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.
Scientests, researchers and other bright minds around the world are working to figure ways to make NFL late-season-playoff-deciding-games more meaningful.
Every year, the NFL plays two sets of exhibition games. The first, called pre-season games, are played in the summer and help teams determine rosters and get ready for the regular season.
The second set of exhibitions, unfortunately for the NFL, happens at the end of the season, oftentimes in key match-ups for playoff spots, when games should mean the most.
These are the games where playoff-bound teams start resting or sitting regulars. They’ve earned that right. Other teams can whine, but no one is listening.
It goes back to that old adage about controlling your own destiny and not depending on outside factors to make the playoffs.
Players are rested all the time in sports. Everyone wants to avoid injuries. Baseball teams, for instance, give pitchers and other regulars a break as they prepare for the post-season.
But major league baseball teams play 162 games, NFL teams 16. A single NFL game carries 10X the weight of a baseball game.
Which means, the NFL and its fans really suffer from these late-season-playoff-deciding-exhibition-games.
Here’s a Solution
It doesn’t seem fair for the league to force teams to play their regulars. Or to penalize them be taking away draft choices as some have suggested.
And trust me, teams aren’t going to start refunding gate receipts for games in which teams don’t really try. Heck, teams charge fans for exhibition games as part of their season-ticket package.
But there is something the NFL could do to at least make late-season games more compelling. Set up the schedule, so that the final two games for all 32 teams are played within divisions.
Certainly, the natural rivalries within divisions and the fact that the teams play each other twice per season always fires up the competitive juices.
For instance, have the Giants and Cowboys ever played a meaningless Giants-Cowboys game? Those two teams hate each, as do many other divisional rivals. . Familiarity, after all, breeds contempt.
And then there’s the added possibility the teams could be fighting one another for either first place or a wild-card spot within the division.
The final games of any season in any league should count for something.
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?
QB in pain: A sight feared by fantasy football owners and NFL fans alike.
With the possible exception of dwindling 401ks, expanding waistlines and gray hair, there’s nothing fantasy football owners fear more than injuries to key players. Especially in the pre-season.
Just last week, the Dutchess Dawgs took Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with the fifth overall pick in the Nightcap Fantasy League draft.
The very next night, Brady was clobbered by Albert Haynesworth late in the first half of New England’s pre-season game against Washington. Brady left the game with what is initially diagnosed as a bruised shoulder
Right now, the Patriots are saying the injury isn’t serious. But the Patriots are known for not being exactly forthright about injuries.
So the Dawgs, gleeful that Brady was kept out of action against the Giants in the exhibition finale for both teams, must wonder if Tom Terrific, coming off serious knee injury after missing virtually the entire 2008 season, was a wise selection.
Wait, there’s more. The Dawgs selected Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings with the 25th overall pick. Jennings got banged after making a reception last week against Arizona and suffered a concussion.
Concussions are not exactly good news for your leading wide receiver.
So far, the Dawgs second pick, St. Louis running back Steven Jackson, has managed to stay healthy. But Jackson has only carried the ball 10 times in three pre-season games.
What happens when he starts seeing serious action? Only time will tell.
Ever since I first stumbled into a sports book, at Caesar’s Palace in Last Vegas more than 20 years ago, I’ve wanted to have a “book” right in my playroom.
Imagine a room with dozens upon dozens of huge, high-definition screens, bringing you live action from ballparks, race tracks, arenas and stadiums around the country.
A place with cheap $1.50 drafts, bar food and gambling, where you can bet on everything from the fifth race at Churchill Downs to who will win Super Bowl XXIV.
Years ago, on a business trip to Vegas, a bunch of work colleagues were hanging around the sports book at Bally’s. Most of us were losing small sums of money on football games.
But one guy knew the ponies and wasn’t afraid to put down large wagers.
One time he came back from the betting cages waving $800 in the air, another time $1400. And the third time back, he returned with yet another large wad….and an IRS form.
That same guy now owns several thoroughbreds and is a fixture at race tracks around the country.
The NFL in Vegas
There’s nothing quite like a Sunday in Vegas during the NFL season. The sports books are packed, and crowds are watching each and every game with a strong rooting interest. A seemingly inconsequential play in a game between two losing teams may draw a huge ovation. A single play, a touchdown or a turnover, swings millions of dollars.
One betting scheme I’ve always liked in the sports books is the long-term football odds. For example, the Giants are currently the NFC favorites, and are listed as 11-1 to win the Super Bowl, behind the Patriots at 11-2 and the Steelers at 9-1.The G-Men are favored to beat the Redskins by five points in their NFL opener at home on September 13.
In college football, Florida is 9-5, Oklahoma 11-2 and USC 15-2 to win the national championship. On the other end, Kansas State, Louisville and Kentucky are all 200-1.
At the end of the day, betting sports is a lot like life. There are winners….and there are losers.
That’s not a Super Bowl trophy Randy Moss is pointing to – he doesn’t own a ring.
Here’s the latest in the Lords of The Ringless series, a litany of losers featuring wide receivers who have never won a championship — Super Bowl, NFL or AFL.
The team nobody wants to join includes four Hall of Famers — Steve Largent, Charley Taylor, James Lofton and Charlie Joiner — and a host of receivers who rank in the top 20 in the major statistical categories — career receptions, touchdowns, yardage and yards per reception.
And perhaps most surprisingly, two of the top three players on this list — Randy Moss and Terrell Owens — are still active. Both have come close, Moss with the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and Owens with the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.
But close doesn’t count with Lords of The Ringless.
Ringless Wide Receivers
1. Randy Moss: 1998-present, Vikings, Raiders, Patriots — 3rd all-time in touchdowns with 135, including record 23 in 2007; 15th all-time in receptions with 843, 9th in yardage with 13,201; led NFL in TDs, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007; Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1998.
2. Steve Largent: 1976-89, Seahawks — Ranks 6th all-time in touchdown receptions with 100; Hall of Famer ranks 17th in career catches with 819; led NFL in receiving yards in 1979 and 1985; seven time Pro Bowler; 1998 Walter Peyton Award winner. (Shown left)
3. Terrell Owens: 1996-present, 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills — 2nd all-time in touchdowns with 139, trails only former teammate Jerry Rice (197); 5th in yardage with 14,122 and 6th in receptions with 951; TO has been named first team All=Pro five times.
4. Cris Carter: 1987-2002, Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins — Stands 3rd all-time with 1,101 receptions; 4th with 130 touchdowns; 7th in yardage with 13,899; 8-time Pro Bowler; led NFL receivers in TDs 1995, 1997, 1999; Walter Payton Award winner in 1999.
5. Charley Taylor: 1964-77, Redskins — started career as halfback before moving to split end; ranks 19th all-time with 79 touchdowns; led league in receptions in 1976 and 1977; 8-time Pro Bowler; inducted into Hall of Fame in 1984
6. Andre Reed: 1985-2000, Bills, Redskins — Tied with TO for 6th in all-time receptions with 951; 11th with 87 touchdown grabs; and 10th in yardage with 13,198; played in four straight Super Bowls with Buffalo; 7-time Pro Bowler.
7. James Lofton: 1978-93, Packers, Raiders, Bills, Rams, Eagles — Stands 6th all time in yardage with 14,004; led league in yards per reception in 1983 and 1984; made Pro Bowl eight times; NFL Hall of Fame.
8. Tim Brown: 1988-2004, Raiders, final year with Tampa Bay — 4th in receptions with 1,094; tied for 6th in TDs with Steve Largent at 100; 3rd in yardage with 14,934; led league in receptions in 1987 with 104; Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame in 1987
9. Charlie Joiner: 1969-86, Oilers, Bengals, Chargers — 65 regular season touchdowns ranks 40th all-time; 3-time Pro Bowler; retired as NFL’s all-time receiving leader; member of NFL Hall of Fame. (Shown right)
10. Irving Fryar: 1984-2000, Patriots, Dolphins, Eagles, Redskins — Ranks 13th all-time in receptions with 851; 5-time Pro Bowler was drafted #1 overall by New England in 1984; 14th overall in TDs with 84.
Bobby Mitchell: 1958-68, Browns, Redskins — Hall of Fame flanker; led NFL in receptions and reception yardage in 1962.
Henry Ellard: 1983-98, Rams, Redskins, Pats — 8th all-time in yardage with 13,777; 19th in receptions with 814.
Warren Wells: 1964-70, Lions, Raiders — All-time leader in yards per reception with 23.1; caught 42 TDs in brief 5-year career.
Others Lords of The Ringless
Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson. The King and the Jet. Ernie Nevers and Jim Thorpe and even OJ. Gale Sayers
What a stable of running backs. And they all have one thing in common — they never won a championship.
Some, like Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas got close. Thomas was in four straight Super Bowls — and the Bills lost em all..
Tiki Barber made a Super Bowl once and the Giants lost. The year after he retired, the G-men won the Super Bowl.
This Lords of the Ringless list features the best running backs never to win a Super Bowl, NFL or AFL championship.
Tons of talent here, but light on the jewelry.
1. Barry Sanders (1989-98) 10 years with Lions; 3rd all-time leading rusher with 15,269 yards; averaged 5.0 yards per carry; four-time NFL rushing leader, 99 rushing TDs, 1997 MVP.
2. Eric Dickerson (1983-93) 11-year career, primarily with Rams, Colts: 13,259 yards, 6th all-time; led NFL in rushing in 1983, 84, 86, 88; rushed for 96 TDs; 5 times first team All-Pro.
3. Joe Perry (1948-63) The Jet, spotted playing service football by pro scouts; played with 49ers, Colts; 1954 MVP, first to gain over 1,000 yards two straight years, 9,273 yards rushing, 24th all-time.
4. Curtis Martin (1995-2005) 3 years with Patriots, 8 years with Jets; 14,101 yards, 4th all-time leading rusher; at least 1,000 yards in each of first 10 years; 90 TDs; led NFL in rushing in 2004.
5. Gale Sayers (1965-71) Spent 7-year career with Bears; led NFL in rushing in 1966, 69; scored rookie record 22 TDs in 1965; All-NFL 5 straight years; lifetime kickoff return leader, 30.6 yards.
6. Thurman Thomas Buffalo (1988-2000) Played in four straight Super Bowls with Bills; led NFL in yards from scrimmage 4 straight years, 1989-92, 12,074 yards, 12th all-time, 5-time Pro Bowler.
7. Ernie Nevers (1926-31) 1925 Rose Bowl hero with Stanford, played with Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals; his 40 points in one game in 1929 still stand as NFL record; All-NFL all five seasons.
8. O.J. Simpson (1969-79) Played with Bills, 49ers; 16th all-time leading rusher with 11, 236 yards; first to reach 2,000 yards rushing (2,003) in 1973, won MVP; won 4 rushing titles in five years, 1972-76.
9. Tiki Barber (1997-2006) At 10,449 yards, he’s Giants all-time leading rusher, 21st all-time with 10,449 yards; played and lost in Super Bowl XXXV; led NFL in yards from scrimmage 2004, 05.
10, Jim Thorpe (1915-28) 1912 Olympic decathlon champion; first big name athlete to play professional football, signing with Canton Bulldogs in 1915; first president of NFL, 1920.
Earl Campbell (1978-85) Played with Oilers and Saints; led league in rushing first three seasons, 9,407 career rushing yards, 25th all-time; NFL MVP in 1978-79; 5- time Pro Bowler and 3 times All-Pro.
Hugh McElhenny (1952-53) The King, played majority of career with 49ers; scored 40-yard TD on first pro play; was Rookie of the Year in 1952; played Six Pro Bowls; rushed for 5,281 yards, right
Ollie Matson (1952-66) Ran for 4 different teams; No. 1 draft pick 1952; All-NFL 4 years, 1954-57; elected to 6 Pro Bowl games; 5173 yards rushing; 9 TDs on punt, kickoff returns.
Eddie George (1996-2004) Played primarily for Oilers; 10,441 yards, 22nd all-time; led NFL in rushing attempts, touches in 2003; scored 5 playoff TDs; played in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Bill Dudley (1942-53) Played with Steelers, Lions and Redskins; led league in rushing in 1942; won rare triple crown in 1946 winning rushing, interception and punt return titles, was MVP that year.
Previous portrayals of Lords Of The Ringless include:.
Historically, what’s the best division in the NFL? If you use Super Bowl titles as the ultimate criteria, then it’s the NFC East, hands down.
NFC East teams have won 11 of the 42 Super Bowl championships; no other division in the NFL has won more than six.
Here are the standings by division:
NFC East — 11 (Cowboys 5, Giants 3, Redskins 3)
NFC West — 6 (49ers 5, Rams)
AFC East — 6 (Patriots 3, Dolphins 2, Jets)
AFC North — 6 (Steelers 5, Ravens)
AFC West — 6 (Raiders 3, Broncos 2, Chiefs)
NFC North — 4 (Packers 3, Bears)
AFC South– 2 (Colts 2)
NFC South — 1 (Bucs)
Three teams — Cowboys, Steelers and 49ers — have won five Super Bowls apiece.
Surprisingly, in a world of parity, 15 teams, nearly half of the NFL’s 32, have yet to win a Super Bowl.
In fact six teams — Texans, Jaguars, Browns, Saints, Lions and Cardinals — have never even made it to Super Sunday.
Posted on August 19, 2008 by sportslifer | Edit
Soon we’ll be seeing all sorts of retrospective pieces on Yankee Stadium. Here we take an early look at the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.
Overall, there will be three categories — anything but baseball, baseball regular season, and baseball post-season.
This is the top 10 for anything but baseball….we’ll follow up soon with top 10s devoted to regular season and post-season play at the Stadium.
Remember you read it first in the SportsLifer.
Top 10 Yankee Stadium events (other than baseball), chronological order:
2. Undefeated Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite need one more win to reach the Rose Bowl, but NYU beats Vince Lombardi and company, 7-6,on a muddy field, 1936
3. Joe Louis not only knocks out Max Schmeling, below, in the first round for the heavyweight title, he gave the United States a shot of pride against Hitler’s Nazi Germany, 1938
4. In a game that featured four past or future Heisman Trophy winners, number one ranked Army and second-ranked Notre Dame play to a scoreless tie, 1946
5. Joey Maxim outlasts Sugar Ray Robinson, who lost 16 pounds in the heat, in 13 rounds in a light-heavyweight title bout, 1952
6. The New York Giants again don sneakers on an icy field and overwhelm the Chicago Bears, 47-7, to win their third NFL championship, 1956
7. Pope Paul VI hosts the first of three Papal Masses at Yankee Stadium, followed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, 1965, 1979 and 2008
8. Pat Summerall kicks a long 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, 1958
9. 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. At left, Alan Amache scores the winning touchdown in the December dusk, 1958
10. Muhammad Ali defeats Ken Norton by unanimous decision in their rubber match and retains his heavyweight championship, 1976
Tony Zale over Rocky Graziano for middleweight championship, 1946
More than 123,00 crowd first annual Jehovah’s Witness convention, 1950
Unbeaten heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano defeats Ezzard Charles.1954
Carmen Basilio outpoints Sugar Ray Robinson to capture middleweight crown, 1957
Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson knocks out the champ, Floyd Patterson, 1959
Giants Y.A.Tittle ties NFL record with seven touchdown passes against Washington Redskins, 1962
An inter-faith prayer service is held 13 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 2001
Billy Joel, U2 and Pink Floyd are among the few rock groups to play the Stadium
What are the odds? The Giants have played in four Super Bowls, all since 1987. In those games, they have faced two Hall of Fame quarterbacks — John Elway and Jim Kelly — a certain Hall of Famer to-be in Tom Brady, and rag-armed vagabond Trent Farris Dilfer.
Yes that same Trent Dilfer who has played for five teams and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. The same Trent Dilfer who was recently released by a terrible 49ers team, perhaps signalling the end of a nondescript, 14-year NFL career.
The Giants won three of those four Super Bowls. The one they lost — a 34-7 beating in 2001 — Dilfer was the quarterback for the Ravens. Go figure.
Like I said, what are the odds?