The day was Dec. 28, 1958 - almost 41 years ago. The site was Yankee
Stadium. The matchup in the NFL championship game featured
the Baltimore Colts against the New York Giants.
The Colts had a potent offense with quarterback Johnny
Unitas, Alan Ameche at fullback, Lenny Moore at halfback, Raymond Berry at
end, and Jim Parker at tackle. Baltimore's defensive line showcased
defensive tackle Art Donovan and end Gino Marchetti.
The Giants had halfback Frank Gifford, tackle Roosevelt
Brown, and middle linebacker Sam Huff. The assistant coaches were Vince
Lombardi on offense and Tom Landry on defense.
A Pat Summerall field goal got the Giants off to the
early lead, but the Colts in the second quarter recovered a fumble by
Gifford and, five plays later, fullback Alan Ameche scored from the 2-yard
line. At halftime it was 14-3 Baltimore.
Late in the third quarter, the Colts seemed primed to
score again. It was first down at the Giants' 3-yard line, but the Giants
held. The defensive stand gave new life to the Giants. QB Chuck Conerly
led them 95 yards, hitting Gifford early in the fourth quarter with a
15-yard touchdown pass. Summerall's extra point made it 17-14 in favor of
Late in the period the Giants tried to kill the clock.
Facing third-and-4 at their 40-yard line, they handed the ball to Gifford.
The first to hit him was Marchetti. The last was Gene (Big Daddy)
Lipscomb, Baltimore's giant defensive tackle who also fell on Marchetti's
right leg, breaking his tibia. To this day, many Giant players argue the
ball was improperly spotted during the effort to get Marchetti medical
attention. They swear Gifford made that first down. The referee said
"I'd be lying if I said I knew whether he made
it," said defensive tackle Art Donovan. "But I don't think he
New York punted, and the Colts got the ball at their
14-yard line with 1:56 remaining.
"When we got in the huddle," Berry said later,
"I looked down the field and the goal posts looked like they were in
With the Giants guarding the sidelines, Unitas passed up
the middle - 11 yards to Moore, then 3 times to Berry for a total of 62
yards. Steve Myrha's 20-yard field goal tied the game with seven seconds
remaining forcing the first sudden death overtime in NFL championship
The Giants got the ball first in OT but the Colts shut
them down. Unitas went to work again. He hit Berry for 21 yards on
third-and-15; he audibled to a draw play when he saw Huff dropping back,
and Ameche ran for 23; he hit Jim Mutscheller at the 1-yard line.
Finally, at 4:51 P.M., Ameche bulled into the end zone.
The call by Bob Wolff: "The Colts are the world champions. Ameche
scores,"the image of the "The Horse," Ameche lying on the
grass, the official signaling the touchdown, the fans storming out onto
the field - all are now part of NFL legend and lore.
The final score was Baltimore 23, N.Y. Giants 17.
Donovan, who grew up just a few miles from Yankee
Stadium, was upbeat in victory.
"My mother had a party in the Bronx a few days
later," he recalls. "The only people who came were me, my
mother, my father, and my sister. All my uncles and cousins were Giants
Though the game was blacked out in New York, a very
large audience had tuned in nationwide. That overtime nail-biter showcased
what the National Football League had to offer. And there are many who
maintain that not only was it the NFL's "Greatest Game" - it
also put the league on the major league track for good.