Saturday, June 11, 2011

Of pain and Les Richter

A feature in the L.A. Times sports section this week recalled some historic moments when athletes performed to their highest levels while injured. The story, prompted by the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki's playing with an injured hand in the NBA Finals, gave tribute to such stars as Jack Youngblood, the former L.A. Rams defensive end who played in Super Bowl XIV with broken bone in his ankle, and the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson, who hit his dramatic home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series with a seriously wrecked knee.
The story brought back memories of a humorous incident that Mal Florence, the Times' late sportswriter, used to tell about Rams' linebacker Les Richter when Florence covered the team in the early 1960s.
The Rams had an early-season game against their arch-rivals the San Francisco 49ers at the Coliseum in Sept. of 1962. At the same time the Dodgers were in a pennant race with the San Francisco Giants and Sandy Koufax had to miss a couple starts down the stretch because of a blister and a fingernail problem on his pitching hand.
After the Rams-49ers game, Florence went to the team's dressing room and there he saw Richter covered in dirt and grass stains, a gash on his arm and blood coming from his mouth from a cut lip. He wearily sat down his cubicle and began to take tape off his hands and wrists when Florence asked, "Are you all right, Les?"
Richter looked up at him and faintly smiled, saying, "How's Koufax's finger?"


add Richter: He played both linebacker and offensive guard for the Rams and earned All-Pro honors. He was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame, and had a successful career after he retired from football as an executive both with NASCAR and Riverside Raceway. He died one year ago tomorrow, June 12, 2010.

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