A Game for the Ages – The Greatest Game Ever Played
Has there ever been a game that has changed the foundation of a sport? Professional football was on the rise in the 1950s, and much of the popularity can be traced back to a single game. Football historians refer to the 1958 NFL Championship as the “Greatest Game Ever Played”. The ’58 Championship game was an American football game played between the Baltimore Colts, and New York Giants in Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York to decide the champion of the 1958 NFL season.
The ’58 championship game was the first championship game to go into sudden death overtime at that point in history. Which is one of the many reasons why it’s referred to as the “Greatest Game Ever Played”. This game played in Yankee Stadium contained a capacity of a little more than 64,000 and millions watching on TV in the United States. The Giants and the Colts finished the season with a 9-3 record. Which made this match up what the nation wanted.
The Hall of Fame talent on the field during this game was immaculate. 17 individuals made the Hall of Fame from this game. Just to name a few from the Colts side. Quarterback Johnny Unitas who historians refer to as the best quarterback to ever play. Wide Receiver Raymond Berry who had 12 catches for 178 yards in the game. His 12 receptions was a championship game record that stood for 55 years. Finally, defensive tackle Gino Marchetti who was one of the best pass rushers in the league during this time. A few Hall of Famers on the Giants sideline had linebacker Sam Huff who was a prominent figure in the colossal market of New York City at the time. Offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi, a monumental coach who would go on to coach the Green Bay Packers and win five championships including the first two Super Bowls. His impact on the game of football was so vital, that the Super Bowl trophy is named after him the “Vince Lombardi Trophy”. Lastly defensive coordinator Tom Landry, Landry went on to coach the Dallas Cowboys and leading the franchise to two Super Bowl victories in 1971 and 1977.
In the game with the score 17-14 in the 4th quarter Colts QB Johnny Unitas conducted a drive to tie the game at 17. This drive forced the game to go into overtime. Unitas had no idea what an overtime game was so he said, “We’ll just play until we win”. In overtime the Giants won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first but they will soon punt after three plays. Now when the Colts obtained the ball Unitas orchestrated another methodical drive 80 yards on 13 plays. One of the most famous plays in league history came at the end of the drive when Colts running back Alan Ameche, plunged for a one yard touchdown run to give the Colts a 23-17 win in overtime.
Although the Giants were the home team fans rushed the field to congratulate and applaud the Colts for the win and the Giants for an outstanding football game. In conclusion, this game captivated the collective attention of the nation and as a result pro football exploded throughout the U.S. By the 1960s pro football became America’s favorite sport and has been on top ever since. How fitting is it that the first nationally televised championship game goes into overtime. This was the day pro football came of age. The game was so extraordinary that a Texas billionaire named Lamar Hunt formed the American Football League, a league that would rival the NFL throughout the 60s and eventually merging with the NFL to become the American Football Conference in 1970.
The game was labeled as the Greatest Ever but was it really? The game was very sloppy and had many lackadaisical plays on the field. Six lost fumbles, many missed field goals and conservative play-calling by the two coaches. 59 years have past since this game was played and there have been many outstanding NFL games since then but this game is the most influencing. Due to the ramifications moving forward pro football was put on the American lexicon because of this game.