Episode 7 — My Fault: The Trey Junkin Story


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Trey Junkin was a long-snapper in the NFL longer than anyone else, ever. He can count on his fingers the number of bad snaps he made in 20 seasons in the NFL. But if you remember him, you remember him because of his very last snap. And it was a bad one. Also: You are a New York Giants fan.

Junkin played in the NFL for 19 seasons — “it kinda pisses me off” that it wasn’t 20, he says.

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But he did play in a 20th season. He’d already submitted retirement papers when Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi called him and asked if he could snap for punts in a wild-card playoff game in San Francisco. Junkin, 41 and with a bad knee among other ailments, hesitated, but agreed.

Trey Junkin with the Arizona Cardinals
In an image tacked to his wall: Trey Junkin after a happier finish, with the Arizona Cardinals in 2001.

Junkin practiced with the Giants for only a couple of days, but head coach Jim Fassel asked him to add placekick snapping to his duties. Again, Junkin hesitated. He had barely practiced with the unit, and while it looks simple, the process of snapping on placekicks, and “that triangle: snapper, holder, kicker,” is complex.

“There’s a million things that can go wrong,” he says. “And there’s only one thing that can go right.”

Fassel insisted, and Junkin agreed.

Things went well in San Francisco until they didn’t. The Giants built a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, with all punts and kicks going smoothly, but the 49ers launched a furious comeback to take a 39-38 with just over a minute to play. Along the way, a first disaster: A bad snap on a field goal attempt that would have extended the Giants’ lead to 41-33.

And then, with six seconds to go, the Giants lined up for what would have been the game-winning kick.

“My fault,” Junkin says about those two snaps. Not the whole game. Not the second-half collapse or the officiating mistake that ended the game rather than properly giving the Giants one more snap. But that last bad snap? “That’s mine.”

Giants fans still cringe at the mention of Trey Junkin’s name. His career was the 16th longest in NFL history, the sixth longest among non-kickers/punters. The names above him on that list: Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and Jim Marshall. Four Hall of Famers and one (Marshall) who should be.

For most of his 19-plus years in the league, he was anonymous, a perfectionist working in the game’s trenches. But all anyone remembers about him now is that one snap, his last.

He’s well aware of this. He’s thought about it a lot. He’s talked about it a lot. And he welcomed me to his home in Winnfield, Louisiana, to talk about it for Can’t Win 4 Losing.

Helmets
In the barn he used as a home gym when he was still physically able to do so, Trey Junkin has a collection of helmets from all the teams he played for. The only exception: The New York Giants.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

In order of appearance:

In the West” by Kevin McLeod (Creative Commons 4.0)
“Room With a View” by Jahzzar (Creative Commons 3.0)
“Horses to Water” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Call to Statesmanship” by U.S. Army Herald Trumpets
“Bravura” by U.S. Army Band
Except as noted: public domain or Creative Commons non-attribution license.

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Episode 5: Breaking Up — San Diego’s Life After the Chargers


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Johnny Bolt Pride

One of the most painful types of losing in sports is when a city loses its team. San Diego Chargers fans were heartbroken and angry when their team moved up the freeway to Los Angeles this year. They burned jerseys and threw eggs at the team headquarters.

But not all of them. “Not having the NFL be in your city is a win,” said writer and sports commentator Dallas McLaughlin. “There’s no way it’s not.” With the Chargers struggling to convince an indifferent L.A. to pay attention to them, Maya Kroth reports from San Diego now that the Bolts have bolted.

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Plus: The St. Louis Browns check off two boxes for this show. Their city lost them when they left town and became the Baltimore Orioles after the 1953 season, and in their half-century in the Lou, they were consistent losers.

You’d have to be at least 70 or so to even remember the Browns existing. But there’s still a St. Louis Browns fan club, and the guy who runs it, Emmett McAuliffe, isn’t even 60. Host King Kaufman talks to him about the appeal of a team he never saw — at least not before the Orioles wore throwback Browns uniforms during a road series against the Cardinals in 2003.

Also, author Burton Boxerman talks about growing up as a Browns fan, and how, once they left, he had to find a new team to root for and he picked the Chicago Cubs, because their relentless losing reminded him of his beloved Brownies.

And Ed Mickelson, 91 years old and one of 14 living former Browns, talks about his brief but memorable time at Sportsman’s Park. He wasn’t a Brown for long, but he did drive in the last run in the team’s history. It was the only run they scored that day as they went down to their final defeat.

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People in the episode

Chargers

Maya Kroth is a freelance print and audio reporter based in Mexico City. She’s available now for reporting on the aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake. You can find her work at mayakroth.com. Editors seeking coverage should contact her via Facebook messenger.

Dallas McLaughlin is a writer and performer in San Diego. His debut standup album is called An Evening of This!

Matthew T. Hall (referred to as Matt Hall in the story) is the editorial and opinion director at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

John Abundez, pictured above, is a lifelong Chargers fan better known as Johnny Bolt Pride. He says he has never worn a jersey with an owner’s name on the back. He roots for his team, and remains a Chargers fan even though they’ve moved to Los Angeles.

C-Siccness is a San Diego hip-hop artist whose song “Save Our Bolts” was used in this episode with permission.

Maya Kroth
Kroth
Dallas McLaughlin
McLaughlin
Matthew T. Hall
Hall
C-Siccness
C-Siccness

 

 

 

 

Browns

Emmett McAuliffeEmmett McAuliffe is an intellectual property lawyer in St. Louis and a member of the board of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society. His law office is filled with Browns memorabilia. Click his photo for a gallery.

 

Burton BoxermanBurton Boxerman is the author, with his wife, Benita Boxerman, of many books about baseball history and other subjects, including Jews and Baseball, Volume 1 and Volume 2; and Ebbets to Veeck to Busch: Eight Owners Who Shaped BaseballThey are working on a biography of Bill DeWitt Sr., who was a Browns executive and owner, and the father of the current Cardinals owner, Bill DeWitt Jr.

Ed Mickelson is one of 14 living former St. Louis Browns. He was a first baseman who spent the last few weeks of the 1953 season with the Browns, driving in the last run in team history during a 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 27, 1953. Mickelson, 91, had a solid, 11-year career in the minor leagues and played briefly in the big leagues for the Cardinals and the Cubs in addition to his stint with the Browns.

After retiring from baseball, Mickelson was a football and baseball coach and a counselor in St. Louis-area high schools, retiring in 1993. His 2007 memoir, Out of the Park: Memoir of a Minor League Baseball All-Star, is notable for its honesty about his post-career depression. This photo from a Browns Reunion Luncheon on Sept. 26, 2017, shows Mickelson, left, talking to his friend and the most famous living ex-Brown, Don Larsen.

Ed Mickelson and Don Larson
Photo courtesy of Julie Mickelson Drew.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“Movie Piano Theme” by EK Velika
“St. Louis Tickle” by Heftone Banjo Orchestra
“Hot Swing” and “Gaslamp Funworks” by Kevin McLeod
Used under the CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons license.

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We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.