FORMER SUBWAY ALUMNI LEADER REFLECTS ON HIS "NOTRE DAME ODYSSEY"


Herb Juliano
(1922-1998)

Herb Juliano had always been proud of his Italian heritage. In this segment of Herb’s Archive we reprint an excerpt from his book Notre Dame Odyssey. The chapter is called "The Irish Italian Generals: Some Passing Thoughts." In the chapter Herb chronicles the brilliant careers of quarterbacks from Rockne’s Frank Carideo, a brilliant field general, to the legend from Monongahela, Joe Montana. Many of these men where friends of Herb’s. Bertelli, Frank Tripucka, Lamonica, and his softball teammate, Joe Montana.

One reason I decided to include this chapter at this time was Herb’s interesting account of the ’79 Cotton Bowl, our theme for this edition of Irish Reveries.

And if you find yourself in the Grotto on your next trip to Notre Dame, remember, it was Herb’s special place on campus. Please light a candle in his memory.


THE ITALIAN GENERALS:
SOME PASSING THOUGHTS

For decades the Notre Dame football program has been heralded as one of - if not THE finest in the country. The Fighting Irish have always boasted a strong and talented offensive attack, led by some of the greatest quarterbacks in football history, including four Heisman Trophy winners. But here I am concerned with those Italian generals who commanded Fighting Irish victory marches, and particularly those whom I have known and admired.

A pair of outstanding Italian quarterbacks preceded my arrival at Notre Dame; Frank Carideo, a coffin-corner kicker, led Rockne's troops in 1929 and 1930 to two unbeaten campaigns and two national championships. (Until that time, Notre Dame's only national title had been won by the 1924 Four Horsemen team quarterbacked by Harry Stuhldreher, an All American field general, definitely not Italian), and Angelo Bertelli, a baseball, hockey and football player from West Springfield, Mass., who gained national attention with his pinpoint passing in Notre Dame's opening victory over Arizona in 1941, his sophomore season. He was immediately tabbed "The Spingfield Rifle" and his touchdown passes spurred the Irish to their first unbeaten season since Carideo's campaign of 1930.

Although I never met Frank Carideo, I have often met and talked with Angelo Bertelli, often in the presence of his brother-in-law, Frank Tripucka, Irish quarterback in 1948 and father of Irish basketball star Kelly Tripucka.

Bertelli was a not-so-fleet-of-foot halfback in 1941, but he had quick hands and, early in 1942 he loomed as the top quarterback candidate when Coach Frank Leahy decided to do away with the famous Notre Dame box formation and try his luck with the T-formation.

In 1943, Notre Dame won its first national championship since Carideo's 1930 title and All American quarterback Angelo Bertelli, who left for the Marine Corps after the Irish had played and won six games, became Notre Dame's first Heisman Trophy winner.

A leg injury frustrated Bertelli's four-year post-war attempts to scale the professional heights, yet long after retiring as Notre Dame coach, Frank Leahy called Bertelli the greatest quarterback the T-formation ever had. 

Many football observers disagreed with that appraisal, including the late Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune. Arch had his own candidate, Ralph Guglielmi, another Italian general who won football letters in 1951-52-53 and 54, and who often broke bread with me in Rocco's legendary spaghetti and pizza restaurant. To this day, Guglielmi's name is spoken with reverence in Rocco's place where, after downing a hearty pasta dinner replete with meatballs and sausage, he would then order his pizza.

Guglielmi, who like Bertelli won the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy, quarterbacked Leahy's last team, the 1953 Irish that won nine and tied Iowa and who many believed to be the best team in the nation that year. Guglielmi passed, ran from the split-T and was devastating on defense during the seasons of the return to single-platoon football. He was the main reason that Leahy said of those 1953 winners: "The best team I ever coached."

Guglielmi had to be great to hold off some pretty good contenders for the No. I quarterback position. Chicago's Tony Carey ("toughest man who ever played Notre Dame football"), who would probably have been an All American candidate with any other major college, fiercely but futilely dueled Guglielrni for starting quarterback. Like "Goog," Carey was a letterman for four seasons.

Besides Carey, in 1954 Guglielmi had to overshadow another great player, a sophomore quarterback who also could do everything well and whose name was Paul Hornung. No wonder why Arch Ward wrote: "Gus Dorais, Jimmy Phelan, Joe Brandy, Frank Thomas, Harry Stuhldreher, Frank Carideo, Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack ... we saw them at the peak of their skill. And, take it or leave it, Guglielmi tops them all."

Most Notre Dame fans would like to forget Joe Kuharich's elevens of 1960-61-62 (They won a total of twelve of their thirty games), but many would question how much that record could be blamed on Kuharich's No.1 quarterback, Daryle Lamonica.

Lamonica, whose daring play in the professional ranks was later to earn him the name of "Mad Bomber," didn't fancy Kuharich's pedestrian offense. A rumor on the campus those days had Lamonica missing practice and playing golf for three consecutive days. When a priest asked him what was going on, Lamonica reportedly replied: "I don't need to go to practice. I already know both of Kuharich's plays."

Surprisingly, the following Friday, the priest saw Lamonica heading for the practice field. "I thought you knew both of Kuharich's plays," chided the priest. "I do," said Lamonica, "But I have to find out which one he is going to use against Michigan State tomorrow."

With the pros, Lamonica sat on the Buffalo Bills bench behind Jack Kemp for several seasons before being shipped to Oakland, where Coach John Madden said: "I wouldn't trade Lamonica for 0.J. Simpson." 

Daryle Lamonica was the spark that gained the Oakland Raiders their first status in the pro game. In 1967 and 1969 he was the American Football League's Most Valuable Player. He was Oakland's big man until losing the job to Ken Stabler during the 1973 season.

During the years 1972-73-74-75, a good deal of my attention was focused on baseball where my beloved A's-after I had faithfully followed them for forty years-were finally rewarding me by winning three consecutive World Series. At the same time, Ara Parseghian was rewarding Fighting Irish fans, including that perfect 1973 season, climaxed with a scintillating win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl that earned Notre Dame a national championship.

It was during those years that another Italian quarterback named Frank Allocco befriended me, once again giving me cause for pride in my Italian heritage. Allocco saw occasional action, but mostly played in the shadow of Tom Clements. Frank Allocco will never go down in Notre Dame history as a legend, but in my book he was a good friend.

And so we come to the most recent Italian general ... the one I knew best and will remember most ... Joe Montana. I mean, of course, the one and only Joe Montana, who in the third game of the 1977 season came off the bench to rally Notre Dame to victory over Purdue, after Notre Dame had suffered a devastating defeat to Mississippi a week earlier. From that point on, Montana became another Italian general leading Notre Dame victory marches.

The marriage between Montana and Notre Dame created sparks. Montana is a free-spirit, and the Irish take football seriously. But in Dan Devine, Montana found a coach who understood. Before Devine's arrival, Montana- justly or unjustly-had gained a bad reputation. He was slow in maturing his talents. On one depth chart he was listed 10th out of 10, behind a few walk-ons.

But Devine saw something in Montana that other coaches were blind to. He was patient. Montana sat out the 1976 season with a shoulder separation. As a matter of fact, Joe's first three years at Notre Dame were almost a waste, until he got a chance to start full-time in 1977 and took the team to the national championship.

Coming back from impossible odds to achieve unbelievable accomplishments fit Montana's style. Comebacks. Nobody did it better than Montana. His legend has yet to be fully appreciated, but it will grow through the years.

John Huarte won the Heisman; Terry Hanratty had a stronger arm; Joe Theismann was a better athlete; and Tom Clements was more consistent; but nobody-nobody --- could rally a team like Joe Montana.

Montana's miracles started in 1975, when he rallied the Irish to twenty-one fourth quarter points against the Tar Heels of North Carolina. The 21-14 victory set the stage for a similar tour de force against the Air Force the following Saturday. Trailing 30-1 0 in the final quarter, the Irish inserted Montana. Again, he came, he threw, he conquered. Final score: Notre Dame 31, Air Force 30. 

These two scintillating comebacks made the difference between an 8-3 Irish season and what would have been 6-5.

As it was mentioned earlier, Montana was sidelined by a shoulder injury in 1976, but resumed his heroics in the 1977 Purdue game. In the fourth quarter he rallied the Irish to a seventeen point burst and a 31-24 victory. Later in the year, against the deafening noise put out by a hostile Clemson crowd, Montana again spearheaded a fourteen point fourth quarter, and the Irish emerged from "death valley" with a 21-17 win. These cardiac conclusions were mixed with stunning upsets of Southern Cal and Texas (Cotton Bowl), as Notre Dame rolled to the national championship. There was little doubt that Montana's performance in the Purdue game turned the season around and that Joe was the key in the drive to the title.

The 1978 season, however, got off to a disastrous start. Notre Dame lost its first two games and it seemed that Montana and the Irish had lost the magic. Why weren't the comebacks coming? The reality that a second national title was impossible was taking its toll on team morale.

Well, the Irish slowly picked up the pieces and started to win again. There was even a patented fourth quarter rally to beat Pittsburgh, as Montana showed signs of his old stuff again. As the season unfolded, Notre Dame kept winning, but there loomed an ominous cloud on the horizon-Southeim Cal, the perpetual nemesis.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Trojans had built an impressive 24-6 lead, and Irish hopes seemed hopeless, and when Montana hit Kris Haines for a 57- yard touchdown, it appeared that it would merely make the final score a little more respectable.

But before long the Irish were driving again and momentum seemed to be on their side. Returning to his old brilliance, Montana lead the team to another score, and Notre Dame suddenly trailed by only five points, 24-19. The Trojans were getting scared. Did Montana have it in him for yet another comeback?

Now less than two minutes remain. Montana drops back ... throws to Holohan ... TOUCHDOWN! ... Notre Dame 25, Southern Cal 24. Pandemonium!

Montana, who had remained properly stoic throughout the ordeal, leaped in jubilation; his joy was ineffable. Notre Dame players were delirious; Southern Cal players were crying. Now it was a matter of time as the two teams lined up for the extra point, and when Montana's pass for a two-point conversion fell incomplete, nobody was too worried. The Irish were not to be denied.

But they were. Aided by an official's mistake on a play that could have clinched an Irish victory, Southern Cal mounted a drive that led to a field goal and a 27-25 victory. The devastated, desiccated Irish stared in disbelief. The impossible dream had become a nightmare.

Committed to an appearance in the Cotton Bowl against a brash and surprising Houston team, the dispirited Irish had to slough off their disappointment and begin preparations. It would be Joe Montana's last game for Notre Dame. Neither he nor we will ever forget it.

After taking an easy 12-0 lead, the Irish saw the momentum swing wildly to Houston. By halftime, Houston led 20-12 and when the second half resumed, one player-Joe Montana-was missing. Piercing cold and cutting winds had lowered his body temperature to 96 degrees.

While he sat wrapped in blankets, shivering, and being fed chicken soup, cut and bleeding from the rock salt used to clear the field after an ice storm struck Dallas, he could hear the roar of the crowd as Houston kept pouring it on. Pathetic! Notre Dame was getting humiliated and Montana was out of action.

But the home remedy worked. Later in the third quarter, the team doctors gave him permission and Montana entered the game. At first, frustrations were compounded when he quickly threw a pair of interceptions, giving him four for the day. Ignominious defeat seemed certain.

With 7:23 remaining in the game and Houston leading 34-12, the Irish blocked a punt and turned it into a touchdown. At least this would alleviate the humiliation.

But all of a sudden, the tide began to turn, and the Irish were driving again. Could the combination of Irish momentum and Montana magic work one more time? Irish fans were filled with ambivalence: they yearned, they hoped, they prayed for a miracle finish. But they were skeptical; the last second loss to Southern Cal was still an open wound.

Inexorably, the Irish advanced and when Montana scored on a two-yard run and completed a pass for the two-point conversion, Notre Dame was in striking distance. By now the Irish defense abounded in adrenalin and quickly stopped Houston. Getting the ball on a punt, and trailing 34-28, the Irish were ready to make their move.

Montana started to drive the team; spirits were sky high. Joe set up to pass, was trapped, scrambled beautifully for a first down; and then tragedy struck- he fumbled when he was tackled. Once again, skepticism dueled hope.

But Notre Dame's still aroused defense held the Cougar's on a fourth down gamble. There were thirty-five seconds to go and forty-nine yards to cover. It was now or never. Montana gamely drove the Irish to the Houston eight yard line with two seconds to play. It couldn't have been more dramatic; the Comeback Kid's last play for Notre Dame could be his most spectacular.

Rolling to his right, Montana hit Haines in the comer for a touchdown and the tying points. Pandemonium! But things didn't come easy for this team and there was still the extra point to be made.

T'he extra point was successful, but jubilation was curtailed; the Irish were offside. They would have to kick again. Skepticism and hope were roaring to a photo finish. You couldn't write a scenario like this. Irish fans were basket cases, but they managed one last look, one last prayer.

Joe Unis made it! Notre Dame 35, Houston 34! The usually reserved Father Hesburgh led the band in the Victory March. Both he and long-time athletic director "Moose" Krause agreed that this was the greatest comeback in Notre Dame history. Even greater than the 1935 Ohio State game? I'm not so sure.

But whether THE greatest or one of the greatest comebacks in Notre Dame history, how appropriate that it was led by the incomparable Comeback Kid, Joe Montana.

Was I proud? You better believe it! This was the guy I played softball with. This was the guy I shared meals with. This was the guy I sat all afternoon and watched as he rehearsed with Bob Hope for a television skit. This was the guy who always had a smile and a friendly word for me. This was a guy I really liked.

At Notre Dame, Italian quarterbacks and our national championships go hand-in-hand. So when you're mentioning Carideo, Bertelli, Guglielmi, Larnonica and Montana, don't overlook the Italian-American quarterbacks who directed Notre Dame to national championships in 1966 and 1973, Terry Hanratty and Tom Clements.

Hanratty and Clements are Irish names, you say? True. But their mothers were Italian.

To read previous installments of Herb's archive please click below:

September 1998

October 1998

November 1998