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Wally Hilgenberg remembered

September 24, 2008 |  6:38 pm

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Wally Hilgenberg shown in an Aug. 6, 1973 file photo.Sports fans over 50 who grew up in Los Angeles are mourning the news that former Minnesota Vikings' linebacker Wally Hilgenberg died Tuesday at age 66 after a battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.

No L.A. Rams fan worth Rosey Grier's weight could properly assess the psychological damage of the cold-hearted playoff losses to the Vikings in the 1960s and '70s without evoking Hilgenberg's name.

We pay respects now, but back then we used only four-letter words to describe Hilgenberg.

His ice-chipped face was synonymous with Minnesota Vikings football back when the team was coached by Bud Grant and played in an outdoors stadium.

Don't we wish there was a Metrodome back then?

The lasting picture is of our Rams shivering in sub-zero temperatures, huddled next to sideline heaters that didn't work, waiting for inevitable defeat after a bad football bounce or a horrible official's call.

The lasting image of Hilgenberg will be him laughing in our faces, braving the cold without even wearing an undershirt.

Hilgenberg made a key interception in the Vikings' 1974 win over the Rams at Metropolitan Stadium, and the Rams would suffer other ignominous defeats on the frozen tundra. But we can't talk about the 1969 or 1976 games without the analyst present.

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