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The greatest game nobody remembers

1959 NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Fifty years ago next Sunday, the Colts and Giants met at Memorial Stadium in a reprise of their 1958 classic

December 20, 2009|By Mike Klingaman | mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Andy Nelson, an All-Pro safety, stole a pass from Charlie Conerly at the Giants' 31 and dashed halfway to the end zone, skidding to a stop in the mud in front of an NBC camera. Two plays later, the Colts scored on a 12-yard pass to rookie Jerry Richardson. Then Sample swiped one and took it 42 yards for a touchdown. Then Sample struck again, intercepting a pass thrown by - who else? - Gifford, the Giant who had mocked him earlier. The Colts kicked a field goal and were up 31-9.

Baltimore's lead had mushroomed, Smith wrote, "until ordinary human decency demanded one last meaningless consolation TD for New York."

Final score: Colts 31, Giants 16. At the gun, tackle Jim Parker scooped up the ball, tucked it under his jersey and lumbered toward the locker room.

Fans streamed from the stands, hoisted players aloft and grabbed souvenirs - chairs, wads of used adhesive and wooden planks from the Colts' bench.

"They stole the helmet right off of my head," Marchetti said.

The iron goal posts toppled quickly. When boisterous fans broke one of the crossbars, several City College students seized a 10-foot section and hustled it out of the stadium and onto 33rd Street.

"We tried to get on the No. 22 bus, but the driver looked at the pipe and said, 'You can't bring that thing on here,' " said Sheldon Baylin, 66. "Then we told him what it was, and he changed his mind.

"We took the crossbar to my house in Northwest Baltimore, cut it up and sold it. I kept a 2-foot piece, painted it blue, added the score of the game and got a bunch of the players to sign it."

In the winners' locker room, Weeb Ewbank, the Colts' frumpy little coach, waxed eloquent about his team's late rally.

"Once the snowball started rolling, there was no stopping it," he told reporters.

"Isn't it great?" rasped Art Donovan, the beefy defensive tackle. "The Giants shot their mouths off all week. But we played the football."

Vice President Richard M. Nixon stopped in to slap some backs and proclaim the game "the best I have ever seen."

As Nixon left, a fan shouted, "We'll give you a ticket [for the 1960 election] - Unitas and Nixon."

"If you can do that," the vice president replied, "we'll let Unitas call the signals."

Afterward, the Colts quarterback was as nonplussed as ever.

"Even when we fell behind, I wasn't worried," said Unitas, who was sacked seven times. "I figured we'd get a couple more touchdowns."

For the second straight year, Unitas won the game's Most Valuable Player award - another $4,200 red Corvette. The first one, he confessed, he had traded in.

"But we still have our '57 Chevy," Unitas said.

That night, Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom threw a team party at the Sheraton Belvedere. Afterward, as he was driving home to Annapolis, guard Alex Sandusky was pulled over by a patrol car.

Fumbling for his driver's license, Sandusky asked, "Would you give a Baltimore Colt player a ticket after we just won the world championship?"

The cop thought a moment.

"Aw, get out of here," he said.

What do you remember?
Share your memories of the 1959 Colts' comeback victory in the only NFL championship ever played in Baltimore at www.baltimoresun.com

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