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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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Shark players and personalities

Posted 09-25-2010 at 01:49 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 01-07-2011 at 07:12 AM by TommyJohn

Some of the characters from my history of the Honolulu Sharks:

Matthew Jensen-QB-K Philadelphia Eagles 1958-59; Honolulu Sharks 1960-61-Jensen was a benchwarmer for the Eagles who went on to be the first quarterback in Shark history, and not a very good one at that. he was also the team's placekicker. At one point in 1961, the Sharks are so bad that they are 0-5 and have scored only 15 points-all of them field goals by Jensen.

John Peter "Pete" Hester-head Coach 1960-61 Hired by first owner Martin Dole, Hester was the first head coach in Shark history. He was a high school coach whose only qualification was that the son of Martin Dole played for him.

Martin Alfred Dole-first owner in team history, from 1960-61.

William James Parks-Flanker Chicago Cardinals 1956-59; Honolulu Sharks 1960-61 One of the first star players for the Sharks, one whose career was cut short by near-tragedy.

Stephen Edward Schalasky-Middle Linebacker Cleveland Browns 1957-60; Honolulu Sharks 1961-70; Dallas Cowboys 1971 Schalasky was recruited to the Sharks thanks to the dogged efforts of Pete Hester, who saw vast potential in the
giant, quiet player who was taking up space on the Cleveland Browns' bench. Schalasky joined the Sharks in 1961 and became a star, drawing comparisons to Nitschke, Butkus and Bill George. This didn't sit well with sportswriter Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated, who saw in Schalasky's stardom the total mediocrity of the AFL. Maule would take obsessive swipes at Schalasky and the Sharks throughout the 1960's.

George Spiro "Gus" Pastos-Head Coach, General Manager, part-Owner 1962-83 Pastos was a born and bred football man who became part-owner with his friend James Lewis, who made him head coach and GM. Pastos would hold both titles until 1983 and mold the Sharks into a winning football team.

James Lamar Lewis-Owner 1962-82 Lewis was a college football player teammate of Pastos (how they met) and worked his way up to being an executive at the National Broadcasting Corporation. He entered into a partnership with Pastos and bought the broke, moribund Sharks in 1962. They infused new blood into the team and league as a result. Lewis was owner until 1982, when his shares were passed on to his three sons, who didn't give a damn about football except for how much money it would make them.

Gary Thomas Larson-Quarterback 1962-68 Taken from the University of Wisconsin, the southpaw Larson was one of the first stars of the Pastos era, leading the charge as a rookie in 1962. Another star turn in 1963 convinced everyone he was going to be an all-time great, but a shoulder injury ended his 1964 season, after which his promising career began to slowly unravel.

Carl William Tasby-Quarterback-Tasby joined the team rather quietly, in 1965 after a career as a three sport star at Grambling State College (as it was known back then.) He was considered one of the greatest athletes produced by the college, but was drafted very low by the NFL's Chicago Bears, who planned to make him a wide receiver. The Sharks drafted him to be a back up quarterback to Gary Larson, who had been hurt in 1964. Lack of an adequate backup doomed that Sharks team. Pastos also drafted Tasby because he was black-the coach was a devout liberal who believed that a black man was capable of playing the QB position. Tasby got his chance in Game 2 of 1965, when Larson got hurt again. He never looked back, and became one of the greatest, most colorful, volatile stars in NFL history.

James Paul Johnson Halfback-Chicago Bears 1964; Minnesota Vikings 1965; Honolulu Sharks 1966-72 Johnson was a highly-touted Notre Damer and Heisman Trophy finalist who signed with the Bears after a bidding war between them and the Sharks. He lagged on the bench his rookie season but performed well as a late-season starter. Nevertheless, the Bears drafted Gale Sayers and later waived Johnson after he brawled with teammate Mike Ditka. He went to the Vikings, where Norm Van Brocklin had no use for him, so after 1965 Johnson, looked upon by sportswriters as an expensive bust, signed with the Sharks and found new life in the AFL. This rankled Tex Maule, and Johnson was another target of the SI writer's barbs.
A knee injury in 1969 curbed his effectiveness and he was done by 1972. Long after his career was over Johnson shocked the sports world by writing a book in which he came out of the closet. He detailed life as a gay player and his efforts to hide it from everyone-and the stress he felt over fears that he would be found out.

Daniel Thomas-sportswriter/columnist Honolulu Times 1960-2010 Thomas was born and raised in Chicago, IL. and attended Northwestern University, where he majored in journalism and played football. He was drafted in the 9th round by the Chicago Cardinals in 1955, but a knee injury and his ambition to be a writer convinced him that football was not his destiny. He worked at the City News Bureau and the night shift for the Chicago Daily News before a friend with connections got him hired as a part-time sportswriter at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. In 1959 a full-time position opened at the Honolulu Times, and Thomas was hired. 11 months later he was given the assignment of covering Shark games-because none of the senior writers on staff wanted the beat. They didn't expect the AFL to last. Thomas wound up covering every single game of Sharks history from 1960-91, and again from 1992-2010. He was promoted to lead feature sports columnist in 1967 and took the job on the condition that he be allowed to still cover Shark games. He continued to do this until 2000, when he semi-retired and cut back from five to three columns a week. He continued to cover games, however. He will retire for good at the end of the 2010 season. Thomas was respected by players and coaches because he dealt with them fairly, never took cheap shots and criticized only when he felt it was warranted. At 6'4" and 225 lbs. he was also bigger than a lot of the players he covered.

Richard Michael Nixon-Wide Receiver Honolulu Sharks 1969-81; Cleveland Browns 1982-84; New England Patriots 1985 Rich Nixon's name and life are entwined with the 37th U.S. President. He was born on January 3, 1947 (the day Nixon took office as a U.S. Congressman) broke into the AFL in 1969 (the year Nixon became President). His father was one of the businessmen who bankrolled Nixon's run for Congress in 1946. Rich Nixon had one difference though-he was black. His father was a prominent black Republican businessman who helped bankroll Richard Nixon (they believed themselves to be distantly related, as Rich Nixon's father was part-Irish). His mother was half-black and half-Italian. Nixon grew up surrounded by privilege-and responded by attending San Jose State and becoming a militant black radical. He also ran track and field and won a 4x400 relay gold medal in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He stood respectfully on the medal stand, but after the national Anthem played he raised a black-gloved fist in a Black Power salute, much like his track teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
He played with the Sharks until 1981, and was the last player from the team's AFL days.

Delmar Anthony Gordon-Tight End 1960-69 Gordon was one of three Sharks to play every Shark AFL game from 1960-69. He was one of the first stars of the team and was a bruising, effective Tight End. He was very politically conservative and responded to the changes of the decade by being very outspoken in favor of the Vietnam War and against "longhairs." Carl Tasby looked on him as his "nemesis" yet the two managed to collaberate well on the gridiron.

David Eugene Garfield-Flanker 1963-73
Joined the team from Northern Illinois University, then a tiny NAIA school. Was one of the star receivers of the era and one of the team's first popular players.

Benjamin Leikuli-Kicker 1963-69
The first native-born Hawaiian to play for the Sharks, Leikuli was recruited by Gus Pastos right off the University of Hawaii campus, where he played football and soccer. Leikuli kicked the football in a then-highly unorthodox fashion-by approaching it from one side and kicking it with his instep, "soccer-style." He along with Pete and Charlie Gogolak were the first kickers to boot the ball in this fashion. Leikuli played with the team until 1969, when a broken ankle curtailed his career. Ironically Pastos replaced him with Danny Davis, a straight-on kicker who would be the last such kicker in NFL history.
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