There is a contest slated this week on the NFL schedule between two of the league’s high-flying “bird” teams in the first half of this season – the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. For this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday, we travel back a long way in time, further back than any Throwback Thursday post ever – to the 1948 NFL Championship game played between these two franchises. The Cardinals were two cities removed from their current Glendale, Arizona location. They hadn’t even moved to their St. Louis home yet (they did that in 1960). These Cardinals played in Chicago, while the Eagles, although belonging to the city of Brotherly Love as they do today, played at old Shibe Park. The title game, a rematch of the previous year’s championship matchup, was played on December 19, 1948. There were no “extended” playoffs back then, with wild cards and divisional rounds, just a title game between the Eastern and Western Division champions, and the game was actually played in the same year as the regular season, prior to Christmas even. The Eagles were the home team, and on the morning of the game Philadelphia was hit with a massive snowstorm of blizzard proportions that continued throughout the game. The stadium grounds crew needed help from players from both teams to remove the tarp, buried under the heavy snow, from the field prior to the game. This title game was significant for another reason – it was to be the first NFL Championship game to be televised. ABC Network would broadcast the game, and the broadcasters themselves were important NFL figures – Harry Wismer, who would go on to found and own the New York Titans (later to become the Jets) in the American Football League, and former Chicago Bear standout Red Grange. In those days, “snow” was a problem with all TV broadcasts, but in this case the problem would be real snow threatening to postpone the contest. In fact, league commissioner Bert Bell considered a postponement, but decided to allow the game to go on because both clubs wanted to play it. A few minutes into the contest, the yard markings on the field disappeared under the heavy cover of snow, and Bell ordered the head referee to make all first down and touchdown calls by his own observation. The Eagles’ star player, halfback Steve Van Buren, almost missed the game. He stayed home thinking it surely would be canceled, and Eagle coach Greasy Neale called him to let him know it was still on. Van Buren had to catch 3 trolleys and walk 6 blocks to reach the stadium in time, and it’s lucky he did, as he scored the game’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter on a five yard run. The blizzard conditions made for a sloppy, scoreless contest through three quarters, and when Chicago fumbled in their own territory in the final stanza, it set up Van Buren for what turned out to be the winning points. The 7-0 win by the Eagles avenged a 28-21 Cardinal victory in 1947’s title game, and Philly went on to win again in 1949, shutting out the Los Angeles Rams 14-0.
Players help remove tarp during the “Philly Blizzard” 1948 NFL title game