My old buddy, O.K. "Buddy" Davis, was wondering Saturday when he sent this text: "Can u give me background on when you, Paul Manasseh came up with the Blond Bomber nickname?
"Can't recall my input, either," he added.
So because it was yesterday -- well, 1968, actually -- this required a little research. Hello, microfilm on newspapers.com.
It is not exactly what we have thought for decades.
We always have given the credit to Paul Manasseh, the veteran sports publicist from Shreveport who that fall was the sports information director at Louisiana Tech University.
He had one student assistant (me, a senior at Tech) and one regular office visitor who helped us in SID work, Ruston Daily Leader sports editor Buddy Davis, a recent Tech graduate.
|In 1967 and 1968, Terry Bradshaw still|
had hair on top of his head, and it was
very blond ... so "The Blond Bomber."
But soon his talent blossomed, and he was on his way to being the best quarter back in college football -- at any level (Tech was an NCAA Division II team, but Terry could have played for any "major"). Proof: In January 1970, he was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. You likely know the rest.
Oh, the nickname ...
Manasseh -- wise media person, personable, guiding force for many budding sportswriters/broadcasters as, after nine months at Tech, he moved on to 14 years as SID at LSU -- loved Bradshaw's talent (heck, all of us at Tech did). Began writing and talking about it soon after he took the Tech job in July.
Shortly into the season -- which began with Bradshaw, in his first start, starring in a victory against a "major," Mississippi State (albeit a weak one -- 0-8-2 -- that year), Manasseh tagged Terry with two nicknames: (1) "The Rifleman" and (2) "The Blond Bomber."
Those references were made in releases sent out from the Tech SID office.
For years -- and I noted this in an April 14, 2012, blog piece on Bradshaw -- Manasseh, Buddy and I have received credit for those nicknames. Thanks, but it ain't exactly so.
Because Buddy and I have kidded each other for more than 50 years, I replied to his text Saturday by saying, "Think Manasseh came up with it and you took the credit."
Buddy's comeback: "We all did (football emoji) (smiley face)."
Now the real kicker: Don't believe Manasseh was the originator, either. He adopted it, and adapted it.
It was not original. Actually, it was a takeoff on "The Brown Bomber," longtime heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis in the 1940s.
Looked this up: "Blond Bomber" was used -- several times -- by pro wrestlers, and by a body builder (Dave Draper) earlier in the 1960s, and there was a 1954 TV show, Adventures of the Falcon, with an episode titled "The Blond Bomber."
And reading about a book a couple of years ago about Texas' football legends, we noted that Bobby Layne -- the 1940s University of Texas and then 1950s Detroit Lions' great quarterback -- was nicknamed, yes, "The Blond Bomber."
In Louisiana, though, the first blond bomber reference -- note, it was lower case -- we could find in 1968 for Bradshaw was by sports editor/columnist Bill Carter of the Alexandria Town Talk in a Sept. 27 story (the week after the Mississippi State game). He had not used it in a column effusively touting Bradshaw's promise eight days earlier.
So here is what I think happened (feel free to correct us, if you have a better version):
Manasseh was very good friends with Carter, and saw his blond bomber reference in the Alexandria paper. Paul picked up on it for Tech releases, and changed it a bit: He upper-cased it.
Ah, from then on, Tech's Blond Bomber. It caught on.
Buddy loved it, I loved it, and we began using it ... a lot ... for years and years.
So did all the Louisiana sportswriters; it become commonplace. For instance, we found references in columns in the next month by The Shreveport Times' Larry Powell, Jim McLain and Bill McIntyre.
McLain, in fact, doubled up, starting his post Tech-Northwestern State column -- the one after the Bradshaw-to-Ken Liberto, 82-yard winning TD pass with 13 seconds remaining -- by calling Terry "The Rifleman" and later "The Blond Bomber."
(McLain, too, first used "The White Knight" nickname for Joe Ferguson -- like Bradshaw a star QB at Woodlawn High -- in 1967 because great offensive-line protection allowed Ferguson's white jersey, when his team wore white, to remain spotless through games.)
"The Rifleman" nickname was a natural because of the very popular 1960s television series.Terry had the "rifle" right arm and he much resembled Chuck Connors, the 6-foot-6 baseball major leaguer-turned-actor who starred as Lucas McCain, with his ever-present, often-used rifle.
"Blond Bomber," too, was a natural. Terry then still had hair growing on top of his head -- first a crewcut, then a little longer and combed over -- and that hair was more white than blond. Plus, he could throw long passes on target -- bombs -- as well as anyone we've seen.
(By the way, we have seen it written often as Blonde Bomber. No, not for Terry. We are not grammar experts, but our understanding is that blond is masculine and blonde is feminine. So there.)
In time, Bradshaw would become the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Blond Bomber." But I don't remember hearing him ever talk about nicknames.
To him, that was never as important as winning football games -- and he was very good at that, and nearly as good as he has been in his show business/football analyst career.
Outspoken, yes. Crazy, goofy, funny ... certainly. He has played those roles well. Also, a helluva lot smarter than we all realized.
Criticize him if you want, but that doesn't play well with me. He has represented Shreveport-Bossier and Louisiana Tech well through the years.
Does not matter who gets credit for the nickname. It worked, and it remains a cherished part of a football legend. We were there for its genesis.
Terry Bradshaw, The Blond Bomber. (How many times have we written that?)