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Uncle Andy's Blog

Little Big Man


 

 

Oscar Robertson never won five.  Neither did Robert Parrish, Shaquille O’Neal, Paul Silas, James Worthy or Kevin McHale.  Heck, Wilt won only two and Larry Bird only has three.  What am I talking about?  Rings, NBA championship rings.  This guy has won five rings, just like Magic, Kobe and Tim Duncan, and I bet you’ve never even heard of him.

This guy was as quick as a cat, a bulldog, country tough, a bundle of energy, and a tremendous competitor.  He owned a great personality, was one of the first athletes to wear contact lenses, and could sell a blind man a newspaper.  This fellow played like he had a one-year contract and in fact he did.  He was a catch-and-shoot guy when flying one-handed push shots dominated the league.  One sports writer wrote, “He’s the Eddie Stanky of basketball.  He’s too small to play, he can’t shoot, he’s not a fast runner and he doesn’t do tricks with the ball; yet he’s one of the greatest clutch players and defensive stars the game has ever seen.”  Slater Martin could play the stars of the game to a standstill.  A defensive wizard, he wasn’t considered a great scorer, yet he ranked 11th in post-season scoring and finished on the top 25 All-Time scoring list, when he retired.  One of the last of the truly great little men, Martin once slugged it out with 7-foot Wally Dukes of the Detroit Pistons.  It took several players to separate them.  Slater Martin was a modern day “David” who spent eleven years in professional basketball cutting down Goliath.  

Slater Nelson “Dugie” Martin Jr. was born on October 22, 1925, in Elmina, Texas.  Don’t bother to look it up, it isn’t there anymore.  You see, Slater’s father operated a railroad station and general store in Elmina, until the entire family decided to pack up and move 70 miles to Houston.  Dugie was two years old at the time.  When the Martin family left, the town ceased to exist.  Folks called him Dugie, a nickname his grandfather had given him, after Dugan’s Tavern, a bar featured in the “Mutt and Jeff” comic strip.

 Martin attended Jefferson Davis High School in Houston, Texas, and starred for the baseball, football, and of course basketball teams.  He also enjoyed slipping on a pair of boxing gloves on occasion.  At 5’ 7” tall and weighing about 130 pounds, Slater ate, drank, slept, dreamed and lived basketball.  He would play a big part during his junior and senior years (1942-1943) in helping Jefferson Davis High School win consecutive Texas State Championships in basketball.  Martin’s size made him difficult to recruit.  The story goes that Slater hitchhiked to Austin for a tryout at the University of Texas and made the team.  Longhorn Head Coach H. C. Gilstrap was impressed with Martin’s desire and determination.  Slater enrolled at Texas in the fall of 1943 and played in several varsity games as a freshman.  In 1944, Martin’s college career was interrupted by World War II.  Slater joined the Navy and grew to 5’ 10” tall while he was away.  He returned to school in 1946 and helped the Longhorns, now coached by Jack Gray, to reach the 1947 NCAA Final Four.  In a tournament that included eight teams, the “Mighty Mice” of Texas would beat Wyoming before losing to Oklahoma by one point, 55-54.  This placed them in the consultation game where they beat City College of New York (CCNY) 54-50, to claim third place.  Holy Cross, with a freshman guard by the name of Bob Cousy, would beat Oklahoma for the title.  Slater would remember watching Cousy play.  These two would make some history together.  On February 26, 1949, Slater Martin scored 49 points in an 81-60 victory over Texas Christian University (TCU) and set the Southwest Conference single-game scoring record that stood for years.  He was also selected an All-American that year, while finishing his career with 1,140 points, to become the highest scorer in Texas team history at that time.

 Only three Texas Longhorn players have had their numbers retired:  Slater Martin #15, T.J. Ford #11, and Kevin Durant #35.  Of these three, only Slater is apart of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  He was inducted on May 3, 1982.

“I saw Slater sit on a basketball during a game for ten minutes,” said my pal, Dotson Lewis.  “Texas was playing the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks loved to run-and-gun under Head Coach Eugene Lambert.”  This game was played in the early forties during the days of no shot clock, no five-second call, and when goal tending was allowed.  “Arkansas had a big kid in the middle named George Kok who was 6’10” tall, so Texas slowed the game down by stalling the ball,” continued Dotson.  “Slater brought the ball over the center court line uncontested, and then sat down on top of it like he was sitting on a pumpkin.  It was the darnedest thing I’ve ever seen.  No one from Arkansas came out to confront him.  I think the final score ended up in Texas’ favor,” exclaimed Dotson.   Dotson Lewis became a Hall-of-Fame Supervisor of Officials and officiated college football, basketball, baseball and volleyball in many conferences.

Martin joined the Minneapolis Lakers in 1949.   He was married and had a family.   “Although the pay was horrific,” said Slater, “I wanted to play basketball for a living.”  After the Lakers paid George Miken, Vern Mikkelson and Jim Pollard, there was little money left over for Martin and the others.  Martin held out for more money at contract time for four of the seven years with the Lakers.  Martin and the Lakers won four NBA Championships in his first five years with the Lakers.  Martin scored 32 points against the Knicks in 1952, to clench the NBA Championship for the Lakers.  Eventually, the Lakers decided to trade Slater Martin.  The Hawks inquired about him but the Lakers did not want to trade him to St. Louis because both teams were in the same conference.  So, in 1956, Martin was traded to the New York Knicks for center, Wally Dukes.  New York then traded him in December to St. Louis, for Willie Naulls.  Hawks’ owner, Ben Kerner exclaimed, “Martin saved my franchise.  I’d have gone broke without him.”  Slater Martin’s financial troubles were over.  “Martin gave us great leadership,” said Bob Petit.  “He was the glue who held us together.”  Before the 1956-57 seasons, the St. Louis Hawks lost their head coach, “Red” Holzman.   So, Kerner made Martin the coach of the Hawks, but Slater really disliked the job.  Martin appointed his roommate and teammate, Alex Hannun, to succeed him, and then resigned after eight games as coach. 

“Buddy” Blattner was the St. Louis Hawks’ radio announcer and roomed with Slater on the road.  “One year, the team got to Boston at three o’clock in the morning, and I fell asleep almost immediately,” said Blattner.  “I woke up three hours later and saw Martin pacing the floor.  I asked him what was wrong.”  Slater responded, “Nothing, I’m just thinking about Cousy.”  “At six o’clock in the morning?” exclaimed Blattner.  “I’m always thinking about Cousy,” said Martin.  Slater was the only guard in the league who could check Bob Cousy at the door.  In the 1957 NBA Championship game, Martin held Bob Cousy to two baskets out of 20 shots and outscored Cousy 23 to 12, but the Hawks lost in double overtime to the Celtics.  “He never left you alone,” said Cousy.  “I don’t know where he gets all the energy.”  In 1958, Slater Martin, with Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan, led the St. Louis Hawks to their one and only NBA title.  It took six games to bring down the mighty Boston Celtics.  While with the Hawks, Martin and Cousy would meet on the floor of battle a total of three times, in the NBA finals.  Slater Martin once shut out Bob Davies of the Rochester Royals; it was the first time in 16 years that Davies didn’t score.  Martin retired in 1960 from injuries.  He was 34 years old.  In 1962, Slater Martin was elected to the Texas Longhorn Hall of Honor.  He was also inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, in 1964. 

In 1966, Martin was hired as the general manager and head coach for the Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association (ABA).  On February 2, 1967, the Mavericks became one of the ABA charter members.  They played their home games at Sam Houston Coliseum.  Martin tried his best to draft Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney, but both opted instead for the NBA.  In 1968, Martin coached the Mavericks to the ABA playoffs against the Dallas Chaparrals.  Houston was defeated three games to none.  With attendance dwindling, the Mavericks were purchased by James Gardner and the team was moved to North Carolina.  There they became the Carolina Cougars from 1969-1974.  It was in North Carolina that my dad took my brother and me to see our first professional basketball games.  The Cougars drafted local stars like Doug Moe, Bob Verga, Larry Miller, and Ed Manning (the father of Danny Manning).  We got to see, firsthand, stars like Julius Erving (Dr. J), George Gervin, Charlie Scott, and Moses Malone.  By 1975, the Cougars had moved again and became the Spirits of St. Louis.  After several more moves, this original franchise is now known as the Utah Jazz.   

Slater Martin had been chastised all his life for being short; too short to play basketball.  Some teammates joked, “Give him an inch and he would be 5’ 11”.  There have been very few players who stood less than six feet tall that were good enough to play with the big guys.  Martin was one of the best of the little big men. 

Slater Martin died suddenly on Thursday, October 18, 2012, while living in a skilled care nursing home in Houston, Texas.  He was 86 years old and survived by his sons, Slater Jr. and Jim.  Wearing the #22, Martin had become a five-time NBA Champion (1950, 1952-1954, 1958), a seven-time All-Star (1953-1959), and was selected to five All-NBA Second Teams (1955-1959).  Martin collected 7,337 points, 2,302 rebounds, and dished out 3,160 assists, during his NBA career.  Slater Martin averaged 9.8 points per game and 4.2 assists per game, in 745 regular-season games played.  He averaged 10.0 points and 3.2 assists per game, in 92 post-season games.  The season after Slater Martin retired, the Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles, where they reside today.  In April 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers honored Martin and other surviving members from the Minneapolis years, in a celebration at the Staples Center.

John Ruskin once said, “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become.  Your vision is the promise of what you shall at last unveil.”  The giants of the game had nothing on the little big man, Slater Martin.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Overcoming the Odds


 

Will Rogers once said, “Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft.  Today it’s called golf.”  This fellow was the kind of player people came to watch practice.  He hit shots so close to the pin, he could kick’em in.  A super talented golfer, his gift was stealing par; if his putter were alive, it would rob banks.  He played during a time where his woods were actually made out of wood.  Through the game of golf, he learned how to focus and relax at the same time?  That’s called discipline.  He began to make difficult look easy and brought golf courses to their knees.  But then his hands began to rob him of feeling, yet the picture taken of him nearly fifty years ago, dropping his putter and raising his hands in the air in disbelief on the 18th green at Congressional Country Club, said it all.  “My God, I’ve won the Open.”  

Kenneth “Ken” Venturi grew up in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California.  He was born May 15, 1931.  He wasn’t very tall and never weighed very much.  In fact, he was so skinny it was said that his back pockets ran together.  He was quiet, a bit withdrawn and lacked confidence.  “When I was 13, the doctor told my mother that I would never be able to say my name or speak clearly as long as I lived, because I had an incurable stutter.  So, I went out and found the loneliest sport I could find and took up golf,” said Venturi.  With breathing exercises and assorted therapies for his stutter, Ken would find a way to communicate through his mouth and his driver.  The isolation he sought by playing golf eventually made him famous.  Young Ken played hundreds of rounds of golf at Harding Park Golf Course.  He often played two balls at the same time while playing alone.  He would practice drawing one ball, while trying to fade the other.  “When I got to the point, I could do both consistently, I knew I was a good golfer,” exclaimed Ken.  His parents understood, as they both worked in the Pro Shop.  There it began for Ken Venturi, a guy who obtained confidence and clout through his golf stroke and not only played well professionally, but would go on to entertain the world of golf with his thoughts and words, while broadcasting a record 35 years for CBS Sports.  Folks said he talked the way the players themselves talked.  Ken Venturi’s journey took him to the World Golf Hall of Fame.  The neatest thing about America is that this country loves a comeback.  When he heard the news of his induction, Venturi’s response was, “The greatest reward in life is to be remembered.  Thank you for remembering me.” 

Early on, Venturi gained attention from the world of golf, as an amateur.  He had honed his game at the feet of Byron Nelson.  As a 14-year-old, Venturi idolized Nelson and followed him during the 1946 San Francisco Open.  As Nelson prepared to chip onto the fifth green, Venturi leaned in and snapped a picture.  Nelson politely backed away and said to the wide-eyed youngster, “Son, will you please put up that camera and back out of here?”  Ken ran home to tell his mother as best he could, “Byron Nelson talked to me, Byron Nelson talked to me.”  At the 1952 U.S. Amateur Championship, Ken Venturi finally met his hero, Byron Nelson.  He was introduced by Eddie Lowery, a local car dealer and amateur golfer.  A life-long friendship began, as Nelson took Venturi under his wing.  Peggy Byron once said after her husband Byron had passed away, “It was just a precious, precious friendship.  I think that if Byron could have, he would have adopted Kenny.”

Venturi attended college at San Jose State University, sold cars, and did his turn in the military in Korea and Europe.  Ken began to turn heads by winning the California State Amateurs Championship in 1951 and 1956.  At age 24, and as an amateur, Venturi led the 1956 Masters after three rounds.  He was attempting to become the first amateur to ever win at Augusta, but it was not to be.  Venturi shot an 80 in the final round and relinquished a four-shot lead to finish second to Jack Burke, Jr.  Legendary golf writer, Herbert Warren Wind, wrote, “But the Masters is a drama in four acts, not three, and on the fourth day it was exit Ken Venturi and enter Jackie Burke.  It was still the best performance by an amateur in the history of the Masters.”  As of this writing, no amateur has ever won the Masters.  He turned pro at the end of the 1956 season.  Ken would come close to winning the Masters twice more in 1958 and 1960, but he finished second both times to Arnold Palmer. 

Venturi won the 1964 U. S. Open Championship in triple-digit heat and suffered from dizziness and dehydration.  He was advised to quit, but continued while suffering the effects of heatstroke.  It would be the only Major golf tournament he would win during his career.  In 1964, Venturi won Sports Illustrated Sportsman-of-the-Year Award and was elected the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Player of the Year.  In 1965, Ken played on the winning Ryder Cup Team and then later in 1996, he appeared in the movie, Tin Cup.  He portrayed himself as a commentator.  Venturi also received the 1998 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Superintendents Association of America.  Venturi also lent his name to several instructional golf schools and helped redesign the Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club located in Naples, Florida.  In the year 2000, he was selected as the non-playing captain of the President’s Cup Team.  He also owns a Golden Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars.  All in all, Venturi played professionally for ten years, winning 15 events, and retired in 1967.

Ken Venturi joined CBS Sports in 1968 as an analyst on their golf telecast.  He was paired with Pat Summerall until Pat retired in 1994.  Jim Nantz joined the CBS Sports broadcasting line-up in 1986 and became Venturi’s partner.  They shared 17 seasons together, while working approximately 20 tournaments a year.      

Ken Venturi, the voice of golf for 35 years, died in the hospital on Friday, May 17, 2013.  Ken suffered from an infection in his spine and intestines and also developed a case of pneumonia. His death came eleven days after his May 6, 2013 induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

 Life like golf is filled with many hazards, but the will to live is a powerful thing.  Some people think that to be strong is to never feel pain.  In reality the strongest people are the ones who feel it, understand it, and accept it.  That was Ken Venturi.  “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway,” said John Wayne.  Although Ken Venturi had overcome stuttering, carpel tunnel syndrome in both wrists, a car accident in 1961, alcoholism, prostate cancer in 2000, and quintuple bypass surgery in 2006, he was loved; and he loved the game of golf right back.  Venturi had always said that if Byron Nelson had taught him anything it was this:  “Be good to the game and give back.”  Judging from the outpouring of love from the world of professional golf, I believe Ken got it right.  He retired from CBS Sports in June of 2002, after the Kemper Open, and was living with his third wife, Kathleen, in their Rancho Mirage home in California.  It has been said that his home resembled a professional golf museum.  Venturi was 82 years old.  He had many pals from the world of entertainment.  Dean Martin, Jerry Vale, and Jack Jones were just a few.  Venturi called Frank Sinatra a dear friend and once roomed with him, while living in San Francisco.

Interestingly, Venturi died on his one-time golf broadcasting partner, Jim Nantz’s, 54th birthday, and one month and one day after his original golf broadcasting partner, Pat Summerall, who was also 82 when he passed.  Venturi divorced his first wife, Conni, in 1970.  They had two sons together, Tim and Matt.  His second wife, Beau, died in 1997.

Venturi had many charities he was involved with.  He was building a home for abused woman and children in Florida.  He traveled every off-season to Ireland, to help raise money for mentally-challenged children, and worked hard on programs to bring golf to the vision-impaired.  His Guiding Eyes Golf Classic has raised over six million dollars.

Like most of us, Ken Venturi had many stories to tell.  He once told how he opened his balcony window of his hotel room and hit a dozen or so balls out into the night, before the final round of the 1959 Los Angeles Open.  “It must have worked,” he said.  “I shot a 63 the next day and won the tournament.”  When Byron Nelson was unable to be the honorary starter for the 1983 Masters, he asked Ken Venturi to fill in for him.  “Of course I agreed,” said Ken.  Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, and Ken Venturi teed off together.  This next excerpt was told in an article written for Golf Digest.  Later in his life, after retirement, Venturi often played a few holes in the mornings, alone.  “It reminded me of the way it all started,” he said. 

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  Ken Venturi always looked up at the stars. 

One of his ways of giving back was by never charging a dime for a golf lesson to anyone.  Nice shot Kenny.  Save me a tee time.

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

 

Send in the Clowns


 

Remember the movie, “League of Their Own,” about the all girls’ professional baseball clubs created during World War II?   It stars Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, as Manager Jimmy Dugan.  One of the most famous lines in the movie is when Hanks is confronted by one of his players who begins crying.  Hanks responds, “Are you crying?  There’s no crying in baseball.”  Just ask the Texas Rangers.  If there was any team that should be crying, it’s the Rangers.  For a team that has been decimated by injuries, watching the Rangers’ team play on a nightly basis, you wouldn’t know it.  This happy-go-lucky bunch, always smiling, jabbing at each other with their words, are currently 20 games out of first place and last in the American League West Division.   You wouldn’t know it by watching them play that they have had 23 players on the disabled list.  You wouldn’t know that they have used a record 81 players this year, or that there have been 11 different first basemen, all because of injuries.  Heck, if you could play first base, you might get a start tonight.  The Rangers should build a hospital next to Globe Life Park.  Sure, to a man they all want to win, but I think they have it all figured out.  They’re having fun.  They’re having fun playing the game they love.   Fun is good; send in the clowns.  Everybody loves humor, and that includes the players. 

For many years, owners and general managers have placed their money and emphasis on putting a winning product on the field and creating a positive and fun-filled night for the fans.  The dizzy bat race, bobble heads and jersey give-aways keep fans coming back.  Playgrounds, swimming pools, and birthday clubs are a treat for the kids. 

Baseball likes colorful players.  Along the way there have been many funny characters and cut-ups that have become part of the fabric of this great game.  Casey Stengel, “The Old Perfessor,” preferred to make reporters laugh instead of making sense.  Casey once told a reporter, “See that fellow over there?  He’s 20 years old, and in ten years he has a chance to be a star.  Now, see that other fellow over there; he’s 20, too.  In ten years, he has a chance to be thirty.” The great “Dizzy” Dean not only slaughtered the English language but once said, “The good Lord was good to me; he gave me a strong body, a good right arm and a weak mind.”  Yankee pitcher “Lefty” Gomez confessed, “Sure I talked to the ball a lot of times in my career.  I yelled, ‘Go Foul, Go Foul.’”   Lefty also tells a story about facing the Red Sox, with the bases loaded, and Jimmy Foxx waiting at the plate.  Yankee catcher Bill Dickey called for a fastball, and Lefty shook him off.   So, Dickey calls for a curveball, and Lefty shakes him off again.  Dickey calls time and heads out to the mound.  Bill says, “What do you want to throw this guy?”  “Nothing” said Gomez.  “Let’s wait a while; maybe he’ll get a phone call.”  The legendary Satchel Paige loved having fun.  He even spent some time pitching for a Negro League team named the Indianapolis Clowns.  Paige often took his warm-up throws sitting down, with his catcher waiting behind the plate in a rocking chair.  Satchel also gave all of his pitches names.  “I got bloopers, loopers and droopers.  I got a jump ball, a “be” ball, a screw ball, a wobbly ball, a “whipsy-dipsy-do,” a hurry-up ball, a nothin’ ball and a bat dodger.  My “be” ball is a “be” ball because it “be” right where I want it, high and inside.”   And who could forget his Bowtie pitch? 

Ted Giannoulas, who stand 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds, started wearing a chicken suit 40 years ago.  He began handing out candy to children at the San Diego Zoo for $2.00 an hour.  Ted became known in baseball circles as “The San Diego Chicken.”  Yes, he’s been to Corpus Christi, several times.  He now calls himself “The Famous Chicken.”  Ted has worked 6,500 baseball games not counting birthdays, weddings, parades, you name it, and he’s been there. 

Max Patkin, “The Crown Prince of Baseball” has also been to Corpus Christi.  Max passed away several years ago and baseball still looks to replace the funny man.  I once spoke to Max and he told me his biggest fear was somebody saying, “He used to be funny.”  I assured him there was no way that would happen.  He was funny.  People go home knowing the score, but they also take home the experience. 

It’s true that the fans are the lifeblood of the team, but what about the players.  No one likes to lose yet they trot out to their positions, game in and game out, during the “Dog Days of Summer.”  That’s where I think the manager makes the difference.  How do you get the players to treat every game like it’s opening day? 

As the Manager of the Texas Rangers, one of Ron Washington’s jobs is to make out the line-up card.  I’m sure Ron has to walk through the clubhouse and take role call just to see who’s available to play.  His other job is to remind his players to have fun.  He has to set the tone in the clubhouse and the dugout.  He has to remind his players to give their best, win or lose, and remember to have a good time.  Owners sometimes make the mistake of not hiring genuine, passionate managers.  The manager should be able to make the players feel comfortable.  Sure, they make a ton of money, but they’re still little boys at heart.  No player wants to strike out or to be the last out of a ballgame, but the fact is, a lot of us are the last out and a lot of us do lose.  The fun part comes from the effort, and then certain success that follows at the plate.  Washington understands that he is still dealing every day with 25 kids, out on a sandlot, doing exactly what they loved when they were six or seven years old.  The fans may own the game, but the fun starts with the ballplayers.  Humor does not have an age attached.  Nope, there is no crying in baseball; just asks Ron Washington.

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

House


 

Comedian Richard Pryor was once asked how he would like to be remembered.  He said, “I want people to look at my picture, remember, and laugh.  I would like to leave some joy.”  This guy was always a pleasure to watch and a joy to have known.  He was shorter than the program stated, with 44-inch thighs that resembled twin jet-engines.  At 209 pounds, power was his forte.  Built close to the ground like a fire hydrant, he could churn up defenses like a high-speed lawnmower.  Undersized for a pro football player, his stats didn’t measure his heart.  His ticker weighed a ton.  Handing this guy a football was like giving Wyatt Earp a handgun,  LeBron James an outlet pass, or Mike Trout an extra strike; something incredible was about to happen.  This guy ran tough; it was like trying to tackle a Pepsi machine.  He simply sawed defensive linebackers in half at the line of scrimmage.  He was never late to anything in his life including moving the chains for a first down.  His job was to cut a path to the end zone for the running back or stop all oncoming traffic in the backfield, while keeping his quarterback standing upright and his uniform clean.  Dallas Cowboy offensive guard, John Niland, once said, “If we needed three yards or less for a first down, we knew we had it.  Give Robert the ball, and we had it.  We’d block a yard and a half, and he’d get the other yard and a half on his own.  It was a given.”  Robert Newhouse played like he had invented the fullback position.  I can hear Verne Lundquist now, “There goes Newhouse busting it up the middle.”  His teammates called him “House.”

Robert Fulton Newhouse was born on January 9, 1950, in Longview, Texas, and played football at nearby Galilee High School in Hallsville, Texas. Although he rushed for 200 yards and sometimes over 300 yards per game in high school, he was only recruited by one Division I school, the University of Houston.  With Robert Newhouse running the ball, Houston finished 9-2 in 1969 and was ranked 12th in the nation.  In 1970, Houston finished 8-3 and was ranked 19th.  In 1971, before his senior season started at Houston, Newhouse cracked his pelvis in a car accident.  He chose to play though the pain and propelled Houston to a 9-3 record and a ranking of 17th in the nation.  Newhouse was selected Second-Team All-American by the Associated Press.

Newhouse still holds the University of Houston’s all-time rushing record for a single season with 1,757 yards.  Newhouse broke many other school records, some of which still stand today.  He had ten 100-yard games in a season (1971), sixteen 100-yard games in a career, and the most 200-yard games in a season, with three.   Back when the College All-Stars played the Super Bowl Champions from the year before, Newhouse scored a touchdown against the Cowboys.  I always wondered if that touchdown had anything to do with the Cowboys’ drafting him.  Robert Newhouse also played in the Hula Bowl and was inducted into the University of Houston’s Athletics Hall of Honor in 1977.   Robert Newhouse is also a member of the Texas Black Hall of Fame.

Newhouse played 12 seasons under the “Man with the Hat” legendary Hall-of-Fame Coach Tom Landry.  House was selected by the Cowboys in the second round of the 1972 NFL draft.  He was given #44.  During the 1973 season, House recorded his longest run from scrimmage, 54 yards, against the Philadelphia Eagles.  He switched from halfback to fullback to replace a retiring Walt Garrison and became a starter in 1975.  He would make his presence felt that year by leading the Cowboys in rushing with 930 yards and was listed ninth in the league with 4.4-yards per carry.  By 1977, Tony Dorsett had been drafted and House became more of a blocking back for Dorsett and Calvin Hill.  By 1980, Newhouse began splitting time in the backfield with Ron Springs.  He would continue to play sparingly until he retired after the 1983 season.

The play was called:  “brown right, X-opposite shift, toss 38, halfback lead, fullback pass to Y.”  Dallas was leading 20-10 with seven minutes to go, in Super Bowl XII.  The Denver Broncos had just fumbled and Dallas recovered the ball on the Broncos’ 29-yard line.  Coach Landry sensed that Denver was on the ropes and called for a trick play to seal the victory.  Newhouse was nervous in the huddle.  “I was worried because I had all this stickum on my hands, said Newhouse.  “Preston Pearson handed me this rag, and I was in there, scrubbing it all.  They’d seen us run the play right but not to the left, and so they didn’t recognize it in time.”   At the snap, Newhouse took a pitch from quarterback Roger Staubach and began running to his left, as if he were going to run down the sideline.  Instead, he stopped quickly, turned and threw back to the right, over the outstretched hands of Denver defensive back Steve Foley, hitting wide receiver Golden Richards in stride for a 29-yard touchdown.  The Dallas Cowboys would go on to win their second Super Bowl title by a score of 27-10.  Landry said after the game, “Newhouse’s pass play won it for us.”  Robert Newhouse became the first running back to pass for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.  “The thing I remember most about that halfback option play we ran against Denver,” said former Cowboy personnel director Gil Brandt,  “is that we ran it going left, and it’s a lot harder to go left than right.  During the week they must’ve practiced the play ten times, and he never completed it.  And that was going right.  Here it is going left, and he completed it.”

Newhouse finished his Cowboy career with 4,784 yards rushing, 956 yards receiving and scored 31 touchdowns.  He averaged over an astounding four yards per carry.  He also participated in three Super Bowls during the 1970’s (X, XII, and XIII). I believe he should be in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.

After retirement, Newhouse worked another 29 years for the Cowboys.  He worked with ticket sales, the Cowboys’ alumni relations programs, minority procurement, and helped with the players’ development off the field.  Part of Newhouse’s job was providing the community opportunities to experience the Cowboys and their players in a different setting.  For years the Cowboys’ basketball team would travel to Corpus Christi, Texas, and play a charity basketball game at Ray High School.  That’s when I first met Robert Newhouse.  Later on, I had a chance to do play-by-play with my radio partner, Shane Nelson, on 97.5 The Waves.   I also got to meet Michael Irvin, Leon Lett, and many others.  Newhouse was a class act but he couldn’t shoot a lick.  He left the Cowboys’ employment in 2008.

Robert Newhouse suffered a stroke in 2010.  Doctors had been treating him and hoping he would become healthy enough to withstand the surgery required for a heart transplant.  Newhouse was confined to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, at the time of his death.  “My dad’s last days were terrible,’ said his son, Rodd Newhouse.   Former Dallas Cowboy, Robert Newhouse, died from complications of heart disease on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.  He was but 64 years old.  He is survived by his wife Nancy, twin daughters Dawnyel and Shawntel, two sons Roderick and Reggie, a former wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.

“House was a great football player,” said Roger Staubach.  “Off the field, he was a great man, kind and caring, solid as a rock.”

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “Time is more valuable than money.  You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”  The only thing that could keep Robert Newhouse out of the end zone of life was time.  Come on, admit it.  He was the kind of guy you wished you had on your team.  

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

 

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