Snow's legacy endures as the face of Rams
By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
The first time I saw Jack Snow, I was a kid in Baltimore, sitting next to my dad in Section 32 of the old Memorial Stadium. The Rams were banging heads with the rival Baltimore Colts in an important division clash.
It was Oct. 15, 1967, and on that day Snow made the greatest catch I'd seen. He streaked by Colts cornerback Lenny Lyles down the left sideline. Roman Gabriel, the Rams' huge quarterback, let a bomb fly.
The pass seemed hopelessly overthrown, but No. 84 in the white jersey kept closing on it, running it down, tracking Gabriel's throw on the radar, stretching out to the max, fully extending his arms, refusing to stop the chase.
You've heard the term "fingertip catch?" Well, this was the perfect picture image. Somehow, even while traveling at high speed, Snow got his fingernails into the ball, finessed it into his chest, and held on as he tumbled into the end zone.
Impossible . . .
Just a fantastic catch, and yeah, I hated him for it.
But please forgive me. I was 8 years old at the time and Snow was running berserk through my Colts. The Rams battled to a 24-24 tie, and Snow had a ridiculous afternoon, making three receptions for 151 yards. The Colts couldn't cover him, couldn't touch him. He was the ghost in that radiant Rams white.
Snow galloped through the wind on a gorgeous autumn day, an athlete in his prime, and it was a beautiful sight, even as he slipped away from the Colts.
That's one image I have of Jack Snow, who died Monday night at age 62.
Snow lived a wonderful life that ended too soon.
In St. Louis most of us knew him as the Rams' radio analyst and goodwill ambassador. He was to the Rams what Mike Shannon is to the Cardinals. Snow spent his adult life with the Rams, as a wide receiver, a broadcaster, and as a friend to anyone who walked into Rams Park, to coach or play or otherwise serve the team he loved like family. When the Rams moved from LA to STL, Snow followed. They could have moved to Siberia, and Snow would have been there.
"I don't know of any person who loved the Rams organization more than Jack did," former Rams head coach Mike Martz said. "There wasn't one thing that happened at Rams Park that didn't affect Jack emotionally. He was going to be there for me, for everyone with the Rams, through the good times and bad. Everyone's a pal when you win. But if we lost and I was feeling down, he understood. Because if something hurt me or the Rams, he would hurt, too."
Snow was also a media critic, always straight and direct when I'd write a column that he thought was unfair, or just wrong-headed. I don't want to be a phony here; at times I'd get aggravated with Jack. But I couldn't help but respect Mr. Snow's fierce loyalty to the Rams. And I always respected the man for being honest, instead of talking behind our backs. And he was also just as quick to compliment a columnist or a reporter if he liked what we had to say.
So how could anyone stay mad at Jack Snow?
You couldn't, because his heart was in the right place.
And that applied to his three children. J.T. Snow is the "star" of the family - a splendid first baseman who recently signed with the Boston Red Sox. But as Jack's friend and broadcast colleague Steve Savard points out, Jack was just as proud of his daughters, Stephanie and Michelle. Still, any parent couldn't help but relate to Jack when we saw him beam with pride and happiness in describing J.T.'s latest Gold Glove-caliber play, or important base hit. Heck, Jack helped make it happen through long sessions of slapping ground balls and throwing batting practice to J.T. during childhood.
Snow was also a character. He talked in slang. He had timing with well-delivered zingers. He had that SoCal perpetual tan - and how he maintained that through St. Louis winters, we'll never know. Jack usually had the sunglasses going - forever the coolest guy in the room, who never lost his movie-star looks. (Well, except for those outdated tube socks he wore at training camp, and on the practice field. Or maybe he was just being old-school, before old school was hip.)
We got to know Jack Snow in so many other ways, we tend to forget that Jack was a superb wide receiver, first at Notre Dame, then with the Rams. As a senior at Notre Dame he finished fifth in the 1964 Heisman Trophy voting, and is a celebrated Notre Dame legend to this day. With the Rams he averaged 17.7 yards a catch in a good 11-season NFL career. Snow was fast, and he ran impeccable patterns, and he could hold on to the ball after getting belted by bigger, physically punishing defenders.
That's why Snow had such street cred with Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and other Rams wideouts. They knew he'd felt their pain. They saw him limping around the practice field, paying the price for all of those Sunday collisions. He had been there. He was one of them. But he was one of the fans, too - which is why Jack Snow was equally loved inside and outside the locker room.
After hearing the sad news about Jack, I thought back to that day in Baltimore, when he sprinted to that Gabriel missile, a young athlete in his glory, making a sensational catch for the team he loved so dearly, a team he represented with great distinction until the day he died.
Long may you run, Jack.