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Niners' Hall of Fame tackle Bob St. Clair dies at 84

San Francisco 49ersHall of Fame offensive tackle Bob St. Clair died Monday night following a brief illness, the Pro Football Hall of Fame told NFL Media. He was 84 years old.

A Bay Area legend, St. Clair teamed with fellow NFL Hall of Famers Ollie Matson and Gino Marchetti on Joe Kuharich's fabled University of San Francisco Dons squad that went undefeated in 1951.

Drafted by his hometown 49ers in 1953, St. Clair emerged as one of the decade's top linemen, earning first- or second-team All-NFL honors nine times. He was also selected to five Pro Bowls and served as 49ers' captain from 1957 through 1959.

St. Clair was elected to the Hall of Fame 27 years after his retirement, when voters belatedly realized there must have been somebody blocking for the 49ers' famed "Million Dollar Backfield" of Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

Beyond his impressive blocking ability, the 6-foot-9 St. Clair was perhaps the most effective kick-blocking specialist in NFL history, notching an incredible 10 in 1956 alone.

One of many color characters in pro football's most violent era, St. Clair once lost five teeth when he discarded blockers so quickly that he ended up with a mouthful of Norm Van Brocklin's foot.

"I went over to the sideline," St. Clair told the 49ers' official website, "and they shoved cotton in my mouth until it got so bad I had to take Novocain, but I kept playing."

Guard Bruno Banducci, a rookie-year teammate, christened St. Clair "The Geek," a nickname that reflected the behemoth tackle's unusual eating habits.

"He came up with that name because there was a film where there was a character in a movie called, 'The Geek,'" St. Clair said. "They put him in a cage and fed him live animals."

St. Clair once explained that he developed a taste for raw meat because his Yaqui Indian grandmother fed him blood gravy and bits of raw beef when he was a child.

As St. Clair's career was winding down, his 1961 Pro Bowl selection was overshadowed by his political career. He spent a term as mayor of Daly City, California from 1961-1962 and later served on city council.

He was forced to hang up his spikes in 1964 after suffering a second torn Achilles' tendon in two years.

By the turn of the century, St. Clair was recognized as one of San Francisco's most legendary sports figures.

The field at Golden Gate Park's Kezar Stadium, where the 49ers played from 1946 through 1970, was renamed Bob St. Clair Field in 2001.

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