Saturday, 30 April 2011


My obituary of Joe 'the Jet' Perry is in today's Independent, you can link to it here. Obviously, I had to keep it simple enough for a non-football audience (and the definition of 'scatback' the Indy provided is not very accurate--McElhenny's dodging, darting style complemented Perry's) but there was a lot more to say, most of which would have showed my age, and my increasingly obvious old fogey disposition.

Joe nearly beat Mel Patton, at the time the world record holder at 100 yards (9.3) running in the Fresno Relays (Patton ran 9.4 Joe 9.5, hand-clocked of course). It reminded me what big events such track meets were in those days, and how, despite the huge popularity of Olympic track every four years, events I grew up with, like the Penn Relays, the IC4As, or the Millrose Games have all become after-thoughts in the sporting calendar.

I would have liked to make more of the integration issue on the west coast. Woody Strode, Kenny Washington, and Jackie Robinson all played professionally in the Pacific Coast Football League, which, like its baseball equivalent, was somewhat better than a 'minor' league. Interestingly, the Indy is also holding my obit of Wally Yonamine, who, before he was abused for being the first American to play baseball in Japan, suffered racial abuse in the PCFL for being the first Japanese-American to play pro football!

The NFL, of course, had been an integrated league in its early days in the 1920s; Redskins' owner George Preston Marshall's racism is generally blamed for its period of unwritten segregation. And the AAFC was integrated a year before Major League Baseball; though the Cleveland Browns left their black players home when they played Miami.

There was a great quote from John Unitas about what a great teammate Perry was; he had two years in Baltimore that were remarkable considering his age. It's also ironic that Tittle, who played college ball at LSU, was the QB for Baltimore when the hotel incident occured. It's a neat distinction to note that the Million Dollar Backfield was half white (Tittle, McElhenny) and half black (Perry, Johnson), and oddly, neither Tittle nor Johnson would likely be in the Hall of Fame except they went on to bigger and better things when they left San Francisco. Sometimes there just isn't enough glory to go around.

Perry was probably the second-most popular 49er on those teams, after Leo 'the Lion' Nomellini, the defensive tackle who was a big-time pro wrestler in the off-season. Those were the days, when all-pro linemen had to wrestle in the off-season to make a living! There were six Hall of Famers on that team in the mid-1950s, but they still couldn't win a title. And there was Alley-Oop Owens, who invented, with Tittle, the Alley-Oop pass. But that's another story....


This is the 400th post I've put up on Irresistible Targets, and for personal reasons and the pressures of work, I've slowed down the last couple of months. I'm at a loss to figure out which direction I ought to take this, and whether there is any future in it. I currently link to my own published work, as well as post crime fiction and other reviews. I have been asked and told to make the blog more specific, that readers will check it regularly only if they know what they are getting.

Originally I had intended to run separate blogs for sports and for writing about art, but the first (...And Over Here, link to it here) is dormant and the second (Untitled: Perspectives, link to it here) is hugely occasional. I never know whether to simply write about what interests me, and put it here, and hope people notice and enjoy: I link to the blog from facebook and twitter, so if you do notice and/or enjoy, re-twit or re-link, or leave a comment (especially if you don't enjoy). Anyway, post 401 will probably show up soon, despite my confusion, so don't go away!


Anonymous said...

I've only relatively recently found your blog - but check it regularly. Sometimes you're writing about stuff that doesn't interest me - sometimes it's stuff that I don't think will interest me, but when I read it I find I was wrong.

As a relative newcomer, it's not for me to tell you what to do with your blog - but I hope you keep it as is. Your bio makes clear the range of your different interests, and it seems right that the blog should reflect these.

If you wanted to add to the blog, I'd certainly welcome some more general pieces - not necessarily obits, or reviews, but your own essays. Admittedly we get this anyway from the material that often spins out of the obit or the review - but I don't see why you have this self-denying rule that says that you can't do pure comment pieces.

Clearly it's not for us readers to dictate to you on something that you do for free - but I enjoy your writing and hope you find a way to enjoy doing the blog again. It isn't purely an issue of leveraging your freelance writing - it has a life of its own, and it's certainly something that I value.

D Ross said...

Hey Mike
I'm another that has only recently found your blog. I think I linked to it from an interview you had done with a student newspaper if memory serves. I, too, find a lot of the articles interesting and often enjoy ones I think might be too obscure for me at first glance.
I like the fact there is a lot of material here and I can come back again and again when I feel like being distracted from my regular job (which is a lot).

I came looking for NFL related material as I absolutely LOVED the Coast to Coast analyses you did in prior years and was looking for something similar. Something in depth that you don't usually get on the main NFL sponsored sites.

I have since enjoyed blogs on film and other subjects so can understand why you don't want to split it as otherwise I never would have seen those.

I tend to check it out every few days myself to see if there is anything new and interesting.

Not sure if that's of any help mind you! x

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

As above, I love the variety.

Everything is so ghettoised on the internet, little groups away down their own rabbit holes. It's refreshing to find a good writer and interesting fellow pondering whatever it is that happens to be turning his gears on a given day. It's always worth a read, whatever the subject.

Alan Ross said...

Just read your fine post about Joe Perry, Mike. I had an occasion to talk with Joe several months before he died and only spoke with Y.A. Tittle a few days ago--both for a project I'm working on.

Y.A. was telling me that Perry finished only "half a step behind Mel Patton in the Compton Relays," but I'm more inclined to believe your findings that it was really the Fresno Relays. So many of the older players, as you know, unintentionally confuse their facts. Would you happen to know what year that might have been when the two raced?