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On this day in history, December 28, 1958, Colts beat Giants for NFL title in ‘greatest game ever played’


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The Baltimore Colts shocked the New York Giants 23-17 in “sudden demise” on the NFL championship sport at Yankee Stadium earlier than a mesmerized nationwide tv viewers on this present day in historical past, Dec. 28, 1958. 

The occasion has gone down in American sports activities lore as “the best sport ever performed.”

The dramatic title tilt helped popularize professional soccer at a time when it ranked behind baseball and school soccer — even boxing and horse racing — within the nationwide sporting consciousness. 


“The sport captured the collective consideration of the nation and because of this, professional soccer exploded throughout the nation within the following years,” writes the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. 

“By the mid-Sixties, skilled soccer grew to become the nation’s favourite sport to look at and has remained on high ever since.”

Johny Unitas

American quarterback Johnny Unitas (left) of the Baltimore Colts is proven as he is about to throw a move throughout a play in “sudden demise” extra time of the NFL Championship sport towards the New York Giants, Yankee Stadium, New York, Dec. 28, 1958. The Colts received 23-17.  (Robert Riger/Getty Photos)

The nationally televised spectacle was highlighted by two dramatic late scoring drives engineered by an unheralded 25-year-old Colts quarterback named Johnny Unitas. 

The sports activities thriller capped a protracted Christmas weekend for thousands and thousands of Individuals who have been tuning into professional soccer for the primary time. 

The 1958 NFL championship is remembered in American sports activities lore as “the best sport ever performed.”

They witnessed the primary extra time sport in professional soccer historical past; one of many first NFL video games broadcast nationally; and an unbelievable galaxy of soccer legends on the sphere and on the sidelines. 

Amongst them: New York Giants stars Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Pat Summerall; and Colts icons Raymond Berry, Artwork Donovan and Lenny Moore.

A complete of 17 future Corridor of Famers participated within the sport as gamers, coaches or executives.

The Giants teaching workers included assistants Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. 

Frank Gifford

New York Giants star Frank Gifford (no. 16) in motion, dashing vs. Baltimore Colts, Bronx, New York, on Dec. 28, 1958.  (Hy Peskin/Sports activities Illustrated through Getty Photos)

No star shined brighter than that of Unitas, who emerged from the sport an American legend.

A sandlot gunslinger enjoying for $7 per week simply three years earlier, he marched the Colts from their very own 14-yard line within the last two minutes to arrange a game-tying 20-yard subject purpose with seven seconds left to play in regulation. 

“It was probably the most dramatic two minutes within the historical past of any sport,” former NFL government, broadcaster and soccer historian Upton Bell informed Fox Information Digital. 


“Individuals in these days knew you could not put collectively a scoring drive in two minutes.”

Bell’s father, the late Bert Bell, was the NFL commissioner on the time. 

With out the “sudden demise,” the 1958 NFL championship sport would have resulted in a 17-17 tie. 

The senior Bell had satisfied crew house owners only a few years earlier to undertake a “sudden demise” format within the occasion of a tie within the league championship sport. 

In “sudden demise,” the primary crew to attain wins. 

With out it, the 1958 NFL championship sport would have resulted in a 17-17 tie. 

NFL commissioner Bert Bell

Bert Bell, commissioner of the Nationwide Soccer League, is proven at a press convention in Philadelphia on April 4, 1947. Bell was commissioner of the NFL from 1946 till his demise in 1959.  (Getty Photos)

“I don’t assume lots of people realized traditionally on the time what sudden demise meant,” mentioned Bell, who was within the stands for the sport.

“Many gamers on the sphere did not perceive. Individuals round me have been able to go residence, considering the sport ended as a tie.”


The Giants failed to attain on the opening drive of extra time. 

Unitas then led the Colts 80 yards on 13 performs for the game-winning rating.

An estimated 45 million Individuals gathered across the tv for the ultimate minutes of unprecedented sports activities drama. 

They watched as Colts working again Alan “The Horse” Ameche crashed over the purpose line from one yard out for the profitable rating. 

An estimated 45 million Individuals gathered across the tv for the ultimate minutes of unprecedented sports activities drama.

The large viewership shattered all recognized tv audiences for soccer that had come earlier than. 

Mayhem ensued on the sphere, as a way of witnessing historical past rushed over the 64,000 followers in attendance.

Unitas accomplished 26 of 40 passes for 349 yards — startling numbers in that period. His teammate Berry caught 12 passes for 178 yards. 

Berry’s 12 receptions stood as an NFL championship sport/Tremendous Bowl document for 55 years. 

Johnny Unitas

Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas is mobbed by well-wishers as he heads for the dressing room after main the Colts to a 23-17 win over the New York Giants within the first “sudden demise” extra time in Nationwide Soccer historical past. Unitas set a document of 349 yards gained on passes in a title sport. (Getty Photos)

The beforehand unknown sports activities time period “sudden demise” entered the American vernacular that day, mentioned Bell. 

It is nonetheless generally utilized in all sports activities to explain a contest that ends on the following rating by both crew.

Commissioner Bell, a professional soccer pioneer, broke down and cried after the sport, realizing he had witnessed a landmark second for a league that always struggled to outlive since its 1920 founding. 

“A grasp cinematographer couldn’t have lit the scene extra dramatically.” 

The sport benefited from low ambient lighting and the sharply completely different white jerseys of the Colts and darkish blue jerseys of the Giants. 

It gave the sport a stark, thrilling palette that popped on black-and-white tv.


“Lots of the viewers simply starting to tune in weren’t common watchers of professional soccer and so they have been seeing one thing starkly completely different than the normal school video games performed on sunny autumn afternoons,” creator Mark Bowden wrote in his 2008 ebook, “The Greatest Recreation Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Delivery of the Fashionable NFL.” 

He added, “This was extra like mortal fight from some darkish underworld. A grasp cinematographer couldn’t have lit the scene extra dramatically.” 

Tom Brady celebrates the New England Patriots Super Bowl win in 2017 with confetti falling from the sky as he hoists the Lombardi Trophy

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in extra time in Tremendous Bowl LI in February 2017. It joined the 1958 NFL championship sport as the one title contest in league historical past that went into extra time.  (Deal with Sport)

The large curiosity within the sport fueled the creation of the rival American Soccer League the next 12 months. 

Eight AFL groups took the sphere for the primary time in 1960. 

The 2 leagues merged in 1966 with the creation of the primary AFL-NFL championship sport, an occasion now recognized around the globe because the Tremendous Bowl. 

A behemoth of American sports activities tradition, the Tremendous Bowl was made potential by the drama of the 1958 NFL title sport. 


A 2019 ballot of dozens of soccer specialists confirmed the standing of the 1958 NFL championship contest as “the best sport ever performed.” 

The second best sport on the record: the unbelievable 34-28 comeback win by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons in Tremendous Bowl LI.

It was the one different NFL championship sport that went into extra time. 

For extra Life-style articles, go to www.foxnews.com/way of life.


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