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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Chris Hanburger and "The Hangman"

By Dan Steinberg

(1971 AP photo by Fred Jewell.)


With just a few weeks left until the Pro Football Hall of Fame voter people decide whether or not Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger will make the cut, I figure it's time to get out in front of the Hanburger retrospectives by being the first person to write about his nickname this year. (Previously: Snyder supports Hanburger's candidacy, Hanburger gets nominated by the veteran's committee.)

"The Hangman" is pretty solid, as NFL nicknames go, and yet The Post's archives are very little help. In fact, a 1972 story reported that Hanburger's nickname was "Grumpy," which is not at all great. In the same year, The Post reported that Hanburger was the team's most popular player with fans, ahead of Billy Kilmer and Larry Brown. But the only Hangman thing I could find from his career came in 1968, as part of a Bob Addie column about the team's annual Welcome Home Luncheon.

The event was held at the Shoreham Hotel, the capacity crowd was fed "a fine piece of veal," Edward Bennett Williams got a standing ovation, everyone sang "Hail to the Redskins," and Coach Otto Graham took the mic.

Coach Otto Graham was at his wise-cracking best in introducing the players and there must be many inside jokes on the squad because the players laughed appreciatively at Graham's asides. He revealed such hitherto unknown nicknames as "Super-Kraut" (Carl Kammerer), "The Hangman" (Chris Hanburger), "Peaches" (Pete Larson), "Chubs" (Martin McKeever), "Body Beautiful" (Joe Rutgens), "The Screamer" (Pat Fischer) and "Pineapple Pete" (Ray Schoenke)."

Jeez, he said a mouthful. Were I alive and blogging in 1968, that would have kept me busy for weeks. Anyhow, Wikipedia says the nickname came from Hanburger's penchant for clothesline tackles, thought there's very little about that in the archives, either. Though I did stumble upon this fairly beautiful passage from a 1992 Steve Coll feature about growing up with the Redskins. He's talking about driving home from Skins games.

We sat slumped in the blackness, glancing up at D.C. street signs marking obscure corners of the alphabet, listening on the radio to linebacker Chris Hanburger's locker room report -- a mournful dirge of muttered regret if the Redskins had lost, or a boisterous lark of rapid-fire platitudes if the Redskins had won. In between came Hanburger's relentless, stumbling recitations of the virtues of Koons Ford, the automobile dealership that sponsored his show.

Hanburger was one of the big heroes out at the Boys Club, primarily because of his reputation for tackling opponents viciously around the neck, "clothesline" style. Between scrimmages, we liked to practice his technique on one another for kicks. Commuting home from the Grand Temple on Sundays, hoarse and exhausted, we listened intently to this exalted breaker of necks and hawker of wide-bodied cars, searching for clues to the mysteries of adulthood.

So somehow, The Post has only referenced "The Hangman" thing twice, and yet fans seem to uniformly know Hangman by this moniker. Clearly, I need to ask him about this at sometime.

By Dan Steinberg  | January 12, 2011; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Comments

Congrats Chris!

Posted by: Hattrik | January 12, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Chris Hanburger was competitive and all about winning. I watched him on the field and he was ferocious. He also played with the Washington Redskins basketball team. I was about ten years old at the time (1966) and Sonny Jurgensen, Pat Fisher (I think) and Brig Owens (I think), also played on the team. Hanburger would not often talk to the fans. He saved all his energy and focused on the opponent. George Allen teams brought notoriety to Hanburger after the previous seasons which he played great, but the Skins were not nationally well known. His stats and stature deserve a spot in the HOF. He was a beast, playing against beast, real men who loved the game and backed down from no one.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | January 12, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Chris Hanburger was competitive and all about winning. I watched him on the field and he was ferocious. He also played with the Washington Redskins basketball team. I was about ten years old at the time (1966) and Sonny Jurgensen, Pat Fisher (I think) and Brig Owens (I think), also played on the team. Hanburger would not often talk to the fans. He saved all his energy and focused on the opponent. George Allen teams brought notoriety to Hanburger after the previous seasons which he played great, but the Skins were not nationally well known. His stats and stature deserve a spot in the HOF. He was a beast, playing against beast, real men who loved the game and backed down from no one.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | January 12, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Chris Hanburger was competitive and all about winning. I watched him on the field and he was ferocious. He also played with the Washington Redskins basketball team. I was about ten years old at the time (1966) and Sonny Jurgensen, Pat Fisher (I think) and Brig Owens (I think), also played on the team. Hanburger would not often talk to the fans. He saved all his energy and focused on the opponent. George Allen teams brought notoriety to Hanburger after the previous seasons which he played great, but the Skins were not nationally well known. His stats and stature deserve a spot in the HOF. He was a beast, playing against beast, real men who loved the game and backed down from no one.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | January 12, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I remember a particular game that CH played against a rookie QB. CH was calling the defensive plays on the field, and the QB was calling audibles at the line of scrimmage in reaction to the defensive setup. The color guy in the broadcast booth said,"Folks, you won't see this very often; Chris Hanburger is calling the offensive plays".

Posted by: fitzge | January 13, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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