News and Observations from Wapella, Illinois: Home of the Wildcats.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

RIP George Blanda, Football's Grand Old Man

Consider this, in 1975, when this Football Card was circulated, George Blanda was already 48 years old, about 20 years past the average retirement age for most NFL players.

But Blanda was not your average NFL star. A Kentucky Wildcat, Chicago Bear, Houston Oiler, and most famously an Oakland Raider, under Al Davis, Blanda played more than 26 season as Quaterback, Linebacker and Kicker.

Rest in Peace George Blanda.

Full Obit Here

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- George Blanda, who played longer than anyone in pro football history and racked up the most points in a career that spanned four decades, mostly with the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders, died Monday. He was 83.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great George Blanda," the Raiders said Monday in confirming his death. "George was a brave Raider and a close personal friend of Raiders owner Al Davis." The Pro Football Hall of Fame said on its website that Blanda died Monday after a brief illness.

Blanda retired a month shy of his 49th birthday before the 1976 season. He spent 10 seasons with the Bears, part of one with the Baltimore Colts, seven with the Houston Oilers and his final nine with the Raiders.

He held the pro scoring record when he retired, with 2,002 points. He kicked 335 field goals and 943 extra points, running for nine touchdowns and throwing for 236 more.

He also threw for 26,920 yards in his career and held the pro football record with 277 interceptions until Brett Favre passed him in 2007. His points record stood until it was topped by several players in recent years.

"It certainly doesn't bother me," Blanda said about losing the scoring record. "The one record I was happy to get rid of was the one for the most interceptions, when Brett Favre got that one."

It was a five-game stretch for Oakland in 1970 that is the lasting imprint of his career. As a 43-year-old, Blanda led the Raiders to four wins and one tie with late touchdown passes or field goals.

Later that season, he became the oldest quarterback to play in a championship game, throwing two touchdown passes and kicking a field goal in Oakland's 27-17 loss to Baltimore in the AFC title game. His performance that season earned him The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Blanda joined the Oilers of the new American Football League in 1960 and played 16 seasons before hanging it up for good following the 1975 campaign. He led the Oilers to the first two AFL titles, beating the Chargers for the championship following the 1960 and '61 seasons.

He nearly won a third straight title when he led the Oilers back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to the Dallas Texans in the 1962 title game before losing in double overtime.

"George Blanda will always be remembered as a legend of our game," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, "including his amazing career longevity of 26 seasons in four different decades. George's multi-talented flair for the dramatic highlighted the excitement of pro football during an important period of growth for our sport."

Blanda began his memorable run in 1970 by throwing three touchdown passes in place of an injured Daryle Lamonica in a 31-14 win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. The following week he kicked a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the Raiders a 17-17 tie against Kansas City.

Blanda was just getting started. He threw a tying touchdown pass with 1:34 remaining and then kicked the game-winning 52-yard field goal in the final seconds the following week in a 23-20 win over Cleveland.

He followed that with a 20-yard TD pass to Fred Biletnikoff in place of Lamonica in a 24-19 victory over Denver the next week, then kicked a 16-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat San Diego 20-17 on Nov. 22.

"The game that I remember the most was playing against Cleveland in 1970," he once said. "We were down 20-13 and I came in and we got a touchdown and then we got a field goal in the last three seconds."

Blanda entered the NFL out of Kentucky as a 12th-round pick (119th overall) of the Chicago Bears in 1949. He spent most of the next decade with the Bears, leaving to play one game for the Colts in 1950. After winning the Bears starting job in 1953, Blanda promptly lost it the following season because of injury. His playing time at quarterback quickly diminished and he retired in 1959 at age 31 when Chicago planned to make him a full-time kicker. It was a short-lived break because he then joined the AFL's Oilers the next season.

Blanda was one of the new league's many prolific passers, throwing for 19,149 yards and 165 touchdowns in seven seasons for the Oilers. He was the AFL Player of the Year in 1961, holds AFL single-game passing record of 464 yards on Oct. 29, 1961, against Buffalo, and was chosen the league's all-time kicker.

"We did all the strategy right on the field," he once said. "Today, the coaches call all the plays, so all the quarterbacks have to do is perform. They are more or less programmed."

Oilers owner Bud Adams said Blanda's flair was a reason the AFL attracted so much attention.

"He was the perfect fit for the start of the AFL, joining our league from the NFL and displaying the ability to lead a high flying offense," Adams said in a statement. "His play garnered our league a lot of attention and fans. We had a celebration last year in Houston for the 1960 and 1961 AFL championship seasons and the team hall of fame members and it was great to have George join us and remember fondly those early years."

In 1967, the Oilers thought Blanda was at the end of his career, but the Raiders picked him up as a backup quarterback and kicker and he lasted nine more seasons.

"A seemingly ageless wonder, George inspired legions of fans over a 26-year career, with his clutch performances as a quarterback and place kicker. He will be truly missed," said Steve Perry, executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Friday, September 24, 2010

Batman vs. Taylorvillain

An alert Wapella native and frequenter of, my sister Helen, is a great fan of all things Taylorville for many years, having spent much time in Taylorville with her roomate who was a native Taylorvillain.

Helen, who now lives west of Wapella, added this bit of arcania to our valuable collection here: Yvonne Craig, the actress who portrayed Batgirl on the Batman show was also a native of Taylorville. Like many people from Taylorville, Yvonne has her own website and fanclub and looks kind of like a cocktail waitress at an upscale restaurant in Collinsville, or is that a Vesapsian Warner Librarian in the photo? Ah the mystery that is Taylorville.

David Taylor, from Wapella, is not from Taylorville, despite having the last name as the City. Taylor states "what a stupid question John, you have known me my whole life. Are you from Powersville? There is hardly ever a connection between town names and last names, save Weldon Carter, and that is a first name" Well said Mr. Taylor, well said, and good catch on Weldon.

Here some more on Taylorville, one of the fine mid-sized cities in Illinois.

Taylorville, seat of Christian County, located at junction of Illinois 48, 29 and 104.
Taylorville was organized in 1839 for the express purpose of serving as county seat for the newly formed Christian County. The original site was purchased from the government by Daniel C. Goode at $1.25 an acre. It was surveyed and plotted by John Taylor, hence Taylorville.

Lincoln practiced law in Taylorville. [Lincoln practiced law in every county court house in central Illinois.] In 1970 the original courthouse was still in existance but had been moved to the Christian County Fair Grounds. It cost $2,350 in 1840. [Is it still there?]

Coal production has been big in Taylorville. In 1970 it was the site of one of the world's largest coal mines. In 1970 coal from that mine fueled generators which generated electricity for Chicago, sent there over 180 miles off transmission lines. There is a lake in conjunction with this, meant for cooling the generators but also providing water activities. There were major labor wars in 1934 and 1937. There is a statue of a slain miner near the gate of Oak Hill Cemetery.

And here's the Batgirl Theme from the Batman Series.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Congratulations to Rick and Denise Johnson

It's 30 Years for Rick and Denise Schanafelt Johnson, two Wapella originals who are celebrating today. Denise proudly describes this as

Today I have been married to the most wonderful husband, best friend and a great father for 30 years. How time flys when your having fun. The best part is my 3 kids and can't forget BO and Maggie (dogs)
Congratualtion Rick and Denise, two of Wapella's finest.

Here's a video of Rockpile with Nick Lowe, who looks a lot like Rick if Rick were a English Rock star, or if Nick were from Wapella, or both. Add a mustache to Nick, put Rick's 1978 hair back on him and there you have it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Nothing Says Autumn Like...

Nothing says Autumn like high school football, followed by college football, followed by pro-football, in between some wild harvest rituals best demonstrated here by some Mexican-Americans dressed as Arabs playing Rock-and-Roll, singing nonsensical lyrics, and generally having a good time.

Here's Domingo "Big Sam" Samudio with the Pharaohs doing the Memphis/Tex Mex Sound circa 1965 with the Wooly Bully, the first American record to sell a million copies during the British Invasion, and one of the great songs of Autumn.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

There is Tea in Clinton Today

Depending on who you ask La Te Da means 4-5-6 or A Female to Give in some derivative type of latin. But there is no translation necessary for today's beneift at the La Tea Da Tea Room in Clinton Illinois today. The Tea Room is given over to a benefit of Katie Braun-Wingard, a friend to many in Wapella and all of DeWitt County. Here's the invite:

Today · 11:00am - 2:30pm
Location La Tea Da Tea Room
1100 S Madison
Clinton, IL

Please join us at La Tea Da on September 12, 2010 to help an amazing family!

Katie suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and was hospitalized for Healthcare Acquired Pneumonia on July 29. After adopting a beautiful baby girl Allie Joy, Katie was surprised to find out she and Matt were expecting their own baby! Katie delivered a 6 week pre-mature, healthy baby girl (Naomi Rose Wingard) on July 15, 2010 prior to her hospitalization.

Wapella...Come on down to the County Seat for hot tea and a good cause!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Mourns The Passing of Betty Jo Deatrick

Betty Deatrick, 72, Wapella, formerly of Heyworth, passed away Monday (Sept. 6, 2010) at Manor Court, Clinton.

Her funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Calvert-Belangee-Bruce Funeral Home, Heyworth. Burial will follow in East Lawn Memorial Gardens, Bloomington. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to the family.

Betty was born Feb. 5, 1938, in Bloomington, to Henry and Alberta Ballow Geske. She married Paul Deatrick on June 9, 1956, in Bloomington. He survives.

Also surviving are two daughters, Jo (Jerry) Daugherty WHS '77, Normal, and Paula (Roger) Irvin, WHS '81, Kenney; one son, Ron (Alonna) Deatrick, WHS '84, Clinton; three sisters, Jean (Eddie) Merida, Wapella; Carolyn (Clarence) Buck, El Paso; and Linda Morris, Eureka; two brothers, Junior (Karen) Geske, Heyworth, and Bobby (Mary) Geske, Wapella; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, one daughter, one brother and one sister.
Betty was an active supporter of the Mclean and DeWitt County 4-H. She raised Suffolk sheep and Boer goats for show.

Betty was a loving wife, mother, sister, grandmother and devoted friend who will be deeply missed.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jerry Ryan Goes to The Jungle

In a (unique and unexplained) press statement, Jerry Ryan WHS '54 has announced a shift in his current nickname from Jumping Jerry Ryan to Jungle Jerry Ryan. Ryan, a gentleman farmer in rural Clinton, had used the "Jumping Jerry" moniker for much of the last decade, having successfully dropped the corny "Taters Ryan" from his identinty in the mid 1990's.

"We feel that Jungle Jerry is more youthful, more current, and a more accurate identifier of the Jerry Ryan persona", claimed Ryan's press release, "we ask that all our friends and fans remember that Jerry Ryan was indeed a good jumper and earned the name 'Jumping Jerry', but respect Mr. Ryan's wishes to move into a new decade with a new start as "Jungle Jerry" Ryan".

Repeated calls to Mr. Ryan were not returned, that is repeated calls to "Jungle Jerry" Ryan were not returned. Asked for comment, Jerome "Jerry" Toohill stated, "I've always liked Mr. Ryan and will respect his current choice in nicknames. Ryan is a big and powerful man and the Jungle Jerry name keeps the crafty veteran in the game. Who knows, I might take it up myself"

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