Little League Ledger Lets Loose Cascade Of Memories

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Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

You were expecting Joe Klecko? So was I when I started this project. Klecko would be an easy, popular choicea commonly cited Hall of Fame "snub" who is frequently the subject of fan petitions and other campaigns. The Seniors Committee should get to Klecko in the next few years, and I will applaud his selection.

But consider this…

Klecko and Abdul Salaam became full-time Jets starters in 1978. Marty Lyons joined them in 1979; that's three-fourths of the New York Sack Exchange. Gastineau joined the mix as a starter in 1980.

We don't have official player sacks before 1982, but we have team sacks. The Jets recorded 22 sacks in 1978, a very low total. They recorded 22 more in 1979 and 28 in 1980. Then, suddenly, the Jets produced 66 sacks in 1981. It was widely reported that Klecko recorded 20.5 sacks that season, Gastineau 20. Sacks became an official stat in 1982 in part because of the excitement surrounding the 1981 Jets defense; there's nothing like the attention of the New York media to stimulate demand.

Klecko never approached double-digit sacks again, though he had several other excellent seasons, including an All-Pro selection in 1985. A Jets blog credited Klecko with 96 tackles as a nose tackle (the Jets kept switching from 4-3 to 3-4) that season. But if you know anything about the history of tackle statistics, you know that: a) nose tackles don't record 96 tackles, even if they are Hall of Famers; and b) the Jets media guides had a habit of extreme number fudging that dated back to popular 1960s linebacker Wahoo McDaniel. Not to take anything away from Klecko, but his best years are backed up by lots of phantom stats.

Gastineau's best years, meanwhile, are backed up by real stats: 19 sacks in 1983, 22 (the record for 17 years) in 1984, plus three All-Pro selections, and the UPI's Defensive Player of the Year award in 1984. The big Sack Exchange sack years were essentially big Gastineau sack years, with Klecko and Lyons (and others) pitching in here and there.

Gastineau was also famous and loved it, which was part of his problem. Gastineau invented the sack dance, which was an easy way to get old-school writers to turn on him. He partied (and got arrested) at Studio 54, canoodled with Brigitte Nielsen and gave the tabloids plenty of "selfish showboater" grist. Klecko, meanwhile, made cameos in Burt Reynolds movies, and everybody loved Burt Reynolds movies.

Gastineau recorded 1.5 sacks against the Browns in the 1986 playoffs, but he also got flagged for roughing on a 2nd-and-24 incompletion that gave Bernie Kosar the chance to spark a comeback. The call was controversial, but Gastineau's reputation was not going to earn him any breaks with the refs, and he wasn't going to win many public opinion polls after the Jets lost the game.

So let's see. We have a player who joins three established starters and suddenly triples the team's sack total, sparking a sensation that leads to an actual change in the way statistics are tabulated. He then invents the sack celebration, which we all loathe, unless J.J. Watt is doing it, and then it is cool for some reason. He dominates the league for four years and sets a sack record that lasts for a generation.

There are good reasons why Gastineau is not in the Hall of Fame—his peak was short, the roughing call turned his signature game into a negative, and he has owned up to being something of a nitwit in his best yearsbut there are also good reasons to give him a second look and unpack a little of his legacy from that early-80s box full of leg warmers and Atari 2600 cartridges.

Maybe Klecko was the better player: He was a much better run defender, more dependable, and so on. But when it came to the Sack Exchange, let's be honest about who really rang the bell.

This is source I found from another site, main source you can find in last paragraph

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