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News: Getting the 'Boys back together - NFL.com

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Lord Sun, May 25, 2004.

  1. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    Gil Brandt, NFL.com Senior Analyst

    (May 25, 2004) -- Where were you 40 years ago? Were you in school, or in a different city? Who were you close with? Answer those questions, then try to figure out how you would go about reuniting yourself in the city you were in with the people you knew back then.

    That's the task the wives of eight former Dallas Cowboys players took on last September. Annette Liscio, Betty Manders, Ann Connelly, Nancy Howley, Biddie Jordan, Jan McIlhenny, Mary Ann Staubach and Marlene Tubbs -- all married to former Cowboys players Tony Liscio, Dave Manders, Mike Connelly, Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, Don McIlhenny, Roger Staubach and Jerry Tubbs, respectively -- got together and decided to reunite players from the Tom Landry era in Dallas. They started digging to find every player that played in Dallas from (1960 to 1988). Not only did they want to find the players, but they wanted to invite the media that covered the team on a full-time basis during that period of time, and they also wanted to include the doctors, trainers and front office people like myself.

    They did it on their own, with no corporate sponsorship or help from the Cowboys organization. The job of finding all these people was so tough, but they found all except 25 former players, and of the 25, at least 20 were deceased. Once they had the addresses and phone numbers to match the names, the invitations were sent for the reunion, held last weekend.

    I can't even put into words how much I enjoyed myself. This was an affair that I will never forget. The fact that we had guys come from everywhere to be here and that I hadn't seen a lot of these guys since 1962 just made it even more special.

    In total, we had about 75 players and 65 wives attend. We had Hall of Famers like Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, Randy White and Mel Renfro (dressed like a genuine cattle baron). We had Cowboys Ring of Honor guys like Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, the the Hall of Famers. We had two should-be Hall of Famers there in Rayfield Wright and Cliff Harris. We even had seven of the 36 players we got in our expansion draft in 1960 in attendance: Don Healy, Gene Cronin, Don McIlhenny, Bob Fry, Ed Husmann, Tom Braatz and Jerry Tubbs. Also there were three undrafted players I signed: Byron Bradfute, Gary Wisener and Mike Connolly.

    We had people coming from North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Ohio and California. Even Lynne Bratton, the widow of former player Lynn Hoyem, came all the way from Seattle to be part of this reunion. Tom Landry's wife, Alicia was there. We had players with their wives as well as players' ex-wives! All of the men looked healthy and happy, and all the ladies looked just as beautiful as the last time I had seen them.

    It started on Friday night at a five-star hotel in Dallas. As people arrived, the room got louder and was chock full of laughter, tears, hugs and handshakes. Remember, we were seeing people we hadn't seen in at least 20 years!

    On Saturday, a caravan complete with a beautiful luxury bus drove to Chuck Howley's ranch, about an hour and 15 minutes from Dallas. The place was an absolute showpiece -- 2,500 acres of land! Howley has seven lakes, a gardenhouse and a bunkhouse. It was the perfect place for us to refamiliarize ourselves. I said to Chuck, "I always thought we paid well, but we must have really paid well for you to get this!" He bought this ranch 29 years ago and ended up staying in Dallas after his pro career was over and opened a uniform cleaning business. Proof that there is life after football.

    We had a feast to end all feasts -- barbeque beef, ribs, turkey, just anything and everything you could want. Even the tables had blue and white tablecloths. We even had a great band there, and included in the band was Betty Manders' son, Mark. Mark even added during the night that it was fun for him to perform there in front of so many "aunts and uncles." True, they weren't really relatives but they all grew up together. Mark's dad, Dave, played center for us for a total of 10 seasons.

    Guess what happens when you get all these retired football people and their wives together in one place? You can only imagine how many stories were told, all of which were unbelieveably fantastic.

    Cliff Harris told a story about how in training camp, the players used to have a refrigerator in their room and stock it with beer. They implemented an honor system where if you took a beer, you had to put some money in a nearby jar. One day, Toni Fritsch, a kicker we got from a European scouting expedition, came in one night, put his money in the jar and took a beer. A little while later, Fritsch was back in the room, but then pulled a stunt and left with the jar!

    Don Healy reminded us about a preseason game we once played in Pendleton, Ore., against the L.A. Rams. This was a town of 4,000 people and we drew 13,000 in attendance for that game. To give you an idea of the area, the favorite pastime there is rodeo. In fact, the game was held at Round-Up Stadium, home of the annual Pendleton Round-Up, a gigantic cattle and rodeo show that still runs to this day. We get there, and the field was all full of manure and other junk.

    But Healy remembers when he and five teammates went to a restaurant to eat the day before our game. The service was slow and they made a fuss and got into a little altercation that brought the police out. The end result was that the guys were kicked out and left hungry. So they resorted to a movie theater for dinner -- not your typical dinner and a show. They go to the movie theater and the back of the place is filled with cowboys -- real cowboys, not Dallas Cowboys! Guys with hats, boots, the whole deal. So these six big guys go to the front of the theater to sit and watch the movie. The cowboys start to heckle our Cowboys, hollering "down in front!" Well our guys wouldn't take much of that, and they started yelling back, "up in back!" Another little altercation ensues, and the same cops come to break it up. The cops had had enough -- they escorted our players back to the hotel and made sure they went into their rooms.

    Anytime Healy tells a story, I listen. I was reminded of when Healy told Tex Schramm and I about a player the Bears drafted but let go of because George Halas wouldn't give him a raise. The player retired and went to work at a gas station in Wheeling, W.V. We worked him out and signed him, and he played for us over 12 seasons (we did have to give Chicago a draft pick). The guy was Chuck Howley -- if it weren't for that, he probably wouldn't have that ranch of his.

    Every group of guys have a story. Ken Frost, an undrafted defensive tackle we signed in 1961, and his wife told my wife about the time I went to their house to sign Ken. I offered a $500 signing bonus and told them to take their time to make their decision. They had four kids, and Ken took the kids for some ice cream and told his wife before he left not to let me get away. I never knew that, and I thought that was interesting. Frost played two years with us.

    Otto Brown, a defensive back who played for us in 1969, was also there. We heard a story about how once when we were in Philadelphia, an equipment man walked around the locker room asking if we had any tickets for will call. Brown noticed this and told Dan Reeves, our running back at the time, "Who is this Will Call guy? He must have a lot of money -- he's at all the games!" Of course it was a simple mistake. Brown learned everything he needed to know about leaving family and friends tickets after that.

    You just listen there in awe and listen to the things guys would do. They'd come to training camp, buy an automobile to get around in for $200, then sell it for $100 less than they paid when camp was over.

    I've done a lot of things in my life, and next to this past weekend, everything else is second best, and that includes winning Super Bowls.

    At the end, Lee Roy Jordan gets up and said, "Well, this was such a success, we'll probably do it again next year." I'm already counting the days.
  2. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Great read.

    Lord Sun...thanks for finding all of these articles and posting them...greatly appreciated.
  3. DandyDon

    DandyDon Member

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    Great read! Would have loved to have been there....
  4. Jimz31

    Jimz31 The Sarcastic One

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    Wow, great read. Somebody should get a book together of all of the anecdotes or stories that come out of this.....they could even make it a yearly book or something.
  5. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    If they need anyone to serve beers and dip, I'll pay them to let me do the job!!
  6. ABQCOWBOY

    ABQCOWBOY Moderator Staff Member

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    That truely was a great article. Many thanks for posting it.
  7. RCowboyFan

    RCowboyFan New Member

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    Wow, Great read. Same sentiments as others, thanks for posting this.
  8. da_boyz_mk

    da_boyz_mk How 'Bout Dem Cowboys

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    thanks lord sun...i would love to be a fly on the wall there.

    [IMG]
  9. Hostile

    Hostile Peace Zone Supporter

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    I would pay a lot of money for a DVD of a bunch of former Cowboys players sitting aroudn telling stories on each other.

    That was the best thing I have read in forever on this forum. I loved every paragraph. I'll read that over and over again many times.
  10. Cbz40

    Cbz40 The Grand Poobah

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    You and me both.........Hos.
  11. Cbz40

    Cbz40 The Grand Poobah

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    Great Read......thanks for the post LS ;)
  12. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and Brew... Staff Member

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    That's a great idea. I would love the opportunity to buy a DVD of that as well.
  13. Hostile

    Hostile Peace Zone Supporter

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    I think I'm gonna write NFL films and suggest they do something like this.
  14. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki "You want some?" Staff Member

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    Hey Hos. You burning up out there in the desert yet?

    Man I've got plenty-o-water to send you.

    Beautiful day in New York state. About 70 degrees.

    BTW Good Morning!

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