The Big Cat at the Big Eat

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Golden West Eating Classic

Golden West Eating Classic

In a fun reminiscence for The San Diego Union-Tribune, columnist Logan Jenkins detailed a great story about the Golden West Eating Classic which was held to raise money for Children’s Hospital in 1963.  Famed Charger eater and defensive lineman Ernie Ladd faced Nick Cordileone, “a genial 48-year-old, 270-pound fisherman known up and down the Pacific as the most prodigious eater of the tuna fleet.”

The event was organized by a who’s who in San Diego, and emceed by a young television man by the name of Regis Philbin.


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Chargers players supporting their teammate!

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The competition is underway.

Ernie Ladd eating contest

Ernie Ladd receives his trophy.

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Victorious Ernie Ladd being led away on the shoulders of his fans.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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2 Responses to The Big Cat at the Big Eat

  1. Eddie Arminio says:

    Without a time lime limit, Big Cat would have destroyed Joey Chestnut.

  2. afl says:

    Ernie Ladd also stood out otherwise: not only did he eventually wear jersey # 99, the biggest in pro football, his 1967 ‘Topps Football’ card listed him as having a 19″ neck, 52″ chest and 20″ bicep. If he appeared to weigh < 300 lbs. (the 295 listed must've been pre-breakfast on picture day) it was likely because most big guys his day were not as tall… or hungry.

    Viewing the eating competition pictures this article reminded me of a former Ladd teammate & fellow giant Buck Buchanan. Buck told how Ladd went to an 'all you can eat' di$count special at an Kansas City area restaurant three days in a row… on the fourth day, the sign was gone/had been removed.

    Former Patriots C Jon Morris described Ernie in terms of physical size: "he was so big, he blocked out the sun. It was dark – I couldn’t see the linebackers. I couldn’t see the goalposts. It was like being locked in a closet".

    Had Ladd's knees held up and his (reportedly) taking plays off afield matched his desire excel at the dinner plate, might've ended up in the 'Hall of Fame' because he had all the 'measurables' you could ask for.

    Always find this 1967 picture 6'9 300+ lb. Ladd 'resting' his arm on his Chiefs teammate Noland 'Supergnat' Smith's 5'6 154 lb. self humorous:

    Or this one, featuring 1963 AFL All Stars: the guy at the far left is the Chiefs Jim Tyrer, a mere 6'6 292 lb. (reported), who appears lilliputian to a far right side Ladd #77.

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