Monthly: October 2017

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Spotlight On: Dave Kopay – Bringing His Cards Out Of My Closet

Topps football custom cards, gay players coming out

The name Dave Kopay may be familiar to many in the American gay community for having been the first NFL player to announce he was homosexual.  The announcement became official with his autobiography The Dave Kopay Story. But since Kopay’s book was published in 1977, only 4 other NFL players have “come out.” Articles, news stories, and blogs have discussed Kopay’s plight, putting the focus firmly on his homosexuality and the adversity he faced surrounding it. Since pro football players who “come out” are rare, Kopay has become a hero of sorts in the gay community and any retelling of his story is aligned with the politics of gay marriage or discrimination. If one looks past the politics for a moment, the question that might be asked is, “what kind of a player was Dave Kopay?”  

In the 1960s and 70s, it was unusual for a backup running back to enjoy a prolonged career as a spot player and special teamer, but that is exactly was Kopay did.  From 1964 through 1972 he was basically a backup running back that could catch out of the backfield, play some defense, and play vital roles on special teams. These type of players were a dime-a-dozen and teams have been littered with nameless and nondescript players that last two, maybe three years in the league.  But somehow Kopay lasted roughly 10 years as one of these players.  Now you don’t last in the NFL for 10 years without bringing something valuable. So what did Kopay bring?
First of all, he was a student of the game with coaching aspirations.  Kopay was in tune with the bigger picture of strategy and execution that endeared him to coaches throughout his career.  His hard work, intense training, and athletic ability helped him be impactful anytime he was in the game.  He was known for heading the “suicide squad,’ or the kick-off coverage team where he would be the first one down field to make the tackle.  Physically tough, a good blocker, a good pass protector, and special teamer extraordinaire, are the things he brought to the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet.  For what it is worth, here is his stat sheet:

You can search out his book, The David Kopay Story or check out this video for more on Mr. Kopay.  The cards you see above are coming soon!

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Len Koenecke: The Ultimate Bender

Drinking and cavorting have long been associated with professional baseball starting with the Babe Ruth era spanning to the Wade Boggs era.  But none reached the harrowing tale of Baraboo, Wisconsin native Len Koenecke, who was killed after being konked on the head during a flight to Buffalo, New York.

Koenecke, who was a rising star with the New York Giants in 1931, wound up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934 where his career started to take off.  Unfortunately, his heavy drinking had begun to affect his performance and by 1935 he was dismissed by the Dodgers in the middle of a road trip.
After being sent home from the road trip, he caught a commercial flight for New York City. During the flight, he drank a quart of whiskey and became very drunk. After harassing other passengers and striking a stewardess, the pilot had to sit on him to restrain him as he was shackled to his seat. He was removed unconscious from the flight in Detroit. After sleeping on a chair in the airport, he eventually awakened and chartered a flight to Buffalo.
According to the Ludington Daily News, pilot William J. Mulqueeny, whose flying career had been “packed with thrills and close escapes with death,” was a former World War I pilot who had to subdue Koenecke.  “Koenecke, allegedly crazed by drink, had hired the plane for a trip to New York across Canada.”
While flying over Canada, Koenecke had a disagreement with the pilot and a passenger (Irwin Davis, a noted parachute jumper), and attempted to take control of the aircraft.  In order to avoid a crash, Mulqueeny, who had left his controls, hit Koenecke over the head with a fire extinguisher “while the ship ran wild in the sky.” After an emergency landing at Long Branch Racetrack in Toronto, it was found that Koenecke had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The two pilots were charged with manslaughter but were found not guilty in a trial soon after. “It was three lives or one,” Mulqueeny said.  Koenecke was buried in Repose Cemetery at Friendship, Wisconsin.
Full newspaper article can be found here.