Immutable Records and The Stars of ’79

by A.J. Coltrane

When I was in grade school we had the “Scholastic Book Club.”  The program allowed students to buy small paperbacks for a nominal amount of money.  Sports titles included “Winners Under 21”, featuring Muhammed Ali and Wayne Gretzky.  I also bought the book shown below: 

Pre-teen football junkie gold.

Ebay listing here.  Featuring: Walter Payton, Franco Harris, Harvey Martin, Bob Griese, O.J. Simpson, Greg Pruitt, Isaac Curtis, Lyle Alzado, Lydell Mitchell, Tony Dorsett, and Bert Jones.

One of the other books was a sort of “Legends and Record Holders” — that’s how I became familiar with guys like Night Train Lane, Jim Brown, and George Blanda.  Brown and Blanda both held records that were never surpassed until the introduction of the 16-game season:  Brown with his 12,312 career rushing yards, and Blanda with his 2,002 career points over a 26 year career.

All this time has gone by, and I didn’t have to look those numbers up.  To my young mind those records were both eternal and immortal.  Blanda passed away on Monday, and it reminded me of all of those Scholastic Club books.  I got to looking at the cover of the All-Stars of Pro Football and I couldn’t identify the player in the center of the picture…

After some research, I think it’s Boobie Clark.  The photograph was taken during the San Diego Chargers – Houston Oilers divisional playoff game in December 1979.  Quarterback Dan Pastorini, Running Back Earl Campbell, and Wide Receiver Ken Burrough were all injured during the previous game against the Broncos.  They represented the Oilers top offensive weapons, and each would miss the game pictured above.   The modern equivalent would be the Colts losing Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, and Reggie Wayne for a playoff game, and winning the game anyway.

Boobie scored on a 1 yard touchdown run to give the Oilers a 10-7 halftime lead.  The Oilers went on to win 17-14, and Boobie cemented his own small piece of immortality on the cover a book purchased by ten year-old boys everywhere.

Final question:  Did the publishers have a meeting and say to each other:  “Let’s put the Oiler’s 3rd string running back on the cover of our All-Pro issue and we’ll confuse the hell out of some guy in 30 years.”

I’m guessing maybe they did.


8 comments to Immutable Records and The Stars of ’79

  • Junior Joey Jo-Jo Shabadu

    I am pretty sure that the guy in the picture is not Boobie Clark – I am basing this off the fact that (unless FB reference is wrong about uni numbers), Clark never wore #2 and you can see #50 in the picture with “APLES” on his jersey. I am pretty sure that is Bobby Maples who played for the Oilers from 65-70. The helmet logos match the 1966-1971 ones from the team website. There were 2 Chargers who wore #70 during that time frame – Scott Appleton (1967) and Russ Washington (1968-70). The guy looks white which would eliminate Washington (he was black) which would then lead me to believe this picture is from the 1967 game between the Chargers and Oilers. The really interesting question is who the heck has the ball. There are only a handful of players that wore single digit numbers from 65-70 for the Oilers, and all of them were kickers and he sure as heck doesn’t look like a kicker. My guess is it is probably one of their QB’s.

  • A.J. Coltrane

    I think you’re right. That’s Bobby Maples. (I “searched” the list of Oilers on wikipedia, looking for “aples.”)

    I thought that Boobie Clark was a good match because his number ended in 2. My suspicion is that we can’t see the first digit. (And yeah, Boobie is somewhat dark-skinned to be the guy — that was my primary misgiving with thinking it might be him.)

    The 1967 Oilers did have a star HB named Doyle Granger. He was light-skinned and wore number 32. That year’s Oilers team *also* played San Diego in December. (In the early season game Houston did not score a touchdown.) In a totally weird case of history repeating itself: Granger scored a touchdown on a 1 yard run to give the Oilers a 10-7 halftime lead!

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  • A.J. Coltrane

    Of course, this leads to the question: Why did they use a 12 year old picture from a regular season game? Because they liked the shot?

  • A.J. Coltrane

    For background: Boobie Clark wore “42”, and he had a pretty decent career, topping out at 988 yards as a rookie. (3,032 yards career total, 3.8 yards/carry.) By the time he got to the Oilers has was cooked, gaining 51 yards as Earl Campbell’s backup in 1979. He had one carry with Houston the next year, and that was it. Out of the league by age 31.

    In some ways I wanted it to be Boobie, because it makes a nice story…

  • A.J. Coltrane

    1. (Our estimated) date of the game was December 16, 1967. In Houston. According to the National Weather Service, Houston averages almost 4″ of rain in December.

    2. #70 for the Chargers matches up with what might be expected. It’s RDT Scott Appleton, who’d played for Houston the previous year. In fact, he only played for the Chargers in ’67 and 68′.

    3. From what I’ve found, there were a bunch of hurricanes in South Texas in September of 1967.

  • Aha! (Click sig for Farmer’s Almanac link)

    December 16, 1967. Houston weather:
    Low: 44
    High: 48
    Observations: Fog/Rain-Drizzle(!)

    December 15, 1967. Houston
    Low: 49
    High: 54
    Observations: Fog/Rain-Drizzle

    December 14, 1967. Houston
    Low: 58
    High: 72
    Observations: Fog/Rain-Drizzle, Thunder

    December 13, 1967. Zero precipitation.

    It rained the day of the game, as well as the two days leading up to it. At that time playing surfaces were allowed to get a *lot* worse than they do now.

  • A.J. Coltrane

    It gets better. The Oilers played at Rice University in 1967. (Rice’s last home game was November 18.)

    “The Oilers won the AFL Eastern Division title again in 1967, then became the first professional football team to play in a domed stadium, when they moved into Houston’s Astrodome for the 1968 season. Previously, the Oilers had played at Jeppesen Stadium at the University of Houston (now called Robertson Stadium) from 1960 to 1964, and Rice University’s stadium from 1965 to 1967. “

  • Junior Joey Jo-Jo Shabadu

    I love a good mystery! I think there is an even bigger one than the cover of this book – Why the heck would the Oilers be in the Eastern Conference in the AFL? There were 9 teams, so it wasn’t a balance issue, yet, they were in a division with the Jets, Bills, Dolphins and Pats instead of the division with the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers and Broncos? Makes no real sense to me.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>