Snake, a new biography of Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Stabler written by Mike Freeman, comes out today. I reviewed it for Library Journal, and it is fairly good read that aims to put the negatives of Stabler’s raucous life in the best possible light. Freeman makes the point that Alabama’s three greatest quarterbacks (Stabler, Joe Namath and Bart Starr) all had their problems off the field in Tuscaloosa, with Stabler and Namath running afoul of Coach Bear Bryant for “training violations” and Starr being physically beaten.
I don’t know how I missed the Starr beating story when it came out last spring, but on February 29, 2016, Alabama.com’s Joseph Goodman broke the story of a 62-year old cover-up of Bart Starr’s mysterious back injury from a “punting drill” that ruined his football tenure at Alabama (https://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2016/02/nfl_legend_bart_starr_was_vict.html). Starr’s wife Cherry revealed the true story of how Starr was beaten with a paddle as part of a hazing ritual that went way too far, so much so that Starr’s back bruised up to his rib cage and resembled a slab of raw meat. Starr was trying to join the A-Club for varsity letterman in the spring of his sophomore year after having led the Crimson Tide to the Cotton Bowl. He struggled in spring practice and at the beginning of the 1954 season before being hospitalized and missing games three through five, during which he spent one week in traction.
Starr came back to finish his junior year, but his coach, Red Drew, was fired after the team finished 4-5-2. Under new Coach Ears Whitworth in 1955, Starr still led the team in passing, but shared the quarterbacking job; the offense was ineffective, and the defense horrendous, leading to a 0-10 season. Bart’s prospects for continuing his football career looked bleak.
After being drafted by Green Bay with the 200th overall pick in 1956, Starr initially was slated for military service at Eglin Air Force Base, where he was to replace mustered out Zeke Bratkowski as the quarterback on the base’s football team, but his bad back won Starr an almost immediate discharge. He reported to the Packers training camp in 1956 and spent the next 16 years in a Packer uniform crafting a Hall of Fame career despite constant back pain. Finally, in the late 1980s, Starr’s back pain was alleviated when doctors found tiny crack in his vertebrae and repaired it. A tiny crack and an awful story both hidden for decades.
Custom cards are colorized.