The Doc, the Giants and a breath of fresh air

Doc & Dad

Dr. John McGovern, right, and Bruno Benziger celebrate their 50th birthday in 1975.

Last week, the White Plains community bid a fond farewell as we celebrated the life of Dr. John V. McGovern. The Doc was truly a Renaissance man and a charter member of “The Greatest Generation,” the group of Americans that grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II.

Dr. McGovern specialized in allergies and immunology, enjoyed singing show tunes and was a licensed pilot who appreciated the fine arts and the opera. Oh yeah, and he also fathered 13 children.

He was a role model for me, like my father, and Bruno Benziger, our Boy Scout troop leader, my uncles Tom and Jimmy, and so many of the men of the previous generation who taught us life lessons and showed us the way, Growing up in White Plains in the 50s and 60s was simply amazing. Those were the days.

I remember the Doc as a healer. When I was a third grader he began treating me for asthma. Weekly shots became bi-monthly, but when I went away to college, the treatments ended.

Dr. McGovern set me on the road to recovery. Along with Dr. John Parrinello, another allergist who treated me in middle age, I eventually grew out of my asthma. .

As a sixth grader back in 1962, I was having particular difficulty breathing. Anyone who has ever suffered with asthma, knows that wheezing feeling, where every breath is painful.

One gray November Sunday, the asthma was squeezing the air out of my lungs. My mother and father wanted to call Dr. McGovern, but I knew he was at the Giants game at Yankee Stadium. In those days, doctors could be paged at sporting events. And they made house calls.

I begged my parents not to call, and they waited until the game ended. The Doc arrived at the house shortly after. He took out his stethoscope, listened to my lungs, and said “this boy has pneumonia. He needs to go to the hospital.”

Shortly after I was admitted to St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, where I stayed for six days. I recovered, and to this day, nearly 55 years later, knock on wood, I’ve never been hospitalized again.

Oh, by the way, the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 31-28 on that November Sunday in 1962.  That one was for you Doc. Thanks for curing me.


Coughlin hearing echoes of ‘Goodbye Allie’

Way back in the mid-60s, New York Giants fans at Yankee Stadium serenaded coach Allie Sherman with taunts of “Goodbye Allie” as they expressed their displeasure with the team’s performance. Although fans are not nearly as vocal about Tom Coughlin these days, many feel it’s time for the Giants to make a change.

Coughlin will always be revered in New York for winning a pair of Super Bowls, twice beating the Patriots in dramatic fashion. But after yet another fourth quarter meltdown Sunday, this one against the Jets, it’s apparent that Coughlin’s coaching days are numbered.

The Giants have blown fourth-quarter leads in five of their seven losses this year, and some of the blame needs to come down on the coach. Clock mismanagement, bad coaching decisions, questionable play-calling, lack of execution and pure dumb luck have cost the Giants wins against Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans, New England and the Jets.

The Giants have failed to make the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, finishing 9-7, 7-9, 6-10 and currently 5-7. That doesn’t look pretty in a line graph, never mind in the NFL standings. Amazingly, Big Blue could still make the playoffs if the Giants win the woeful NFC East.

Allie Sherman experienced a similar fall-off in the 60s. After taking the Giants to three consecutive NFL Championship games beginning in 1961, all of which they lost, the Giants failed to make the playoffs for 18 straight years. Despite marks of 2-10-2 in 1964 and a club-record worst 1-12-1 in 1966, Sherman clung to his job until 1969, when after a terrible pre-season he was replaced by Alex Webster. Overall, Sherman was 57-51-4 with the Giants.

This is Coughlin’s 12th season with the Giants, and his teams have compiled a 101-87 record. He has coached more games and earned more victories than all but one other Giant – Hall of Famer Steve Owen who finished 151-100-17 between 1931 and 1953 and won a pair of championships.

If the Giants do decide to part ways with Coughlin, they should look outside-house for a replacement. Steve Spagnola’s defense is a mess, one of the worst outfits in the league. And despite some talent, Ben McAdoo’s offense is terribly inconsistent. (Memo to Ben: running back by committee doesn’t work, at least not with this offensive line.)

Is Coughlin a Hall of Fame coach? He did win those two Super Bowls, and his overall playoff record with the Giants is 8-3. He also coached the Jacksonville Jaguars, an expansion team, to a 68-60 mark, and took them to a pair of AFC Championship games. He will certainly receive strong consideration for a bust in Canton.

Only one eligible coach – Tom Flores of the Raiders – has won two Super Bowls and is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But even Hall of Fame coaches lose their jobs.


The 10 biggest routs in Giants history

Alex Webster bulls his way into the end zone as the Giants trounce the Bears 47-7 in the 1956 NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium.

There are wins and there are routs. Blowouts. Total domination. The New York Giants have experienced their fair share of gridiron glory in the 87 years since Tim Mara brought pro football to New York in 1925 — including four Super Bowls and eight NFL championships overall

Here are the biggest of the big, the 10 most dominant wins in Giants history.

1. Giants 47, Bears 7, 1956 — The Giants cap off their first season in Yankee Stadium by crushing the Bears in the NFL Championship game. Alex Webster runs for a pair of touchdowns and Charlie Conerly throws TD passes to Frank Gifford and Kyle Rote as New York races to a 34-7 halftime lead and wins easily.

2. Giants 41, Vikings 0, 2001 — Quarterback Kerry Collins tosses a club playoff record five TD passes to lead the Giants past Minnesota in what remains the largest shutout margin ever recorded in an NFC Championship game.

3. Giants 49, 49ers 3, 1987 — Phil Simms, right, throws four TD passes, Joe Morris runs for two,  and Lawrence Taylor takes a Joe Montana pass to the house as the Giants rout San Francisco in the divisional round en route to the first Super Bowl in team history.

4. Giants 48, Browns 7, 1959 — Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote and Alex Webster all score touchdowns as the G-Men build a 48-0 lead and roll to the Eastern Conference championship.

5. Giants 53, Redskins 0. 1961 – Y.A. Tittle connects  with Del Shofner for three TDs, linemen Dick Modzelewski and Jim Katcavage record safeties, and the Giants outgain the Redskins 383-82.

6. Giants 36, Redskins 0, 2005 — In their first game since the death of beloved owner Wellington Mara, Brandon Jacobs, Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey all score touchdowns and Jay Feely kicks five field goals in a shutout at the Meadowlands.

7. Giants 62, Eagles 10, 1972 — Norm Snead throws three TD passes and Randy Johnson two and Ron Johnson runs for a pair of scores as the Giants post the most points in team history.

8. Giants 56, Eagles 0, 1933 — Led by Hall of Famers coach Steve Owen, left, and fullback Ken Strong, along with passing leader Harry Newman, the Giants rout Philadelphia at the Polo Grounds in the first meeting ever between the two teams.

9. Giants 33, Browns 6, 1963 — The Giants roll into Cleveland and rout the previously unbeaten Browns behind four Don Chandler field goals. Adding insult to injury, the Giants block the extra point after a late Cleveland touchdown.

10. Giants 49, Packers 3, 1948 — Charlie Conerly throws for three TDs and runs for a fourth score as the Giants overcome an early 3-0 Packer lead with seven straight touchdowns in Green Bay.


Top 10: Giants kings of big game drama

 

The New York Giants have been involved in more dramatic big games than any other team in NFL history. From three classic Super Bowls to overtime NFC Championships to “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” the Giants have given New York fans (and football fans everywhere) a full load of  fantastic finishes.

In the past 25 years, the Giants are 4-1 in Super Bowls and 5-0 in NFC Championship games. Six of those games came down to the final play…..and the Giants won ’em all.

Here are the 10 most exciting big games in New York Football Giants history:

1. Giants 17, Patriots 14, Super Bowl XLII, 2008 — Sparked by an impossible catch by David Tyree, Eli Manning then hits Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining as the Giants knock off previously unbeaten 18-0 New England in a huge upset.

2. Giants 20, Bills 19, Super Bowl XXV, 1991 — Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal sails wide right at the finish and the Giants, behind backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler and MVP Ottis Anderson, defeat the heavily-favored  Bills in the closest game in Super Bowl history.

3. Giants 21, Patriots 17, Super Bowl XLVI, 2012  — Ahmad Bradshaw backs into the end zone for the winning touchdown with 57 seconds left and Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass fails to connect as the Giants win their fourth Super Bowl and eighth NFL championship.

4. Giants 23, Packers 20,OT,  NFC Championship, 2008 — Lawrence Tynes, right, who earlier had missed two field goals, kicks a 47-yarder in overtime to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay in one of the coldest games in football history.

5. Giants 20, 49ers 17, OT, NFC Championship, 2012 — It’s a case of deja blue all over again. Following a fumbled punt, Lawrence Tynes kicks the Giants into the Super Bowl with a 31-yard field goal in rainy San Francisco.

6. Giants 15, 49ers 13, NFC Championship, 1991 — Matt Bahr makes a 42-yard field goal at the final gun following a fumble recovery by Lawrence Taylor as the Giants end San Francisco’s dreams of a three-peat.

7. Giants 13, Browns 10, 1958 — Pat Summerall’s 49-yard field goal in a driving snowstorm, below left, gives the Giants a victory and a share of the NFL East title. The Giants beat Cleveland 10-0 in a playoff the following week, but, then lose to the Colts in the NFL Championship game.

8. Giants 13, Cowboys 10, OT, 1981 — Joe Danelo’s field goal — and a Jets win over the Packers the next day — propels the Giants into the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. They go on to beat the Eagles before losing to the 49ers.

9. Giants 23, Packers 17, NFL Championship, 1938 — Trailing 17-16 in the fourth quarter, the Giants rally as former MLB umpire Hank Soar makes a leaping catch of Ed Danowski’s pass for the winning touchdown.

10. Giants 17, Browns 13, 1950 — The Giants trail 13-3 at the half before rallying on touchdown runs by Forrest Griffith and Joe Scott to beat the Browns, who had arrived from the All-America Football Conference to dominate the NFL in their first year..

You Can’t Win Em All

Naturally, the Giants have suffered some heartbreaking losses as well, Setbacks to the Jets in 1988 and the Eagles in 2010 knocked them out of  playoff spots. Then there was an overtime loss to the Cowboys in the final game of the 1993 regular season that cost New York the NFC East crown.

And who can forget the “The Miracle at the Meadowlands” in 1978 when Philadelphia’s Herm Edwards returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Giants failed  to take a knee and  run out the clock.

Here are the Giants five most dramatically horrifying playoff losses:

1. Colts 23, Giants 17, OT, NFL Championship, 1958 — In “The Greatest Game Ever Played” quarterback Johnny Unitas sparks a fourth-quarter rally and Alan Amache scores the winning touchdown Baltimore prevails at Yankee Stadium. It remains the only NFL championship game ever to be decided in overtime.

2. 49ers, Giants 38, NFC wild card round, 2003 — The 49ers overcome a 24-point deficit to win in the second greatest comeback in NFL playoff history.

3. Vikings 23, Giants 22, wild card round, 1997 — Minnesota overcomes 19-3 halftime deficit and scores 10 points in last 1:30 to win a wild card playoff matchup.

4. Bears 23, Giants 21, NFL Championship, 1933 —The  Bears tally a late touchdown on trick play to win the first NFL Championship game.

5. Rams 19, Giants 13, OT, NFC divisional round, 1990 — Flipper Anderson catches a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jim Everett as Los Angeles upset the Giants in the Meadowlands.


G-Men Have Been Giant Killers Before

Plaxico Burress and the Giants ruined the Patriots’ unbeaten season in Super Bowl XLII.
Been there, done that. Just ask the New York Giants.

As they get ready for the unbeaten Packers on Sunday, the struggling G-Men can take solace in their Giant killer pedigree.

At least three times in their long and glorious history the Giants have taken out unbeaten opponents — twice in championship games.

As recently as four seasons ago, the Giants spoiled the undefeated dreams of the New England Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

The Giants, a number five seed and 12-point underdog, rallied in the final minutes to upend previously unbeaten (18-0) New England and alter the course of NFL history. Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with just 35 seconds remaining to give New York the monumental 17-14 win.

The Giants, who lost six games during the regular season, avenged a 38-35 loss to the Patriots in the final game of the regular season.

Sneakers Game
Nearly 75 years earlier, in December of 1934, the Chicago Bears waltzed into Manhattan with a 13-0 record, a record-setting offense, and high hopes for an unbeaten season and an NFL championship.

The Bears took an early lead over the 8-5 Giants in the second NFL Championship game ever played. But the Giants then made a surprise move as reported by the New York Times, coming out in the second half “with basketball shoes replacing the cleated football shoes. The solidly frozen ground made cleats useless, and the basketball shoes made all the difference.”

Trailing 13-3, the Giants rallied for four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and an improbable 30-13 win in a contest, shown at right, that became known in NFL lore as the “Sneakers Game.”

In December of 1998, the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, led by John Elway, took a 13-0 record into a December game against the Giants at the Meadowlands.

Denver went up 16-13 in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard touchdown run by Terrell Davis. But the Giants, then 5-8, put together a finishing drive. With just 48 seconds left in the game, New York scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Kent Graham to Amani Toomer for a shocking 20-16 win.

Can history repeat itself?

Extra Points: The Giants also had a chance to knock off the only undefeated team in NFL history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Dolphins (12-0) came into Yankee Stadium and beat the Giants 23-13 on the strength of  three Gary Yepremian field goals. Miami went on to defeat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII and finish a perfect 17-0.


1927 New York Giants — Forgotten Champs

The 1927 New York Yankees are considered one of the greatest teams in baseball history.

Yet New York had another championship team that year, 84 years ago, a team long since forgotten.

That team was the New York Giants, who in just their third year in the fledgling National Football League won their first title.

The Giants finished 11-1-1 in the 12-team league and were crowned NFL champions in a time before playoff systems were used. The Giants, who called the Polo Grounds home, shut out 10 opponents that year. They allowed just three touchdowns all season and wound up outscoring the opposition 197-20.

NFL, 1927
Those opponents included both the second place Green Bay Packers (7-2-1) and third place Chicago Bears (9-3-2). The Cleveland Bulldogs, who finished fourth (8-4-2), put the only two blemishes on the Giants record, beating New York 6-0 after playing the Giants to a scoreless tie earlier in the season.

The remaining NFL teams in 1927 were the Providence Steam Roller, New York Yankees, Frankford Yellow Jackets, Pottsville Maroons, Chicago Cardinals, Dayton Triangles, Duluth Eskimos and Buffalo Bisons, who dropped out of the league after five straight losses to start the season.

The Giants were led by two Hall of Fame linemen, tackles Steve Owen, shown right, and Cal Hubbard, who played both offense and defense. Owen went on to coach the Giants for 24 seasons beginning in 1930, and won two championships of his own, in 1933 and 1938.

Hubbard is the only man to be voted into both the Baseball and Football Hall of Fame. Playing alongside Steve Owen, Hubbard was a rookie on the 1927 Giants, but a year later requested a trade to Green Bay, which won the NFL championship in his first three years beginning in 1929. He finished his football career in 1936 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a franchise that was to become the Steelers.

Baseball Umpire
Hubbard later became an umpire in the American League from 1936 to 1951. Immediately recognized as one of the game’s greatest officials, he was eventually elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 1927 Giants were led offensively by fullback Jack McBride, who scored 57 points, with six touchdowns, two field goals, and 15 extra points. Tailback Hinkey Haines and wingback Mule Wilson each scored six TDs.

The Giants were coached by coached Earl Potteiger, who joints the ranks of Steve Owen (2), Bill Parcells (2), Jim Lee Howell and Tom Coughlin as the only men to  coach the Giants to championships. Potteiger coached the Giants again in 1928, finished 4-7-2, and was dismissed.

Potteiger also played and managed minor league baseball. And apparently there are no known photos of William Earl Potteiger….but we do have his autograph.

Footnote: While the Giants were winning their 1927 championship, the New York Rangers were beginning just their second season in the National Hockey League. The following April, the Rangers beat the Montreal Maroons 3-2 to win Stanley Cup, giving New York three professional championships in less than six months.


Steelers Are Super, But Packers Are NFL’s Best

Originally posted on February 2, 2009 by Sportslifer

SportsLifer Rewind: I posted this blog two years ago, after the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl by beating the Arizona Cardinals. Who knew that Super Bowl XLV would pit the Steelers against the Packers.

Not to rain on Pittsburgh’s parade (hey, we all love a parade), but to claim the Steelers are the best team in NFL history is a bit over the top.

Granted, the Steelers have now win six Super Bowls, more than any other franchise — the Cowboys and the 49ers have each won five. So if you want to give Pittsburgh the nod as the best team in the Super Bowl era, well who’s to argue. No disputing the fact that they are a model franchise, classy and competitive.

DSCN2434 But the best all-time? Not. That’s like claiming the team that has won the most World Series since baseball adopted its playoff format in 1969 is the best ever. (That team happens to be the Yankees with six (now seven) championships, but they won 20 more before 1969).

The Steelers were formed in 1933, and were NFL doormats for more than 40 years, never winning so much as a conference championship. Five years after shifting to the AFC Central in 1970, the Steelers won their first Super Bowl.

You can’t ignore history.

Packers Have Most Titles
So who is the best? Counting three Super Bowls, the Green Bay Packers have won 12 NFL, including the first two Super Bowls, since the formation of the NFL in 1920, the  Packers have actually won 12 titles.

Green Bay is the only NFL team to win three straight championships (1929-31) and (1965-67), the latter including the first two Super Bowls.

The Chicago Bears also supersede the Steelers with nine NFL titles, including Super Bowl XX. And the New York Giants have seven championships, including three Super Bowls.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers rank behind the Steelers with five Super Bowl wins apiece

Another team that’s sometimes forgotten in the haze of football history is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won four straight championships in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) before that league was disbanded in 1950. The Browns then proceeded to make six straight appearances in the NFL championship game, winning in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

Cleveland won another championship in 1964, but has never been to the Super Bowl.

Cleaning out the Notebook
Among the dozen or more “experts” in the booth for Super Bowl XLIII, it’s hard to believe NBC would include Matt Millen. Yes, the same Matt Millen, the general manager who set the Detroit Lions back years. Heck, I wouldn’t trust this guy to pick my fantasy football team.

Jennifer Hudson’s emotional rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was moving, best since Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV.

DSCN2429 Lots of fans, even football fanatics, were looking forward to the halftime show as much as the game. Bruce Springsteen didn’t disappoint. He never does. That’s why he’s the Boss.

Finally, why didn’t the refs review Kurt Warner’s last play? Fumble or incomplete pass? Close call. But at the very least the play deserved review.

According to the NFL head of officials, the play was reviewed and upheld. For what, 20 seconds?

Rules state that if Warner’s arm is moving in a forward motion with the ball still in his hand when it comes out, the play should be ruled an incomplete pass, not a fumble.

Oh, and one more thing.

After the play, the Steelers were called for a personal foul, so if the play had been reversed, and with the 15-yard penalty yardage marked off, the Cardinals would have had the ball on the Pittsburgh 30 with about seven seconds remaining.

Certainly time enough for a miracle.