Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas scrambles against Giants in 1959 NFL championship game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Colts won, 31-16.
It was 1959, the caboose of the 1950s, a simpler time in a different world. President Eisenhower was finishing out his second term, the Barbie Doll was launched, and Castro was running wild in Cuba.
Pro football was a simple game in 1959. A dozen teams in the NFL played 12 games apiece. The AFL was still a dream away.
No playoffs. No Super Bowl. One championship game.
In a rematch of their “greatest game” in the 1958 NFL title game, the Colts were looking to defend their championship against the New York Giants in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
Two days after Christmas, in the midst of a tight defensive battle, Giants wide receiver Kyle Rote suffered an apparent concussion. His replacement was Joe Biscaha, a 27th round draft out of the University of Richmond.
Almost A Touchdown
“Near the end of the first half, (Giants quarterback Charlie) Conerly tried to connect with me on a corner route, but slightly overthrew the pass and I couldn’t quite make the catch, even with a diving attempt,” Biscaha, right, recalls more than 50 years year. “If completed. it would have resulted in a touchdown, but it unfortunately fell incomplete in the Colts end zone.
“I continued to play in the third quarter without making any significant contributions to our efforts, and was later replaced by a somewhat ‘foggy’ Rote during the fourth quarter. The Colts had trailed throughout the game by a 9-7 score but eventually scored 24 points in the final quarter to defeat us, 31-16.”
It was the second straight title for the Colts, who beat the Giants 23-17 in a memorable overtime classic to win the 1958 championship.
“In our post-game locker room there was disappointment, but there were also words of encouragement exchanged,” said Biscaha. “And even Charlie Conerly commented to me on the overthrown pass that ‘we almost had one.’.
“Given the fact that he had thrown my way and even had spoken to me, I had felt as though I would be a part of the Giants plans for the coming year. We returned to New York by train that same evening amidst local friends and fans sharing many drinks in commiseration of the loss.”
That would be the last game of Biscaha’s Giants career. When he signed with the Giants he went from $25 a month laundry money at Richmond (part of a football scholarship) to a $7,500 contract.
In eight games that year, he caught one pass for five yards and recovered a fumble.
Playing in The Original AFL
Biscaha failed to make the Giants roster in 1960. He was substitute teaching and making about $100 a week when the Boston (now New England) Patriots of the AFL offered him $4,500 for the last month and a half of the season. So Joe played for that first Patriots team in the AFL’s inaugural season, calling the Kenmore Station Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue home.
“The head coach was Lou Saban, a former Cleveland Brown, who seemed to have been influenced in the ‘General George Patton mentality,’” Biscaha recalled, “while my position coach was Mike Holovak, a likable gentleman from the Boston College coaching background. It seemed like most of the players were from a Boston College or Syracuse (1959 championship team) playing pedigree.
“I was being tried out as a wide receiver and needed to learn the skills to compete against the bump and run techniques utilized by the AFL defensive backs. Having played with the Giants as primarily a tight end, those were skills that I never had to acquire.”
In September of 1961 Biscaha, realizing his playing days were over after a tryout with the New York Titans (now Jets), “signed a teaching contract with the Paterson (NJ) School District for $4,500 for the year and got $400 more to assist in coaching football.”
His teaching career continued for more than 25 years and was highlighted by three New Jersey State Championship seasons, 1975,1979 and 1980, at Passaic Valley High School, as well as numerous coaching honors. After an eight-year retirement from education, while working in financial services, he returned to serve ten years as a school administrator at Passaic County Technical Institute until his retirement in 2005.
More than 50 years later, he wonders if his career might have taken a different path if Conerly, the NFL MVP in 1959, had not overthrown him in the end zone. “Had I caught that pass would my life have turned out differently?”
Joe’s blog is called “don’t forget to bring your playbook,” a commonly used expression players heard when they were about to be cut. Postings on the blog include his childhood experiences and memories of his pro football career and beyond.
Back in 1966, the New York Giants suffered through perhaps the worst season in their long and mostly illustrious history. That year the Giants surrendered an NFL record 501 points in 14 games, and gave up more than 40 points five times.
Well it took them 16 games, but this year’s Giants equaled that dubious mark set 43 years ago — five games of giving up 40 or more points.
Those 1966 Giants were on the downside, and it would take 15 years until they returned to the NFL playoffs in 1981. They were rebuilding following a stretch that led to five NFL championship games (all losses) in six years between 1958 and 1963.
In 1966, the Giants lost 52-7 to Dallas in the second game of the year and 55-14 to Los Angeles. Then came a stretch in which the Giants gave up 40 plus three straight Sundays — 72-41 to Washington, 49-40 to Cleveland and 47-28 to Pittsburgh.
Some notes of distinction. The 72 points the Giants gave up to the Redskins and quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, below, is still the most allowed in a single regular season game in NFL history. (The Bears beat the Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.)
And only one other team in history — the 1981 Baltimore Colts with 533 — allowed more points than the ’66 Giants. And it took the Colts two extra games to do it.
This year’s Giants figured to be a playoff lock and Super Bowl contender coming into the season. But after a 5-0 start they stopped tackling and managed to lose eight of their final 11, earning an early exit to their season.
Trouble began with a 48-27 loss in New Orleans in week six. The G-men lost twice to NFC East rival Philadelphia, 40-17 and 45-38. And they finished the season in embarrassing fashion, losing 41-9 to Carolina in their final game at Giants Stadium, and then 44-7 to Minnesota.
The Giants gave up 427 points this season. Only Detroit and St. Louis were worse.
Allie Sherman kept his job following the Giants 1966 season, and Tom Coughlin will keep his as well. But heads are sure to roll following this pathetic finish by the Giants, who mailed it in the last two weeks.
Even in the worst of times, this team almost always gave an honest effort. But not this year, when pride didn’t matter for the New York Giants.
Good night, Big Blue.
When the Giants are going right, the opposing quarterback – not Eli Manning – is the guy facing the big pass rush.
Since their Thanksgiving Day debacle in Denver, the New York Giants have had 10 days to figure things out; 10 days to try and save their season.
The Giants, pre-season picks to win the Super Bowl in some circles, showed why they are the NFL’s most overrated team in that 26-6 drubbing by the Broncos. .
They looked like turkeys against the Broncos. It was their fifth loss in six games following a 5-0 start.
Even during their bad times, the Giants have almost always played their trademark smashmouth football style. Put pressure on the quarterback and stop the running game on defense. Maintain ball control with a strong running attack on offense.
Not lately. These Giants have been imposters in blue.
“Well to be honest with you, I don’t even know what is going on.” defensive end Osi Umenyiora, left, said earlier this week. That was before Tom Coughlin decided to bench both Osi and Fred Robbins — at least in certain situations — when the Giants play their divisional rival, the Dallas Cowboys, on Sunday.
The Forgiving NFL
The National Football League can be very forgiving. In spite of their prolonged slide, the Giants have a chance to turn their season around against their hated rivals.
A win over the Cowboys would put the Giants just a game behind Dallas in the NFC East. And the Giants would own the tiebreaker over the Cowboys by virtue of a 33-31 win that spoiled the opener of Cowboys Stadium.
Following the Dallas game, the Giants host another divisional rival and playoff contender, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The G-Men wrap up their season with road games at Washington and Minnesota, sandwiched around a home tilt with Carolina.
Amazingly, if they can figure things out in time, the Giants could still make a playoff run. They have the talent — less than two years ago they won the Super Bowl, and last year they started out 11-1 before losing four of their last five games, including a home playoff loss to the Eagles.
“We can deal with being 6-5,” said quarterback Eli Manning. “We’ve got to play better football. That’s our concern. That’s what we go to worry about. We’ve got five games left. Let’s see what we can do with those five games.”
So which Giants team will show up against the Cowboys — the Super Bowl contender or the club that’ has lost nine times in its last 16 games?
Unwatchable is a good word to describe the play of teams like the Knicks.
Now that the focus has shifted from the Yankees championship run, New York metropolitan area sports fans have had a rude awakening.
The veil has been lifted, and what we’re left with is mediocrity at best, and far beyond awful at worst.
So far this month, the Yankees have more wins (three) than the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Nets combined (two).*
That’s bound to change on Saturday when the winless Nets (0-12) play the hapless Knicks (2-9) in a Jersey swamp showdown. Somebody’s gonna lose, but somebody’s gotta win too. Plenty of good seats are still available.
Here’s the sorry breakdown, sport by sport:
The Giants, picked by many to be Super Bowl contenders, started the season with five straight wins. But the Giants were facing an easy schedule, and have lost four in a row since they began taking on some real teams.
The Jets began their season with a new coach, high hopes and three straight wins. But since then they have lost five of six, including horrible losses to the Dolphins, Bills and Jaguars.
Fans are wondering, is it possible for a team to go through an entire season without a victory? Nah, the Nets still have four games left with the Knicks, they should be able to win a couple of those.
Meanwhile the Knicks have already bailed on this season. But do they really believe that LeBron, D-Wade or any other free agent would want to play for a franchise that hasn’t won a title since 1973?
The Rangers got off to a great start with seven straight wins, but then stopped scoring goals and are now in a major rut.
The Islanders…or the Icelanders as a local radio personality refers to them….have been lousy for a quarter century.
The Devils are playing well, leaders in the Atlantic Division. But hey, nobody cares. They’re from New Jersey
*Actually the Yankees have three wins in November if you count their Halloween victory over the Phillies, which ended on November 1.
Earlier this week, a new bowl game to be played in Yankee Stadium in 2010 was announced at a press conference in the Bronx. The game, to be played between Christmas and New Year’s Day, will feature the third- or fourth-place finisher in the Big East against the seventh-place team in the Big 12.
Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., is on record as saying the game should the called the “Jeter Bowl.”
In July, the Yankees announced that Notre Dame will host Army at Yankee Stadium on November. 20, 2010, marking the first football game in the new Stadium and the 50th time the schools have will square off against one another in one of the classic rivalries in college football.
The original Yankee Stadium was host to many monumental football games, beginning with Notre Dame-Army clashes in the 1920s. While the New York Giants were playing across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds, several football teams named the Yankees played at the Stadium, including one in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1946 through 1949.
The Giants moved into the Stadium in time for the 1956 season, and that year won the NFL championship against the Bears.
So, what were the top ten football games in Yankee Stadium history? Here’s the SportsLifer list:
1. In what is called “The Greatest Game Ever Played” the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in the game that raised the profile of the NFL. Alan Amache, above, scores the winning touchdown in the December dusk, 1958.
2. At halftime of a scoreless game, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne urges his squad to “Win one for the Gipper.” And the Irish do just that, rallying to defeat Army, 12-6, in honor of the late Irish All-American George Gipp, 1928.
3. In a game that features four past or future Heisman Trophy winners (Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis of Army, Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart of Notre Dame), the number one ranked Cadets and second-ranked Irish play to a scoreless tie. Lujack’s game- saving tackle of Blanchard preserves the tie in the “Battle of the Century,” 1946.
4. Much as they did 22 years earlier at the Polo Ground, the Giants don sneakers instead of football cleats on an icy field. New York overwhelms the Chicago Bears, 47-7, to win the NFL championship, 1956.
5. Pat Summerall kicks a 49-yard field goal in a swirling snowstorm to give the Giants a 13-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, forcing a playoff for the NFL East crown. The Giants would go on to down the Browns in that playoff and advance to the NFL championship game, 1958.
6. Undefeated Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite need one more win to reach the Rose Bowl, but NYU beats Vince Lombardi and company and spoils their Thanksgiving, 7-6,on a muddy field, 1936.
7. Giants quarterback Y.A.Tittle ties NFL record with seven touchdown passes against the Washington Redskins. The Giants win the game, 49-34, 1962.
8. In the second and final edition of the Gotham Bowl, right, Nebraska edged Miami, 36-34, despite an MVP performance by Hurricane quarterback George Mira. Only 6,166 brave the bitter, 14-degree temperatures, 1962.
9. Yankee Stadium plays host to its final NFL Championship game, with the Green Bay Packers defeating the Giants,16-7, on the strength of three field goals by guard Jerry Kramer, 1962.
10. Central State University of Ohio defeats Grambling, 37-21 in the final Whitney M. Young Urban League classic….and the last football game ever played at the old Yankee Stadium. ”They just came to play; we didn’t,” said dejected Grambling coach Coach Eddie Robinson. 1987.
The Crunch Bunch: Harry Carson, Brian Kelley, Lawrence Taylor and Brad Van Pelt
Brad Van Pelt was one of those rare great athletes who had a long, successful career but missed out on the glory of a championship. Now he’s left us far too soon, victim of an apparent heart attack at the age of 57.
Van Pelt was generally considered the New York Giants best player during the 70s — a decade in which the Giants failed to make a single playoff appearance.
A Maxwell Award winner and a second-round draft pick out of Michigan State in 1973, Van Pelt was the first of the great Giants linebackers that included Brian Kelley and Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor. Kelley was drafted in the 14th round in 1973, Carson joined the team three years later, and Taylor was the second pick overall in the 1981 draft. The four were known as the Crunch Bunch, perhaps the finest linebacker group in NFL history.
And they remained extremely close over the years. “I feel as comfortable with them as I do with my brothers,” Van Pelt said in a 2004 interview. “Obviously, your brothers are your brothers. But these three are probably the closest thing to them. Brian and I played 11 years together. I played nine with Harry. Lawrence being the guy, it didn’t take long for him to fit right in and become one of the guys. I can’t really explain why but they’re the only three I stay close with.”
Turning the Corner with LT
The Giants struggled mightily before Taylor joined the team, winning a total of just 24 games between 1976 and 1980. But Van Pelt made five Pro Bowls and Carson two during that stretch, as the Giants began to build a defense around their linebacking corps, a defense that would eventually win two Super Bowls.
Van Pelt, who wore number 10, unusual for a linebacker, played on just one winning team during his 11-year career with the Giants, in 1981. That team ended an 18-year playoff drought for the G-Men.
Following the 1983 season, Van Pelt and Kelley both left New York. Van Pelt played two years with the Raiders and finished his career with the Browns in 1986.
The Giants, buttressed by another Michigan State linebacker, Carl Banks, won the Super Bowl in 1986 and again in 1990. Banks and Taylor played on both those championship teams, along with linebackers Gary Reasons and Pepper Johnson. Carson retired following the 1988 season.
Van Pelt finished his career with 20 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries, but was never able to win that championship ring. He’s one of few Giants to call four different fields home — Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium.
The Philadelphia Eagles put the squeeze on Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
The New York Football Giants have had lots of tough losses over the years, but the 23-11 setback to the Eagles on Sunday must rank as one of the most difficult of all.
Expectations were extremely high for the defending Super Bowl champions, who entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
In the seasons following their first three Super Bowls (1987, 1991 and 2001) the Giants failed to make the playoffs. This year was different as the Giants made their mark early and went into the playoffs as Super Bowl favorites.
Perhaps what hurts most is that the G-Men were so close to repeating the euphoria of last year’s “Road Warrior” playoff run, capped by the stunning upset of the previously unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII..
But glory, as they say, is fleeting. Always has been, always will be.
And the Giants have had suffered plenty of heartbreakers in the past — the overtime loss to the Baltimore Colts in 1958, the three successive championship game losses in the early 60s, the playoff meltdowns against the Vikings in 1997 and the 49ers in 2003, right, and the impossible loss to the Eagles in “The Miracle at the Meadowlands” in 1978.
In light of yesterday’s loss, here’s a list of the 20 worst losses in Giants history.
The Worst of the Giants
Eagles 23, Giants 11, Jan. 11, 2009 — Top-seeded Giants lose in divisional playoff, dashing hopes of Super Bowl repeat
49ers 39, Giants 38, Jan. 5, 2003 — Giants blow 38-14 lead, lose to 49ers in controversial, wild card playoff finish
Ravens 34, Giants 7, Jan. 28, 2001 — Ravens defense overwhelms Giants at Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa
Vikings 23, Giants 22, Dec. 27, 1997 — Vikings overcome 19-3 halftime lead, score 10 points in last 1:30 to win wild card playoff
49ers 44, Giants 3, Jan. 15, 1994 — 49ers hand Giants the worst playoff loss in their history in divisional round romp
Cowboys 16, Giants 13, OT, Jan. 2, 1993 — Emmitt Smit runs for 168 yards as Cowboys beat Giants to clinch NFC East
Rams 19, Giants 13, OT, Jan. 7, 1990 — Jim Everett throws touchdown to Flipper Anderson in overtime as Ram win divisional playoff
Jets 27, Giants 21, Dec. 18, 1988 — With a playoff berth on the line, crosstown rival Jets rally to beat Giants in final minutes
Bears 21, Giants 0, Jan. 5, 1986 — Chicago stops New York’s playoff run with shutout victory at windy Soldier Field
Eagles 19, Giants 17, Nov. 19, 1978 — In “The Miracle at the Meadowlands,” Eagles Herb Edwards returns fumble for TD win as Giants fail to run out clock
Rams 31, Giants 3, Dec. 20, 1970 — Rams knock Giants out of playoff spot with rout in season finale at Yankee Stadium
Jets 37, Giants 14, Aug. 17, 1969 — It was only a pre-season game, but with the win the Super Bowl champion Jets legitimized themselves in New York
Redskins 72, Giants 41, Nov. 27, 1966 — Giants allow NFL record 72 points to Redskins, who add insult to injury with late field goal
Bears 14, Giants 10, Dec, 29, 1963 — Bears capitalize on five Y.A. Tittle interceptions to beat Giants for NFL title at Wrigley Field, right
Packers 16, Giants 7, Dec. 30, 1962 — Green Bay wins battle as Giants lose second of three consecutive championship games
Colts 23, Giants 17, OT, Dec. 28, 1958 — In “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” Giants lose to Colts in only overtime championship game in NFL history,
Browns 8, Giants 3, Dec. 17, 1950 — After beating Cleveland twice in regular season, Giants lose to Browns in playoff for conference title
Bears 24, Giants 14, Dec. 15, 1946 — Faced with gambling allegations on the eve of the title game, Giants lose to Bears at the Polo Grounds
Bears 56, Giants 7, Nov. 14, 1943 — Chicago quarterback Sid Luckman establishes NFL record with seven touchdown passes
Bears 23, Giants 21, Dec. 17, 1933 — Bears tally a late touchdown on trick play to win first NFL championship game
The New York Giants have been to the Super Bowl four times in their history, winning three of those games, including last year.
In their previous three campaigns following those Super Bowls, the Giants have been Super flops. But not this year. This year the defending champs are off to a 7-1 start, the class of the NFL midway through the season.
The Giants won their first Super Bowl, XXI, in January of 1987, defeating the Denver Broncos, 39-20.
They entered the 1987 season favored to repeat, but opened with losses to the Bears and Cowboys. Then came an NFL strike and three more losses that left the team 0-5. They wound up 6-9, last in the NFC East.
The Giants defeated the Bills, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV as Buffalo’s Scott Norwood missed a field goal wide right at the final gun.
Ray Handley’s Regime
During the off-season, coach Bill Parcells, right, stepped down and was succeeded by Ray Handley.
Although the Giants opened the 1991 season with a dramatic win over the 49ers, Handley was overmatched from the start. And the Giants wound up 8-8, fourth in the NFC East and out of the playoffs.
In 2001, the Baltimore Ravens throttled the G-Men, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV.
The Giants opened the 2001 season with a Monday night loss in Denver on the eve of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Coach Jim Fassel’s club bounced back to win three straight games, but successive one-point losses to the Rams and Eagles started a spiral that left the team 7-9 and out of the playoffs.
GIANT EXTRAS: When the Giants beat the Steelers, 21-14, a couple of weeks back, it marked just New York’s second visit to Pittsburgh since 1971. The Steelers won that game, 17-13, when Terry Bradshaw threw a touchdown pass to Ron Shanklin in the third quarter.
Twenty years later, in a Monday night game at Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers rallied from a 20-0 deficit to tie the game, only to see New York’s Matt Bahr win it, 23-20, with a 44-yard field goal,
For decades, the Giants and Steelers were rivals in the NFL Eastern Conference, meeting twice each season. In what is probably the most important game in their rivalry, the Steelers came into Yankee Stadium for the final game of the 1963 season needing a win to reach the NFL Championship Game for the first time. The Giants, behind Y.A. Tittle and Frank Gifford, prevailed, 33-17.
Perhaps they’ll meet in Super Bowl XLIII in February.
Years from now, when sports historians look back on 2008, they’ll note that the four major championships were won by teams that have been around for awhile….a long, long while.
In October, the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been a National League member since 1883, won the second World Series in their history, the first since 1980.
The New York Giants, who have been an NFL franchise since 1925 (only the Bears and the Packers have been around longer), won their third Super Bowl and seventh overall NFL title in February.
Earlier this year, the Detroit Red Wings, one of the NHL’s Original Six and a team whose history dates back to 1926, won their 11th Stanley Cup.
And finally the Boston Celtics, along with the Knicks the only two remaining charter franchises of the NBA starting in 1946, captured their 17th title in June when they knocked off the Lakers.
The year that ushered in an area of expansion in North American professional was 1960, when the American Football League was created and the Dallas Cowboys joined the NFL.
Baseball began its growth from 16 teams the following year, while the NBA had only eight teams in 1960. The NHL featured the Original Six until the 1967-68 season when the league expanded to 12 teams.
Today there are 32 NFL teams, and 30 major league baseball, NBA and NHL franchises.
You have to go back to 1976 to discover the last time that four teams — the Reds, Steelers, Celtics and Canadiens — in existence in 1960 won championships in the same season..
It’s gotta be tough being a Met fan these days. There’s not much to say – other than bag it — after the Mets’ blew it in September and failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
The collapse was historic. You have to go back to 1950 and 1951, when the Brooklyn Dodgers lost the National League pennant on the last day of the season to the Whiz Kid Phillies in 1950… and then followed that up by blowing a 13 1/2-game lead to the New York Giants and losing a three-game playoff to their arch-rivals on Bobby Thomson’s home run in 1951…to find more baseball heartbreak in the same place.
Plenty of blame to go around with the Mets, but you can’t point the finger at Johan Santana. He was absolutely brilliant down the stretch, and would most likely have won the National League Cy Young Award if not for the Mets’ bullpen.
Amazingly, the Yankees and the Mets finished with identical 89-73 records this year. You have to go back all the way to 1993 — when the Mets finished last in the NL East and the Yankees second in the AL East — to find the last time New York didn’t have a team in the playoffs. It will be a quiet October in Queens and the Bronx.
As they said so many times in Brooklyn: “Wait Till Next Year.”