Editor’s notice: That is the Wednesday Nov. 2 version of the “Sport Day with Kevin Modesti” e-newsletter. To obtain the e-newsletter in your inbox, join right here.
Seventy-five years in the past at the moment, Rams halfback Kenny Washington reduce, burst, angled, faked and stiff-armed his method to a 92-yard landing that’s nonetheless the longest run from scrimmage within the group’s historical past.
First, the sports activities information:
Sometime, any person will break the document Washington set on Sunday, Nov. 2, 1947, in opposition to the then-Chicago Cardinals at Comiskey Park.
However Washington’s impression won’t ever be erased.
“Strolling Alone,” by Dan Taylor (Rowman & Littlefield, $36), printed this 12 months, traces Washington’s rise from Lincoln Excessive College, within the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, to UCLA, the place he was a baseball and soccer teammate of Jackie Robinson, and later to the NFL, the place he performed a Robinson-like position by reintegrating the league that had barred Black gamers for the earlier 12 years.
Final 12 months marked the seventy fifth anniversary of Washington signing a Rams contract, adopted two months later by fellow Bruin Woody Strode. The Rams honored Washington throughout the 2021 season by establishing a school scholarship in his identify for 13 (his uniform quantity) college students. They spotlighted his daughter Karen on the regular-season finale at SoFi Stadium, and wore a “KW” emblem on their helmets.
However for a number of causes, the reminiscence of Washington, who died of coronary heart and lung illness in 1971, isn’t honored as Robinson’s is.
That’s ironic, as a result of, as Taylor establishes in “Strolling Alone,” baseball was Washington’s most popular and higher sport, and had he not already dedicated to taking part in soccer for the Rams after their transfer from Cleveland to L.A., he might have adopted suggestions by Robinson and others and joined Jackie in signing with the minor-league Montreal Royals after which the major-league Brooklyn Dodgers.
Taylor, talking by cellphone from Fresno, the place the veteran broadcaster calls play-by-play for the minor-league Fresno Grizzlies, stated one purpose Washington usually isn’t remembered as vividly as Robinson is that baseball was a lot greater than soccer within the Nineteen Forties.
“When he signed, it acquired only a easy sentence or two in papers, whereas Jackie’s signing acquired large headlines, actually due to the recognition of baseball on the time,” Taylor stated. “I feel it’s unlucky that what Kenny achieved is, I don’t need to say dismissed, however devalued.”
Another excuse for that is likely to be that whereas Robinson got here to the most important leagues at 28 at his athletic peak and was in a position to have a Corridor of Fame profession with the Dodgers, Washington got here to the NFL at 28 with broken knees and performed solely three seasons with the Rams.
Washington wasn’t the identical participant as a rookie in 1946 that followers had come to count on from the excessive factors of his years at UCLA and with the minor-league Hollywood Bears.
“The rookie 12 months, he was horrible, to be blunt,” Taylor stated. “He spent that offseason doing actually outstanding rehab. The issues he did, from the train bike, taking part in handball with (quarterback) Bob Waterfield, taking over golf to stroll the undulating programs, confirmed the unimaginable work ethic he had.
“The 92-yard run was an important product of all of the work he had executed, eager to not simply succeed however actually excel within the Nationwide Soccer League.”
Later in that recreation, a 17-10 loss, Washington was tackled on a run and piled on by Cardinals gamers.
“When he was underneath piles, he took quite a lot of abuse,” Taylor stated. “And on this explicit case they actually yanked and twisted his leg, and he reinjured the knee and missed many of the remainder of the season.”
Second within the NFL in dashing yards behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ Steve Van Buren on the time of the brand new harm, Washington completed ’47 fourth in that class (444 in 11 video games), fifth in dashing touchdowns (seven) – and first within the longest run.
The run shouldn’t have been eye-popping to teammates who had been used to seeing his high-kneed energy operating (a method comparable, Taylor stated, to Eric Dickerson’s). However one younger Rams participant watched the run and leaped from the bench in glee, landed awkwardly and injured a knee. Rams line coach George Trafton, saying Washington had gone via a gap “no greater than my automotive key,” proclaimed him “the best soccer runner I’ve ever seen.”
The anniversary of Washington’s best second within the NFL comes as soccer and baseball cope with points surrounding the dearth of roles for Black gamers, coaches and executives. The NFL, whose taking part in rosters are principally Black, has comparatively few minority head coaches and prime executives. In baseball, the decline in participation by Black gamers is such that the World Collection, occurring now between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, has no U.S.-born Black gamers on the sector for the primary time since 1950.
Taylor believes it’s “important” that folks know the historical past of sports activities desegregation efforts so as to handle at the moment’s points, and hopes the tales of Washington and his contemporaries in “Strolling Alone” will assist.
“The alternatives denied, are you able to equate that to teaching and govt alternatives ignored?” Taylor stated. “The issues they needed to undergo, the abuse they needed to battle via so as to succeed. You possibly can argue that their accomplishments imply much more than accomplishments of at the moment given every part that they needed to endure.”
Extra solutions got here in to the query: For those who’re a Rams fan, what’s your response to seeing 49ers followers pack SoFi Stadium for current video games within the rivalry?
Rene Cassiano replied: “I used to be a Rams fan till they left for St. Louis. Due to that void, I grew to become a 49ers fan. The Rams are the ex-gf who left you and now desires to come back again into city and calls for (your) love and a spotlight. Umm no.”
PVBruin86 stated: “They left for 20 years and left a void that was crammed by different groups who locals supported as a substitute.”
Who Gonna stated: “Guys can promote their tickets for the Niners and Cowboys recreation for an enormous revenue and pay for your entire season ticket package deal with that. I ain’t mad at ‘em.”
Gary Bishop stated: “I feel it’s humorous that NoCals are getting scalped.”
And Patrick Hagen remembered what got here earlier than SoFi Stadium: “Can we’ve Hollywood Park again?”
Do you agree with Invoice Walton that shifting to the Large Ten wouldn’t be in the most effective pursuits of UCLA athletics? Reply by e-mail KModesti@scng.com or on Twitter (@KevinModesti).
“Seeing Pau Gasol at observe, I requested Russ at the moment if he had stated final 12 months that Pau was one in all his favourite Lakers. ‘My favourite participant,’ Russ corrected me.” – Lakers author Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) after speaking with Russell Westbrook.
Catching on: Matt Vierling feels Philadelphia followers’ affection after gloving a fly ball in foul territory for the second out within the ninth inning because the Phillies beat the Astros 7-0 final night time to take a 2-1 lead within the World Collection. Photograph is by Elsa Garrison for Getty Pictures.
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Thanks for studying the e-newsletter. Ship ideas, feedback and questions by e-mail at KModesti@scng.com and through Twitter @KevinModesti.
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