Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jul 2005

Hank Stram Dies at 82

We'll never matriculate the ball up and down the field without thinking of you, Hank.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 05 Jul 2005

24 comments, Last at 07 Jul 2005, 11:03am by King Kaufman


by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 10:41am

I put in my Super Bowl IV DVD this morning and had my own personal memorial. I just love the exuberance he feels when 65 toss power trap works to perfection. And it's hilarious when he argues with the official, only to be flummoxed when the official asks him whether he's supposed to be standing on the field.

by Tim (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 12:28pm

With apologies to Tom Landry and his hat, I mourn the loss of the best-dressed coach in the history of professional football.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 12:38pm

I really enjoyed his work with Jack Buck. He was very good at predicting what play was coming, which perhpas was indicative of him doing his homework.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 12:50pm

One interesting note is that Stram was a college kicker at Purdue. In those days, he and every other kicker used the straight-ahead style of kicking with the toe. But when he saw Jan Stenerud of Montana State excel on field goals and kickoffs using the soccer style, he became a convert and drafted him for the Chiefs. Stram also was an innovator in the statistics he kept, such as which hashmark a kicker was more likely to miss from.

by Bob P (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 1:14pm

As a lifelong AFL and NY Jets fan back to the days when they were the NY Titans, I will always have a special place in my heart for Hank. He coached the first AFL team to make the Super Bowl and he coached the last game in AFL history. When I saw the Chiefs take the field for SB IV with the "AFL 10" patch on their unis I went nuts. I swear, the Chiefs winning that game was almost as sweet to me as the Jets winning the year before. My AFL passion will never die; I always root for the AFL team in the SB (although my teenage kids can't understand why any Jets fan would root for the Pats under any circumstances. I tell them "you had to be there!").

RIP, Hank, and thank you for helping make the AFL a major league.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 2:14pm

BobP, thanks for sharing. I was born after the merger, but I suspect I would have been an AFL fan. That Super Bowl IV victory seems like the perfect conclusion, like the AFL's way of saying, "We told you we were just as good as you."

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 2:19pm

Since it's always about the Pats for Pats fans...here's my favorite Hank Stram memory. He made his annual pre-Super Bowl appearance on local XTRA sports radio to make his pick in the Rams-Pats game: Pats, he said without equivocation. The hosts were flabbergasted. Stram had a system that had helped him correctly pick some ridiculous number of SB's right. The hosts told Hank he had to have miscalculated. There were absolutely no numbers that favored the Pats in this game, they told him. Not so, he said. Turnovers...big advantage Pats. And so it was. I'm surprised Aaron and the guys never examined Stram's system.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:06pm

I remember Stram correctly predicting a major playoff upset in '87 when he called for the Vikings to beat the 49ers. The guy really understood the game, better than most coaches, from the importance of player match-ups, to play-calling, etc., in addition to having the gift of gab, which is what made it so enjoyable to hear him broadcast a game.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:45pm

I’m surprised Aaron and the guys never examined Stram’s system.

I was going to ask if he ever made his system public. I remember one year he talked about his system, but he refused to explain it. I think he didn't like the idea of people using his system to bet on football. I'm also not sure if his system was applicable to any NFL game, or just Super Bowls.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:48pm

Click my name to a message board that discussed his NE pick on Feb 1, 2002.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 6:32pm

I found a cached version of that same page. So, if you click on my name this time you should be able to see the cached version of the page I wanted to show you.

by Tim L (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 8:05pm

My first memory of watching a specific NFL game was the second half of Super Bowl IV, so Stram's passing marks the end of an era for me. I thought Hank was also a great color commentator in his day.

I believe Super Bowls III and IV were landmark events in the growth of the sport. Rather than having a sport dominated by a handful of teams, like major league baseball or the NBA, the AFL victories were emphatic statements that the underdog league could compete with the supposed superior league. Heck, the Chiefs were a wild card team that year, a 13 point underdog, and they dominated the Vikings. Those two games established that power within the league would be widely distributed, which made the league more stable and sustainable in the long run.

So rest in peace, Hank. You have my gratitude for taking the greatest sport in this country to the plateau where it exists today.

by Vinny (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 8:24pm

Holy crap. Were the Pats really +500 on the money line for that Super Bowl? Wow.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 8:49pm

The latest NFL Total Access (NFL channel runs the show at least four times a day) has an interview with Steve Sabol about his memories about Hank Stram. Tune in about the 40 minute past the hour mark. It's a good interview...the best part is Sabol saying how he was in the room when his father was trying to get Stram to where the mike for that famous Super Bowl footage. Even though he'd worn mikes for regular season games, Stram refused unless they would pay him to do so and he negotiated them up to $750.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 10:43pm

Pats/Rams was a great, great, profit opportunity. In my NFL wagering life the only other Super Bowl that surpasses it, in terms of the public's perception of the competion being so wildly off, was Raiders/Redskins. I remember hearing, however, perhaps merely a rumor, that Las Vegas got killed by the Raiders' win, since so much action came in late on Oakland, and there wasn't time to balance things out.

I wonder if that game was one that Stram missed on.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 11:19pm

In my NFL wagering life the only other Super Bowl that surpasses it, in terms of the public’s perception of the competion being so wildly off, was Raiders/Redskins.

At the risk of putting Patriotnation against me, I don't think the public's perception of the competition was wildly off. I think the Patriots pulled off a huge upset. The Rams were probably the better team that year. New England just happened to win the game.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 11:47pm

Richie, the old saw about which team would win more games if they played seven, ten, or a hundred times simply doesn't apply to football, where errors are magnified, due to the single game format of playoffs. In a seven game series bad intitial coaching moves can be rectified, but in a single game, there is much, much, less margin for coaching errors. Mike Martz is more prone to fundamental errors than Belichik.

In the Super Bowl format, the Rams were wildly overrated in the game with the Pats, because The Pats were a much better-coached team. The game was much, much, closer to an even match than the public perceived.

by Malene, cph, dk (not verified) :: Wed, 07/06/2005 - 11:11am

some nice anecdotes from Dr.Z on Stram, click the link...

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 07/06/2005 - 11:28am

Is this the thread for broken links? Try the one on my pseudonym instead. I think SI has set the "printthis" links to expire, guess there's no more getting around the "continue story" hyperlinks.

by Moe (not verified) :: Wed, 07/06/2005 - 11:32am

A Stram story I heard from one of his players. A KC fan was eating in the same restaurant as some of the Raider coaches before one of the playoff games.

The coaches left a diagram of a special play with a new formation on a napkin or placemat. The KC fan picked it up when they left and somehow got it to Stram who drew up a new defense.

Raiders tried the play, defense snuffed it Chiefs win.

RIP coach.

by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 07/06/2005 - 12:48pm

Dr. Z's article is great. Stram was an American original.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 07/06/2005 - 1:46pm

The coaches left a diagram of a special play with a new formation on a napkin or placemat. The KC fan picked it up when they left and somehow got it to Stram who drew up a new defense.

I was hoping the conclusion was that Stram refused to look at the play, and coached his team to a win anyway.

by Joe (not verified) :: Wed, 07/06/2005 - 2:17pm

52 Toss Power Trap. Need I say more?

by King Kaufman (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 11:03am

I heard Sabol on a local radio show in STL telling that Stram $750 story, and the way he said Stram put it Ias, "If you want the Mentor to wear a mike in the Super Bowl, some coin of the realm has to change hands."

Sabol the Elder offered $250, and Stram said, "250 won't even pay for the overcoat."