If you don’t know what happened in the second inning yesterday as the Dodgers were batting against the Mets, you’re not fans anyway, so no need for me to detail it. Suffice it to state that Rich Donnelly is now a household name; he’s the Dodgers’ third base coach who should be a beer vendor instead. Teammates Jeff Kent and J. D. Drew were both late for their meeting at home plate. And what was Drew thinking rear-ending Kent; he has to know Kent is slower than a pregnant turtle?! The most surprised guy on the play was Paul Lo Duca. That Little League play cost the Dodgers the game!
Story of the Week
THE MIRACLE AT THE MEADOWLANDS
“The Miracle at the Meadowlands” is the term used by sportscasters for a fumble recovery by Philadelphia cornerback Herman Edwards that he returned for a touchdown at the end of a November 19, 1978 NFL game against the Giants in Giants Stadium. It was seen as miraculous because it occurred at a point in the game when it should have been all over. The Giants had the ball and the Eagles had no timeouts left. Everyone watching expected quarterback Joe Pisarcik to take one more snap and kneel with the ball, thus running out the clock and preserving a 17-12 Giants upset. Instead, he attempted to hand it off to fullback Larry Csonka, but botched it, allowing Edwards to pick up the ball and run 29 yards for the winning score. Now for the rest of the story, compliments of Wikipedia along with my own editorials.
Coming into the game, the Giants were 5-6. A three-game losing streak on the road had made the team's playoff picture much dimmer since midseason. But a win at home against the favored Eagles could, the team hoped, reverse the trend and keep alive an outside shot at a playoff spot. Despite the team's storied past, the Giants had not played in the postseason since 1963. The move to New Jersey had alienated some longtime fans, even if it made more seats available.
The week before the game, players, particularly on offense, had complained to reporters about the team's assistant coaches. Head coach John McVay was popular with them since he had taken over the Giants in the middle of the 1976 season after Bill Arnsparger was fired. However, the players were not so enthusiastic about many of the longtime friends McVay had hired as assistants. Offensive coordinator Bob Gibson was the most frequent source of complaint. He had taken to the relatively new practice (now more common) of spending the game in the press box and calling all the plays. QB Joe Pisarcik had squabbled with him about this, sometimes openly, over the past two seasons. And the offensive unit in general questioned the play calls of Gibson as being far too run-oriented.
At 6-5, things looked a little more promising for the visiting Eagles. The two-game win streak they took into the game had gotten them over .500. Momentum was clearly on their side, and the Giants had not beaten the Eagles since the opening game of the 1975 season.
The Giants' players rose to the challenge. Two early Pisarcik touchdown passes gave them a commanding lead, which they extended with a field goal in the second half. The Eagles, conversely, struggled, missing one of their extra point attempts and botching the snap on the other. As a result they would have to play for a touchdown to win the game outright as it wound down, instead of having the option of forcing overtime with a field goal.
Deep in their own territory, the Giants' Doug Kotar fumbled late in the fourth quarter, raising hopes (or fears) of a comeback by the visitors. Those were quickly put to rest, however, when rookie defensive back Odis McKinney's first NFL interception set up the Giants possession after the two-minute warning. The Eagles had exhausted all their timeouts by this point.
Fans in the stands began heading for the exits as the conventions of football assured there would be nothing left to see, and no remaining danger of an Eagles victory. Teams in this situation traditionally let the play clock run down to the last possible second and have the quarterback take a knee, which is not very exciting to watch. Joining them in giving up on the game on the sidelines was a disgusted Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, who was turning his attention away from the field and towards the post-game press conference where he would have to explain to reporters why his team had fallen to an inferior opponent. The Giants faced third down and 2 yards to go with 31 seconds left. Since the play clock then was only 30 seconds, just one more snap was required.
What happened on second down is directly responsible for what happened on third. After a running play on first down, Pisarcik kneeled on second. Eagles middle linebacker Bill Bergey had charged into Giants' center Jim Clack, knocking him backward into Pisarcik in a desperate attempt to force a fumble. In these situations, defensive players usually don't rush too strongly. Any breach of this tacit agreement is considered a provocation by offensive players, particularly offensive linemen whose job it is to protect their quarterback.
Gibson didn't want to expose his quarterback to further risk of injury (he had already taken some major hits earlier in the season), his players to fines for violating the league's rules against fighting or, most importantly, his team to a penalty which could stop the clock and require that they actually have to earn another first down to secure the win. Gibson also shared a dislike of the kneeling play; he considered it unsporting and somewhat dishonorable. (Hard to believe, but it’s all true!) So he called for Larry Csonka to take it up the middle to end the game.
In the huddle, the Giants were incredulous. "Don't give me the ball," the former Dolphins' star begged. Other players asked Pisarcik to change the play, but he demurred. The coach had berated him for changing a play the week before, and threatened to have him waived if he ever did so again. So the Giants QB did what he was told to do by his boss; it was not Pisarcik’s decision to run that absolutely ridiculous play.
Pisarcik, who at the time was distracted making sure Csonka was in position, nevertheless held on to the ball after a slight bobble and tried to hand it off to the running back. Instead, he hit him on the hip with it and the ball came loose. It found Herman Edwards' hands with its first bounce. Once Edwards got it, it was an easy 26-yard sprint to the end zone and a 19-17 Eagles victory.
Gibson was fired the next morning. So great was the stigma of having called the play that he never worked in football at any level again. He soon bought a fishing bait shop in Florida, none too soon for Giants fans.
Last Week’s Trivia
Montreal’s great Maurice “Rocket” Richard got his 50th. goal in the ’44-’45 season during his 50th. game. He was the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a single season.
Trivia Question of the Week
What fighter had the most knockout victories in his pro career? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.