Covering the Minnesota Vikings on radio during the early 1970s were two of my all-time favorite sportscasters, Joe McConnell and Paul Hornung.
McConnell, an Indiana native, and Hornung, former Green Bay Packer star running back, called Vikings football games on radio in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974. In those years the Vikings played outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.
The 1973 and 1974 Vikings squads reached the Super Bowl, but Minnesota lost in the big game to the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.
McConnell won five Sportscaster of the Year awards over the years when he called the play by play for NFL teams, NBA squads, pro baseball and college football teams.
Sadly, McConnell died April 8, 2018, at the age of 79. Later in the year, on Nov. 4, we lost former Vikings running back Bill Brown, 80, who was highly respected by McConnell.
Hornung was a member of the Green Bay Packers when they won the first Super Bowl in January 1967. Now 83, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
He had a party-boy lifestyle which often got him into hot water with Packers legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Hornung’s partner in crime was oftentimes wide receiver Max McGee, a fellow partygoer.
Hornung’s former teammate and Packer star fullback Jim Taylor, 83, died Oct. 13, 2018.
McConnell’s most famous play-by-play call came in 1984 when he was radio broadcaster for the Chicago Bears. He called the play when the Bears’ Walter Payton broke Jim Brown’s career rushing record of 12,312 yards.
Vikings stars of
the early 1970s
Leading Minnesota to three of their four Super Bowls during the 1970s was Georgia native and star quarterback Fran Tarkenton. He and his coach, Bud Grant, are both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Another Hall of Famer and NFL most valuable player in 1971 was Alan Page, defensive tackle for the Vikings. He was the first defensive player to be named league MVP since the award’s inception.
Page later became a justice with the Minnesota State Supreme Court.
The Alan Page Education Foundation has awarded grants to more than 6,500 students. In November 2018 this former Vikings star was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Page was among the Purple People Eaters on defense along with Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen.
Minnesota native Jeff Wright was drafted by the Vikings in 1971 and played in three Super Bowls, as a defensive back. In Edina he played high school basketball for former Fergus Falls coach Duane Baglien.
Other noted Vikings players in the 1970s included defensive back Bobby Bryant, field goal kicker Fred Cox, linebacker Wally Hilgenberg, running back Clinton Jones, defensive back Paul Krause, running back and North Dakota native Dave Osborn, running back Oscar Reed, defensive back Ed Sharockman, center Mick Tingelhoff, wide receiver Gene Washington, tackle Ron Yary and defensive back Karl Kassulke.
A favorite place to stay in those days was the Thunderbird Motel, when people could walk to the nearby Metropolitan Stadium.
The Twins and Vikings moved to the Metrodome in 1982. The former Met Stadium was demolished to eventually make way for the Mall of America.
The good old days of Hamm’s Beer
Hamm’s Beer received a full-page ad in a 1970 Vikings game-day program. Back then full-page cigarette ads were also not uncommon.
Also getting into the action was Johnnie Walker Red with a full-page ad promoting “the world’s best-selling Scotch.” Another was Calvert Extra, “the soft whiskey.”
Jim Klobuchar, father of current U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, promoted his book, “True Hearts and Purple Heads” that included the early days of Vikings football. Training camp was held at Bemidji State College from 1961 to 1965, until the move to Mankato State.
Side stories included biographical sketches of head coach Bud Grant and his offensive coordinator Jerry Burns.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.