This blog will turn seven years old next August. One feature I originally included was the Most Obscure Player Award for each season in franchise history. I made it through the 1960s but never finished the series.
This has not been an interesting offseason from my perspective, so I am going to finish the old series. To kick this off, here is a list of the first five award winners:
1960: Dave Sherer
Dallas picked up Sherer in the 1960 expansion draft. One would think a punter for an 0-11-1 team would have quite a bit to do, and he came through with a 42.5 yard average on 57 punts. Not bad, except that this was his last year in the league. Allen Green took over the punting duties in 1961. Sherer was more of a legend in his home state of New Mexico than in Dallas, and his notoriety in New Mexico was enough to give him the award in the end. He is not only a member of the Carlsbad High School Hall of Fame, he ranked 47th on Sports Illustrated’s list of New Mexico’s greatest sports legends. (If it helps put this into context, Dewey Bohling ranked 46th).
1961: Don Bishop
Bishop played end for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, catching three passes for 57 yards. In two years with Pittsburgh and the Chicago Bears, those three catches, along with four punt returns, remained his only professional statistics. Dallas picked him off of waivers in 1960, and he started at right cornerback for the team in its inaugural year.
In 1961, Bishop began to stand out, grabbing eight picks. Only Everson Walls (twice) and Mel Renfro had more in a season. Moreover, and probably the reason we are honoring him here, Bishop established a team record with interceptions in five consecutive games in 1961. He led the team in picks from 1960 to 1962 (those three years are also a team record), and finished his career with 22, ranking tenth on the team.
1962: Mike Gaechter
The winner of the MOP Award for 1962 was actually a Pro Bowl player, but he was overshadowed by other defensive backs such as Mel Renfro. Mike Gaechter had 21 interceptions during his eight-year career that spanned from 1962 to 1969. But it was two factors that gave him enough of an edge to win the coveted title.
Gaechter started strong as a rookie free agent with the Cowboys in 1962. He had five interceptions that season, and had at least two picks in seven of his eight seasons. In 1962, during a week five thrashing of Philadelphia (which Dallas won 41-19), Gaechter and teammate Amos Marsh achieved a feat unrivaled in NFL history. They both had 100 yard returns not only in the same game, but also in the same quarter.
In addition to that distinction, and the real reason he wins the MOP Award, is that he made the Clark College Track and Field Honor Roll.
1963: Billy Howton
In seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers during the 1950s, he had two seasons with 1000 yards receiving. In fact, he is one of three players who reached 1000 yards by the 11th game of their rookie season. The Cowboys picked him up for the 1960 season, and he turned in four solid seasons. In his final game, a 28-24 win by Dallas over the St. Louis Cardinals, he caught a 48-yard pass that set up a score near the end of the game.
More importantly, Howton became the NFL’s all-time leading receiver in 1963, with 503 receptions for 8459 yards. If his stuff is good enough to be listed as a hidden treasure by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is good enough to make it as a MOP Award winner.
1964: Buddy Dial
The MOP Award for 1964 goes to receiver Buddy Dial, who played with the Cowboys from 1964 through 1966 after being traded from the Steelers. In 1963, Dial made the Pro Bowl after hauling in 60 receptions for 1295 yards. He was injured early in the 1964 season and managed only 11 receptions for 178 yards. He was never very productive in Dallas, catching only 42 passes in three years. Congratulations, retrospectively.
Here’s the story of the team’s season finale in 1964, when Dial caught several key passes in a 17-14 win over Dial’s former team, the Steelers:
Remember now that when the Steelers traded Dial to Dallas it was with the understanding they would sign No. 1 draft choice Paul Martha as his replacement. Martha was no sooner signed than Dial was injured, infrequently to be heard of since except on Saturday afternoon television.
With less than 15 minutes remaining in the season, Dial came back to punish the Steelers.
Dallas was clinging to a 10-7 lead and losing momentum in the fourth quarter when Lee Folkins dribbled a 17-yard punt and this time the ball hit him as though he were a pin ball cushion, banking straight to the hands of Dallas’ Mike Connelly on the Dallas 48.
With this break of gigantic magnitude the Cowboys started losing ground. On third down, needing 17 from the Pittsburgh 49, Meredith skittered out of a big rush, laid the ball for Dial who was blanketed by Pittsburgh’s Brady Keys.
Dial somehow got his hands on the ball, he and Keys fell in a heap and Dial retrieved the ball with one palm, flat on his back, Keys swinging wildly.
That placed the ball on Pittsburgh’s 28. Meredith hit Dial across the middle for another 18, limped away from a Steeler rush for another nine, and Perry Lee Dunn, who did a determined job all afternoon, pushed it over from the 3 for the touchdown which made it 17-7.
Dial is known to students of labor law and sports law for his role in Dial v. NFL Player Supplemental Disability Plan, a case where Dial’s ex-wife sued for half of the benefits awarded to Dial in the NFL’s 1993 collective bargaining agreement. He is a member the College Football Hall of Fame and has the second highest career yards-per-catch average (20.83) in the history of the NFL. The record is held by Homer Jones, the player who invented the spike.