The Hall of Fame Game is in 32 days, and today’s tribute is truly fitting. #32
A number that holds a mythical significance in Giants lore, yet remains relatively unfamiliar…
The retired number was worn by offensive tackle Al Blozis, a native of New Jersey, who played 23 games for the Giants between 1942-1944. Blozis enlisted in the military in late 1943, and after returning to the team for three games while on temporary leave in ’44, he would never again step on a football field.
On April 9th 1945, Al Blozis died defending his country in World War II. He was 26-years old. His body was never found, but former American distance runner, Jack McCluskey, had a different take on Blozis’ final moments when interviewed in 1991:
“I heard he was hit 38 times. He was a big target. He was so strong the first bullets weren’t enough to kill him.”
Because of his massive size — 6’6 250 pounds — Blozis was forced to use the power of persuasion to gain acceptance into the Army. This excerpt was taken from a New York Times article from January 6th 1991, titled: Two Giants Were Heroes Far From Playing Field:
Blozis, who was born in Garfield, N.J., and was a star athlete at Dickinson High School in Jersey City before going to Georgetown on a track scholarship, was regarded as the strongest player in professional football and had the physique to prove it. To see him naked in the dressing room was “an awe-inspiring sight,” Arthur Daley once wrote in The New York Times.
Curiously, the very size that made him so intimidating on the football field kept him out of the military until late 1943, when, after repeated attempts, Blozis finally persuaded the Army to waive its size limit and accept him. It took further persuading to get from a desk job to the front lines. (During infantry training at Fort Benning in Georgia, Blozis, who had to give up the shot-put and the discus when he became a professional football player, established the Army hand grenade record with a toss of 94 yards 2 feet 6 1/2 inches.)
During his final furlough, in 1944, Blozis played in three games, including the championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 17. Two days later, he sailed for France.
A little over a month later, the man who always led his teammates down the field on kickoffs left his platoon behind and set off through hip-deep snow in the Vosges Mountains of France to find a missing sergeant and a private. He never returned.
You must read those above words. Al Blozis’ life seems like something out of a Paul Bunyan-esque tale. What a true New York Football Giant.
Blozis was named to the 1940′s All-Decade Team, not too shabby for a 5th round draft choice. It’s safe to say draft science was a tad bit different 70+ years ago. His former teammate, center Mel Hein, spoke glowingly of Blozis’ imposing skill level:
“If he hadn’t been killed, he could have been the greatest tackle who ever played football”
A powerful statement.
With 32 days until the HOF game, there’s plenty of time to read about a legendary human. A man who once donned probably the most Giant number 32 in the history of sports.
No matter what generation of Giants fan you are, if the story of Al Blozis is foreign to you… do yourself a favor. Read up on it. Unfortunately, former Giants wide receiver Jack Lummus also lost his life in battle. On this particular day of the countdown, let’s remember our true heroes.