Question: What is 6’9” tall, weighs 270 pounds, could run like a gazelle…and thrives on raw meat?
Answer: Bob St. Clair, 49er offensive tackle way back in the ‘50s.
Young readers won’t know who Bob St. Clair is, but those of us in the bay area who were conscious during the ‘50s remember Bob well. Bob was one of the greats on that memorable 49er football team. You may remember Y. A. Tittle, Billy Wilson, Leo Nomellini, Gordy Soltau, Joe “The Jet” Perry, Hardy Brown, Hugh McElheny, and other great Niners from that era.
I’ve just finished ghost writing the autobiography of a good friend and my former football coach, Pietro “Pete” Denevi. These are the guys that Pete hung out with and who remain his friends today, although many have passed away. The late Billy Wilson was Pete’s college roommate and his primary receiver when Pete was All-League quarterback at
There are some interesting stories here,
so I thought I’d talk about one of the guys who remains a prominent figure in
the Bay Area. San
Bob St. Clair played his entire career in
at Kezar Stadium as a 49er. He played 17 seasons and 189 home games at
Kezar and the city of San
renamed the stadium’s field in honor of Bob St. Clair. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of
Fame in 1990 and was known by the nickname, “The Geek.” Back in the ‘50s when Bob played, a “geek”
wasn’t a computer nerd. Bob got this
name because of his idiosyncrasies, like eating raw meat. San Francisco
This guy was the epitome of a carnivore. I’ve heard that he ate a live pigeon in front of an opposing team just prior to a game. I saw him admit this on TV. They say he grinned at his adversaries with blood and guts running down his chin to terrorize and intimidate the opposing team. It worked. After all, he was the biggest player in the NFL at that time and also one of the fastest runners. In his cleats he was seven feet in the air. Imagine a giant like that pacing back and forth in front of you and your teammates staring at you with blood dripping from his mouth.
A running back playing against Bob had to be particularly wary. Bob was said to be the fastest runner on the 49er team. With his great running speed, if Bob was hungry for raw meat it was best for a ball carrier to toss the ball in the air and run like mad into the stands before Bob caught him and ate his leg. This was particularly true if the running back had an open wound.
Bob played football at USF. I had a coach in high school named Larry Mathews who played football at
He was known as a very speedy halfback and led the Spartans running game for
three years. The Spartans were playing USF in Spartan Stadium. Larry broke
loose and was tearing down the sideline when Bob came from the opposite side of
the field with his long stride. He ran
like a rabid ostrich. He actually ran
Larry down and nailed him from behind. For
a big lineman to outrun a speedy halfback is amazing. San Jose State
My friend Pete sat next to Bob St. Clair at a pre-season 49er awards luncheon and said St. Clair still looked like a mountain. Bob’s appetite was as big as he was. They brought him a gigantic bloody and completely raw steak. It looked like half the hind quarter of a steer. Bob dove into that pile of raw meat like a ravenous lion and in a short time there was nothing but blood on his plate. The former players sitting around him checked to make sure they didn’t have any blood on them. That could be a problem if Bob was still hungry.
I’m exaggerating a bit here. It’s easy to let your imagination run wild with a guy like Bob St. Clair, because of his size, athletic ability, and good nature. And, of course, all the stories we’ve heard about him.
Bob and his son Greg, along with R. C. “Alley Oop” Owens recently started a thing called “Tough-Tailgater.” They wondered the parking lot prior to a game, where the smells of barbeque and beer fill the air. They would pick some tailgaters at random and challenge them to compete with Bob eating raw steak. This was to celebrate Mike Singletary’s first season as Coach. The survivors were rewarded with photos and autographs. The losers got a barf bag.
Bob St. Clair is still a very popular guy in the Bay Area. He served as Mayor of Daly City and a
County Supervisor for .
He continues to support the 49ers and the NFL. You may run into him at a
tailgate party when the 49ers are playing at home. I have, but I made sure I wasn’t standing
between Bob and a raw steak. San Mateo County