Originally published in The Washington Teamster, date unknown [most likely 1984]
By Ed Donohoe
“My dad was self-educated and insisted that all the kids received the best education possible. He was a voracious reader—read everything he could lay his hands on. Mom, God rest her soul, was just the opposite. She was old-fashioned in her ways. She really fractured the king’s English. She called sugar diabetes ‘sugar-by-Jesus.’ They were great people.”
This was Diamond Joe Paglia talking, always to a small cluster of friends, in a bistro maybe noted for its good Italian food and passable grape; with that perpetual smile on his face, daring you to top him on any subject. Joe could go all night and never miss a beat.
Joe’s big heart stopped the other day at 73, in Renton, a stone’s throw away from Black Diamond, whence the name Diamond Joe—kicker of coffin-cornered footballs. He achieved nationwide notoriety in this sport for his artistry at Santa Clara University, which today plays the game at reduced prices, if at all. Diamond Joe ushered in big-time football in what is known today as Silicon Valley, mainly as a player who could take punishment—his games against St. Mary’s Gaels in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium were collegiate football’s answer to the war between the states. Clipper Smith against Slip Madigan … Diamond Joe against Angel Brovelli … blood on the Golden Gate.
I met Joe in the lobby of Seattle’s Vance Hotel in the waning days of August 1938. He was recruiting his football team at St. Martin’s College, his third season in Lacey, Washington, almost totally unknown in the sporting world. He wanted me to be the press agent.
“You’d better be good,” he said, smiling—always that smile. “I’m giving up a tackle for you.”
In other words, he had 18 rides (scholarships including room, board, and tuition), and he was already a player short for the likes of Pacific Lutheran, Western Washington, and the newest rival, Portland U’s Pilots, who had caught the Gaels in an off-moment and had laid the wood to them.
Ours was a perfect marriage as Joe envisioned the relationship. “You can write anything you want, just let me know ahead of time whether I should answer or duck,” he said, smiling. “There was this press guy in San Francisco who did the publicity for Painless Parker, the advertising dentist. Not the one up here; his name was ‘Scoop’ Gleason. The theory was, ‘I don’t care what you say as long as you get the name right.’ I think I’ll call you Scoop.”
Fortunately, the handle (ugh) went by the boards. It was nothing like Diamond Joe—the coffin corner kicker.