July 26, 1974
By Steve Marcus
Philadelphia - Before the World Football League's largest crowd in its three-week history - 64,719 at JFK Stadium - the Stars finally managed to win their first game. Oddly, the help they needed came from a New Jersey yogurt salesman who five weeks ago was released from the Stars because he lacked experience.
Moses Lajterman, replacing injured placekicker Pete Rajecki, kicked a 40-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, giving the Stars a 17-15 victory over the Bell. It was, Lajterman said afterwards the most important kick of his short career with the Stars. "My heart was beating," the 21-year old graduate of Montclair State College said in the jubilant dressing room. "Everybody has to start from the bottom, someplace. I came from there and here I am tonight.
With the Stars trailing, 15-14, there was no reason to believe that head coach Babe Parilli would call upon Lajterman, who had not shown much in his kickoffs, continually giving the Bell good field position with short-range kicks. The Stars had nothing to lose, except the game, Parilli would later say, "So why not give the kid a chance,"
Lajterman's winning kick crossed the crossbar and touched down on the turf amid some of the younger fans who ran wildly about the stadium throughout the game. "I knew I kicked it right," he said, "The snap was a little wide, but [quarterback] Tom Sherman made a good recovery. I was just praying it would go through."
After Lajterman's field goal, the Stars came close to surrendering their lead as the Bell staged a late rally, twice coming within field-goal range but missing each attempt. The Bell's final field goal try, a 26-yarder by George Chatlos with one second remaining, sailed to the left of the goalpost, leaving Bell coach Ron Waller with a clenched fist banging against his side - and Lajterman, the unlikeliest hero.
"When I first got cut [by the Stars] I was very disappointed," Lajterman said. "It's easy to get down on yourself - and I did." Then the displaced kicker had a brief tryout with the Bell, "about an hour," according to a Bell spokesman. "He came on that field with black socks," the spokesman said. "How can you keep a guy like that?" He then quit football and returned to North Arlington, N.J., where he went to work for a yogurt company as a sales representative.
"I was hoping to get another chance," he said. But Parilli had said, "If you were a little better than Rajecki..." and at the time [during training camp] we were pretty even. I watched the first few games on television. Some of those [WFL] kickers...I knew I just had to have a place in this league. I have no animosity toward Philadelphia for cutting me, though. They thought their team was set."
Before Lajterman's field goal, the Stars seemed destined to lose another game by an assortment of mistakes including two fumbles. The Bell took a 7-0 lead at 4:33 of the first quarter on an 18-yard pass from King Corcoran to Claude Watts. Philadelphia converted the action point after three Stars' offsides with Corcoran diving in from the one-half yard line. "That could have been a big point," Lajterman said. It seemed to be as the Stars came back with a touchdown on a one-yard run by Dave Richards, but missed the action point.
Late in the third quarter, the Stars took s 14-8 lead as fullback Bob Gladieux, the Stars leading rusher with 74 yards, went over from the one-yard line for the Stars' second touchdown. Philadelphia regained the lead, 15-14, on a nine-yard scoring pass from Corcoran to LeVell Hill. That one-point seemed enough to many in the record-crowd (10,000 had free tickets), and they started filing out of the 90,000 capacity stadium.
For Lajterman, it was a chance to prove that he could kick a football - something Parilli and "a lot of other people thought I couldn't do." The kicker said he thought the big crowd probably had helped him. "I don't care if they boo or cheer," he said. It helps you play much better when there's some people around. And I liked being on national television. With the job I did, I hope they keep me."
Parilli was cautious in discussing Lajterman's future. He pointed out that Rajecki will be sidelined with bruised ribs at least two more weeks, but the German-born kicker does have what Parilli considers essential on rookie-dominated team - experience.
"That what I have going against me," Lajterman said. "I can't blame the Stars if they cut me again, but I think - I hope - I've proved something here. When I got a call from Parilli the other day I told my boss at work I was leaving. He said, "It's yogurt or football," that I couldn't come back if I was cut. I told him I'll take football."