Great Sports Memories

Wally Pipp was the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees in the early 1920s as the Pinstripers were on the cusp of an unparalleled run that would stretch over the next five decades. He had held the starting job for a number of years, a favorite of both manager Miller Huggins and a new right-fielder named Babe Ruth. Pipp came to work a bit tired one day, feeling somewhat out of sorts (reports of his having spent the previous evening in the rousing company of the Bambino remain to this day unconfirmed.) He suggested to Huggins perhaps it might be a good opportunity to give that fresh out-of-college rookie from Columbia University a shot. Seventeen years and 2,130 games later, that rookie, Lou Gehrig, had not relinquished his spot in the starting lineup one single time and was preparing to make his memorable “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech. Wally long since had been shipped off to other teams, forlorn and forgotten, always looking at that Hall of Famer in his rear view mirror. To be “Wally Pipp-Ed” became an oft used phrase in the lexicon of sports, it’s clear meaning being you are always competing every bit as much with your teammates as you are with your opponents, and, as Woody Allen has often said, “90% of life is just showing up.”

Bobby Cox was a pre-season All-American Gopher quarterback in 1957, coming off a great previous year when Minnesota lost but once, to Iowa, 7-0, in a contest that denied Minnesota a trip to Pasadena. A good looking kid from Los Angeles, he had transferred from Washington and taken the Twin Cities by storm, raising hopes and dreams of that elusive Rose Bowl trip. He took all the hoopla in stride, including his photo on the pre-season Sports Illustrated cover stating he was the best quarterback in the country, realizing full well it emanated from a rabid bunch of Gopher fans yearning for a return to their halcyon golden days of football of two decades before when they had won three straight national championships. He loved it and they loved him. We had opened that 1957 season by walloping Washington and nailing Northwestern. Hope was higher than the corn being harvested in the nearby hated state of Iowa. Cox had been magnificent in both games. In the third game that season, against Purdue, the crowd was suddenly stunned into silence as Cox, tackled viciously, fell to the ground. Ace trainer Lloyd “Snapper” Stein, himself a former gridiron Gopher, hustled out to the supine quarterback, now lying motionless on the field. Looking for any sign of cerebral injury to Cox, Stein gently said, “Bobby, are you all right?” Cox, looking up towards the worried trainer, impishly winked and said, “I’m okay, Snapper, but how are the fans taking it?” The acerbic Stein smiled and said, “You son-of-a-bitch, Bobby!”

12 responses to “Great Sports Memories

  1. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach, thank you for sharing those the two stories. And what about that speech from Peyton? Wow!

  2. Hey, Robert. Yes, a great farewell speech
    from one of the greatest quarterbacks the
    NFL will ever see!

  3. Jock, did’nt you share some quarterbacking with Cox in those years?

    • Yes, Bobby and I red-shirted in 1955 and
      then Cox started in ’56 and ’57 and I
      started in 1958. And then you and I started
      for Mount Vernon in 1960 going 13-2.

  4. Thanks for the press.

  5. Yeh, Lansing was a hard nosed, like able guy.

  6. Jerry Wallin

    Great memories, Jim. We did end up beating Purdue that day thanks in part to you and Dick Larson.

  7. Jerry Wallin

    Oh Illinois! It was their homecoming game and one of the few national televised games that year. We heard before the game that Red Grange was going to give their team a pep talk, and Murray saying, it would be all right as long as Red didn’t put on a uniform and play. Illinois didn’t need Red because they kicked our ass with Bobby Mitchell running and Tom Haller passing. Also,there was some guy named Niitscke playing full back.