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Rubbing Elbows At Giants Stadium

Jan 28, 2009, 5:46pm

NFL Films once produced a half hour segment featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers defense of 1976. After surrendering 110 points in their first five games that year, they gave up only 28 over the final nine games. At one point in the highlight reel, during a Steeler’s game at Giants Stadium, the camera panned the Pittsburgh sideline. Standing in the background was an individual wearing a blue windbreaker. He looked like most any of the Giant’s field personnel that day, except for one small difference: he had no Giants logo on his windbreaker. Instead, his jacket patch read, “The Fieldhouse, BataviaNew York.” Guess who! Before moving to New Jersey two months earlier, I played for the Fieldhouse softball team, sponsored by Jim “Biggie” Pastore.

 I began working at the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority on August 16th, 1976. From work I had a bird’s eye view of the New York City skyline. Not that I enjoyed it. I would have traded the skyscrapers in a heartbeat for a bird’s eye view of a corn field or a clump of cattails. I missed GeneseeCounty and, among other things, driving the back roads between the small towns back home.

Working at the Meadowlands, however, did have its perks, one of which included being standby personnel during the Giants home games.  

 Notable Giants on the ‘76 team were journeymen players Larry Csonka and Craig Morton. The Giants roster also included two promising rookies in middle linebacker Harry Carson and defensive lineman Troy Archer. Sadly, Archer’s career was cut short in an automobile accident in June of ‘79.  Defensive lineman John Mendenhall, from Grambling, was a real down to earth nice guy, always taking the time to say hello. George Martin, another d-end, and Harry Carson were the only members of that team to play in the Giants first Super Bowl ten years later.      

Due to stadium construction, the ’76 home opener at Giants Stadium was pushed back to Sunday, October 10th against the Dallas Cowboys. I was on the field several hours before kickoff, well before players came out for their warm up. The Hawthorne Caballero’s, the halftime band, were doing a final walk through. I was taking in the sights when Art McNally, the head of the NFL Officials, came up to me and made some small talk. It was a heady moment for a kid from Batavia.  

One of my assigned tasks that day was raising the net behind the west end zone goal posts during extra points. Though it was the opening day for Giants Stadium, there were several minor things that still needed tending to – one of them being the goal post nets. Less than an hour before kickoff the nets were not yet in place. So there I was, trying to toss a line connected to the net over a wire running from the goal post tops. I kept missing. You think the crowd is relentless when the players make a bad play? They don’t let up on maintenance personnel either. The fans seated around the tunnel entrance razzed me to no end. Thankfully, by the next game Pinkerton guards would handle the job of hauling up the nets.      


At the start of the game I took up a position against the wall below the first row of seats. But those being the years of Dallas’ Doomsday Defense – Harvey Martin, Too Tall Jones, Randy White and company - I sidled toward the bench every chance I got. Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson led the offense behind all-pro tackle Rayfield Wright. The only Cowboy I had a chance to actually talk with during the game was reserve tight end, Jay Saldi.

During the course of the game I followed the action up and down the field. I had no problem from field officials or the chain gang. It was easy to blend in among scores of sideline photographers. While the action on the field was violent and intense, and one could virtually feel the impact of sideline collisions, the officials did a nice job of controlling the game. The same couldn’t be said for the crowd as there were moments – several in fact – when the behavior appeared much rowdier in the stadium seats. I guess the home fans felt they were entitled to break in the place the way they saw fit. Anyway, the final score was 24 – 10, Cowboys.

 Two weeks later the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town. Once again I was behind the visitor’s bench, this time gawking at the Steel Curtain. Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount and Jack Ham would all be named to the All NFL Defensive Team that year.  L.C. Greenwood was impressive, a towering human being amid the “Steel Curtain” defenders. I did find it odd that he wore high-top turf shoes the same shade as Guldens mustard.

The Steeler offense was equally star-studded with Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and a great offensive line.  And while he didn’t accumulate big numbers, I need to mention   reserve running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua. He was the guy with the flashy wardrobe who had live goldfish swimming around in the heels of his platform shoes. The Steelers shut out the Giants that day, 27 – 0.

During my ten years at the Meadowlands the Giants made some changes. The drafting of Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the arrival of Western New Yorkers Phil McConkey and Jim Burt totally changed the team chemistry.

Phil Simms’ wife, Diana, was from Wyckoff, N.J. the town we resided in. Before long a toddling Chris Simms was one my wife’s daycare charges in our home. We followed Chris’ career from the University of Texas to Tampa Bay and now with  Tennessee where he is currently a backup on the Titans. As might be expected, we are Giant fans.  

Philip Anselmo

"During my ten years at the Meadowlands." Wow!

There for the drafting of LT — the real LT, not this guy who runs around with a shaded visor, eating Chunky soup. Awesome. Wow, again.

Jan 28, 2009, 5:57pm Permalink
Brian Hillabush

Another awesome post.
Both LTs are awesome, but the one that was on the field this season might not be around too much longer. He might not even be a Charger next year. He could be running for Cincy or something next year.

Jan 28, 2009, 6:40pm Permalink

Scott,thank you and yes, I'm a Batavia native.

Brian, thanks - see ya Saturday.

Phil, the L.T. you speak of changed the way linebackers play the game. He we also the reason many an offensive coordinator didn't sleep at night. By the way, if you are back in LeRoy and drop in at the LB Grand, please give my regards.

Jan 28, 2009, 9:49pm Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

Yes, I should have remembered his rookie card from 77-78 season. I remember watching the immaculate reception in the superbowl game. I have an excuse to pull out my old card collection !

Jan 29, 2009, 12:29pm Permalink
Craig Gillard

Jim, Great article! Glad to see you are doing good.
When do you expect the next book to be done? Looking foward to reading another Great adventure about Batavia.

Jan 29, 2009, 7:49pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Russ, we've got something in the works. If I hadn't gotten sick and been stuck at home for three days (and probably tomorrow, too), we would already have our plans in place.

Jan 29, 2009, 8:56pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

Took me awhile to find my way down here Jimmy, as far as outdoor activities go. Hunting is well just big business, and hunting anything is tough unless you want to spend alot of money leasing land. Just won't pay someone $1000 to $1500 to hunt their land. Public land is extremely limited but found some nice spots that don't have a guy behind every tree like the LBJ grasslands, and the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge As far as bird hunting goes there is good pheasant and quail in the panhandle around Lubbock but again its about $300/day and thats alot of chicken. So eventually got into tournament bass fishing with a guy I work with, its a big deal around here. We fish what they call the Media Teams Bass Tournaments , Bass Champs on Lake Fork, and I'll be fishing a couple FLW tournaments on Toledo Bend, and Sam Rayburn. My dad and I have preliminary plans to come home sometime during early trout season.

Jan 30, 2009, 9:49am Permalink

Rick, sounds like you made some connections. Any more salt water activity. Didn't you, McNally, Larry Hawks and the boys have a good day on the water in the Gulf a few years back?

Jan 30, 2009, 12:32pm Permalink

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