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News: DMN: Luksa: Strange but true tales from Cowboys camps

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Cowgal, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. Cowgal

    Cowgal Member

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    Frank Luksa: Strange but true tales from Cowboys camps

    11:18 AM CDT on Friday, August 6, 2004


    I was a Cowboys beat writer from Fort Worth in a previous life, and one day I engaged Bob Hayes in a training camp interview that veered in an unexpected direction. Steve Perkins was my witness to what Hayes said and even if the former Dallas scribe is dead, he later accurately reprised the scene in a book.

    This was during the Duane Thomas holdout spectacular. Thomas charged that his contract problem with the Cowboys was black-white related, an issue that inflamed intense passion during the 1960s. Hayes seemed a logical source to address the subject of bias by the front office and coach Tom Landry, whom Duane called “plastic man…no man at all."

    We visited Hayes in his dormitory room, a privilege long since rescinded, while he nursed a knee bruise. Hayes said there was no substance to the charge that Landry or anyone else was biased. Hayes had reason to squawk since during a brief period the previous season, Landry had instituted performance levels at every position and Hayes lost his starting job to Dennis Homan, a soon-discarded No. 1 draft choice.

    “That cat is a good coach and good man,’’ Hayes said of Landry. “I had to pay off some people who wanted to bomb his house last year.’’

    You did what?

    Hayes said unnamed callers told him they were upset that Homan was playing ahead of him and decided to retaliate against Landry and team president Tex Schramm. And even him if he didn’t cooperate.

    “They said, ‘You’re either with us or against us? You with them? Maybe we bomb your house first. Guess you don’t need no more money. Suppose we grab your baby, then maybe we get some money.’ ’’

    Hayes said he agreed to leave $200 at a grammar school playground in the middle of the night, and he never heard from the callers again. Nor did he ever tell Landry of what he had done.

    • • •

    Veterans sent Toni Fritsch to town one night to fetch pizza. He never returned. Well, at least not until the next morning.

    Here’s what happened. Fritsch was stopped for speeding en route back to Cal Lutheran College campus. As later unraveled, the scene between Toni and the policeman had comical moments.

    First, when Fritsch identified himself.

    “I am zee keeeker for zee Cowboys,’’ he said.

    Fritsch talked like that because he was from Austria. He knew little English other than innocent use of obscene words that teammates told him were the polite language of the land. Language was one barrier.

    Fritsch’s physical dimensions were another. An elite soccer player abroad, Fritsch was built like a bread box. He was 5-8 short and square. And he was balding.

    This was the person the policeman engaged -- a dumpy guy with a car full of pizza who can’t speak English and claimed he’s a professional football player.

    “Yeah,’’ said the cop, “you’re a kicker and I’m Cary Grant.’’

    Whereupon, he took Fritsch to jail, where Toni spent the night while the pizzas curdled.

    Gil Brandt sprang to the rescue with bail and fine money the next morning. Fritsch was freed, but it was a near thing. With Brandt making soothing noises, Toni made his exit shouting about being the victim of Gestapo tactics.

    Fritsch may have chosen not to understand certain training camp customs.

    He had a unique approach to the honor system where if you took a beer from another player’s room, you made a donation into a jar.

    Fritsch took a beer, eyed the jar with money, and left without paying. He returned for another beer, eyed the jar with money, and left with both of them.

    • • •

    One of the rituals for players and a few coaches involved running up and down a small mountain behind a practice field at Thousand Oaks before or after practice. They did this to test endurance, conditioning and manhood rather than, as Sir Edmund Hillary said of why he climbed Mount Everest, because it was there.

    Players also did it because coach Tom Landry wanted them to.

    The mountain was already nationally famous locally for an event unrelated to the Cowboys. The peak had been conquered years earlier by John Wayne disguised as a Marine. He used it to film the flag-planting ceremony in the movie, Sands of Iwo Jima.

    Randy White ran the mountain long before he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a rookie in 1975 and prior to his ascent, Landry said he would join White’s group for their romp.

    Well, thought Randy, Landry looks physically fit. But he’s almost 50 years old, more than twice my age. Why would the old fellow want to embarrass himself?

    White soon rearranged his thoughts. Landry took off like a mountain goat. White took off and stalled. Landry finished before White was halfway down. Not only that, Landry stood there at the bottom of the mountain, barely breathing and checking his watch to time the stragglers.

    “Geez,’’ White said to himself. “How am I going to make this team? I can’t even out-run the coach.’’
  2. jay cee

    jay cee Active Member

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    Great stories. I really needed to read those, I have been pretty bummed out over all of this Carter stuff.
  3. Maikeru-sama

    Maikeru-sama Mick Green 58

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    Hayes discussed this in a book I read. I was surprised to know that the school was William Brown Miller elmentary, which I attended in the 1st grade.

    - Mike G.
  4. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    I always love these kinds of things.

    Thanks for posting it.
  5. DallasCowpoke111

    DallasCowpoke111 Benched

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    The Tony Fritsch beer-money jar story always gives me a giggle.
  6. Rack Bauer

    Rack Bauer Federal Agent

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    Edit: Whoops, wrong thread. Mods you can delete this. :D
  7. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    When Toni Fritsch came to Houston and was playing with the Oilers is was so funny seeing him on the sideline helmet in one hand and a cigarette in the other just puffing away.

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