From the look of the things, 49ers wideout Anquan Boldin and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett exchanged some Hard Consonants on the Washington sideline Sunday. They may even have uttered a few vowels.
Late in the game, as you can see in this clip, Boldin was driven out of bounds by cornerback Greg Ducre and free safety Trenton Robinson after a 10-yard catch. When he “pushed,” as he put it, one of the defenders off him, lips started flapping. Line judge Byron Boston actually stepped between principals to make sure the situation didn’t escalate.
Afterward, Boldin claimed to be unaware of what set Haslett off. “A guy tried to hit me late on the sideline,” he said, “and I pushed him off. [Haslett] had some words for whatever reason. I don’t even give that a second thought. He don’t . . . he’s irrelevant.”
(For the record, Haslett was the 51st pick in the ’79 draft, a linebacker out of Indiana (Pa.) taken by the Bills. Mr. Irrelevant, who went 279 picks later to the Steelers, was wide receiver Mike Almond from Northwest Louisiana.)
I bring all this up for a couple of reasons: 1. Who doesn’t love a little sideline flare-up, be it inter-team or intra-team? 2. These episodes can involve so much more than just foul language.
In fact, long before Haslett joined the Bills, a Buffalo coach was accused of punching an opposing quarterback after he’d run out of bounds. It allegedly happened in a 1961 game against the New York Titans — whose descendants, the Jets, meet the Bills tonight in Detroit (thanks to the avalanche of snow that fell on Orchard Park last week).
The coach was Buster Ramsey, a crusty former all-pro guard with the Chicago Cardinals. The quarterback was Al Dorow, one of the better scramblers in that period. And the owner who leveled the charge against Ramsey was Harry Wismer, the famous sportscaster who owned the Titans (back in the days when franchises could be bought out of petty cash). Here’s The New York Times’ description of the incident:
Sounds like a nasty game, doesn’t it? And AFL Commissioner Joe Foss — this was before the league had merged with the NFL — had a ringside seat.
Anyway, the Times said Ramsey “shoved” Dorow — which was bad enough, I suppose. But Wismer upped the ante, claiming Ramsey “slugged” his QB “and cost us the game,” which the Bills wound up winning 41-31.
Dorow seconded the motion, saying, “Ramsey was the first one on me and knocked me down with a punch. A player cannot lay his hands on an official and certainly a coach should not be permitted to punch a rival player.”
(I’m not sure what the word “rival” is doing there. Is Al suggesting it was OK in that era for a coach to punch his own player?)
It only got worse. When the Bills sent the Titans a copy of the game film, Wismer accused them of splicing out the fight. He fired off a wire to Buffalo general manager Dick Gallagher — that Gallagher released to the media – that read: “Received doctored up film of Titan[s]-Buffalo game. Amazed you would cut out episode of Ramsey slugging our quarterback Dorow.”
Gallagher’s reply: “Film shipped intact. Nothing cut out. Shocked at your accusation.”
Wismer was having none of that. “The film they sent us shows Ramsey going for Dorow,” he told The Associated Press. “Just about the time he gets to him, the scene shifts. They say they didn’t cut it. I say the fight isn’t in the film. Dorow got hit on the side of the jaw by Ramsey, and he will testify so.”
But beyond that, he went on, “Coaches are supposed to stop trouble, not start it. Ramsey’s actions in Buffalo could have incited a riot.”
The Titans owner went as far as to demand a lifetime ban for Ramsey — or at the very least a suspension. The Bills coach, meanwhile, continued to maintain his innocence. “I did not swing at Al Dorow or any other New York player,” he said. “Harry Wismer’s statement that I did substantiates a belief I have long held . . . that he is full of hot air.”
How great was pro football in the ’60s?
Dorow got such a going over in the Buffalo bench area, the Times reported later in the week, that the team physician, Dr. James Nicholas, “said it was extremely doubtful that [he] would be able to play against Denver.” The most severe of the quarterback’s injuries, Nicholas said, was a “lumbar-sacral strain, which left him with a weakness in one leg.”
Lumbar-sacral strain or not, Dorow did indeed play the next Sunday against the Broncos, throwing three touchdown passes in a 35-28 New York win. As for Ramsey, he wasn’t suspended and probably wasn’t even fined. The AP put the matter to bed this way:
That wasn’t quite the end of it, though. The teams still had to play each other again on Thanksgiving at the Polo Grounds. In the days leading up to the game, Wismer asked the New York police commissioner to put a detail behind the Buffalo bench to maintain the peace. “We still remember the terrific beating Dorow took at the hands of Ramsey and the Buffalo players in the game at Buffalo Sept. 17,” he said.
The Titans took the rematch 21-14, with Dorow tossing for one TD and running for another. Best of all, everybody lived to tell about it – though, if you examine the box score, you’ll see Dorow was sacked six times for 66 yards. That can’t be good for the lumbar-sacral area.