St. Louis Cardinals 36

Toronto Argonauts 7

Aug. 2, 1961


For the third summer in a row the NFL came calling on the Toronto Argonauts. This time it was the St. Louis Cardinals (formerly Chicago Cardinals). There was much intrigue surrounding this game because of one name: Sam Etcheverry. Etcheverry, the former quarterback of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes for 9 years and holder of many CFL records, had signed with the Cardinals in the offseason. He joined Cardinals coach Pop Ivy as former CFL legends who had moved on to the NFL. The fans came to the game expecting to see Etcheverry play, but were disappointed in the first half. Etcheverry finally entered the game in the final period. Toronto’s starting quarterback, Tobin Rote, was injured with a sprain to his throwing hand in an earlier exhibition game. He would be backed-up by CFL legend Nobby Wirkowski and rookie John Henry Jackson. Also making the news that week was the loss of Toronto’s star reciever Ed Ochiena to a preseason injury. The coach of the Argonauts was Lou Agase.

In this game, the great Nobby Wirkowski went down with a career ending injury. Wirkowski spent the first half in the press box sending down plays to the Argo bench. At half time he came into the Toronto dressing room and was approached by Coach Agase. Nobby describes what happened:

"Tobin and John Henry Jackson had stunk out the joint in the first half. God, they were awful! Lou said to me 'we have to put on some type of show for the fans. Can you suit up and go out there?' I was wearing slacks and a shirt and hadn't even practiced that week! I said 'okay' and suited up. I completed 12 straight passes and then Dick Shatto dropped one on me. The next play I dropped to pass and a Cardinal lineman got me around the shoulders. I was going down in a weird way and tried to kick my leg out and something was blocking it. I couldn't get it out and came down and tore the knee right up. I ended up in a cast from my groin to my ankle. I still have wires in my knee to this day.

"I looked at the films to see why I couldn't get my leg out and saw Cookie Gilchrist had fallen down and blocked my leg so it wouldn't move. That was the last pro game I ever appeared in."*

Former Argos and NFL great Cookie Gilchrist was kind enough to comment for this article. According to Cookie, “Yes, I remember very well those games back in 1960. I don't remember all of the details but the Steelers and Cardinals thought Canadian football was a pushover, but we showed them we were tougher than they thought.”




 Cardinals Defeat Argonauts 36-7


TORONTO (CP)- St. Louis Cardinals struck early and often Wednesday night in handing Toronto Argonauts a 36-7 exhibition football shellacking.


The game cost Argonauts a second quarterback when Nobby Wirkowski went out near the end of the second quarter with torn lateral ligaments in his leg. An operation is scheduled for today.


Nobby started the game for Argos in the absence of Tobin Rote, who injured his left thumb in an earlier exhibition against Winnipeg Blue Bombers.


His wasn't the only injury- St. Louis lost two top tackles. Ken Panfil went out with a dislocated kneecap early in the game and later on his linemate, Ernie McMillan, was helped off favoring his left leg


The slaughter also marked the return to football of Sam Etcheverry, the nine-year veteran that Montreal lost to the Cards this year.


Sam, operating with an ailing arm, engineered fewer than half a dozen plays- all of them along the ground. He was in the game for two minutes and 25 seconds and engineered two touchdowns.


St. Louis exploded to its first touchdown when Larry Wilson intercepted starting quarterback John Henry Jackson's pass on the first play of the game and ran it back from the 20 for a touchdown.


Ernie Benecke converted. The game was about 38 seconds old.


Jerry Norton, at 4:42, ended the first-quarter scoring when his kick was taken in the end zone by Lynn Bottoms, who was trapped there.


There was no scoring in the second quarter, but the third was only 44 seconds old when St. Louis engineered its next touchdown.


George Izo's pass to Bill Stacy went 70 yards for the score. Benecke converted and the score was 15-0.


Benecke's attempted field goal at 7:23 was wide and went for a single as did his attempt at the 12-minute mark.


Nesimic look a pitchout around end for the last touchdown of the quarter and Benecke made good on the convert.


Fullback Prentice Gautt was the big gun for Cards in the final quarter. He went 71 yards through the middle on a smart draw play set up by Etcheverry. Benecke's convert was blocked.


It was Gautt again less than three minutes later when Gautt bucked over from the two-yard line for the score.


It was Sam's bow-out. He never came back.


Toronto got on the score board with desperation play to end the scoring about the middle of the final quarter.


Jackson, pushed all over the field by the hard charging Cardinal line, went to a running game.


Gerry Burrows carried one yard. Then Jackson passed to George Vollmar for a first down on the St. Louis 50. Jackson faked a hand-off and ran for nine, then kept again and took the ball to the Card 33.


He was incomplete with a pass, then hit Vollmar on the three-yard line. The end rolled into the end zone, but the ball was brought back to the one-yard line.


Jackson threw one incompleted pass into the end zone, then faked a hand-off into the line and ran for his life for the right corner. He made it and Bill Mitchell kicked the convert.


St, Louis rolled up 16 first downs to 13 for Toronto.


The visitors out-passed the Argos 217 yards to 184 and out-rushed them 132 yards to minus 22.


Both squads completed 14 passes- but Toronto tried 35 to St Louis' 27. Four of Toronto's passes ended up in Cardinal hands.


Toronto intercepted once- Clare Exelby picking off a heave by St. Louis' Charley Johnson.


Only in the kicking department did Argos come out ahead- they booted nine times for an average of 47 yards. One was a crowd-rising 72-yarder by Dave Mann. St. Louis hit for a 44 yard average on seven punts.







St. Louis Cardinals






Toronto Argonauts







Scoring Summary


First Quarter

STL- Wilson 20 yard interception return (Benecke kick)

STL- Single, Bottoms caught on Norton's kick


Third Quarter

STL- Stacy 70 yard pass-run (Benecke kick)

STL- Single, Marrow tackle on Benecke FG attempt

STL- Single, Benecke FG attempt

STL- Mestnik 20 run (Benecke kick)


Fourth Quarter

STL- Gautt 70 run (kick failed)

STL- Gautt 2 run (kick failed)

TOR- Jackson 3 run (Mitchell kick)





Regular Season:

In 1961, St. Louis was 7-7-0 and finished 4th in the Eastern Conference. They were led by receiving great, Sonny Randle, John David Crow and Larry Wilson. Former CFL all-star Sam Etcheverry quarterbacked the Cards. Toronto finished 3rd in CFL East at 7-6-1. In the first round of the playoffs, Tobin Rote operated out of a shotgun formation to overpower second-place Ottawa 43-19. However, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Argos in a two-game playoff series to end the season.