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THE BALLAD of Big Daddy
William Nack
January 11, 1999
Big Daddy Lipscomb, whose size and speed revolutionized the defensive lineman's position in the late '50s, was a man of insatiable appetites: for women, liquor and, apparently, drugs
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January 11, 1999

The Ballad Of Big Daddy

Big Daddy Lipscomb, whose size and speed revolutionized the defensive lineman's position in the late '50s, was a man of insatiable appetites: for women, liquor and, apparently, drugs

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Lipscomb's supporters believe that the heroin found in his body has denied him what they think is rightfully his: a place in the Hall of Fame. "But I doubt he ever will be," Marchetti says. "What they said about him with drugs may be held against him."

How good was he? "Big Daddy was in the same category as [Hall of Famers] Merlin Olsen and Bob Lilly," says John Wooten, the former guard with the Cleveland Browns and now assistant director of college and pro football personnel for the Baltimore Ravens. "He could devastate an offense by himself." Compared with players today? "Big Daddy was better than Leon Lett when Lett is at his best," Wooten says, referring to the 6'6", 300-pound Dallas Cowboys tackle. "Lett doesn't have the lateral movement Big Daddy had. And I don't think he's as mean."

Nor anywhere as earthy or evocative. One thousand people were at Lipscomb's funeral in Detroit, and symbols of the life he had led surrounded the gravesite in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. There were those eight great football players—Erich Barnes, John Henry Johnson, Dick (Night Train) Lane, Moore, Owens, Jim Parker, Plunkett and Sample—carrying the coffin draped in the U.S. flag, a reminder of Lipscomb's service in the Marine Corps. There were his friends from Black Bottom. And there were all those honeys, at least one fiancée wearing a ring and two others claiming they were engaged to Big Daddy.

"They were around there screaming and hollering, 'What are we gonna do without him?' " says Geraldine Young.

Big Daddy Lipscomb, being carried down an aisle
Of Women by Night Train Lane, John Henry Johnson,
And Lenny Moore; Big Daddy, his three ex-wives,
His fiancée, and the grandfather who raised him
Going to his grave in five big Cadillacs...
Say Good-bye to Big Daddy

The Preacher said, "He did some good, he did some wrong..."

A spring wind rustled in the trees, whispering, Amen to that.

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