ST. LOUIS – When Conrad Dobler scheduled a business trip to St. Louis to administer flu shots to the Rams on Friday, he looked at their schedule and saw a familiar opponent was in town Thursday night. So Dobler, a former Cardinals offensive lineman, called his old offensive line coach, Jim Hanifan, and the two made plans to watch their former team.
But Dobler got more than he bargained for. He was among about 20 former Cardinals who gathered on the field at Edwards Jones Dome before kickoff for the Cards annual alumni reunion in St. Louis.
“This is really exciting for me because this is the first time I’ve taken advantage of it,” Dobler said. “They do a nice job.”
The group included two Hall of Famers, cornerback Roger Wehrli and safety Larry Wilson; a record holder in wide receiver Mel Gray; and a handful of men who played on the 1974 team that this year’s version is being compared to after starting 4-0. That team started 7-0 and finished 10-4.
Watching the Cardinals warm-up Thursday didn’t just dust off memories of lacing up their cleats, it brought the alumni of the 1974 team back to their winning days.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Ron Yankowski, a former Cardinals defensive end from 1971-80. “Play hard and all of a sudden you got four games underneath you and you won. It’s a good experience. We’re happy for the Cardinals that they’re out there doing the same thing again.”
Wilson was among the oldest Cardinals to attend Thursday, but he looked forward to seeing his former teammates as much as anyone.
“All of us really enjoy and look forward to it, to get back and see the guys,” Wilson said. “We all change a little bit as we get older. It’s just fun to sit down and get to see them and it brings back a lot of memories.”
Gray, who was a wide receiver on that 1974 team, believes this year’s team has the potential to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“I live and die with these guys,” he said. “I think they’ll go a long way. Things have changed. All of the names have changed on the back, but the game is still the same.”
The Cardinals had won their last seven in St. Louis coming into Thursday night, and owner Michael Bidwill doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that when the alumni attend, the Cardinals win. Bidwill, who was a ball boy for the Cardinals when they played in St. Louis, revels in the return of the players he looked up to as a kid.
“I keep telling them they’re our good luck charm,” he said. “For me personally, it’s great because they’re fun guys. I was a kid then and now I’m older and I get to joke around with them a little bit differently. They’re not pulling pranks on me like they did to all the ball boys back in those days.”