New football history book sets the records straight


November 25, 1990|By VITO STELLINO

When Lance Alworth of the San Diego Chargers caught a pass in his 96th consecutive game in 1969 to "break" Don Hutson's 24-year-old record, Hutson was on hand to congratulate him.

It was a passing of the baton from a past Hall of Fame receiver (Hutson starred for the Green Bay Packers) to a future Hall of Famer.

There was only one problem with the scene.

Hutson didn't catch a pass in 95 consecutive games. He was blanked in the 41st game of the streak in 1941, although even Hutson apparently didn't realize that. The real record of 93 straight games was set by Bobby Joe Conrad of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Nobody knew Hutson's place in the record books was bogus until two Washington writers, Dan Daly and Bob O'Donnell, did the research for their new book, "The Pro Football Chronicle."

Published by Collier Books/Macmillan Publishing Co., the 358-page book is a must on every football fan's Christmas list.

It's a decade-by-decade chronicle of the history of pro football, .. although the book downplays the word "history." After all, history isn't a popular subject these days.

But this is history told in interesting anecdotes.

Among the many anecdotes is the one when George Preston Marshall, founder of the Washington Redskins, was being heckled by a fan during the team's famous 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 championship game. Marshall got his seat number and refused to let him renew his season-ticket requests.

That's not the end of the story. The fan owned the building that housed one of Marshall's laundry stores. He refused to renew Marshall's lease and evicted him.

The book also includes such things as the charts of some of the races Art Rooney, the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers, bet on when he made his 1937 killing at the racetracks and the inside story on the making of the TV show, "The Violent World of Sam Huff," and the attempt to rig the 1946 title game.

For Baltimore fans who still savor the old Colts days, the book is a treasure.

It includes the play-by-play of the overtime drive in the 1958 title game, a look at how Barry Levinson was a bit unfair on his questions about the Colts in the movie "Diner" and the game-by-game stats for the careers of John Unitas, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore and Lydell Mitchell. The best seasons of Joe Washington and John Mackey are included.

There's even the original report from The Pittsburgh Press on Sept. 6, 1955 when the Steelers cut a player named "Jack Unitas." His release was so inconsequential that he was the third of five players listed.

At $16.95, the book is a bargain for football fans who are curious about how the game evolved into the game it is today.


At ABC-TV today, executives will have their fingers crossed.

They'll be rooting for the New York Giants to beat the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers to beat the Los Angeles Rams, so next Monday night's game between the 49ers and Giants will be the first matchup of 11-0 teams in league


That would make it the biggest Monday night game since the Miami Dolphins upset Chicago in 1985 to spoil the Bears' bid for a perfect season.

Miami was the only team in NFL history to post a perfect season, going 17-0 in 1972. The Cleveland Browns had a 15-0 season in 1948 in the All-America Conference, but the NFL doesn't count that, although the Browns were good enough to win the NFL title in their first year in the league in 1950.

The strange thing is that neither the 49ers nor the Giants appear to be one of the league's great teams. Neither is an awesome team and both have had several close calls. But what counts is that they're both 10-0.


When the Eagles take on the Giants today, they've got a streak going. They've knocked out the starting quarterback for three straight games.

The Eagles have knocked out Steve Grogan of the New England Patriots, Jeff Rutledge of the Washington Redskins and Chris Miller of the Atlanta Falcons. They also had a two-fer against Washington because they knocked out Stan Humphries after Rutledge left.

Giants coach Bill Parcells, who says he doesn't expect to go jTC undefeated, said he can't let all this affect his game plan for quarterback Phil Simms.

"I mean I can't cancel the game," Parcells said. "I've got to play it, right? They can pressure the quarterback, but you don't go in worrying about what is going to happen to people."


Bears coach Mike Ditka became quite emotional last week talking about Becky Bell, who died of cancer at age 11.

Ditka had her attend the team's game in Atlanta on Nov. 11, and he and some of his players visited her a week ago Thursday. He signed off his taped pre-game show last Sunday with, "Hi Becky."

She didn't see it. She died last Saturday.

"We talk about football players being tough and courageous. She fought hard for five years. She only weighed 50 pounds and couldn't fight anymore. This is one that touched me. She was incredible. She never griped. She'll be OK now," Ditka said.


Dan Henning, coach of the San Diego Chargers, is the latest to join the chorus complaining about the officials, even though commissioner Paul Tagliabue is trying to cut down on public criticism of the men in striped shirts.

Derrick Walker was penalized 15 yards for intimidation after he was hit by the Kansas City Chiefs' Percy Snow in the middle of the end zone and then given a quick shove, after which Snow spiked the ball. Henning called the penalty "ludicrous."

Henning said he sought an explanation, but wouldn't discuss it.

"Suffice it to say it was inadequate in my opinion. The call was ludicrous. The explanation was inadequate."

He also was perplexed by calls for offsetting penalties for illegal motion and offsides on two different plays.

"I have never heard of illegal motion and offsides on the same play twice in the same game. I've never heard of it once before, but twice seemed to be kind of unusual," he said.

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