New York Times

July 18, 1974

By Murry Chass

Stars Lose 29-3 Lead and Bow, 32-29, Here

With the palomino gold and international orange lost in the basic black of the New York night, the Stars squandered a 26 point half-time lead last night, and dropped a stunning 32-29 decision to the Birmingham Americans and George Mira in their World Football League home opener.

Mira, an 11-year pro whose offense in the first half apparently was lost somewhere in the traffic jam outside Downing Stadium or in the stadium's poor lights, came sparklingly alive in the second half.

The ex-National and Canadian League player ran for one touchdown and passed for three others, the last a 73-yard play to Dennis Homan that wiped out the Stars' 29-25 lead with 2 minutes 15 seconds left.

The Stars, who scored all their points in the first half while outgaining the Americans, 315 yards to 10 and 18 first downs to none, tried valiantly to pull out a tie in the final minutes that would've sent the game into a one-quarter overtime.

Bu Pete Rajecki, who earlier kicked field goals of 20 and 38 yards en route to the 29-3 half-time advantage, booted the football about 5 yards wide to the right on his 35-yard attempt with 36 seconds left.

The outcome probably wasn't as disappointing to the crowd of 17,943 (16,743 paying) as the poor lighting because most of them probably came more out of curiosity than out of devotion to the home team.

Sitting in the dumpy Randall Island stadium beneath the Triborough Bridge, the fans had difficulty following the ball and the plays at times in the lighting that seemed less luminous than the collection of movie marquees on 42nd Street.

The lighting system was supposed to have been improved for the opener, but the work encountered delays. Thus, the teams were left to play under the eight existing light standards with 40 lamps each. Compounding the problem, though, was the fact only 82 percent of the lamps were working.

The Americans denied that the lights were any more troublesome for them than the Stars in the first half. They simply made mistakes and couldn't keep Tom Sherman and the Stars from running all over them.

Sherman set up the first touchdown with two consecutive passes to Dave Richards and George Sauer totaling 47 yards to the 1-yard line from where the quarterback scored on a rollout.

Then on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Gerry Philbin stole the ball from Denny Duron, who was trying to pass at Birmingham's 23, and the Stars moved in for another touchdown with less than seven minutes gone.

That's the way the first half went; the second went exactly the opposite.

"The guys knew what they had to do," Mira said. "We eliminated the mistakes and made the big plays."

"We had the opportunities in the second half," said a downcast Babe Parilli, the Stars' coach, "but we didn't take advantage of them. We could've put it out of reach."

In the third quarter, Mira threw touchdown passes of 20 yards (on fourth-and-13) to Ted Powell and 4 yards to Alfred Jenkins. Then early in the fourth period, Mira rolled out for a 1-yard score after Wendell Wilson was called for pass interference.

That last touchdown sliced the Stars' lead to 29-25, but they still appeared as if they could hold on for their victory. However, after a New York punt, Mira dropped back from his 23 on a "Z-crack go" play fired to Homan.

The ex-Dallas Cowboy and Kansas City Chief darted between Wilson, at cornerback, at safety, snared the ball at the New York 38 and dashed in for the winning score.

"I was able so wide open," the wide receiver said, "the first thing I had to do was make sure I caught the ball. When I looked around I couldn't see anybody."

That's probably how the fans felt at times throughout the game.