Posted by keithosaunders on January 14, 2016
In the meantime I’ve read a great book – The Glory Game – by former NY Giants running back, Frank Gifford about the 1958 NFL Championship game between the Giants and the Colts. This was the game that is considered to have put the NFL on the map on its way to sports supremacy.
Now talk about salaries: Most of these players were earning less than $10,000 a year – well less. Many of the players couldn’t afford their own apartments, doubling up in dorm like rooms in a Bronx Hotel a few blocks up from Yankee Stadium where they played their home games.
They played 12 game seasons. The league was divided into two conferences consisting of six teams. There were no playoffs! In 1958 the Giants finished in a tie with the Cleveland Browns so they, in fact, did have to play a playoff game which they won on a last second field goal by Pat Summerall. (yes, that Pat Summerall)
My father, who recently passed away, went to the Championship game with my Uncle Herb. It was played on December 28th at Yankee Stadium. They didn’t have tickets — they decided on the spur of the moment to go. Imagine a world in which you can take a subway to a stadium where a championship game is being played, walk up to the box office, and buy a ticket. That’s what they did. They probably paid $5.00. (incidentally, my best friend, who lives in the Bronx, tells of doing the same thing for the 1976 World Series between the Yankees and Reds)
The Giants started off shaky with sloppy offense and porous defense. Gifford, never known as a good ball handler, fumbled twice and as a result the Giants found themselves down 14-3 at the half. In the second half the Giants turned it around and took the lead 17-14. A late Giant drive stalled out at their own 40 and with 4th and inches and 2:30 to go in the game coach Jim Lee Howell elected to punt. A first down would have put effectively put the game away for the Giants.
After a punt the Colts took over on their own 14 and that’s all Unitas needed. He proceeded to engineer one of the great drives in NFL history, picking apart the tired New York defense. The drive ended in a 20 yard field goal as the clock expired in regulation forcing the very first overtime game in NFL history. No NFL game to that point had ever gone overtime. Don’t forget, up until the 1980s if a regular season game ended in a tie it was over. There was no sudden death overtime — there were ties. So when the clock ran out the players didn’t know what they were supposed to do!
The Giants won the coin toss and elected to receive. Don Maynard, who would later go on to win a Superbowl with the Jets, muffed the kickoff return but recovered his own fumble. Regardless, the Giants went 3 and out and punted. The Colts took over on their own 20 and once again Unitas put together an epic drive culminating in a Alan Ameche touchdown.
Some people consider this the greatest game ever played. All I know is that my Dad was there and that I have the program to prove it.