bad." says Schaedler, pulling on a cigarette and cracking open a beer. On a
scrub table set up in the family garage. Cleveland's once-white jerseys are
laid out like so many muddy tablecloths. It was not a good day for the Browns,
who lost an ugly game in the rain at home to the Oilers. It is not a good day
for the Schaedlers. The Browns bled a lot. They slid through a lot of fresh-cut
grass. Some toppled through the painted logo in the end zone. To make matters
worse, in an effort to combat days of rain the ground crew had put down an
organic substance not unlike Kitty Litter to dry the field. According to
Schaedler, the uniforms looked as if they had absorbed most of the water and
Kitty Litter, too.
be a four-soaker," Dick tells Sandy, who is filling buckets with water.
"Not too hot, not too cold, either." Into each bucket goes a cup of La
France ("removes stains bleach can't," says Dick), a cup of Axion
("detergent booster") and a cup of Miracle White ("advanced
formula"). These are called the nasty buckets, and even though their labels
say turkey gravy prep and chicken bouillon, each will actually hold four
"nasties"—the worst of the awful-looking jerseys.
"God, look at
[nosetackle Bob] Golic's shirt," mutters Dick. "He really played
today.... If the quarterback had stayed in the pocket, he'd a been cleaner....
The running backs got it bad on the shoulders again.... Of course, your
defensive linemen are always the worst."
Doing the laundry
for the Browns at home "has almost made me cry only twice," says Sandy,
a pretty blonde who looks more like a cheerleader than a washerwoman. "Once
was after a preseason game, when we suited up 95 players. The other time was a
Steelers game. It was mean and muddy. My friends who'd seen the game told me,
'Sandy, we thought of you the whole time. 'We had to hand scrub 27 of the
uniforms. But Pittsburgh is our biggest rival, and we beat them. That
While paint from
turf and helmet hits presents tricky washday problems, the greatest laundry
legends are mud related. First runner-up in laundry lore is the 1978 game
between the Rams and Vikings, which was played in drenching rain in Los
Angeles. "It's what we'll always call the Great Mud Bowl," recalls
Hewitt. "After the game I told my son, Todd, here—he's still my
assistant—'Strip to your shorts and haul that stuff into the showers and stand
there with it until you can see the clothes again.' That's what we did to get
the clothes to where you could wash them."
The worst game of
all time, however, turned the St. Louis Cardinals into human rinse cycles.
Recalls Atlanta's equipment man, Whitey Zimmerman, then with the Cardinals,
"It was 1962. We were playing the Giants at home. I can honestly say there
was a foot of water on the field, and under that was mud. When the players came
in at halftime, we couldn't even tell who they were. We sent them into the
showers, fully clothed. They came out a kind of gray color all over, but at
least they could see each other in the second half."
One of the nice
things about these tough guys who do other tough guys' laundry is that they
ignore the long hours and they pay attention to details. Browns equipment
assistant Bobby Glenn is usually in the door by 5 a.m. and doesn't leave until
evening. Like most NFL teams, Cleveland goes through an average of 600 pounds
of sweats, towels,* socks and jocks a day most of the year round. That number
peaks at 1,500 pounds during training camp and falls to 300 in the off-season.
Glenn, who's in his 30th year with the Browns, figures he has folded about a
million towels in his life. And when he demonstrates his technique, he's
At the Rams'
facility, Hewitt matches and folds the team's socks the way Mother would.
"The little ones belong to the kicker," says Hewitt, as he prepares one
of the 45 game bags. "These big 15's belong to [tackle Jackie] Slater. I
memorize every guy's idiosyncrasies. This guy likes two wristbands [in his game
bag], so I make sure he has them."
O-fer, the laundry room dog, wags his tail. "I picked him up from the
pound," says Hewitt. "They give the strays five days to find a home,
then it's off to the gas chamber. He was on his fourth day—'O-fer-four.' So I
took him, named him O-fer, and he's been here ever since."
Over at Hub's
laundry, the boss, Hub Maikowski, a retired high school football coach, is
sitting at his darning machine. Laundry worker Nancy Perri, Nick's wife, brings
over Slater's jersey. "Hub, looks like somebody put his hand right through
Slater," she says, pointing out five finger-shaped holes near the neck.
"I can save it," says Hub. pointing to his special-order, Rams-gold
thread perched on the darner. "You won't even see it when I'm