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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Tribute to Malcolm Hammack

Malcolm Hammack, about 14, in front of the old City Hall with the back of the old Firestone store in the background.

As the Christmas holidays draw to a close and the New Year begins, football is always in the air—or should I say ‘on the air’?—with an endless supply of bowl games.  On New Year’s Day, Texas Tech beat Northwestern 45-38 in the TicketCity bowl in Dallas, while TCU beat Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl. On Friday, the Texas Aggies will play LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and on Monday Oregon will play Auburn for the BCS National Championship.  And if all that is not enough football for you, the NFL playoffs begin in earnest this weekend with two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday.  What better time then to remember perhaps the best football player ever to come out of Roscoe?

The Plowboys have had many football stars over the years—I hesitate to name them for fear of leaving someone out—but none more prominent than Malcolm Hammack (known professionally as Mal), the only ex-Plowboy who has ever enjoyed an extended career in the NFL.  Not only did he start twelve years for the Cardinals, he was also a college standout for the Florida Gators and a member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Always known here as Malcolm, he was born in Roscoe on June 19, 1933, to Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hammack and lived here until graduating from Roscoe High in 1951.  His father worked for many years on the track gang of the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway, and the family home was on 302 Bois d’Arc Street. 

As a boy growing up in Roscoe, Malcolm was a member of the Boys Club, going on Boys Club trips and playing softball on Boys Club teams.  While in high school, he was the top pitcher for the 1951 Boys Club State Championship softball team as well as a star running back for the Roscoe Plowboys. 

After graduating from Roscoe High, he played for the Arlington State Junior College Rebels, where he was good enough to attract the attention of Florida coach Bob Woodruff, who offered him a scholarship to transfer to Florida.  He played the next two years as a running back for the Florida Gators and was a second-team all Southeast Conference selection in 1954, his senior year. 

He was then selected by the Chicago Cardinals as the 26th overall pick in the 1955 NFL draft and stayed with the Cardinals for his entire 12-year pro career, moving with them to St. Louis in 1960.  He was a starter at fullback and played in the same backfield as Ollie Matson and John David Crow.  Known for his versatility, he also played linebacker when called upon and was the special-teams captain, returning kickoffs and punts.

In 1958 he returned to the University of Florida in the off-season to finish his bachelor’s degree.  After retiring from football in 1966, he remained in St. Louis, where he was a sales representative for a shoe company and a color announcer on radio broadcasts of the Cardinals’ football games.  He died on July 19, 2004, at the age of 71. 

I can still remember watching television in the Boys Club hall with other boys when the Cardinals played and the cheers we gave when he made a good play.  He was “our” football player, and we all felt a sense of pride when the announcers had something good to say about him, which they often did. 

During the years he was playing in the NFL, he often came back to Roscoe to see his parents, and, when he did, he usually dropped by the Roscoe Times office to see George Parks and visit for a while.  I worked there at the time and was flattered that he always remembered me by name and took the time to say something to us kids while he was there. 

In short, he was a heck of a football player, a good role model, and an all-around nice guy.  May we have more like him!   


Here are links to a couple of articles I found on the Internet that mention him in specific games.  For a 1960 write-up of an Eagles-Cardinals game, click here, and for an article about a 1964 Cardinals-Cowboys game, click here.

Tonto Coleman, another well-known football player from Roscoe, was a star running back in college for Abilene Christian and later became its coach for seven years before going on to coach as an assistant at Florida and Georgia Tech.  He then became the Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) from 1966-72.  In 1966, Sports Illustrated wrote a tribute to him with an article you can read by clicking here.

Malcolm Hammack, standing on far left in back, with other Roscoe boys where the bank now stands, in the late 1940s.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, Ed. I had forgotten about Mal, who must have opened some lanes for Matson and Crow.


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