Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on October 31, 1976 · Page 68
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 68

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 31, 1976
Page 68
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Drat All Those NFL Holding Penalties--Where Have You Gone, Lou Creekmur? Do not fear for an instant that what we are going to talk bout here will lure you into a series of football diagrams, confusing you with X's and O's and loops and darts and that lOrt of thing. '. The last time we attempted that, Don Shula was the defensive coach of the Lions, and he revealed then the genius others later would discover. - "That is an interesting play you have there and no doubt It would succeed," he said, studying the diagram. ' "There is only one flaw, wliich you might consider remedying. You have 12 men on the field." So much for amateurs. Despite what, anyone says, I always have figured Richard Nixon as a guy who could count, at least. He diagrammed a play the Washington Redskins actually used in the Super Bowl. . The. play backfired and some insist it cost the Redskins the game. uut then, I have .heard guys blame him for the price of tennis balls. What we are getting to here is simply the point that defen-itve people in football always have figured the offense plays the game with more than 11 men anyway. Particularly is it so among professionals. There are "ghosts" in the attacking force, or so they claim, and you can number them, depending on the team. ' THEIR CLAIMS GAINED some attention last spring, when coaches all around the National Football League were busy .reviewing the previous season's game films. Jf ,hat they noticed was that holding by offensive linemen was -Jw)ming a vital factor or at last a valuable one in the vsi!h.eming of some teams. ?:.Everybody denies everything, but the word around was that iLiLf most flagrant "holders" in the NFL were. the Oakland .Ratders and the Los Angeles Rams. f,Anth are mighty fine offensive teams, as you no doubt recognize. The complaint was that these two especially were escap- WifrnMigrir ing 'or evading the rules of offensive line blocking, thus enhancing their chances for success. ' They were, in effect, playing with more than the normal complement of 11 players on the attack. So-came about the crackdown on offensive linemen, which we have witnessed and been vexed by throughout the current NFL season. Remember the San Francisco 49ers' stunning upset of the Rams a few weeks ago? Four fimes within an 11-mlntite span of the first half, the Rams were nailed for offensive holding penalties. It was enough to force them to keep their hands off 49er defenders and when that happened, something quite startling resulted. The 49ers sacked Ram quarterback James Harris 10 times, drove him to distraction and the bench, and won in a romp that turned about their division race. HOLDING BY OFFENSIVE LINEMEN is a common practice in football. Always it has been so. It is a refinement of blocking artistry, or so some claim. Among the moderns, the St. "Louis Cardinals' Conrad Dobler is recognized as the master of the dutch, although when asked about it, he replies, typically, "Who, me?" Long before Dobler, the Lions possessed a tremendous offen sive tackle who will go to the Hall of Fame recognized as perhaps the finest holder of his time, at least. Lou Creekmur's the one. It is said that after a game with the 49ers, Creekmur's opposite across the line stripped off his jersey and threw it at him. . ' "You've wanted it all game, dammit, so take it," he said, stomping away in disgust. So lots of guys maybe everybody holds in the offensive line. But now, the crackdown is so sharp that teams quickly are bringing themselves into line, and playing by the rules, as written. . ' Art McNally, chief of NFL game officials, denies he sent around word to his striped shirts to keep a keen eye on the offensive linemen and nail them for holding infractions. Even so, the Lions, who in the early weeks were being hit time and again for offensive holding, were so concerned they sought McNally's interpretation of what constituted holding. "It's a tough thing," says the Lions' Russ Thomas. "Smart defensive players will try to trap you into holding by locking your hand under their arm, or forcing your arm away from your body and around them. The thing, is, you can't get your hands beyond the width of your body; otherwise, it's holding." No master clutcher, of course, would be caught doing that. The great ones, like Lou Creekmur, cup their hands in front of their chests and grab a handful of jersey, or the edge of a shoulder pad, if possible. It is the edge that always has been theirs. They are devious devils and the slick ones will go to any extreme to mask and disguise it so that only the victim really knows. To show you. I remember telling Creekmur in his late years that I would spend the entire game just watching him, to make note and study of his craftsmanship and perhaps compose an essay on it. He took the glasses right off my face and did not return them until we were flying home. Lions Agree Silverdome's Better Than Kingdome It could hardly be called humble, but to the Lions, there's no place like dome . . . their own Pontiac Silver-dome, that is. The Lions are back on their home turf Sunday and Happy to be there, thank you despite the satisfying result of last week's trip to the Golden West. Seattle's Kingdome is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want your team to live there. For a new facility, the place has a used, rather bleak look about it. It's not pretty from the outside, either, and It's just plain dark inside. Like most dual-purpose stadiums, the Kingdome will probably be like the rest a good place to watch a baseball game. But it's like sitting two or three blocks away to watch football. "The inside is drab and colorless," said Lion senior vice-president Edwin J. Anderson after his first-hand look. "Ours has warmth and intimacy." Andy may not exactly be classified a neutral since he mother-henned the Pontiac stadium planning from the outset, from the Lions' standpoint. MIKE MICUDA AGREED and he, too, could rightfully be accused of some prejudice. Still, his professional opinion has merit, even if it was he and Carl Luckenbach who did the basic architectural design of the Pontiac stadium. Mi-cuda now works for the Pontiac Stadium Authority. "It's a nice, neat structure," Micuda said of the $67 million Seattle park. "However, the quality of environment as we have it can't be beat." He cited the lack of light in the Kingdome and the prox- S J: J. Seattle's Kingdome: It's not pretty from outside . . . and it's just plain dark inside imity of the fans to the field in Pontiac. "We are more intimate," he said, "and the Kingdome's upper deck is very steep." Lion players joined in praising their home stadium. "I like Pontiac better," Greg Landry said. "After seeing (he Kingdome, Pontiac has retained the Tiger Stadium aspect of having the fans on top of the play . . . almost part of the game." Closest seats for football in the Kingdome, like other dual-purpose fields such as Cincinnati's Riverfront, Pittsburgh's -Three Rivers, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, etc., are 50 yards from the nearest sideline. The Kingdome's instant replay for fans was superior to Pontiac's, maybe even better than Arrowhead in Kansas City. Concession stand availability and general housekeeping were .better in Seattle, but as for the basic point viewer enjoyment of the game Ponliar. wins hands down. Regarding texture of the playing surface, opinions were mixed. "I didn't think the field was all that hard not as hard as the Astrodome," said Charlie Sanders, who spoke as an expert since he absorbed a fearful tumble to the Seattle turf on his head. "Our field is lumpy," he added. "But the Kingdome lighting is bad I lost one pass in the lights. And the crowd noise is bad. The noise bounces off those concrete walls. "There's an echo in there ... I had trouble hearing the signals and I'm closer (to the quarterback) than the wide receivers." LANDRY FELT THE KINGDOME TURF was as hard as Houston's Astrodome (where he suffered a knee injury last season), but not as sticky. "And the carpet is better .than Pontiac's," he noted. "It's difficult to get ours level with all the events held at our stadium." This will be remedied next season with the planned installation of an asphalt base. But it will also make the surface harder. Non-domed players, like the Vikings' Ed White, grumble about progress. "You take the mud and sweat and grass stains and blood away from the football field and what do you have?" White asks. "Football in the drawing room." But the Lions like their pad in Pontiac. Coaches and players alike agree the Silverdome is the best. Then again, maybe they're not completely unbiased, either. "I like Pontiac Stadium better," Charlie Sanders said with a big smile, ". . . . because it's home." Doak Walker . . . Now There's a Football Hero "All the Detroit Lions need is a 130-pound running back," Gil Mains was saying last week as the Lions' Old-Timers were ; preparing for their annual reunion. ; Naturally, that comment raised a few eyebrows from a rugged former defensive tackle. '. But as Mains further explained, "The holes their line is ; making, it would take somebody that small to get through I them." I iGood line, lineman. The last time the Lions had anybody resembling a .430-pounder, he did pretty well. According to legend, 170-pound just a little over 150 pounds in some games. I don't know if that is true. I've read it. I think I've read everything about The Doaker. He was my hero. Like how many people who were born 10 minutes after 10 o'clock on the 10th day of the 10th month, as I was, pi(;k No. 37 for my lucky number? It's still my lucky number even if the only time I ever went to the track I lost 37 bucks. give them advice at a time when the rest of the team was picking on them. I wasn't alone in making Walker my hero. Even Mains had Walker on his list of heroes when he joined the team. Nobody can really explain what made The Doaker so great. The Lions almost didn't draft him in 1950. Bo McMillan, the coach, had some reservations despite Doak's three-time Ail-American and Heisman reputation. But Matty Bell, the SMU coach, set them straight. "He is not a fast runner, he is not a great kicker, he is only an average passer and he's no world-beater as a blocker," Beil told the Lions. "But he just happens to be the greatest football player I ever saw." The Lions did some wheeling and dealing and got the draft rights away from the old New York Yankees and the Cleveland Browns and took him high. Walke' scored 128 points, second highest in NFL history, as a rookie. In one game against the Packers, he scored all 24 points. He gave them five more great years, and gave them versa-tality that no player since in the NFL has shown, before he retired after the 1955 season with a grand total of 534 points. Versatility? Get this: In his last year as a Lion, The Doaker figured in every statistic the NFL had. He passed, caught passes, ran, returned punts, returned kickoffs, punted, kicked field goals, kicked extra points, intercepted a pass and led the league in scoring. He also kicked off and coach Buddy Parker said he was the best safety on kickoffs there ever was. The years have passed but the Walker legends never dip. He was picked on every all-century team during college football's 100th anniversary in 1969. Since then, I have seen major stories about him in such magazines as Sport and New Times. I find it appalling that the Pro Football Hall of Fame hasn't enshrined him. He was on two title teams, even though he played only six years. Give me a Doak Walker chin strap any day even if I never did see him play. . ' Detroit ifrcc Stress - The Inside of Sports SUNDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1976 6-E ?T1 t v " V inm Itfs Sivcet-T alking Time For BascbaJVs Free Agents If you happened to be in Atlanta for some reason last weekend, no doubt you noticed the billboards along the highway that leads from the airport to the city, welcoming Gary Matthews to , town. And why was the red carpet rolled out in Atlanta for Matthews, who was born in San Fernando, Calif., Jives in Foster City, Calif., and plays his baseball for the San Francisco Giants? I thought you'd never ask. You see, along with 23 other proven big leaguers, Matthews is going to auction off his ability to play the outfield to the highest bidder later this week. And Ted Turner, the insolent owner of the Atlanta Braves, wanted to make sure Matthews looks with favor on their offer. So Turner, threw a party at the ball park last Sunday. He invited 260 concerned citizens to the Stadium Club, then sent them, one by one, over to Matthews to shake his hand and tell the 26-year-old outfielder how peachy it would be to have him playing in Atlanta. Absurd, you say? I'm afraid so. But also perfectly legal. And typical of what has been going on in baseball lately. The Chicago White Sox, for example, recently took out an advertisement in The Sporting News, baseball's house organ, which read: "UNSIGNED PLAYERS, for Action and Bucks, call BILL VEECK, collect." Now that's what I call the subtle approach. Several players claim they've been approached by officials of other clubs, surreptitiously offering extravagent sums of money. And two teams. Turner's Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, have already been fined for tampering. The Braves, in fact, were fined $10,000 for holding two meetings with Matthews while the season was still going on and Gary still officially beonged to the San Francisco Giants. Tigers Won't Get Involved Now But there presumably was nothing wrong with last Sunday's bash, as long as nobody mentioned money. They could talk about the wonderful weather in Atlanta, and all the new books in the public library, and the recent additions to the city zoo anything but the real reason why Matthews refused to sign a contract with the Giants in the first place; Money. That will have to wait until Thursday when the 24 major league clubs will gather in New York to divvy up the rights to dicker with the 25 instant free agents. The whole thing is so ridiculous Tiger general manager Jim Campbell has refused to get involved although the Tigers will send a five-man contingent to Thursday's historic auction, an indication that they definitely do plan to participate. "I won't even talk to anyone until the draft," admitted Campbell, who spent the past week in Florida watching the cream of the Tigers' farm system perform in the Instructional League instead. "You know the only thing these players are interested in is how much money you're willing to give them. And money is the one thing you're not supposed to mention until after the draft. So why bother? I don't want anybody to even accuse me of sneaking around offering money." If they want to, the Tigers can probahly claim the right to try to entice all 25 of the emancipated athletes to transfer to Detroit. There is no limit to the numer of players a team can negotiate with. And since the Tigers finished a distant fifth in the American League East, and since the draft will proceed from the bottom up, they'll be able to take their pick although they can eventually sign only two. This is the way it will work: Beginning with the Montreal Expos, who replaced the- Tigers as the worst team in all of baseball last summer, each club can designate one player it wishs to negotiate with. They can select Reggie Jackson. Or Rollie Fingers. Or Bobby Grich. Or, yes Ted Turner, even Gary Matthews. Yanks Can Je Blocked on Reggie Once a dozen teams have expressed a desire to talk to- a particular player, his name will be removed from further consideration. And tiie process will continue. The Tigers, of course, are primarily interested in a second baseman and a pitcher. There are two second basemen available: Gmch from Baltimore and Philadelphia's Dave Cash. And there are six pitchers: Doyle Alexander of the New York Yankees, Baltimore's Wayne Garland, reHevers Bill Campbell of Minnesota and Rollie Fingers of Oakland, Cincinnati's Don Gullet and Steve Stone of the Chicago Cubs. Obviously the Tigers aren't even interested in all of them and won't feel they can afford to meet most of their demands. But I frankly don't see how they can afford not to secure the negotiating rights to as many players as possible, even though they know they'll never sign them if only to keep some of the teams up ahead of them in the standings, from getting those players. For example, if the 12 teams with the worst records this season, which of course includes the Tigers, all request the right to speak to Reggie Jackson, there is no way the New York Yankees, or any of the 11 other top teams can sign him. If, by Feb. 15, a player is unable to come to terms with any of the 12 teams that select him in the draft, commissioner Bowie Kuhn will poll all 24 teams, find ones which are still interested in that particular player, put those names into a hat, and "draw out four. , Then the player will have to sign with one of those four teams or retire from baseball. And if that sounds like dirty pool, that's the way the ball bounces, baby. As Campbell says, it's a whole new ball game. . I ' Doak Walker I WASN'T THE ONLY ONE who liked No. 37. 1 understand, according to : . ith?.' legend again, that when The Doaker was in college at SMU, ' Iso;many kids on a junior team wanted No. 37 that they renamed ': -the team "The 37s." I.. .The Doak Walker of SMLT and the Lions was as Vig a legend I as there has ever been in football. He's at least on a par with 'Thorpe and Grange and Harmon, and anybody after him has . ',joX matched him in the true old-fashion adulation. I remember Life' magazine did a long story a few years ago about the state '. 'of'rfollege football and called him "the last of the real campus ; -fobtball heroes." Walker outlasted Life. I have talked to a lot of people about Doak Walker, and I have never heard anybody who knows him ever do less than go .overboard about him. ; ll -jf'He reminded me of Will Rogers," said Gil Mains. . tifXri've read all the stories about this player the time he tVwrfite Colliers magazine in his senior year and suggested they ti5fit select him on their All-American team again because he ' Jad been hurt too much that year. Collier's didn't, but they did I tjead their whole All-American article with the tale. I've read where Walker dipped into his own pocket and J.Emight 60 tickets to a Lions exhibition game in Texas when a . Jbusload of orphans showed up at the game and couldn't locate "J-Hlieir tickets. jKNOW MAINS TELLS MF. that when he was a rookie, Walker "iSS? tne one P'a'er wllo would treat the newcomers kindly and LP; 1 f L ll iaXj,., , . T'y3ti& Do the Mets Discriminate? Jake LaMotta: Hard man to floor Q "I would like your opinion about whether there is racial discrimination in the. New York Mets organization. There are so few black players or players with Spanish backgrounds." E.D., Yonkers, N.Y. A The Mets are open to that charge because they had only two blacks on the team this season, John Milner and Leon Brown, and only two players of Hispanic descent. The magazine "Black Sports" charges that the man responsible is general manager Joe McDonald, who denies all. The fact remains that the Mets have selected only one black pjayer in the free agent draft that began in 1965. Q "I would appreciate a summary of the career of boxer Jake LaMotta. I understand that only one man ever knocked him down. Who was that man?" L.K., Philadelphia. Q "What was Jake LaMotta's record, and how many times did he fight Sugar Ray Robinson?" CM., Jerome, Idaho. A Apparently LaMotta's new career as a TV actor has revived interest in him as a fighter. LaMotta, now 55, was a windmill-style banger who would lake two punches to deliver one. He won the middleweight title in 1949 by kayoing Marcel Cerdan in the 10th (Cerdan was killed in airplane crash before a rematch could be held). He lost the title a year and a half later when Robinson "stopped" him in the 13th. LaMotta was still on his feet, but helpless, when the ref halted the fight. LaMotta was stopped four times by kayos, but only during the fourth one, against Danny Nardico, did he hit the deck. Q "Concerning the Oklahoma 'spy' who was supposed to have scouted the Texas team practice -sessions, have you found nut if there is any truth to the charges? If true, what would be the result? Would the NCAA make Oklahoma forfeit the game?" C.S.E., Atlanta. A The true-or-false verdict is unlikely here, though Texas coach Darrell Royal has all but begged the parties named to sue him. The only channel for such a protest i$ with the ethics committee of the Football Coaches Association, which would happily sweep the whole question under a handy rug. The oddity of the Oklahoma spy story is that the Sooners have been down this rod before. Texas coach Blair Cherry said he discovered two years after he quit coaching that Bud Wilkinson once rented an apartment, via two girls, for a view of the Long-horns' practice field. Then there was the red-handed apprehension of an Oklahoma manager who was caught in a tree with a movie camera, in the act of filming LSU preparations for the 1950 Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma won that one, 35-0.

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