Story of the Week


    Alaska was admitted to the Union, the Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast, and the Baltimore Colts joined the exclusive list of football’s world champions. The year was 1958.

    With Johnny Unitas directing the attack, the Colts completed their five-year plan. They won their conference title, then met the New York Giants (who had to survive a playoff with the Cleveland Browns for the Eastern title) at Yankee Stadium for the NFL championship.

    Three days after Christmas, the Colts and Giants tensed through eight minutes of sudden-death overtime to a 23-17 Baltimore championship. This very game sold the nation, and just as important, the television networks, on pro football as the sports spectacle of the electronic generation.

    Many feel this was the greatest football game ever played. This was the one that turned America "en masse" onto football, thus paving the way for huge and ever-increasing television contracts.

    Only one week before this game, the NFL Commissioner, Bert Bell, had decreed that all future championship games tied after regulation play would be decided by a sudden-death overtime period. The first team scoring any points would be declared the winner. His timing was profound.

    The two participating teams were very strong, and deserved to be in this game. The Giants were led by Charley Conerly, Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote, Alex Webster, and a rock-hard defense. The Colts were led by Johnny Unitas, Ray Berry, Lenny Moore, Alan Ameche, and their own rock-hard defense.

    At the end of regulation, the score was tied, 17-17. For the first time in pro football history, a championship game would go into sudden-death. The Giants won the coin toss, and elected to receive. They could not move the ball, and had to punt. The Colts took over on their own 20. Mixing running plays with short passes, Unitas moved the Colts. He hit Ray Berry for a first down at the New York eight. And three plays later, Alan Ameche plunged the one final yard through a gaping hole for the winner.

    This article does not possibly do justice to that very memorable game. The Baltimore Colts and New York Giants, the thousands of fans at Yankee Stadium in attendance, and the millions of people who saw it on television were all part of history that day. The National Football League truly hit the big-time on December 28, 1958.

Last Week’s Trivia

    What is the "palpably unfair play" rule? In football, it occurs when a member of the opposing team leaves the sideline/bench, and interferes with or tackles a player apparently en route to a touchdown. A touchdown is awarded the tackled player. The most well-known violation of the rule took place in the 1954 Cotton Bowl when Alabama’s Tommy Lewis came off the bench to tackle Rice’s Dicky Moegle when he was in the clear. Rice was given the touchdown.

Trivia Question of the Week

    What is the record for most home runs hit by a major league team in one inning? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.