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Relocated NFL Teams: The St Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals were a professional football club that played in the NFL from 1960 to 1987. The Cardinals franchise is actually the oldest sports franchise outside baseball in the United States that is still running today. It was formed in 1898 in Chicago and joined the NFL as a charter member in 1920. The Chicago outfit found the going tough as they faced intense competition from the Chicago Bears for fans. In 1960, the team owner Violet Bidwell decided that time had come for the Cardinals to leave the Windy City for greener pastures else where. St. Louis emerged as an Attractive destination as the NFL hoped to expand to the city before rival league AFL got there. On March 13, 1960, the NFL gave the move a green light and the St. Louis Cardinals were born. The new team shared the Busch Stadium with the baseball outfit also called the St. Louis Cardinals. Initially there were considerations for a change of name to avoid confusion with the baseball team but this was dropped as it was indeed common practice at the time for football teams to be named after baseball teams in their city. All the same, the team was often referred to as the “Football Cardinals” or “Big Red” to provide distinction. The franchise is today known as the Arizona Cardinals following subsequent relocation.

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The origin of the name Cardinals is not clearly known. However there are two plausible theories. The first is that it was named after the beautiful bird by the same name which was also the team’s logo. The second theory is that the team took its name from its jersey color which team owner called “cardinal red.” The Cardinals were largely a weak team in competition during their 27 year stay in St. Louis. They only made it to the playoffs three times and failed to win any of those games.

On November 8, 1987, in what was an otherwise a routine bad year for the Cardinals, the team produced one of the most memorable performances to register a 31-28 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals trailed 28-3 and all hope seemed lost. However an inspiring performance from quarterback Neil Lomax and astute collective defending from the team saw the Cardinals launch a furious comeback which saw them take the lead following a 17 yard pass from Lomax to J.T Smith. The game eventually ended 31-28 and with the Cardinals having fought back from 25 points down, it went into record as only the second biggest comeback victory in NFL history. That record has since been equaled or surpassed in three other games. That performance provided a welcome positive to an otherwise dark moment for the Cardinals fans as relocation rumors hang in the air.

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Why Did The Cardinals Relocate?

As early as 1964 Bidwell had started considering an exit from St. Louis due to the sorry state of the Busch stadium and meager success on the field. The city of St. Louis managed to fight off a very attractive bid for the Cardinals by Atlanta city. Atlanta was promising Bidwell a new stadium and St. Louis had to improve the terms for the Busch Stadium. During the 80s, the Cardinals’ results continued to be characteristically poor. This, combined with the poor state of the Busch stadium resulted in a consistent decline in fan turnout. Rumors started making the rounds of an impending move away from St. Louis at the beginning of the 1987 season. These were confirmed by Bidwell as the season progressed leading to a bitter lash back from fans. He in fact received death threats and this made him stay away from the last few home games at the Busch stadium. Eventually, he picked the city of phoenix as the new home of his franchise, renaming the team Phoenix Cardinals. After a five year stay in Phoenix the team again changed names to “Arizona Phoenix” and that is what it goes by to this day. Meanwhile back in St. Louis, the NFL would return after an eight year absence when the Los Angeles Rams moved there in 1994 adopting the name St. Louis Rams.

Who Played for the Cardinals?

Dan Dierdorf OT 1971-1983
Jackie Smith TE 1963-1977
Roger Wehrli CB 1969-1982
Neil Lomax QB 1981-1987
Larry Wilson FS 1960-1972
Wayne Morris RB 1976-1983
Charley Johnson QB 1961-1969
Carl Birdsong P 1981-1985
Ernie McMillan OT 1961-1974
Ron Yankowski DE 1971-1980
Don Maynard WR 1973
Bob Young OG 1972-1979
Joe Bostic 1979-1987
Pat Tilley WR 1976-1986
Mel Gray WR 1971-1982
Roger Wehrli CB 1969-1982

Jim Hart QB 1966-1983

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