The 49er Who Ate Raw MeatPosted: November 10, 2008
Two days after Christmas, back when I was a fifth grader, my family moved cross country from suburban New York to Daly City, California, just south of San Francisco.
It was a temporary move. My father was an engineer working in Manhattan, and was assigned to put in a data processing system at a Planter’s Peanut warehouse just off Highway 101, not far from Candlestick Park.
A 10-year-old football fan at that time, I was delighted to discover that we lived next door to a professional football player.
His name was Bob St. Clair, and he had just finished his ninth season as an offensive tackle with the San Francisco 49ers in what would prove to be a Hall of Fame career.
Mr. St. Clair as I called him, then was a huge man, 6’9″ and weighing 265 pounds. He was nicknamed “The Geek” and was famous for eating raw meat. In addition to his blocking duties with the 49ers, St. Clair served as mayor of Daly City and later San Mateo County Supervisor, and owned a liquor store in Noe Valley.
The St. Clairs had a big family, including a son, Gary, who was about my age. The first time I went over to visit, there was a bald-headed man sitting on a sofa in the living room talking with Mr. St. Clair.
Y.A. Tittle Sighting
That bald-headed guy was Y.A. Tittle, who had just finished his first season as the quarterback of the New York Giants. Tittle and St. Clair were good friends — they had been teammates in San Francisco for years.
So here I am, this 10-year-old kid, seeing Y.A. Tittle in real life. I was speechless.
Celebrity appearances were commonplace in the St. Clair household. One time I met Leo Nomellini, a great 49er and a Hall of Famer; another time R.C. Owens, he of the famed “alley-oop” passing combination with Tittle, showed up. I even got to meet some San Francisco Giants, including Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey.
I met what seemed like half the 1961 49ers during an event at St. Clair’s liquor store, including Monty Stickles, Monte Clark, Charlie Krueger, and Abe Woodson.
The joy ride was short-lived. My family moved back to White Plains that summer.
49ers at Yankee Stadium
A year and a half later, five days before President Kennedy was assassinated, the 49ers came to New York to play the Giants. My father, mother, cousin and I went to the game at Yankee Stadium, and watched the Giants overwhelm the 49ers, 48-14, behind four Tittle touchdown passes. Woodson returned a kickoff 99 yards for the final San Francisco score.
After the game, we met Mr. St. Clair outside the 49er dressing room. I got a chance to shake Abe Woodson’s hand and say, “Nice return Abe.”
A third-round draft pick out of Tulsa University in 1953, Bob St. Clair played his entire 12-year career with the 49ers, retiring after the 1963 season. He was a 49ers’ team captain, was named first- or second-team All-NFL nine times and was selected to play in five Pro Bowls.
Early in his career, St. Clair was often used in goal-line situations and on special teams. He blocked 10 field goals in 1956, which must be some sort of record.
St. Clair attended the University of San Francisco, and was part of USF’s undefeated 1951 team, which did not get a bowl invitation, in part because there were two black players on the squad. San Francisco dropped football after that season, and St. Clair transferred to the University of Tulsa.
The 1951 USF Dons are the only college football team in history to have three future NFL Hall of Famers on their squad at the same time — defensive end Gino Marchetti, running back Ollie Matson and St. Clair.