Pastorini, Dante ‘Dan’

Card: Topps 1977
Acquired: In Person 6/11/2012 610 Houston Fan Fest III
Failure: TTM 2010, C/o Home

Yeah! When I think of the old Oiler players- legends, I think of guys of both the late 70s and late 80s. Before Warren Moon, Dan Pastorini was a legend in his own light, with the Midwest swagger of Joe Namath, a pretty boy face, and a cannon for an arm. He went to tiny Santa Clara college because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother. There he set passing records and became a thing of legend at the tiny school.

The hungry Oilers, who were starving for wins, grabbed Dante with the 3rd overall pick of the 1971 draft.  (This draft is notable as it was the first time quarterbacks went 1,2,3, overall in a draft with Jim Plunkett and Archie Manning coming off the board before Dan.) It’s tough being hailed as the team’s savior, little less one for a team that hadn’t won since the days of George Blanda and Charlie Hennigan. The years were rough on Dan. Dan was a gunslinging wounded warrior with a cannon for an arm and a killer leg for punting, -but not all his injuries came from playing, which irked his coaches. Over his career Pastorini cracked ribs, separated shoulders, blew out a knee, and broke more fingers than he could remember.  He became quite the celebrity and also was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1975. During this time he’d help pioneer the flak jacket for the NFL, and only miss 5 games due to injury. Amazing considering the era it was. Fans loved him, and fans- well- hated him.  Still Dan was a darling of Hollywood, and Las Vegas, where the Oilers were known as winners, because of their penchant to beat the spread despite their losing ways.

In 1978 the team drafted Earl Campbell, and with that, teams began to fear the Tyler Rose more than the gunslinger from Sonora. Pastorini responded by having one of his best professional seasons throwing for 16 touchdowns and 2473 yards. A guy who called the plays at the line of scrimmage, Pastorini guided the Oilers to the playoffs 3 times over his career. The Oilers were truly the only team that could challenge the Steel Curtain Dynasty of the 70s.

In 1980, he requested to be traded to anywhere on the West Coast. Bum Phillips honored his wishes, and Pastorini was traded to the Oakland Raiders for Ken Stabler, but things went from bad to worse for Dan. He won his first Super Bowl title that year, standing on the sidelines in a drunken stupor sitting behind Jim Plunkett, not unable to play, but because the team went with the hot hand, and Al Davis had made it personal. Blackballed out of the organization, he’d spend one year in limbo with the Los Angeles Rams. Thinking his career was over, Dick Vermeil gave Pastorini a call in 1982 and gave him another shot because, well, Vermeil didn’t like how things turned out for Dan. It was a year of healing for Pastorini as he was reunited with the coach that drafted him, -Sid Gillman. While 1982 gave him a lot of closure and redemption on his playing days, 1983 brought in a new coach, and Pastorini hung up his cleats after the season.

Dan has passionately pursued his hobbies since retirement. He’s spent a lot of time drag racing, and dabbled in acting. He currently lives in Houston. I met him at the 610 Fan Fest this year, and he signed everything for fans. Dan was also selling his book, which he did like he always does and loves to do as a hands on kind of guy. I had no problem buying his book in exchange for an extra autograph inside the book. When he asked me what he should pen, I jokingly quipped, “To my illegitimate son, Lee,” which got a great smile out of him. He then suggested “Luv ya blue?”, and I nodded appreciatively.  Dan also markets a brand of bbq sauces and currently lives in Houston.

His book: “Taking Flak” is a wonderful read if you are a fan of the Oilers from any era. It really is an honest account from the man who was right at the center of it for nearly 10 years. It also chronicles the multiple deaths and rebirths of Pastorini, searching to find his place in society through his competitive nature and dueling with the demons of our days.  I really recommend it.

I had a second card for the event, but gave it away to another fan. He came up and begged me for the card since he forgot to pack something and offered me anything that he had to get it. I looked through and told him he had nothing, and told him just to take it. He gave me a bunch of Cowboys cards…

G/Gs     Att 3055    Comp 1556    Yds 18515    Pct 50.9       Td  103      Int   161    Rat 59.1
Rush 216    Yds 685     Avg 3.8     Td 8  Lg 27
P 316     Yds  12530    Avg 39.7    Lg 70   Blk 1