Sports:1965-66 Pittsburgh Pirates the Team Time Forgot

The Pittsburgh Pirates last World Series Championship was 1979, with the Willie Stargell, we are family Buccos, and a thrilling 7th game win over the Baltimore Orioles. The other championship seasons for the Pirates were 1909, 1925, 1960, and 1971.  The group that won the championships in 1909, 1925, and 1971, had some good runs of 3 to 4 years, that included a championship season.  The 1960 and 1979 Pirates had, that one year, of a magical combination of camaraderie, skill, and luck that led to a world championship. Then there was the  run of the Barry Bonds Pirates, that won three straight division titles in 90, 91, and 92, but could never quite make it to the world series. They are still talked and written about today. But a team that is rarely mentioned is the Pirates of 1965 and 66. For 1.9 seasons, they played some of the best baseball, this town has ever seen. From May 21 1965 until Oct 3 1966 the Pirates won 173 games and lost 108. From May 21 in 1965 they finished the season 81 and 48 for a winning percentage of .628.  Translated into a 162 game season that would be 102 wins for the year. In 1965 they were 90 and 72 and in 66 they were 92 and 70.  Unfortunately, there was a team out in Los Angeles that was simply better.

The beginning of the 1965 season marked the end of the first Danny Murtaugh era in Pittsburgh.  He had managed the Pirates to the 1960 World Series victory over the Yankees and the Pirates had mostly good years under his regime which began in mid season of 1957.   The new manager of the Pirates was Harry “The Hat” Walker.  Nicknamed the hat for way he always adjusted his hat between pitches, when he was batting.  There were no helmets in those days, when Walker played.  He was one of the most respected hitting instructors in baseball, and the Pirates developed into one of the best hitting teams in baseball during the next 2 years.  The Pirates still had a good core from the 1960 team which included Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente Bill Virdon and pitchers Vernon Law and Bob Friend.  But this was a team with lots of new faces.  Don Clendenon was at 1st, Gene Alley was the new shortstop, and a young Willie Stargell was the left fielder.  Bob Bailey, the new Pirate bonus baby as they liked to call them in those days, was the third baseman.  Jim Pagliaroni  and veteran Del Crandell anchored the catching.    The pitching staff besides Friend and Law had the fire balling Bob Veale and Don Caldwell to round out a solid rotation and Tommie Sisk was a spot starter. The season did not get off to a great start to say the least.  Bill Mazeroski had a broken foot suffered in spring training, and would not  field his position until mid May.  Roberto Clemente suffered a thigh injury in winter baseball, that would hamper him the first half of the season, and cause him to miss about 10 games in April.  Despite all of this the Pirates jumped out to a 5 and 2 start thanks to some very strong starting pitching, particularly by Bob Veale. But then they went on a skid, that would take them to 9 and 22.  Bill Mazeroski started his first game at second base on game 32, but even that could not get the Bucs going as they lost their next 2 games to drop to a season worse 9 and 24. At this point in the season, Harry Walker was considered more of a pain in the ass with his incessant talking and constant hitting instruction.  He really seemed to bug the great one, Roberto Clemente.  But from that point on this team really jelled.  They won their next 12 games, and became one of the best hitting teams in baseball the rest of the season and into 1966. After the 12 game winning streak, they lost their next 2 games, but then ran off another 7 in a row.  For the rest of the summer they treaded water, and finished at the All Star break 44-43.  They continued to have ups and downs after the break, until about mid August, and then they ran off a nice 12 and 2 streak.  The streak was highlighted by a great double header win over the Dodgers at Forbes Field. They beat Sandy Koufax in 11 innings in the first game 3-2, and Vernon Law out dueled  Don Drysdale 2-1 to win the second game, and move the Pirates to within  2.5 games of first place in the National league.  But alas, that would be as close as they would get. Even though they finished strong, by winning their last 4 games to finish 90-72, it would not be enough and they finished 3rd.  But it was one hell of a run in 1965. Vernon Law got the comeback player of the year, as well.

There was great hope entering the 1966 season with that great finish of 65.  The Pirates now loved the fact that Walker talked so much.  Even Clemente was getting use to hit. The 66 season saw the Pirates contend from the beginning. They got out of the gate quickly and were in first place from April 18th to May 4th.  They stayed near the top the rest of way until they regained first place on July 14th.  They remained in first or second except for one day until September 28. They were only 1.5 games out of first place with 3 games to play but were swept by the Giants and finished 3rd again only 3 games back.  It was the first year that Steve Blass contributed to the season in a big way with a an 11 and 7 record and ERA of 3.87.  This team could hit and they were a grinding team.  Their longest win streak was 6 and longest losing streak was 4.  They were never below .500 for the entire season.  They did everything well.  They seemed like a team that could take it all in 1967.  But again, it was not meant to be.  They acquired Maury Wills in the off season and it seemed that this would be the catalyst to propel the Pirates to the World Series.  The 67 team did not jell, however, and Walker was fired in mid season with Murtaugh taking over, but the results were the same.  It would only be Blass, Stargell, Clemente, and in a minor way Mazeroski, to be around for the run in the early 70’s that would bring the next title to the Pirates.  But, for  that two year period, this Pirate team played some great baseball, and was an exciting group to watch. They just couldn’t get to the big stage.  In my mind, it still does not diminish the way they played the game. I will always remember them and that magical stretch they had from mid May of 1965.

Sports: Pirates, Management Team in Place, What’s Next.

Well, the Pirates have a manger, a general manager and a President, finally.  They shall remain nameless in this blog to protect their families.  The question now is, what are they going to do.  The consensus is that the Pirates need to tear it down and rebuild.  If you watch MLB Network, there doesn’t seem to be any other way for the Pirates to get back on top. Certainly, for the new management team, this is the safest way to go. If you are rebuilding you are going to get at least a 2 year reprieve on criticism and maybe even a third.  It is the cheapest way to go.  Even though the payroll of the Pirates is one of the smallest in baseball,  it can be pared down even further, by trading Starling Marte, Chris Archer, Gregory Polanco, and Keone Kela.  With the exception of Polanco, they should all bring back some good prospects and they are, by far,  making the most money.  Trading them would more than make up for the money be paid to Huntington and Hurdle over the next two years.  Polanco was called one of the most disappointing players in all of baseball, by Joel Sherman on MLB Now, the show for the thinking fan. Geeze, and I thought I was hard on Polanco. The point is, he probably is not going to get much of a return.  The rebuild proponents, which there are many, point to  the 93 losses the Pirates suffered this past year, as the reason this team needs to start over.   But let’s just wait one gall darn minute here.  At the All Star break this team was 44 and 45, and about 3 games out of first place.  Then they collapsed mightily, on and off the field.  So are you going to base a rebuild on just a 2 month bad stretch.  Granted, they have not come close to making the playoffs since 2015, but at least when they take the field this is not a bad or old team.

According to Baseball Reference, by measuring , Wins Above Replacement, a player value stat (WAR) the Pirates have 5 solid Major Leaguers in Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman, Bryon Reynolds and Starling Marte.  WAR is a production number, so the more you play the more your WAR can go up. Jacob Stallings with only 71 games played and 210 plate appearances had a WAR of 1.4 with 2 being a Major League starter.  With more starts Stallings should be able to hit that 2 number easily. That would give the Pirates 6 position players considered Major League starters. Compare that with the rest of the NL Central at the moment.  The Cincinnati Reds have just one, the Milwaukee Brewers 3, the St. Louis Cardinals 5 and the Chicago Cubs 7.  I know that gives Stallings the benefit of the doubt on a small sample size but who cares.  The Pirates starting 8 is pretty good and the oldest member of the group is Marte at age 30.  The Pirates have 2 glaring weaknesses third base and right field.  How they will deal with that I have know idea and again I do not care.  I know the pitching is a mess but there is lot’s of pitching out there on the free agent market.  The management team has not really given us a clue on what they will do, but it will become evident, as this offseason moves along what’s going to happen.

Derek Shelton, the new Pirate manager, (sorry Derek I mentioned your name) said that this will be a fun clubhouse.  He may be the first manager to win Manager of Year and lose 95 to 100 games, if he can keep that promise.  I can hear Bob Walk saying after the 95th loss, ” This is the happiest I have ever seen the Pirate clubhouse since I have started broadcasting. They weren’t this happy when they first made the playoffs in 2013″.  Bringing happy and losing together, would be quite an accomplishment for the new Pirate manager. In case you haven’t figured it out, I am against the rebuild solution to the Pirate situation.  Have a 140 million dollar payroll,  make a few good trades, and this team can contend. What ever happened to that saying, the nucleus is there.  How big does a nucleus have to be for it to be significant.  The Pirates have 6 in the field and despite the pitching being such a disaster they have about 4 or 5 solid arms. In my view that’s enough to add on, not tear down and start over again.

Sports: Devaluing Conference Champions

This week is Championship Week in college football.  There are the 5 power conference championship games, this weekend, that will have little or no significance on the College Football Playoff rankings.  This week more than any other shows the fallacy of the playoff system in college football.  The best thing you can say about it is, it’s better than nothing and better than picking just two teams.   You will hear on Sunday night such terms as meeting the eye test, most deserving and total body of work, on the self serving ESPN network.  This is a perfect example of a sport, and a sports network  thinking that their fan base is just plain stupid.  There is no other sport that picks their champion by such obscure phrases.  All other championships are decided on the field, not by some closed door committee. Granted, there are some at large bids for the NCAA tournaments, but the majority of the teams are in the tournament by winning their conference championship games, and there are 64 teams in the tournament.  Let’s look at what will probably happen this weekend, but also, what could  happen this weekend, which will have little bearing on the final four.

The biggest game of the five is LSU vs. Georgia, for the SEC Championship. This game will dictate what the weekend will be like.   LSU is about a touchdown favorite to win the game and a victory would eliminate Georgia from the top 4, unless a lot of other things happen. This puts Georgia under more pressure to win the game.   If Georgia pulls off the upset, then LSU would most likely stay in the top 4, and compete for the National Championship. For Georgia, it is a win or most likely go home scenario, which doesn’t seem quite fair.  The same thing can be said of the Ohio St. vs Wisconsin game.  If Wisconsin  pulls off the big upset, that probably won’t get them in the top 4, but it is unlikely to knock  Ohio St. out of the top four.  Wisconsin, would probably have to win by 14 or more points, to put Ohio St. out.   If  OSU, LSU, and Clemson, all win, and Clemson is almost a 30 point favorite to beat Virginia,  then it all boils down to the two winners of the Big 12, and Pac 12 Championship games. Then the committee would have to choose one and those phrases will be rolling off everybody’s tongue, come Sunday night. No matter what happens, one conference champion will not get in the playoffs, and if one or more upsets occur, as many as 3 conference champions will not have a crack at the National Championship.  Talk about making conference championships insignificant, the NCAA does it again. Of course, there is an easy solution to the unfairness of the whole mess.

The winners of the five conference championship games make the playoffs.  These are the five power conferences, and if you win your championship game you should move on. This is what sports are all about. What happens when Notre Dame has a great year. Just join the ACC Notre Dame, they need you really bad, and with this system, now you need them.  The end of the season games are more significant, and a conference championship game should be a playoff game. So how would the playoffs go from that point on.  The two lowest ranked teams that won would play the next week, and the winner would occupy the fourth spot. The schedule would then proceed as it is now.  Let’s look at those three disgusting phrases that are now used to pick the 4 teams. This team meets the eye test.  In other words, they look like the best team when you watch them play, and in many stats categories.   How many teams in other sports look great to the observer, but still lose the big game.  Try, too many to count.   The most deserving team, due to a tougher schedule, some  heartbreaking losses or who knows what.  Some times you don’t always get what you deserve.  Welcome to the real world.  The total body of work.  Three teams,  Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson, are going into these Championship games undefeated and untied.  Many people are of the belief, if these teams lose, they are one loss teams that DESERVE to go on, because of their total body of work.  Should they have made the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots twice, because the Patriots were 18-0 going into that Super Bowl. That was a nice body of work, until the Super Bowl.  How can any team have a chance at a National Championship in football, and lose their conference championship game. The committee and ESPN will try and convince you, if that happens.  There is only one way to determine a champion and that is on the field.  Playoff football is different.  When is college football ever going to realize this.

Sports: John Henry Johnson

John Henry Johnson was one of the best running backs in NFL history, playing from 1954 to 1966. When he retired, he was the fourth leading rusher of all time.  However, it took 21 years to get him elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  So what made me think of John Henry Johnson this particular week, a running back who played over 50 years ago.  For some reason, his career has always been over looked by the media, and the football hierarchy. This past 2 weeks, it has happened again, and to me, it just seems mystifying.   The NFL, celebrating 100 years, is starting to announce all time teams, and John Henry Johnson was nowhere to be found.  When the Browns and Steelers met 2 weeks ago there were local articles about some of the more memorable Steeler-Brown games. Of course, they left out the most memorable Brown-Steeler game.

It was October 10, 1964, on a Saturday night, at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium before 80,000 fans.  This was the second of  8 games, where Pittsburgh went up to Cleveland on Saturday night, beginning in 1963, and ending in 1970.  This was the only game the Steelers would win on Saturday, in Cleveland, but that was not the reason this game was the most memorable of the series.  The 1964 Browns would go 10-3-1, and win the Eastern Division title and then go on to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0, after a scoreless first half, to win their last NFL title. But on this rather pleasant Saturday night in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Steelers would reign supreme.   This was the John Henry Johnson game.  He would carry the ball 30 times, gain 200 yards, score 3 touchdowns and lead the Steelers to the upset win 23 to 7.  There were many things that were significant, in this performance.  He is still the oldest player in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in a game, being about 5 weeks shy of his 35th birthday.  He went on to gain over a 1000 yards for the 14 game season and is still the oldest running back in NFL history to rush for 1000 yards.  This against one of the best Cleveland Browns team in their long and illustrious history.  This is by far, the most memorable Pittsburgh-Cleveland game.

Now, one season, and one game, where you out shine the great Jim Brown, does not make you one of the top 12 running backs of all time.  John Henry Johnson, however, had a long and illustrious career. He had a better career than either Steve Van Buren or Marion Motley who are on the top 12 running back list.  He played in more games, rushed for more yards and had more receiving yards than both players. He was between Van Buren and Motley on career touchdowns.   He won an NFL Championship with the Detroit Lions in 1957, and to this day is the only black player to win an NFL Championship in Detroit.  But, he was known just as much, for his outstanding blocking.  Maybe too well known, and described better, as vicious blocking.  He reportedly broke many a jaw and face and some of these in exhibition games.  He ended Charlie Trippi’s career with a hit that broke his nose and fractured his skull, in an exhibition game.  Was it this style of play, that made people want to forget John Henry?  When someone ask Jim Brown, arguably the greatest running back of all time, who is the best running back he had ever seen, without hesitation, he said John Henry Johnson.  Johnson started his career in San Francisco, where he was part of the million dollar back field, of Y. A. Tittle, Joe Perry, and Hugh McElhenny. He did more blocking during those years or his stats would have been even better.  This is the only backfield that has all members in the Hall.   It was always a bit of mystery why he was not elected to the Hall of Fame sooner.  People that truly know the game,  knew that he was one of the top 12 running backs of all time, maybe even in the top 6. When Cleveland comes to Pittsburgh this Sunday to face the Steelers in round 2, and we know how the first game ended, I will be thinking of John Henry Johnson, one of the all time greats.  The thing I will be thinking is, I wonder whose jaw he would break to retaliate. He probably wouldn’t be fined or suspended either.  John Henry Johnson died in 2011. At his Hall of Fame induction speech, in 1987,  he said he thought he would be dead first, before he got into the Hall.  Thank God, he was wrong.   I don’t think it was a coincidence that he was in the same class as another Steeler, Mean Joe Greene.

Golf: The Race to the CME Globe

This week is the final event of the LPGA tour, their tour championship, with the winner taking home 1.5 million dollars.  If you are a sports fan, and not a big golf fan, you would never know it.  I checked seven internet sports sites, ESPN, Yahoo, Fox, Sports.com. MSN, CBS, and NBC, and none of them had a lot to say about the event, and no leaderboards on Thursday or Friday.  I looked at all the sites on Thursday morning, Thursday night, and Friday night, and things were pretty sparse.  I looked at the home page of these web sites.  On Thursday morning  ESPN had a preview article, about 10 stories down, Sports.com had an article only two rows down, and there was nothing about the event on the other sites.  Thursday night ESPN had a story about one of the rookies playing and NBC sports had an article about the leader.  No leaderboards were to be found.  Friday night ESPN had an article about the Korda sisters, and Sport.com had a story about the leader. The rest of the web sites had nothing related to the event.   This was on the main pages of the web sites, and I am sure if you searched the web site, you could have found a leader board, but you did not have to do that, for the current men’s event.  The most surprising lack of coverage was the NBC site, since they are televising the event  LIVE on Sunday.  The Golf Channel showed the first two rounds and today’s round on tape delay.  Let’s hear it for the Golf Channel, real  supporter of the LPGA tour.  This is the season finale, one of the biggest events on the LPGA tour with it’s biggest winner’s check.  So why the lack of coverage?

Maybe, they are trying to keep it a secret, that the 1.5 million dollar winners check is a very nice sum, but it is still just .1 the amount that the PGA Fedex Cup champion won.  One of the problems is that all these web sites seem to have their own product to sell.  Fox sports is the worse, as they plug their shows through out the web’s home page.  Not much room for the LPGA there.  Plus the U. S. Women’s Open had one of their lowest ratings of all time on Fox this year.  ESPN is into the NBA.  If some one in the NBA doesn’t get what he ordered on his pizza, it will be on the ESPN web site.  CBS is into the NFL, and  again any little story about football is going to be on the website.  This Sports.com website is nothing but ads, although they said the most about the tournament, which is not saying much.  MSN just seems to flounder around showing things that happened 3 days ago.  But the mystery is the NBC site, that has a golf channel section.  Very little coverage of a an event that they are going to televise against the NFL on NBC and Fox, tomorrow.  Maybe they just feel that no matter what they do, nobody is going to watch, ( I am by the way), so why promote the event, and look even worse, when nobody watches.  Then there’s the Golf Channel, with tape delay coverage on the first three days.  They are showing the men’s tournament live and they should be doing the reverse, but this is what happens when men make decisions concerning women.   Speaking of men making decisions for women, the LPGA decided to extend their television contract to end at the same time as the PGA tour in 2021.  Somehow they are going to try and make some kind of all encompassing deal  with the networks.  Men helping out women. Come on ladies, when has a man ever helped a woman without expecting a lot in return.  If that deal goes through, maybe the LPGA will have to caddie at some PGA events.

Of course at times, the LPGA has been their own worse enemy.  When Michelle Wie was one of the hottest commodities in golf, they refused to let her play because she was too young.  Then their previous commissioner wanted everybody to speak English, good God.  Even though the last woman commissioner was a disaster, they should get a women to lead the organization, and go out and make their own television deal.  They need to market their product much better.   In this day and age you should not have to search the sports sites to find something about the LPGA tour.  They have great players, play exciting golf, and are much more pleasing to watch, than those old fogies on the Senior Tour.  Yeah that’s right I wrote senior not Champions.  That was a nice marketing idea by that tour, to keep people from realizing that these guys have a hard time tying their shoes.  So, Ladies take charge and get your tour on the sports map where it belongs.

Sports: Steelers vs. Giants December 1963. First and Last Chance at Glory.

The 1963 pro football season was odd and sad, and it was  the Steelers first chance at glory since pro football had become the up and coming sport, really challenging baseball as the number one sport in America. The season was sad because on November 22, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was sad for the Steelers because in May of that year Big Daddy Lipscomb had died of a heroin overdose.    The season was odd because the Steelers had 3 ties that year.  They tied the Philadelphia Eagles twice and Eagles only won 2 other games all year.  See, it just not Mike Tomlin teams that play down to their competition. The other tie was against the Chicago Bears  who would go on and win the NFL Championship that year. In 1963, if teams played to a tie, the NFL looked at the game as if it had never been played.  Going into the last week of the season, the Steelers record was 7 wins, 3 losses, and those 3 ties.  But their “real” record was just 7 and 3.  They would play the New York Giants at Yankee stadium, whose record was 10 and 3, and by today’s rules of ties, where ties count as a .5 loss and .5 win they would have the division clinched.  The Steelers record would have been 8.5 and 4.5.  Even with a win they would be 9.5 and 4.5 and the Giants would have been 10 and 4, which would have won the division.  But this was 1963, and the Steelers were very much alive.  With a win they would be 8 and 3 for a percentage .728 and that would beat  a 10-4 Giant team with .714.  Despite how unfair this would seem, the NFL did not change the tie rule until 1972.  We Steeler fans did not care.  This was best chance for the Steelers to win their first division title since 1947 when they lost a play off game to the Philadelphia Eagles 21 to 0.  But alas, the Steelers lost 33 to 17 and as a 13 year old I was devastated.  I felt we were never in the game as my Dad and I watched the game on our black and white TV.  But low and behold I found a radio broadcast of the game on You Tube and well the Steelers were in the game more than I realized.

The Giants were the kings of the Eastern Division, having played in the NFL Championship game 5 out of the last 7 years.  Unfortunately they won only 1 of those games, the 1956 Championship game beating the Chicago Bears, 47 to 7.  Then they lost 2 to the Johnny Unitas led Baltimore Colts, and 2 more to the Green Bay Packers.  If they had done better in the championship games, they would be considered one of the best dynasties in football.  They would go on to lose to the Chicago Bears 14 to 10, in 1963. They had lost to the Steelers in the second game of the year 31 to 0, but Y. A. Tittle their Hall of Fame quarterback was out with injury.  The Giants were a veteran seasoned group led by  Tittle, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff,  and Andy Robustelli.  The Steelers were also a veteran group, thanks to their coach Buddy Parker, who was the precursor to George Allen, giving up draft choices for veterans.  In fact it was not uncommon for the Steelers to trade away all their draft choices while Parker was the head coach.  The Steelers did draft one player in 1963 by the name of Andy Russell, not bad for a 16th round pick.  The Steelers were led on offense by quarterback Ed Brown,  running back John Henry Johnson, and wide receivers Buddy Dial and Gary Ballman.  On defense they had Clendon Thomas, Myron Pottios and John Baker.  Now to the game.

The game could not have started out worse for the Steelers, as running back Theron Sapp fumbled the ball on the opening play, and the Giants recovered.  But the Steeler defense was able to hold the Giants and Don Chandler kicked a 34 yard field goal, which was a 34 yard field goal since the goal posts were on the goal line in 1963. The goal posts were not as long either but that’s a story for another blog.   Gary Ballman returned the ensuing kick off all the way to the Giant 28 yard line.  But the Steelers could not move the ball and Lou Michaels missed a 30 yard field goal. The Giants on their next series fumbled the ball right back to the Steelers and they had the ball  at the Giant 33 yard line.   Ed Brown hit Gary Ballman around the 10 yard line and was getting ready to score but lost control of the ball and fumbled it into the end zone and the Giants  returned it  to their own 34 yard line.  The Giants had a third and inches on their own 44 yard line and threw a 16 yard pass to Del Shofner and then  on the next play, Tittle  hit Shofner again for a 41 yard touchdown and when Chandler missed the extra point they led 9 to 0.  On the next series Brown threw an interception and the Giants had the ball on their own 44. The Giants moved down the field to the Pittsburgh 5 yard line, first and goal.  The Giants tried a halfback pass with Frank Gifford but wound up having 3 laterals, yes that’s 3 laterals,  and finally Y. A. Tittle wound up throwing the ball incomplete. To make matters worse the Giants were called for holding, which was a 15 yard penalty in 1963.   On the next play Andy Russel intercepted a Tittle pass, and the Steelers had the ball on their own 4 yard line. Mercifully the 1st quarter ended, with the Steelers losing 2 fumbles and throwing an interception, and the Giants fumbled twice, but lost only one, and threw one interception. The second quarter did not go much better. After an exchange of punts, the Steelers had to punt again, and the Giants fumbled, with the Steelers recovering on the Giants 24 yard line.  On two running plays the Steelers make 9.5 yards and it is 3rd and inches.  The Steelers do not make an inch in 2 plays and turn the ball over to the Giants on the 14 yard line. On their next possession  the Steelers  move the ball to the 37 yard of the Giants and are stalled with a 4th and 7. They elect to kick a field goal and back up quarterback Bill Nelson fumbled the snap and the Giants take over at their own 44.  The Giants move quickly. Long pass to Shofner to the Steeler 13 and then a TD pass to Joe Morrison and Giants lead 16-0.   But just like in todays game, with only 1:05 to go in the half, the Steelers move right down the field and Lou Michaels finally makes a field goal of 27 yards, and it is 16-3 at the half.   The Giants don’t move the ball to start the half and punt to the Steelers and they start at their own 34 yard.   On third and 2 at the 42 John Henry Johnson finally breaks one and goes 48 yards to the Giants 10 yard line, first and goal.  A holding penalty pushes the Steelers back to the 25 and on third down Brown finds Ballman in the end zone from 21 yards out, and with the conversion the score is 16 to 10 about one third  through the third quarter and we have a football game.  The Giants hold on the kick off and have to start on the 14 yard line.  But then it’s slam bang thank you mam.  Third and 7 from the 17 yard line,  30 yards to Gifford to the 47, then 25 yards to Gifford to the 22, and TD to Morrison from the 22.  Three plays, 83 yards, touchdown, its 23 to 10 Giants. The Steelers go 3 and out, when they try a long pass on 3rd and 2 and the avalanche continued.  First and 10 on the Giants 36, first play 31 yard pass with a face mask penalty tacked on, it is first and 10 on the Steeler 16 yard line.  Fifteen yard pass to Gifford to the one, and Joe Morrison over the top for his 3rd TD of the game,  and Giants lead 30 to 10 and the game is essentially over.   The Steelers have a nice drive but Brown throws an interception in the end zone.  The Steelers score on their next possession on a 40 yard bomb to Buddy Dial.  The Steelers try another field goal, for what ever reason and of course it was missed from 48 yards.   The Giants start on their own 8 yard line because of a clip and go on a long ball control drive that results in no points but eats up enough of the clock and then Chandler adds a field goal with about 2 minutes to go that locks up the game, and sends the Giants to the Eastern Division Championship and a date with the Chicago Bears.

It was a game of missed opportunities for the Steelers. In the first half they were inside the Giants 25 yard line four times and came away with only 3 points. Ed Brown did not have a good game and was crucified for it, but did not get a lot of help. Critical fumbles, dropped passes and missed field goals hurt them  as much as anything.  Myron Cope related the story that he knew that Ed Brown was not going to have a good game, because he was not seen at the favorite watering hole for the Steelers that week.  Cope deducted that this was not a good week for Brown to take the game too seriously, and stop drinking for that week.  He may have been right, but the loss was a team effort.  But the game was better, than I remembered as a devastated teen in 1963.  For both teams, it was their last shot at glory for awhile .  This would end the reign of the New York Giants as the elite team of the Eastern Division, in a big way.  It would take 23 seasons before the Giants would win the division they were in and then would go on to win the Super Bowl.  In that 23 year span the Giants had only 6 winning seasons and 2 seasons where they played 500 ball.  They fell long and hard.   The Steelers would fall apart in 60’s winning only  19 games in the next 6 seasons.  But we all know what happened in the 70’s as the Steelers became the elite franchise.  It would have been nice to see that team of Buddy Parker’s beat the Giants on a cold and half frozen field, at Yankee Stadium, that would have sent the Giants to their 23 year swoon, one season early.

Sports: College Football Saturday Two Games Four Teams 8-0

Today there are two big games in college football, with four teams having the same record of 8 wins and 0 losses.  The games have completely different significance when deciding the final four in the College Football Playoffs. The first game will see Penn St. playing the University of Minnesota, one of the surprise teams of the year.   The second game will see perennial powers LSU and Alabama facing off in Tuscaloosa. All four teams are undefeated and untied at 8-0.  Of the two games, the Penn State vs. Minnesota game is the much more significant.  The team that loses, will be virtually eliminated from the football playoffs, whether they like it or not. If Penn St. loses today, but wins the rest of the their games and beats Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship Game,  they would still need some losses from other teams to get into the final four.  The same thing can be said for Minnesota.   On the other hand the only way the Alabama-LSU game becomes this significant is if the game happens to be a blow out.  As long as the game is reasonably close and the losing team runs the table they will get into the four team playoff.  The loser of this game may have  a better chance of getting into the playoffs, because they do not have to worry about losing the SEC championship game.   Such is the goofiness of college football, that everyone seems to accept. It is fine to decide which 4 teams make the  play offs, based on subjective decisions, made by people behind close doors.

The BCS system was a far superior system to pick teams to make a playoff. It had to be tweaked once, and the BCS system had only one flaw.  It was  allowed to pick only two teams. When the NCAA finally decided on a four team playoff , they fouled it all up by going to a committee to pick the four teams.   The committee usually gets praise for their selections, but the No 1 team has never won in 5 tries.   The number 4 team has won twice.   Seven of the ten semi final games have not been all that close with 4 being real blow outs.  Let’s face it, most of time the committee has not picked the right 4 teams, and have not ranked them very well. The committee doesn’t need tweaked, it needs to be dissolved.  We should go back to the BCS system to pick the teams.  What would even be better would be to go to an 8 team playoff.  People feel that this is too many games for college players to play, and I agree completely.  The simple solution is to take away one regular season game.  Every one of these football powers plays at least one game against a very small school, that they blow away.  The excuse is that these schools reap the benefits of the gate receipts, at these large sold out stadiums.  Let them share in the much greater revenue of the quarter final games of a college football playoff,  and avoid the pounding they take playing one of these games.  Have the five conference champions and the top 3 teams in a BCS ranking system that are not conference champions be the 8 teams in the play offs.  A system that would make two games, where all four teams are 8-0, equally significant.