Bullies steal prized NFL football from cleft lip Kid



It saddened me to hear that Nationall Football League star Gordy Soltau just died.

Football legend Gordy Soltau.

A  member of the 49ers Hall of Fame, he scored 24 touchdowns and 70 field goals in his career, only one of  three players in NFL history to have ever done this.The great receiver and kicker, who died of natural causes at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California was born in 1925, and  played an important role in my life. The following, excerpted from my memoir, Cleft Heart, tells the story:

NFL superstar Gordy Soltau in football jersey without helmet.

NFL superstar Gordy Soltau


Cleft lip kid wins and loses football.

One day I noticed a tall, athletic man kicking footballs from a tee. After a while, he asked me if I’d hold some balls because the wind kept blowing them off the tee . I was thrilled, but a little scared, until he showed me how to pull my hand away at the right moment. From then on, I upped my playground visits because I’d figured out he was Gordy Soltau, a San Francisco 49er wide receiver and placekicker; he lived in our neighborhood. After I got to know him, he signed my football. It became a prized possession.

My only true school friend, Lee Sims, got excited about the football, too, and as a result we played many miniature football games using his 1’-by-2’ electric, vibrating football field and a tiny felt football.

Lee and I began to collaborate on various class projects for Mrs. Penley. One day, Ron confronted me in class and said, “Lemme copy that paragraph, Karl.”

“Hell no,” I said.

“Buzz off,” Lee said, his fair cheeks turning red.

“Shut up, Shorty,” Ron shot back.

Mrs. Penley noticed the commotion, walked to the back of the room, and asked, “What’s the matter, boys?”

“Nothing,” we said.

She handed us all science papers she’d just graded and returned to her desk.

As we prepared to leave class, I took Lee aside, “Ignore Ron, he’s a jerk.”

. . .

On a brisk, sunny November afternoon, while walking home carrying my autographed football which I’d just shown to a new kid in the neighborhood, Ron and Matt ambushed me again.

“Gimme that!” Ron demanded , grabbing hold of the football.

“No! Leave it alone!”

“C’mon, let go,” Matt said.

“It’s mine!” I shouted.

“Not anymore,” Ron said, brandishing it in the air.

Robbed of my only claim to fame, I shrieked, “It’s special. Gordy Soltau signed it.”

“Bullshit! You don’t know Gordy Soltau from Shinola,” Matt said.

“His name’s right here!” I yelled as I lunged for the ball.

“You wrote it yourself!”

“No, I didn’t!”

I pulled on the football to get it back, but Matt pushed me hard, and I fell to the sidewalk.

“You don’t need it, you’re a benchwarmer for life,” Matt scoffed.

I got up, but Ron’s well-placed punch between my shoulder blades knocked the breath out of me. Bent-over, I stared at them as they ran off, shouting, “Squish nose! Duck face!”

As I slowly straightened up, I fought off tears and the temptation to give into feelings of inadequacy and misery. I resolved not to be Ron and Matt’s fool or doormat ever again. I tucked in my shirt and carried on with my day, not even telling Mom, though she sensed something had happened. I fantasized about taking up Dad’s sport of boxing to get even, but of course, my cardiac condition nixed that. Those bullies just weren’t worth dying over.

I refused to let a couple of bullies define me or my attitude toward the world. Resorting to violence would only drop me to their level. But Ron had my autographed football, and I had to do something. I wracked my brain for just the right tactic and after some time came up with a plan, but I’d need Lee to make it work.

“I gotta stand up to them,” I told him. “Otherwise I’m gutless, half a man.”

“They’re pecker-heads,” Lee said.

“I’ve come up with a Hail Mary plan, but I need your help.”

Lee grinned in anticipation. “Count me in.”

Find out what happens to the cleft lip kid and the bullies.

 Check out Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal p.97 and after to see what the Hail Mary plan involved . . . and the surprising outcome. [Quotes from p.8o6 and p. 96-7 of Cleft Heart, copyright 2014, Wayman Publishing).

Info about Gordy Soltau.

Go here for info and stats about Soltau’s impressive career.

Prized football signed by Soltau


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To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

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