Weeb Colts' coach: Forty years ago he guided Baltimore team to dramatic win that changed pro football.

November 19, 1998

PROFESSIONAL football came of age 40 years ago this month with "the greatest game ever played" -- the championship victory of the underdog Baltimore Colts. Millions of television viewers tuned in to see the dramatic drives by quarterback John Unitas that led to the first overtime win in National Football League history.

The NFL, now a multibillion-dollar sports industry, has never looked back.

As Colt players gather tomorrow night to commemorate the 1958 game that lit the fuse of fan fanaticism, one key ingredient will be missing: Weeb Ewbank, the coach who masterminded that great victory.

On Tuesday, Wilbur "Weeb" Ewbank died at age 91. He was a brilliant organizer and strategist. By game time, his teams were usually so prepared that he was more cheerleader than play-caller.

He recognized talent and how to get the most out of players. He became a Baltimore celebrity, repeating his 1958 triumph in 1959, and then a New York celebrity when he scripted another stunning upset as coach of Joe Namath's Jets, beating his old Baltimore team in the 1969 Super Bowl.

Weeb Ewbank, a superb coach, always credited his players for his success. He came to embody Baltimore's emergence as a sports power and as a revitalizing city.

Pub date 11/19/98

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