When he died in 1947, the Bears stock went to his widow, who shortly after sold it back to Halas. Mrs. Bidwill later told Halas that she would let him keep $50,000 he owed her, in return for third-string Quarterback Bobby Layne. As Mrs. Bidwill, now Mrs. Wolfner, tells the story, Halas refused the trade, sent Layne instead to the New York Bulldogs for $50,000 cash and inserted in the contract a clause which barred Layne from ever playing for the Cardinals. That started the feud. When Coffee Broker Walter Wolfner married the Widow Bidwill on Sept. 28, 1949, he inherited the feud, and on him it looked natural.

An abrasive, pugnacious man, Wolfner seems to like a fight, has picked them with the Chicago press, with his coaches, with league officials and now with the dead. He accuses the late Bert Bell of setting up the annual league schedule to hurt the Cardinals and help the Bears, of deliberately assigning anti-Cardinal officials to Cardinal games, and of helping Halas in a campaign to run the Cardinals out of town. To hear Wolfner tell it, the Cardinals' lamentable financial record is the fault of George Halas and Bert Bell. Others say it is the fault of Walter Wolfner. Says a one-time Cardinal star: "Making him managing director of the team just because he married the owner is like you should send me to manage the New York Philharmonic."


Even Wolfner's staunchest admirers sometimes find themselves apologizing for his popping off. When he first stepped into the job of managing director, he made a lot of enemies in a short time. He publicly criticized his coaches and often interfered in the coach's domain. In 1952, after the Cards won three straight games, Wolfner predicted a championship, a proclamation which not only proved wrong but also put undue pressure on the coach. In those early years of Wolfner's reign, Violet made the big decisions, as she does today. But more and more she has turned over important duties to her husband, and lately he has begun to show that he is learning the trade.

In defense of Wolfner, he is not entirely responsible for the fact that the Cardinals lose money. Losing money has been a Cardinal habit, not only because tough infighter George Halas has made it hard for them, but also because the Cardinals have had a sort of lackadaisical happy-go-lucky tradition in the front office. And some of this has communicated to the players and from them to the fans. In the Bidwill era, the Cardinals were known throughout the league as a pack of hail-fellows-well-met. It was anything for a laugh, make up the plays as you go along, and don't let's take this game too seriously. Once the Cardinals were tied with the Bears 28-28 with seconds to play. They had the ball deep in Bear territory and could have won easily with a field goal. Ignoring signals from Coach Jimmy Conzelman on the sideline, the Cards went for the touchdown. The providence which also watches over drunks crossing turnpikes came through for them, and they won 35-28. Not all their zaniness worked out so well, but a good time was had by all. It was even rumored that some of the Cardinals drank a little, but only if there was time before the game. This was the flotsam-jetsam group Walter Wolfner took over.

Also in Wolfner's behalf, and in the absence of any rebuttal by Halas, it must be pointed out that Bell apparently did render aid and comfort to Halas in his fight against the Wolfners; a higher court will have to judge Bell's motivations. Probably Bell felt in his heart the same as other NFL owners: that it would be good for all concerned, including the Cardinals, for the team to move to another town. For years Bell gave the Cardinals the short end of the scheduling stick, making them open the pro season in Chicago. This meant competing with the end of the baseball season and the World Series. More than once the Cardinals found themselves scheduled to open in Comiskey Park on the same day the White Sox were playing at home. According to Wolfner, Bell would answer his complaints by saying: "Work it out the best you can." This meant one year playing the opening "home" game at Buffalo against the New York Giants and another year rescheduling the opening game to be played after the season was over. Bell's explanation for shoving these opening dates on the Cardinals was that Halas had to build special stands in Wrigley Field after the Cubs moved out, and the stands took two weeks to erect. Wolfner offered to pay for the overtime necessary to put up the stands in five days; Halas said thanks but no thanks. Wolfner even took lawyers to NFL meetings to fight against the year-after-year inequities in the scheduling. He always lost by a vote of 11 to 1.


Bell also sided with Halas on another crucial case involving the Cardinals. Wolfner wanted to move the team to Northwestern University's Dyche Stadium (seating capacity 55,000) just north of Chicago, and he thought he had a deal with university officials. But Halas produced a 28-year-old agreement that the Cardinals would not play north of Madison Street and the Bears would not play-south of the street. "That agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on," says Wolfner, "but Bell gave it the force of law by stepping in and ruling that it was valid. If we had moved to Dyche Stadium, we wouldn't be leaving Chicago now."

But no impartial observer can shed any tears over the Cards' departure, even though they were Chicago's first professional football team. The Cardinals bored Chicago and the Bears did not. The news of the transfer to St. Louis brought a vast ground swell of public ennui from Chicago fans. Said the Sun-Times: CARD LOSS FAILS TO JOLT CITY. Echoed the Tribune: CARDINAL MOVE NO SHOCK TO CHICAGOANS. The team had brought only two world championships to Chicago in 61 years (1925 and 1947). The Bears, on the other hand, seemed always to be in contention; even in losing seasons, they drew crowds.


The shift to St. Louis, where the new team will automatically be taken to the municipal bosom, may rejuvenate the Cardinals and turn them into winners. Says the canny Halas: "Wolfner will come up smelling like a rose, you wait and see. He's what you might call a fortunate victim of circumstance." Says Coach Frank Ivy: "We will be the only pro team there and will have the support of the fans right off the bat. In this emotional game where morale means so much, this undivided interest is going to work advantageously to the point where the football Cardinals will rise to the occasion and play much better than they did in Chicago."

Ivy has good reason to be optimistic. His team fumbled an extraordinary 48 times last season; yet it played far better football than its dismal (2-10) record showed. The Cardinals are young and fleet of foot, full of sass and vinegar. The spectacular long-gainer became the hallmark of the team last season; fans who attended Cardinal games could be almost certain of two things—that the Cardinals would lose and that with a full repertory of razzle-dazzle plays they would be interesting. Such a team can draw crowds in a new town. Such a team, given time and patience, can win championships. St. Louis and the unhappy Wolfners may have fat years ahead.