Striking Back In Time

Tex Schramm pictured here was president of the Cowboys back in 1987, during the last labor unrest.

disrupt the replacement player workouts. In Anaheim, the back window of a van carrying Rams replacement players into the complex was shattered. The Patriots threw eggs and beer bottles at replacement players being dropped off at the hotel. There were reports of Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau being spit upon and getting in fights with teammates as he crossed the picket line. 

And the Cowboys, oh my, what took place for four weeks had as much to do with the continuing demise of a proud franchise that had strung together 20 consecutive winnings seasons as White's wrist, the club never, ever the same under Tom Landry. 

As if it were almost yesterday, I can remember standing as a reporter on this side of the picket line when defensive tackle Randy White, accompanied by fellow DT backup Don Smerek, arrived that one morning in his pickup truck, ready to report to work. To (aghast) cross the picket line. He had already informed his teammates he had no use for this strike, and he wouldn't participate. In fact, he sent his resignation letter to the union. 

Well, there was a near confrontation out front, several of the players, including Tony Dorsett, who was yelling "Captain Scab" at White, stood in front of White's truck, blocking his path. Randy sat there for what seemed like an eternity, but likely only 30 seconds, stewing. You could see his face turning red. Well, as I remember the confrontation, White, with the clutch disengaged, began revving his engine, louder and louder. Some old dude from the Valley Ranch neighborhood joining the players on the picket line bumped White's truck with one of the signs. 

About at that point, White, in gear now, popped the clutch, his truck lurching forward, with Dorsett & Co., scattering sideways to safety. Later Dorsett would say of his teammate of 11 seasons, "I hope he's a better captain for the Scabs than he was for us." And linebacker Jeff Rohr arrogantly claimed, "I'm sure there is going to be a few lap dogs," referring to players crossing the picket line. "I'll forgive them but I won't forget them." 

Security director Larry Wansley, who watched the confrontation with "The Manster" with amusement from the side, knew nothing physical would occur. He told me later, "None of them wanted to commit suicide." 

There were threats the 20 or so players actually walking the picket line would block the buses carrying the replacement players in for practice. And when Landry heard of the threats to stall the players reporting for the 8:30 a.m. meeting, he said, "They have a hard enough time making my 9 o'clock meeting," suggesting very few would wake up in time to form a protest line. 

When told the players vowed to show up in time the next day, by 7 a.m., Landry quipped, "I could pick out a few that won't make it." 

Instead, the picketing Cowboys players tried to intimidate the replacement players when they left after practice, throwing eggs at the bus and pounding it with their fists and signs. Brutal. 

One afternoon a frustrated Tex Schramm, president and general manager and one of the league's foremost proponents of using replacement players to break the strike and make sure the show went on, walked out of the building and through the parking lot to talk with the picketing players. For an hour Tex stood his ground, answering the player questions and debating them. His message to them was they had better make sure the NFLPA was telling them the truth, that there was no way they were going to win with a strike, only lose a whole lot of money. 

And now, what, just more than 23 years later, everyone is clamoring to make a big deal of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confronting the player executive committee in an early March meeting, grinding his fists together, basically telling them the owners were not going to cave? Come on, as labor unrest goes, compared to those strike days of the '60s and '70s I grew up in, this is pretty lame. That mean, ol' Jerry. 

Well, as the story goes back in 1987, Randy wasn't the only Cowboys White or player to cross the picket line. Danny White did so, too. And because several players, not just Danny and Randy, had annuities, some as much as $3 million, all dependent on uninterrupted service to the team, they were sent letters

granted his wish, getting traded to the Broncos after the season. Plus, when Dorsett actually played in the final replacement game, that Monday night, nationally-televised 13-7 loss to the Redskins scrubs before 60,415 at Texas Stadium that was the impetus for the movie The Replacements, the future Hall of Fame running back was booed by his own people when Danny White handed off to him the first time, like each step of the way louder and louder, and then when he scored the Cowboys only touchdown. 

Former second-round draft choice Victor Scott mysteriously was placed on non-football illness, then eventually reportedly spotted in a drug rehab facility. The Cowboys' third straight home game was blacked out on television because of their inability to sell out the games. And Philadelphia head coach Buddy Ryan, true to his promise, rubbed in a 41-22 beating of the Cowboys the first game back by unnecessarily scoring a last-second touchdown as retribution for Landry calling an end-around on the first play of replacement game No. 2 against the Eagles that Kelvin Edwards took 62 yards for a touchdown. Buddy had said beforehand, "My goal is to be winning 40-0 with three seconds left and run for a touchdown off a fake field goal." 

Well, almost. With 11 seconds left, and up 34-22, to the delight of The Vet faithful Ryan had Randall Cunningham fake as if he was going to kneel out the clock at the Cowboys 33 only to rise and throw deep to Mike Quick, who was interfered with by rookie corner Ron Francis in the end zone, placing the ball at the one. And with no time remaining Keith Byars runs in for the rub-in touchdown. 

A whole lot of ugliness. 

So all I'm saying is if history teaches us anything, brace yourself. There is going to be a whole lot of bull to put up with while the two sides figure out how to divvy up 9 BILLION DOLLARS and put in place a system that insulates the league from the economic disasters befalling our states, our educational systems, other leagues and many a business out there. 

Jones backlash. Players calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar. Players acting indignant upon receiving the recent letter from Goodell. Animosity growing faster than the spring weeks.  

Hey, we have only just begun. 

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising