Cornerback Mel Blount's No. 47 jersey was the Pittsburgh Steelers' going-away present to Writer Roy Blount Jr. at the end of the 1973 season. Roy had just spent almost six months with the Steelers—from training camp through the plane ride that brought them back from their losing playoff game in Oakland—in order to do a book about them. The extraordinary result, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load, will be published in October by Little, Brown. We present the second of three excerpts from it on page 22 of this issue.
Six months of loafing (an old Pittsburgh expression for hanging out) with the Steeiers brought Blount closer to them than he had anticipated. "Roy got to be one of the family," says Art Rooney Sr.,the club's 73-year-old founding father. "He became more than a writer," says Defensive End Craig Hanneman, "he became a friend." Mean Joe Greene, the star defensive tackle, says, "Usually the only people who get very close to the team are the local press, but I think Roy got even closer than them."
Center Ray Mansfield recalls, "He had a habit of asking questions when you least expected it. We went to a rock-and-roll revival and during the intermission he was asking questions. I remember once a guy shaking his head and saying, 'Why did I tell him that?'"
"He was a great listener, as I guess all good writers are," says Quarterback Terry Hanratty. "You forgot he was there doing a book."
As a member of the family Blount shared in the basic Steeler pastimes—drinking Iron City beer, playing liar dice and riding each other. Guard Bruce Van Dyke gleefully recalls that halfway through the season Blount began joining the team in its practices. "He'd throw some of his lame-duck passes," Van Dyke says, "and he'd jog a bit, just messing around and feeling like he was an athlete. Well, Ed Kiely, our publicity man, works out a lot. He's got 15 or 20 years on Roy, but he's in shape. Kiely challenged Roy to a footrace, and he beat him. Roy never put on sweats again."
Even though he has heard it all before Blount still howls in protest. "That's not true! I wasn't racing Kiely. We were just crossing the field!"
Mansfield's wife Janet said, after reading a Blount story in SI, "He has a knack for making ordinary people look ordinary." Mansfield agrees, adding, "It's easy to write about superstars, but there are a lot of ordinary people on the Steelers."
Roger Kahn, whose memoir of Ebbets Field accompanies Robert Weaver's paintings of the Brooklyn landmark that was razed in 1960 (page 34), was a member of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S staff in our first year of publication. He is now sports columnist for Esquire and is the author of several books, notably The Boys of Summer.