Independent from Long Beach, California on November 23, 1976 · Page 20
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Independent from Long Beach, California · Page 20

Long Beach, California
Issue Date:
Tuesday, November 23, 1976
Page 20
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Wojciechowicz: A name chiseled in granite * * * . * inHav uniiM tnn . . . but. ves. it's a better game By GORDON VERRELL Staff Writer On a recent edition of Sports Challenge, the popular television show in which nostalgia and trivia play vital roles, sportscaster Frank Gilford was asked to identify the man who played center for Fordham 40 years ago. Fordham? The center? Forty years ago? C'mpn. A toughie, all right. But with no hesitation, Gifford hit it on the bugle: "Alex Wojciechowicz." Alex Wojciechowicz. The middle man in one of college football's most famous lines. . . Fordham's "Seven Blocks of Granite." Three years in a row -- 1935, '36 and '37 Fordham's "Seven Blocks" played scoreless ties with Pitt, the great East Coast power of the day, a team with a 23-2-4 record for those three seasons, and Wojciechowicz -- pronounced Wogee-HOE-witz but, naturally, he answered to "Wojie" -- recalls them like they were played yesterday. "They were my three greatest thrills," Wojcie- ehowicz, now- a real estate broker and appraiser in New Jersey, said in a telephone conversation. "Pitt had the dream backfield, with all-America Marshall Goldberg, and we had the dream line. It was a stalemate for three years. Those three games proved what football is all about." Recollections of an all-America Ah, the dream line. That's for sure. The 1936 Fordham team was the dream team, too. Not only were the Rams undefeated, but they were unscored upon as well -- until the final game of the season, with New York University. NYU won, 7-6. Fordham's hopes for the coveted invitation to the Rose Bowl were dashed by a single point. Forty years have passed but the "Seven Blocks of Granite" are not forgotten. Two of the seven were all-Americas: Wojciechowicz, the center, in 1936 and '37, and Ed (Devil Doll) Franco, the left tackle, in 1937. That 1936 line was composed of (reading from left to right on your radio dial, fans) Leo Paquin, end; Franco, tackle; Nat Pierce, guard; Wojciechowicz, center; Vince Lombard! (yes, the Vince Lombard!), guard; Al (Ali Baba) Babartsky, tackle, and Johnny Druze, end. "Five of us are left," said Wojie, now 61. "Lombard!, of course, has passed away, and Pierce died last year. Whenever we get together -- and we do that about once a year -- I tell 'em to look out, that the Lord is moving to the outside, not the inside." The name, "Seven Blocks of Granite," was not the brainchild of Tim Cohane, the sports editor for 20 years of Look magazine, as popularly believed. "I was not the originator, although so credited," Cohane wrote in his book, "Bypaths of Glory." "I saw it first in 1930 on an Associated Press photo caption. In 1936, when Fordham defeated powerhouses Southern Methodist, St Mary's and Purdue, all without allowing a touchdown, and then played the second of those scoreless ties with Pitt, I remembered the old line, exhumed it, and this time it was to stay." Indeed it was. Like other fabled football monick- ers ... Notre Dame's "Four Horsemen" and "Seven Mules" ... Army's "Mr. Ins de" and "Mr. Outside" . . . USC's national champion "Wild Bunch" . . . and more. "It's quite a thing for a team to be remembered like that," Wojciechowicz said. "It's mostly in the East, I'm sure, but every once in awhile I hear the 'Seven Blocks of Granite' mentioned on TV. "There's a tremendous difference between football now and in my day. Once we got into the game we dreaded to get out. We hung in there as long as we could. I loved to go down on the kickoff every bit as much as making a tackle . . . I guess the kids today would, too ... but, yes, it's a better game Wojciechowicz played 13 seasons in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles, playing in the 1949 title game against the Rams in the Coliseum. "We got $1,300 each for that game ... the league championship," he said. "It's a little different than what these guys play for these days." Wojciechowicz recognizes that the major difference in pro football today and when he was playing is because of television. But what he refuses to recognize is why the players of yesterday, the players who founded the NFL, who put down the groundwork for the multi-million dollar empire that the NFL is today, are not included in the league's pension plan. Enter the NFL Alumni Association. "We started the association primarily to take care of players in need," explained Wojie, the organization's founder. "We had a quarterback, Tommy Thompson, who was in a wheelchair. He needed some help and I began to wonder just how many other Tommy Thompsons there were. "We were helping 23 players, and today we're still helping 18. (Continued Page C-2, Col. 7) MICHIGAN BETTER THAN SC - IN POLL Third-ranked USC might have beaten UCLA Saturday but they were held to a standstill by the pollsters. Michigan, 22-0 victors over Ohio State, roared past the Trojans and into second place behid Pittsburgh on the Associated Press poll Monday. The question of who is really No. 2 -- and maybe even No. 1 -- will be settled in Pasadena on New Year's Day. Sugar Bowl-bound Pitt, idle last weekend, maintained a comfortable, although dwindling, lead. Thhe Panthers received 39 first-place votes and 1 172 of a possible 1,240 points irom a nationwide panel of 62 sports writers and broadcasters. They wind up the regular season Friday night against 16th-ranked Perm State. UCLA, having lost out in both the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl derbies, fell from second to sixth, behind Georgia and Maryland. (Continued Page C-2, Col. 4) HANK JOHN DIXON, Sports Editor TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1976 SECTION C, PAGE C-l * Orange Bowl wasn't interested in UCLA J.D. Morgan's assertion that Orange Bowl committee members in the Coliseum Saturday argued violently over the telephone with their people in Miami that UCLA should get the bid, isn't quite correct. Only a miracle--like a 60-0 win by Michigan over Ohio State- would have put the Bruins in the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl people simply were not interested in UCLA. However, if USC had lost to the Bruins Saturday and had not won the Rose Bowl bid, the Orange Bowlers would have been interested in the Trojans. "UCLA is a fine football team, but it just doesn't have the tradition and football background of, say. USC or Ohio State," one of the Orange Bowl committeemen told me. "We're here (in the Coliseum) now more-or-less on a secondary mission. If UCLA had battled USC JC water polo-SoCal Regionals, Full- erlon JC, all day. Harness racing--Hollywood Park, first post 7:45 p.m. . A m a t e u r boring--Latin-American Press Club, Pico Rivera, 8 p.m. ON R..AJ3IOI TV TELEVISION Pro basketball-Lakers vs. Milwaukee, KTLA (5), 6 p.m. RADIO Pro basketball-Lakers vs. Milwaukee, KABC, 6 p.m. . right down to the wire, we'd have given them more consideration. But right now, it's a runaway." "Right now" was at a time when the Trojans held a 24^0 lead. "We were here to consider USC in the event they lost to UCLA," said the Orange Bowl man. "If that happened, we'd have had quite a struggle determining between USC and Ohio State." If that happened, both the Trojans and Buckeyes would have had two losses. As it turned out, Ohio State got the oranges. Poor UCLA, with only the one loss to USC, was shut out from a major bowl and had to accept a secondary Liberty Bowl berth. What the devil is "tradition and football background" anyway? UCLA deserved a major bowl bid and it's a sad commentary that some people thought the Bruins lacked the so-called background to get one, even though their record was almost perfect. WHEN WAYNE HOWARD ' earlier termed San Diego State's Deacoli David Turner "the best running back ever to come out of a California junior college," I asked him if he realized that O.J. Simpson was a California JC product. Howard said that he was aware of O.J.'s background, but he stood on his statement. After watching the Deacon smash the erstwhile outstanding Long Beach State defense for 130 yards Saturday night, I might put Turner "almost" in a class with O.J. Haden offers mistake-free quarterbacking By RICH ROBERTS Staff Writer PAT mistake about it Against the St. Louis Cardinals the Rams' offense played well enough to win, but lost. Against the San Francisco 49ers the offense was futile enough to lose, but won. Does it matter how well -- or how badly -- the offense plays? Does'it really matter who plays quarterback? It seems the defense usually determines the destiny. "I did not play very well," said Pat Haden, as always minimizing his personal contributions to the Rams' success. After St. Louis, which was his debut as the Rams' official No. 1 quarterback, Haden himself suggested that he had been too inclined to run when he could not pass. "So I was going to try to stay with my receivers against San Francisco," he said, "but I didn't have time to do much scrambling." He was sacked five times, but he did run out of trouble three times. "But not very far," he said. "They kept catching me from behind. When those big linemen are catching me from behind, it tells you something about my s:-.oed." "We tried some things to slow down the pass rush -- quick screens, draws -- but they handled our adjustments very wefl. I guess it really wasn't all my fault. I was playing against a very good defensive team." The point to be made, though, is that while Haden can't yet take credit for winning, he has done little to cause the Rams to lose. A Ram coach once explained the conservative game plan Haden was given for his first NFL start at Minnesota in September. "We didn't want him to do anything to beat us," the coach said. But with Haden directing, the Rams' offense has committed only two turnovers in the last two weeks -- his own interception against the Cardinals and John Cappelletti's late fumble at San Francisco when it really didn't matter anymore. It's not always exciting but it's the kind of offense Chuck Knox wants. He calls it "mistake-free football." "We did score a lot of points (28) against St. Louis," Haden says, "and our defense scored most of the points in San Francisco. (Continued Page C-2, Col. 7) (Continued Page C-2, Col. 3! BLOCKED PAT SAVES COLTS, 17-16 MIAMI (AP) -- "You saw what we call 'Colts football,'" Baltimore coach Ted Marchibroda observed. "You win a game on offense, you win on defense and you win on special teams -- whatever it takes to win." It was offense -- Bert Jones' passing -- that put Baltimore in front; it was defense -- a Jackie Wallace interception -- that kept them there, and most important, it was the special team -- Mike Barnes' critical extra-point block with 12 seconds remaining in the game -- that gave the Colts their 17-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins Monday night. (Continued Page C-2, Col. 5) Battle over at Tennessee Illinois ousts Blackman Associated Press College football's game of musical chairs moved into high gear Monday as the University of Illinois fired head coach Bob Blackman and Tennessee's Bill Battle, under criticism from alumni and fans, announced that he will not return. Blackman, 58, a product of Long Beach Poly High, left a highly successful career at Dartmouth in 1970 to replace coach Jim Valek. He compiled a 29-36-1 record in six seasons at Illinois. Blackman said at a news conference that he was "not given a lair chance" but added that he held no grudges against the school. "I feel it would be a mistake for anyone to be upset with a^big university because of the actions of a very small group of people,' he explained, noting the decision was made by the school's board of directors. Blackman said he had been given a chance to resign but "it would be a phony situation to submit a resignation when I know in my heart our coaching staff had done a good job." The Illini upset Purdue and Missouri this season but finished 5-6 over-all and 4-4 in the Big Ten. . . ., , . ,,,, , Red Grange, the legendary all-America from Illinois, told the I-PT he was surprised by Blackman's firing. (Continued Page C-2, Col. 3) BOB BLACKMAN Fired at Illinois Attention baseball owners: Your game lives! New Times Service NEW YORK -- Eighteen shopping days have passed since the market opened on baseball's new breed of freedmen, and almost every day has brought fresh evidence of how little the men who own baseball know about their own business. Throughout this century, and even earlier, owners have insisted and perhaps believed that if players were allowed a voice in their own future it would be the end of the game "as we know it." They have belabored the point with such doomfui persistence that the general public, most players, a large segment of the press, many members of Congress and even the Supreme Court of the United States accepted their prophecies as revealed truths. Through the agency of Andy Messersmith, Dave McNally, Peter Seitz and two federal courts, these arguments are being tested for the first time. Up to now, no single one of them has proved valid. There is exellent reason to believe that the men who own baseball have been talking through their hats all along. They said that if the standard contract did not bind the player to his employer from cradle to grave, players would be gypsying across the map in greedy pursuit of the top dollar. They said this would destroy "fan identification" with members of the home team. In the first test of that prediction, 24 of the 600 players in the major leagues chose to work out their contracts and shop around for a job. In the same period -- that is, from the end of the 1975 season to the 1976 World Seeries -- well over 100 and perhaps as many 200 changed teams involuntarily. THE MEN who worry about "fan identification" sold or traded away something near one-third of all the players in the majors. . It was predicted that if players were free to change jobs like workers in any other industry, all the stars would be snapped up by the richest -- and therefore greediest -- clubs, or they would gravitate to the glamour cities like New York and Los Angeles, or they would join the strongest clubs with the brightest prospects. Of the first 10 players to pick a new employer, New York got one and Los Angeles none.-The others chose to play in Anaheim, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Atlanta, RED SMITH Montreal, San Diego, Boston and Arlington, Texas. In every case, the player picked a team with a poorer won-lost record, and presumably dimmer prospects, than the team he left. On second thought, that reference to pennant prospects may not be accurate. Six players quit Charley Finley, and the way things arc going, nobody's chances look dimmer than Oakland's. Over the decades, the single excuse used for allowing employers outright ownership of their employes was that it preserved "competitive balance." Since there was only one winner to a league, almost all of those who spoke so earnestly about preserving competitive balance were losers. It was always entertaining to hear somebody like Montreal's Johnny McHale hold forth in this vein, because if Johnny could prolong indefinitely the competitive balance that has existed since Montreal got into the league, it would cost him his job. Contrary to all foreboding, it looks as though the movement of free agents will do more to achieve competitive balance than the reserve system ever did. The weaker teams that are serious about trying to improve have gone after the available talent earnestly. California, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Montreal and Texas have all helped themselves, and there is time to do more. IT WILL SURPRISE some that when a player decides which offer to accept, money is not necessarily the compelling factor. When Gary Matthews chose Atlanta and Sal Bando went to Milwaukee, they said they had rejected higher offers from other clubs. Not every ballplayer lusts after gold alone. As agent Jerry Kapstein said when Don Gullett picked the Yankees, such considerations as a team's tradition, the environment and the way a team handles its pitchers can all influence the decision. At the same time, there can be reasons other than money why a player might want to get away from a team. Maybe the owner addresses him as "say" or refers to him as "the village idiot." There never was any reason why long-term contracts could not accomplish everything the reserve system was supposed to do. Multi-year contracts protect fan identification, preserve competitive balance and assure the owner a fair return on his investment in player development. (Continued Page C-2, Col. 5)

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