John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: November, 2021

How Tom Matte Almost Changed NFL History

Tom Matte, a stubby halfback who played for the Baltimore Colts for 12 seasons passed away on November 2nd in his home in Towson, Maryland. Mr. Matte was 82.

A competent and reliable running back, Matte played 12 seasons with the Colts, from 1961 until 1972. Unspectacular, he was the kind of every man’s player that loyal Colt fans and many other non-Colt NFL fans liked and admired. He was the kind of guy you wanted to have on your team or have a beer with after the game.

In 1965, the Colts were one of three Western Division teams vying to make it to the NFL Championship Game together with the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. With three weeks left in the season, the Colts led the pack with a 9-1-1 record, (nine wins, one loss and one tie.)

The following Sunday, Johnny Unitas, the Colts star quarterback suffered a season ending injury in a 13 to 0 loss to the Bears. Don Shula, the Colts head coach promoted Gary Cuozzo, to starter, found his backup, Ed Brown, on the used quarter back stockpile and designated Matte as the team’s emergency backup. Brown had been cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier that season.

Bad went to worse the following Sunday when Cuozzo also suffered a season ending injury when the Packers rout routed the Colts, 43-27. Shula decided to rotate Matte and Brown with Matte doing most of the running and Brown the passing. Even though Matte had been a quarterback at Ohio State, he knew he was limited in his passing ability: “I have very small hands. I couldn’t even put my hand around the ball.”

Utilizing this unusual quarterback combination, the Colts eked out a 20-17 victory against the Los Angeles Rams in the last regular season game. Brown connected for an 81-yard throw and Matte led the team with 99 rushing yards. After the game Shula explained to the press: “We had scratched our complicated offense, but the Rams didn’t know that. Tom would fake a complicated play and then run the ball himself.”

The Colts and the Packers finished with identical 10-3-1 records forcing a one-game playoff to be played in Lambeau Field on December 26th. The teams met on a wintery, but sunny day for this 1 PM start. The temperature was 22 degrees with a wind chill of 12 degrees. The NFL ruled that Brown was ineligible to play in the game since the Colts had picked him up so late in the season. Tom Matte had to go it alone as the Colts QB

The Colts compacted their game plan reducing the number of plays  to a dozen or more. Matte wore a wrist band that he could open to review each play. The odds had it that the Packers would once again drub the Colts like they did two weeks ago.

But what the odds’ makers failed to consider was how the entire Colts organization would rally behind their intrepid halfback and fight like the devil to support him in every aspect of the game.

This became apparent on the very first play of the Packers first possession. Bart Starr, their future Hall of Fame quarterback passed 10 yards to Bill Anderson. Anderson fumbled allowing, Don Shinnick, the Colts 235-pound linebacker to scoop up the ball on the Packer 25 and take it in for a Colts touchdown: Colts 7 – Packers 0.

In the second quarter, Lou Michaels, of the Colts made it 10-0 when he kicked a 15-yard field goal.

The Packers had their chances in the first half. Don Chandler, their kicker, missed a 47-yard field goal and the Colts defensive rose up to make a goal line stand at the one-yard line stopping both Packer stars and future Hall of Fame running backs,  Paul Horning and Jim Taylor.

They knocked Bart Starr out of the game, but his understudy, Zeke Bratkowski, rallied the Packers despite two interceptions. In the third period, Horning scored closing the score to 10-7.

Late in the fourth quarter, Bratkowski drove the Pack to the Baltimore 15 allowing Chandler to kick a chip-shot field goal. In those days, the goal posts were on the goal line. Also, in 1965, only one official stood under the uprights, and he stood directly under the center of the goal posts,

Chandler’s kick rose like a mortar shell climbing way above the 20-foot uprights. The single official standing in the middle signaled the kick was good, but his position prevented him from properly judging the kick that far above the uprights. He called it good, but the angle we saw on TV showed the ball going wide-right.

Green Bay went on to win on a field goal in overtime.               .

For the record, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL Championship Game played on January 2, 1966, at Lambeau Field by the score of 23 to 12.

The Packers would go on to win the next two NFL titles, a record. That also included winning the first two Super Bowls.

The Colts won the NFL Championship in 1968 but lost Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the Jets.

In 1966, the NFL increased the length of the goal post uprights to 30 feet. They also positioned an official under each goal post and eventually added mandatory replays for all scoring plays.

Any one of these changes would have resulted in a Colts win by Matte and changed NFL history…and so it goes. RIP Tom Matte.

JJD-1701 Redux

I published The Voyage of JJD-1701 on September 29, 2021. It told the story of the capsule containing a camera that the endocrinologist at St. Francis Hospital (SFH) had me swallow so he could examine my complete GI system including the places where the camera used for a regular endoscope could not go. When this doctor examined the results, he determined that the JJD-1701 remained somewhere in my lower intestines.

An X-Ray confirmed that it was near the end of its journey and would soon be ejected. I was released from the hospital based on that evidence. I ended my piece with the notation: “So far and perhaps forever, the fate of JJD-1701 is unknown.”

After the publication of my piece, I moved on without thinking about the camera capsule again. That blissful ignorance ended on October 28th, more than a month later, when I entered SFH’s  testing facility at 2200 Northern Blvd. for an MRI aimed at my lower back.

Recently, I had begun to suffer pain from my right Sciatic nerve. My orthopedist wanted confirmation that the source was my lower back and not another part of my body.

Ann, the friendly, professional and efficient MRI technician asked me a series of questions meant to identify any metal parts in my body that could cause problems with the MRI. I said no to all her questions including a pacemaker, an ear implant. or even metal debris in my eye.

It was at this point that Ann asked, “Have you had the recent experience to swallow a camera capsule to exam your GI tract?”

“Yes, about a month ago while I was in SFH.” I replied.

“Did you see it eject?”


“Did the doctor see it eject?”


“So, you don’t know if it’s still inside you?”

“Correct, but I would have thought that after all this time, my body would have let me know if  the damn thing was still inside me.”

Ann replied, “Not necessarily. I am going to take you over to X-Ray and show the pictures to our doctor here on call just to be sure.”

She walked me over to the X-Ray Department where Beth,  another professional tech took three pictures. Ann instructed Beth to bring me back to her station after Beth sent the pictures to her. When I returned, I sat in a chair  and waited as Ann walked out to meet with Doctor K, She returned in short order to tell me and her assistants that Doctor K had not been assigned to their operation long enough to be certified to read X-Rays. She would have to find a doc at SFH instead.

Fortunately, Ann found one, but he wasn’t satisfied that my X-rays included the end of the line. He ordered a fourth X-Ray. Again fortunately, the evidence he examined convinced him to sign off that we were good to go.

It was at this point that I really suffered doubt that having an MRI wasn’t a good idea after all.

Ann calmed me and proceeded with my MRI. As soon as I was lying down on my back on a moveable board, her assistant asked what kind of music I’d like while she placed tight fitting earphones onto my head. I requested country and western as the board moved me into the machine,

A persistent thought invaded my psyche as my MRI was about to start: “If  JJD-1701 remained inside me, I will be starring in a major shit show that may begin any minute now.”

Then the noise from the MRI blasted through me as I was simultaneously treated to Johnny Cash coming through my headphones singing Ghost Riders in the Sky at the same time my MRI ride began. I knew then that I was not in trouble.  Several classic western songs followed including El Paso, The Streets of Laredo and Don’t Bring Your Gun to Town, Son, before my MRI concluded

I thanked Ann for her service and wished her assistants well before happily leaving 2200 Northern Blvd., knowing I beat the odds on this one.

Thanks to that successful MRI, we can declare once and for all that the journey of JJD-1701 has ended. 

Morefar: My Perfect Round of Golf

Part Two

Morefar is a private golf club located in Westchester County owned by Starr Insurance Companies. It is a prestigious profit-making golf course available for outings open to insurance brokers. Morefar was the scene of my perfect round of golf.

Before I begin my story, permit me to provide an interesting background as to how this magnificent golf course came inro existence.

Once upon a time, an enterprising genius by the moniker, C.V. Starr, joined a less than dynamic insurance company, American  International Group, better known as AIG, in 1919. Domiciled in Shanghai, Starr started a new subsidiary, American International Underwriters, (AIU) to introduce coverages such as life insurance into many parts of the world where these insurances   were unknown. Starr, expanded operations world-wide in the 1930s including countries like the Philippines, Malaya, China and even Japan.

When the Japanese invaded China in 1937, AIU moved its HQ to New York and Starr offered many of his Chinese employees the opportunity to move to America. A sizable number of both white-collar professionals and managers accepted his invitations. But so too did blue-collar service personnel. Many of his service workers went to work at his home in Westchester County or at his offices in New York City. After the war Starr’s business acumen remained strong and he re-claimed AIU’s operations and expanded the AIU empire until his death in 1968.

Starr was never  a golfer, he considered the game a waste of time, but he knew a private golf course would be attractive to clients and other VIPs. He commissioned the construction of a world-class course nestled in  rolling hills of his extensive property in northern Westchester County. .

Legend has it that when asked where exactly this course was located such as: “Is it near White Plains?” or “Mount Kisco,” or “Bedford Hills,” or “Brewster?”  his Chinese workers would reply: “More far, meaning further than that. This expression morphed into “Morefar.” And the name stuck.           

A couple of days before the  planned outing with Exxon, my father called me to let me know he’d be in town and would like to see me. My first reaction was to blow him off. Fortunately, I caught myself and instead asked him if he’d like to join me in a round of golf at Morefar.

Dad was a former aviator, a navigator to be precise. After his service in WW II, he was discharged like one of the many during the reduction in manpower in the transition to a much smaller peace-time force.

During the late 1940’s he picked up aviation gigs where he could find them. One was flying as C.V. Starr’s navigator for his post-war flights across Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines. My father once told me that Starr offered him a permanent position with AIG, but he didn’t accept it because General Curtiss LeMay offered Dad a promotion to major if he joined LeMay’s new outfit, the Strategic Air Command, better known as SAC.

Still, my old man knew about Morefar and had always wanted to play it. “I’ll pick you up at 8 AM and bring you a decent set of clubs. I’ll explain what this outing is all about on the ride north. Please remember to bring your golf shoes.”

“Dad, this is a strategic round of golf. We’ll be playing with Exxon’s top insurance professionals, Bill J. the president of their insurance operation and his Number One professional, Tom C. You will be playing with Tom . and my boss, Steve P, will be playing with Bill. The purpose of this outing is to set the boundaries for their annual renewal meeting that will be held in our office in London the week of September 5th.”

When we met for breakfast at the club’s dining room, I announced to all: “The role of John Delach in today’s outing will be played by John Delach, Sr. You all know the extent of my inadequacies on a golf course, and I guarantee you will be happy with this substitution.”

My father didn’t disappoint. A gregarious and knowledgeable man, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, and a WW II hero. I had nothing to lose by enlisting John, Sr. Sure, he can be a train wreck, but he is completely charming in small doses. Eighteen holes was close to that limit, yet I was confident that I could observe the ebb and flow of conversation, humor, war stories and gentle ribbing before any crisis developed.

This decision to include my old man turned out to be brilliant. He held his own on the course  and entertained my other guests while I negotiated the order of march for our meetings in London. By the end of the round, I had Bill’s agreement to a  draft outline that I would have typed up and sent to him the next day for comments and changes. I didn’t expect objections, nor did I receive any.

Dad couldn’t stop carrying on about the round of golf and the dialogue that he witnessed. “I  never understood what you did and what you brought to the table. OMG, what I observed today was a major summit, not of political ideas, but a summit between a major oil company and a skillful insurance operation. I am impressed.”

“Dad,” I replied, “I appreciate your being there and, believe me, you were an asset in my negotiations. But, do you know what was the best part of today’s round for me?

“Let me explain. Today was a perfect round of golf for me. I never touched a club, hit a ball, or suffered an embarrassment  Instead, you carried the irons and the woods, made the shots while I concentrated on conducting business. I will always remember this as my perfect round of golf.”  .

My Perfect Round of Golf (Part One)

Any pleasure I ever took from my prowess on a golf course was overwhelmed by failure, frustration and  embarrassment. There is nothing worse for any serious golfer than being forced to play with an incompetent partner. My only saving grace was that I did know most of the important rules of golf.

These, I learned from my father, especially the unwritten rules pertaining to golf etiquette. A no nonsense taskmaster, he decided that my understanding the nuances of golf etiquette outweighed  how I played the game. I realized early on that regardless how horrible I was as a golfer; I didn’t compound my sins with violations of golf etiquette.

Despite my obvious incompetence, I struggled with golf’s frustration for many years beginning when I started playing while in high school until I finally walked away from the game when I  turned sixty.

No matter how many lessons I took, or how many different golf clubs I tried, one overwhelming truth willed out for as long as I swung a golf club. “On any given swing, with any given club, I was capable of striking the ball in a manner that it would react as it damn well pleased and 90% of those results were horrible.”

I could miss it completely, hit it backwards, hit a grounder, a ball that skimmed along, a pop up like a mortar shell or a line drive that could go left, right or right down the middle. If you counted correctly, this menu contains eight alternates and only one, a line drive right down the middle, would lead to a satisfactory result. One chance in in eight produces lousy odds.

Fortunately, I played many a golf game with fellow hackers out to play as best we could without embarrassment. Our solution, agree on a maximum number of strokes we would take on each  hole before we picked up our ball. Usually, that number was eight. If our ball disappeared into the woods or submerged after landing in a water hazard, we’d declare an eight and walk the rest of the hole. Free and clear of failure, we’d  walk with our buddies to the tee to try again on the next hole with the understanding that everything was six, two and even.

Customer golf was an essential part of the social-business experience in the world of insurance. Many of our clients prided in their golfing prowess and looked forward to playing prestigious courses otherwise unavailable to them. Of course, we gladly accommodated them using our members’ clout, the prestige of our firm, or as a last resort financial incentives so they could fulfill their golfing dream. This was neither unseemly nor unethical. Rather, we considered it as client entertainment, or business as usual.

To guarantee that clients had a great round, it was common for the senior broker to tell his client that his last shot was so remarkable that the broker conceded the hole, and the client should pick up his ball.

Legend has it that one of our over-eager Client Executives became overly generous during a round of golf with his client. Let’s call him George. George,  seeking to ingratiate himself with a difficult client declared that, lets call him Charles, had earned multiple “gimmes” each one further and further from the hole. Finally, George became so generous that after Charles had teed off on the next hole, a Par 5, one of George’s mates declared: “That’s a gimme, Charles, pick up the ball.”  As ludicrous as it sounds, Charles gladly picked up the ball and took a one on that Par 5!

I avoided participating in these client outings as much as I could. Fortunately, we had a great stable of excellent golfers in our Marine and Energy Department, golfers all who could hold their own on the course, carry on conversationally with the client and trade triumphs and frustrations at the bar on the 19th hole at the end of the round.

Sooner or later, my luck and guile had to run out. My Waterloo  caught up to me in Finlay, Ohio at the Hillcrest Golf Club. We had achieved an amazing success with Marathon Oil, our newly acquired client. To celebrate this victory, their risk manager, Bill N, invited us to Finlay for a dinner and a found of golf at his club.

I had no place to run and no place to hide. Damn, Bill N even stepped up to supply me with clubs. How bad was it? Let me give you the low lights:

Everybody knows the traditional American ballad: Down by The Old Mill Stream. But did you know the Old Mill Stream meanders through Finlay?

In fact, it crosses through four different holes on the Hillcrest Golf Club. Four chances to put a golf ball into the Old Mill Stream. Correct answer, I went four for four drowning four different innocent and terrified golf balls into this watery grave.

If that wasn’t bad enough, stupidly, I left one of Bill’s pitching wedges on the apron of one of the greens. The golfer who found it turned it in to Bill who sarcastically returned it to me so I could return a full set to him.\

Thankfully, he had his wife with him at that night’s dinner providing the atmosphere for a pleasant affair.

Subsequent events eliminated any negative repercussions, Marathon was merged out of existence and Bill took early retirement.

Life went on. I avoided playing customer golf as much as I could until circumstances offered me the opportunity to experience a perfect round of golf.

(To be continued.)    .