'The Catch' Spurred 49ers Greatness
Time, they say, doesn't stand still for anyone - not even the San
Francisco 49ers. It is kind of eerie that the limbo-like speculation
about the future of the team, and franchise players like Jerry Rice,
Steve Young, Ken Norton, Jr. etc., is taking place at the anniversary
time of one of the greatest National Football League moments - January
10, 1982. It was a time that kick-started the franchise to glory!
More than 60,000 fans jammed San Francisco's Candlestick Park for the
National Football Conference championship match up between the storied
and veteran Dallas Cowboys and the potential filled 49ers.
The season before the 49ers were 6-10. Now with Joe Montana in his
first year as the starting quarterback, they had a glitzy (13-3) best
record in the NFL.
The game was a see-saw affair like two boxers going at each other
through the opening rounds of a fight. In the fourth quarter Dallas
clung to a 27-21 lead. With 4:54 left in the game, San Francisco moved
down the field in a time consuming, methodical, textbook drive.
With 58 seconds left, the 49ers were on the Cowboys' six-yard line -
third down, three yards for a first. The ball was snapped to Montana,
who rolled right trying to avoid a furious Dallas rush. A play had been
drawn up to get the ball to Freddie Solomon but he was smothered.
Losing his balance, going backwards, Montana hurled the ball to
Dwight Clark at the back of the end zone. The toss to the 6-foot-4 Clark
was thrown very high. The defender Everson Walls gave up on the play
saying later that he thought Clark had no chance to make the catch since
the ball was thrown so high. But a leaping Clark made the catch,
grabbing the ball with his fingertips and coming down just barely in
bounds for the TD.
Pandemonium prevailed at Candlestick. San Fran held on for a 28-27
win, giving them their first Super Bowl berth. What Dwight Clark
accomplished has gone down in football lore as "The Catch."
There are those who argue that Joe Montana was trying to get rid of the
ball and throw it out of the end zone, and that Clark happened to get in
"That's not true," Clark explained. "That was a play
that we practiced over and over again."
Two weeks after "the catch," the 49ers
trimmed Cincinnati, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI in Pontiac, Michigan. That
triumph was the first of a quartet of Super Bowl wins for Joe Montana and
the 49ers in a span of nine years.
In his third season as head coach and general
manager, Bill Walsh was named to all seven NFL Coach of the Year honors,
while six 49ers were named to the Pro Bowl - WR Dwight Clark, G Randy
Cross, QB Joe Montana, DE Fred Dean, CB Ronnie Lott, and S Dwight Hicks.
The Catch" was the trigger that enabled San Francisco to become one
of the dominant football franchises of the past twenty years.
But time waits for no one - not even the 49ers. The
past is past. Re-building is crucial for the team by the Bay as the new
century gets underway.
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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