Sometimes, you just got to roll with it baby.
New York football Giants fans, you know what I’m talking about.
A little more than a month ago, on a frigid Sunday afternoon in New York, the Giants looked like anything but Super Bowl contenders. A discouraging loss to the Redskins left the Giants all but dead at 7-7.
Watching that game at the Westchester Country Airport, my flight to sunny Tampa delayed, put me in a foul mood. From all appearances,the season was over.
A week later, Christmas Eve in Florida, I couldn’t even get the Giants-Jets game on TV, since the local Fox affiliate was showing Tampa Bay vs. Carolina.
With the Giants trailing 7-0 early, I headed to Indian Rocks Beach, figuring at least I could get some sun on a beautiful day in paradise, maybe even a swim in the Gulf.
When I checked my smartphone about an hour later, I noticed the Giants had taken the lead on a 99-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz.
Filled with a renewed sense of hope this holiday season, I gathered up my towel and flip flops and headed for Goose’s, the nearest sports bar. That was the turning point.
Ever since Goose’s, the Giants have been the hottest team in pro football. They beat the Jets that day, then took out the Cowboys in a winner-take-all game to clinch the NFC East and make the playoffs.
In rapid-fire succession, the Giants beat the Falcons for their first playoff win ever in Met Life Stadium, did a Lambeau leap over the heavily-favored Packers in Green Bay, and then outlasted the 49ers in overtime in the NFC Championship game.
The Giants are going to the Super Bowl for a rematch with the Patiots. It’s deja blue all over again. Just like four years ago, when they won Super Bowl XLII.
Can they do it again? Who knows,
Right now, I’m just Just rollin’ with it.
Giants Leonard Marshall levels 49ers Joe Montana in New York’s epic 15-13 upset in 1990 NFC Championship game that dashed San Francisco’s hopes for a Super Bowl three-peat.
The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers is one of the all-time great NFL rivalries, starting with their first-ever meeting in 1952 at the Polo Grounds.
That day Charlie Conerly threw a touchdown pass and Ray Poole’s three field goals made the difference in a 23-14 Giants win. Y.A. Tittle, who would later take the Giants to three straight NFL Championship games, pitched two touchdowns for the Niners.
Here’s 10 things you need to know about Giants-49ers:
1. Even Steven: The two teams have split 28 regular season games. In those games, the 49ers outscored the Giants by just seven points, 560 to 553.
2. Playoffs…playoffs: Same in the playoffs. San Francisco holds a 4-3 edge in playoff matchups, scoring 161 points to the Giants 156.
3. Familiar foes: No two NFL teams have met in the playoffs more often than these two, with Sunday’s title game at Candlestick Park marking their league record-tying eighth postseason showdown. Only the Bears-Giants and Cowboys-Rams have as many playoff matchups.
4. 10-Year Super run: The two teams met five times in the playoffs between 1981 and 1990. In four of those five games, the winner went on to win the Super Bowl.
5. Hey Joe: Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. led the Niners to divisional round wins over the Giants in 1981 and 1984, and San Francisco went on to win its first two Super Bowls.
6. Home cooking: The Giants won their first-ever playoff game in Giants Stadium in 1985, beating the 49ers 17-3 on touchdown passes by Phil Simms to tight ends Mark Bavaro and Don Hasselback. Hasselbeck went on to father NFL quarterbacks Tim and Matt.
7. 49 vs. 49ers: In 1986, Simms threw four touchdown passes and Lawrence Taylor took an errant Montana pass to the house as the Giants romped 49-3 en route to their first Super Bowl.
8. Bahr for three: The two teams met in the NFC Championship game for the only previous time in 1990. Matt Bahr, right, kicked five field goals, the last in the final seconds, to send the Giants to more Super Bowl glory with a 15-13 victory. Bahr’s field goal was set up by a costly fumble by Roger Craig.
9. Running Watters: Ricky Watters set a playoff record with five touchdowns (all rushing) and 30 points in 1993 when the 49ers beat the Giants 44-3, the last game for both Simms and Taylor.
10. Huge comeback: In their last playoff meeting in 2002, the 49ers overcame a 24-point deficit to win 39-38 the second greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. 19-year veteran Trey Jenkin, playing in his only game for the Giants, botched a snap as they Giants attempted a potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds.
Packers Jim Taylor rumbles in 1962 NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium.
The Giants-Packers rivalry is one of the most storied in the NFL, dating back to their first meeting in 1928, which New York won 6-0.
Five times the two teams squared off for the NFL championship, with the Packers winning four, including back-to-back victories in 1961 and 1962. Four years ago, the Giants beat the Packers in a 23-20 overtime thriller in frigid Green Bay to win the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
Four of the six post-season meetings between the two clubs were decided by a touchdown or less. The Pack won the other two via shutouts.
New York and Green Bay have met 50 times in the regular season, with the Pack holding a 27-21-2 advantage. Their most recent meeting occurred in November, when the Packers won 38-35 on a last-second field goal by Mason Crosby.
Here are thumbnails on their six playoff meetings:
Dec. 11, 1938 — Giants 23, Packers 17
In a see-saw battle, the Giants rallied to become the first team since the NFL split into two divisions in 1933 to win two NFL championships.
The Giants took a 16-14 halftime lead before Green Bay surged in front in the third quarter on Tiny Engebresten’s 15-yard field goal.
Giants halfback Hank Soar, who would later become a major league baseball umpire (he was the first base ump when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series), carried the ball five times and caught a pass on the ensuing drive before making a leaping catch from quarterback Ed Danowski for 23 yards and the winning touchdown.
A championship game record crowd of 48,120 witnessed the game at New York’s Polo Grounds. Each member of the Giants teams received $900, while the losing Packers received $700 per man.
Dec. 10, 1939 — Packers 27, Giants 0
Green Bay avenged its loss to New York the previous year with a resounding victory, the first shutout in championship game history.
The Packers took a 7-0 lead in the first half on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Arnie Herber to Milt Gantenbein.
Green Bay then pulled away with 20 points in the second half, which featured a 31-yard touchdown pass from Cecil Isbell to Joe Laws in the third quarter and a 1-yard touchdown run by Ed Jankowski in the final period.
The game was moved from City Stadium in Green Bay and held at the larger Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis near Milwaukee. Top tickets were priced at $4.40.
Dec. 17 , 1944 — Packers 14, Giants 7
In a game played in the midst of World War II, Green Bay scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter and held on to win the NFL title.
The Packers celebrated a victory that avenged a 24-0 loss to the Giants a month earlier,
Ted Fritsch scored on a 1-yard run and then hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Irv Comp to give Curly Lambeau’s visiting Packers the win.
Ward Cuff scored on a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter for the only score for coach Steve Owens and the Giants.
Giants tackle Al Blozis played in the game while on furlough. Six weeks later he was killed in battle by German machine-gun fire. His number 32 was later retired by the Giants.
Dec. 31, 1962 — Packers 37, Giants 0
In the first NFL championship game ever played in Green Bay, the Packers routed the Giants to give coach Vince Lombardi the first of his five NFL titles. A total of 16 Hall of Famers, 11 of them Packers, dressed for the contest.
The Packers were led by Paul Hornung, who scored a record-tying 19 points with a touchdown, three field goals, and four extra points.
After a scoreless first quarter, Hornung, who finished with 89 yards rushing, ran for a 6-yard touchdown, the first of 24 Packers points in the second quarter. Green Bay’s defense had four interceptions, and the Giants’ offense picked up only six first downs, one by penalty.
Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr passed for three touchdowns, two to tight end Ron Kramer.
Dec. 30, 1962 — Packers 16, Giants 7
With the temperature in the teens and an icy wind estimated at 30 miles an hour or more, Yankee Stadium was an icebox for the players and 64,892 fans. Both teams came out with cleatless, rubber-soled shoes, and the weather put a crimp in the Giants passing attack led by quarterback Y.A. Tittle.
“I remember the first pass Y. A. threw me; it was a simple square out,” said Giants flanker Frank Gifford. “The wind took it, and the ball sailed way over my head. Y. A. was a great, precise passer. One of the Packers, I don’t remember who, turned to me and said, ‘It’s going to be a long day, Frank.’ ”
Green Bay fullback Jim Taylor led all rushers with 85 yards and scored the game’s only offensive touchdown and guard Jerry Kramer kicked three field goals to account for the Packers scoring.
The Giants registered their only touchdown in the third quarter when Jim Collier recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
New York would go on to lose its third straight championship game — this one to the Chicago Bears — in 1963, before enduring 18 years of playoff futility. The Packers would win the 1965 NFL championship game, and then went on to win the first two Supers Bowls in 1966 and 1967.
Jan 20, 2008 — Giants 23, Packers 20 (overtime)
In one of the coldest games in NFL history, the Giants beat the Packers in overtime in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The game-time temperature was -4 with a wind chill of -24
Following Corey Webster’s interception of a Brett Favre pass early in overtime, Lawrence Tynes, above, kicked his third field goal of the game from 47 yards out to give the Giants a hard-earned victory.
Green Bay led 10-6 at the half sparked by a 90-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Donald Driver, but the Giants rebounded in the third quarter to take the lead on touchdown runs by Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Mason Crosby’s fourth quarter field goal tied the game 20-20, and Tynes missed a pair of field goals, including one at the gun, before kicking the game-winner.
The Giants advanced to the Super Bowl, where they knocked off the previously unbeaten New England Patriots to win their third Super Bowl.
Catcher Jorge Posada played his entire career with the Yankees.
Sometime soon, Jorge Posada will announce his retirement, a Yankee catcher for life.
There’s something to be said for playing an entire career with one team. Players like Ted Williams of the Red Sox, Stan Musial of the Cardinals, and Cal Ripken of the Orioles have done just that and become the faces of their franchises.
Posada caught 1,574 games with the Yankees, third behind only Hall of Fame catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Few realize that Berra did not play his entire career with the Yankees. Early in 1965, a season after being fired as Yankee manager, Yogi started two games as catcher and pinch-hit twice for the Mets, getting two hits in nine at bats before becoming a full-time coach.
Berra is one of many legendary Yankee stars who played for other teams. Babe Ruth began his career as a pitcher with the Red Sox of course, and returned to Boston to play his final season with the Braves. Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon and Charlie Keller all played for other teams.
Andy Pettitte spent three years with the Houston Astros. Lefty Gomex went 0-1 with the Washington Senators in 1943. Red Ruffing, like Ruth, started out as a Red Sox pitcher. Reliever Joe Page came out of retirement to pitch for the 1954 Pirates.
But there is a core contingent of players throughout the years who spent their entire careers in pinstripes. Here they are, the all-time, all-the-time Yankees:
C — Bill Dickey — .313 career hitter with high of .362 in 1936, 202 home runs, 100 RBIs four straight years, beginning in 1936. (1928-46)
1B — Lou Gehrig — The Iron Horse, 2,130 consecutive games, 493 home run, .340 lifetime batting average. Captain, two-time MVP, 1934 Triple Crown. (1923-39)
2B — Robinson Cano — Seven years with Yankees, hit .300 or better five times, including career-high .342 in 2006. (2005-Present)
SS — Derek Jeter — First Yankee to accumulate 3,000 hits, .313 lifetime hitter, 240 home runs, 339 stolen bases. Rookie of the Year 1995, five Gold Gloves. (1995-Present)
3B — Red Rolfe — Batted .289 lifetime, led American League in runs, hits, doubles in 1939. (1931-42)
OF — Joe DiMaggio — The Yankee Clipper, right, 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is all-time mark. Hit .325 with 361 home runs. Three-time MVP (1936-51)
OF — Mickey Mantle — The Mick, 536 career home runs, .298 average. Three-time MVP, Triple Crown in 1956. (1951-68)
OF — Earle Combs — The Kentucky Colonel, .325 career hitter, led league in triples three times and hits once. (1924-35)
LHP — Whitey Ford — Yankees all-time winningest pitcher, 236 wins, .690 career win percentage highest for 200-game winner. MLB Cy Young winner 1961. (1950-67)
RHP — Spud Chandler — 109-43, including 20 wins in 1943 and 146. Won MVP in 1943. (1937-47)
Relief — Mariano Rivera — Became all-time saves leader last year with 603. Lowest ERA among active pitchers at 2.21. (1995-Present)
C — Jorge Posada — A .276 lifetime hitter with 275 career home runs. (1995-2011)
1B — Don Mattingly — Donnie Baseball, below,.307 career average, MVP in 1985. (1982-95)
2B — Bobby Richardson — Five-time Gold Glove winner, World Series MVP in 1960. (1955-66)
SS — Phil Rizzuto — The Scooter, 1950 MVP, long-time Yankee broadcaster. (1941-56)
3B — Gil McDougald — Utility infielder, Rookie of the Year in 1951. (1951-60)
OF — Bernie Williams — Batting champion in 1998, hit .297 lifetime. Four Gold Gloves. (1991-2006)
OF — Tommy Henrich — Old Reliable, batted .282 lifetime with 183 homers. (1937-50)
OF — Roy White — Batted .271 lifetime with 160 home runs, 233 stolen bases. (1965-79)
LHP — Ron Guidry — Louisiana Lightning, three-time 20-game winner, 170-91 lifetime, AL Cy Young in 1978. (1975-89)
RHP — Mel Stottlemyre — Won 20 games three times, 164-139 career mark. (1964-74)
Notes — Others who received major consideration include catcher Thurman Munson, shortstop Frankie Crosetti and outfielder George Selkirk….The Yankees have had some great relief pitchers through the years, but other than Rivera all wore other uniforms at one time. Wilcy Moore, Johnny Murphy, Joe Page, Luis Arroyo, Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage were among the top relievers.
If you’re a Baby Boomer, you know the feeling. You try and tell your kids or someone else from the younger generation what it was like to grow up in America in the 50s. Usually they just roll their eyes and give one of those “C’mon old man, get with it” looks.
Hey, if you could pre-determine your fate, you’d be hard pressed to pick a better time and place to be born and raised than the 50s in the suburbs of New York. Our parents had lived through the Great Depression, our fathers had fought in World War II. The pace was picking up in the 50s, and the USA was on the rise. And New York was right smack dab in the heart of it all.
The 50s were a time of optimism and prosperity, at least in Westchester County, where every family it seemed had a house, a car and lots of kids. Growing up in White Plains, the oldest of four, with my grandparents and 11 cousins all living within three, tree-lined blocks, was an amazing experience.
As kids, we felt safe and secure. We rode bikes around the neighborhood, caught frogs and turtles in nearby ponds, and played sports. Lots of sports. Baseball, stickball and Whiffle ball. Football and basketball. On fields, in vacant lots, in driveways, even in the streets.
New York was the center of the baseball universe in the 50s. For 10 straight seasons, from 1949 through 1958, New York had at least one and oftentimes two teams in the World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left for California after 1957, but they Yankee dynasty remained in the Bronx. Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were household words, their baseball cards prized treasures.
Early Years of Television
We followed the Yankees and other favorite teams on the radio or through the newspapers, but we didn’t watch a whole lot of sports on television. SportsCenter was still decades away.
Television took off in the 50s, and it had an immediate, powerful impact on America. The picture was black and white, at least in the beginning, and there were seven channels available in New York. We watched the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave it to Beaver.”
As the late David Halberstam wrote in his marvelous book “The Fifties” — “One reason that Americans as a people became nostalgic about the fifties…..was not so much that life was better in fifties, (though in some ways it was), but because at the time it had been portrayed so idyllically on television.”
I still remember the first time I ever watched color TV. One of our neighbors on the dead-end street where I grew up hosted a party during the 1957 World Series. The Braves played the Yankees in living color, with the NBC peacock as the backdrop.
A year later, my Dad took me to my first baseball game, at Yankee Stadium. Talk about love at first sight. Pinstripe fever. A SportsLifer for life.
The 50s were a time of change and set the stage for the turbulent 60s.in America.