BRADEN LATEST IN LONG LIST OF COLORFUL CHARACTERS (part 2 of 2)

Today we continue with part 2 of this two-part blog:

Thumbnail image for Sid.jpg6) Sid Gillman,
LA Express Coach–
Gillman was a
football legend before he ever arrived in the USFL late in his coaching
career.  Called “The Father of
Passing Offense” dating back to his early AFL years with the San Diego
Chargers and Houston Oilers, Gillman’s brilliant mind was only matched by
his impatience.  When
John Hadl, his former QB pupil, was named head coach of
the Express, he soon hired Gillman as an offensive consultant.  After watching film of current LA
players, he soon informed Hadl that the team was lacking speed at the wide
receiver position.  The next week,
the team flies in two fleet-footed receivers from the Philadelphia area upon Gilman’s
request.  He lines them up at the
Express’ practice facilities in Manhattan
Beach and blows his whistle to signal the start
of a 40-yard test.  Twenty yards
into the sprint, Gilman is not pleased by the time he sees on his
stopwatch.  He abruptly swirls
around and walks back towards his office, leaving the two hopeful
receivers with 20 yards left to their test.  “Get ‘em on the next flight back to
Philly.  They’re not fast
enough.”

7) Greg Fields,
LA Express Sack Leader–
Another
entertaining chapter from my LA Express tenure involved former Grambling
defensive end Greg Fields.  The 6-6,
275-pound lineman had led the Express in sacks in its 1983 charter season,
yet many former USC players on LA’s defensive unit were getting more local
media coverage due to their college affiliation in the local market.  Fields, an imposing figure, always came
up to me on the practice field or in my office to complain about his lack
of coverage.  “Hey Pub Man, get me
some pub.  That’s all he would ever say.  I’m not sure he ever knew my real
name.  However, as LA’s second
season rolled around, the team had vastly improved by winning
several battles with the NFL in luring some of the nation’s top collegians
to the Express.  On the Wednesday
leading up to the 1984 opener, it was decided that the one-dimensional
Fields no longer deserved a spot on the roster.  Coach Hadl called him into his office to
break the news.  Fields, while
holding a carton of chocolate milk, sucker punched the head coach.  Hadl fell to the floor, then got up
swinging.  His black eye
unavoidable, the Los Angeles Times and
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
reported the story in their next day’s editions.  All I could think was, “Hey Fields, I
guess the Pub Man finally got you some pub.”

Colin.jpg8) Colin Scotts,
St. Louis Football Cardinals’ Defensive End –
Colin Scotts was a publicist’s dream.  Born in Sydney, Australia,
the son of an owner of silver mines and a national Aussie Football
schoolboy star, the 6-5, 260-pound Scots became the first player from Down
Under to play in the National Football League.  When the Cardinals drafted him and I saw
footage of some of his games at the University of Hawaii,
I almost flipped.  Not only had he
applied his rugby skills to American football by becoming one of the
NCAA’s sack leaders, but Scotts had perfected his post-sack celebrations
like few before him.  As he
described to the St. Louis
media upon arriving at training camp, “Yes mates, I like to have a good
time and celebrate my sacks.” 
Primarily, he had three distinct maneuvers after his sacks.  As he sat with the writers watching some
of his Hawaii highlights, he said, “This is called my kangaroo hop,” as he placed his hands together, wrist down,
chest high in front of him like a kangaroo, while he took a little hop
with his feet close to each other.  “This next one, I call the crocodile yawn,” a move that
required him to stand erect over the fallen quarterback, both arms
together extended straight out, then separating the arms as if opening a
crocodile’s mouth before quickly snapping the arms–or mouth–shut
again.  “And the last one here I
call the koala bear cuddle,” as
the film showed him mockingly put a hug around an imaginary
QB.  Safe to say, I will never
forget
Colin Scotts. (For more info on Scotts check out this YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58v5xnChzEM)


Beck.jpg9) Rod Beck,
Giants Closer–
Bay Area baseball
fans are well aware of the scraggly-haired mustachioed closer of the
Giants they called “Shooter.”  The
late, great
Rod Beck did a better
impression of “The Wild Thing” than
Charlie Sheen did in playing the famed character in the movie, Major League,
years later.  The right arm,
dangling back and forth on the mound. 
The cold stare from the mound. 
And that nasty split-fingered fastball that seemed to fall off the
proverbial table whenever Shooter needed a key strikeout.  After the game, win or lose, save or
blown save, you could always count on Beck to be at his locker, beer in
one hand, a cig in the other, available for quotes for the media no matter
what the situation.  Yet while Beck exuded
that every-common-man persona, as well as a Mr. Tough Guy image, what I
remember most about Rod was how sensitive and kind-hearted he was.  When I co-founded “Until There’s A Cure
Day,” an event where the Giants became the first professional sports team
to become associated with the AIDS epidemic, we had real concerns about
whether any players would support the cause.  I remember Rod Beck and his wife,
Stacey, never hesitating, which cleared the way for other Giants players
to shed their macho image and lend a hand. 
One afternoon, I took Beck and young shortstop
Royce Clayton to a San
Francisco high school to address a student
assembly about the dangers of HIV. 
Rod finished his short, heart-felt speech by saying, “Last year at
the first Until There’s A Cure Day” I volunteered to read the names on the
AIDS Quilt of people who had lost their lives to AIDS.  It was so sad.”  Then he paused for a minute, trying to
gather himself while fighting back a tear from his eye.  Still choked up, he finished by pointing
his finger at the teenagers in the crowd. 
“I don’t ever want to
read your names on a quilt.”  With
that, the Shooter returned to the Stick to close out another game.


Braden.jpg10) Dallas Braden,
A’s Starter
– To understand Dallas’
character, charms and uniqueness read my previous blog entry “FEEDING THE
MEDIA BEAST IS A FULL-TIME JOB” or read some of the 1000s of words which
have been written about him since his Perfect Game on May 9th!

 

(Blogger’s
Note:  I hope you enjoyed some of
the colorful characters of my past and didn’t feel I was a wee bit overindulgent.  It was not my intent.  I must admit, though, it was fun rekindling
past memories with this exercise!)

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