Saturday, July 29, 2006

Yankee Stadium: Pro Football

The New York Giants football team played at Yankee Stadium from 1956 to 1973. They left the Polo Grounds, where they had played since their founding in 1925, and won the NFL Championship in their first season in the Stadium, defeating the Chicago Bears 47-7 on December 30, 1956. It is accepted by football historians that the chant, "Dee-FENSE!" was first used at Yankee Stadium that year to describe the Giant defense, led by linebacker Sam Huff. Other Giant Hall-of-Famers to play for them in Yankee Stadium include quarterbacks Charley Conerly and Y.A. Tittle, running back Frank Gifford, tackle Roosevelt Brown, defensive end Andy Robustelli and safety Emlen Tunnell.

During these years, the Giants were coached by Jim Lee Howell (1954-60) and Allie Sherman (1961-68). Howell's staff included offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi, who had played for Fordham University at Yankee Stadium, and defensive coordinator Tom Landry, who had been a Giant defensive back. The two men would become head coaches, and Lombardi's Green Bay Packers would face Landry's Dallas Cowboys in two NFL Championship Games in the late 1960s.

In addition to the 1956 game, which they won, the Giants hosted two other NFL Championship Games at Yankee Stadium, at a time when host sites were rotated between the league's Eastern and Western Division Champions. The Giants played the Baltimore Colts on December 28, 1958, and, in the first overtime game ever played in the NFL, lost, 23-17, in a game described by many observers as "the greatest game ever played." On December 30, 1962, the Giants lost to Lombardi's Packers, 16-7. Despite reaching the Championship Game six times in eight years between 1956 and 1963 (including the 1959 game in Baltimore, the 1961 game in Green Bay and the 1963 game in Chicago), the Giants only won the first of these, in 1956.

It was also at Yankee Stadium that one of the NFL's "greatest hits" took place. On November 20, 1960, the Giants hosted the Philadelphia Eagles, and just after catching a pass, Gifford was hit by Eagle linebacker Chuck Bednarik, knocking him out and causing him to fumble. The fumble was recovered by the Eagles, who went on to win the game and later the NFL Championship. This was the one season between 1958 and 1963 that the Giants did not win the Eastern Division. Gifford was so badly hurt that he missed the rest of the season and all of the 1961 season. The photograph of Bednarik, pumping his fist in celebration of the recovered fumble, standing over an unconscious Gifford, is one of football's best-known pictures.

By 1964, age and injuries began to catch up with the Giants, and they were largely uncompetitive for the remainder of their tenure in Yankee Stadium. Knowing the Stadium would close in the middle (for football) of the 1973 season, and that the stadium they had arranged to build in New Jersey (to be named Giants Stadium) would not open until 1976,the team secured temporary home fields for the remainder of 1973 and all of 1974 and 1975.

The Stadium was also home to several football teams known as the "New York Yankees," but none of these lasted for more than a few seasons.


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BallHype: hype it up! Posted by Steve Kenul at 8:00 PM

2 Comments

  • Anonymous jane posted at 8:36 PM  
    Yanks, you are totally kicking butt today!! Way to go!
  • Blogger Bluepanther posted at 9:00 PM  
    I have been here before but not knowing much about the sport we are talking about here, I always felt reluctant to comment.
    But great work!!!
  • Post a Comment

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