“The brothers Namath were grim taskmasters,” writes biographer Mark Kriegel. They wanted to make sure their younger brother’s athletic gifts didn’t go to waste.
Each brother was responsible for teaching the next. Sonny, a GI fighting in Korea, had tutored Bobby. Bobby, both sandlot wizard and quarterback, worked with Joey from age six, showing the little guy how to grip a football and how not to wind up, but to throw from his ear.
“He taught me how to get rid of the ball fast,” recalls Namath, renowned during his NFL career for his quick release in the face of pass-rushers.
But it was the physical pounding that hardened Joe to pain: pain he would have to endure later as a gimpy-kneed NFL quarterback. Before long, Frank joined Bobby in drilling the kid.
“All the brothers were tough on [Joe],” says a junior high friend of Namath’s, “but Frank was really tough.”
Frank, who played catcher in high school and earned a $20,000 offer from Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, had a gun for an arm, and he aimed it at nine-year-old Joey. Frank would give him a mitt and start smoking them. Joe caught everything.
“If I didn’t,” Namath says now, “he’d have killed me.”
“They put a lot of pressure on Joe,” recalls Namath’s best friend, Linwood Alford. “They made sure he got it right.”
— Adapted from Namath, Mark Kriegel, Viking.