NFL – Throwback Thursday: “Merry Freakin’ Christmas!”

20 Oct

Just a couple of weeks ago we featured a game for a Throwback Thursday post from the Philadelphia Eagles’ dismal 1968 season, the Thanksgiving Mud Bowl. On this week’s NFL schedule, the Eagles take on the Minnesota Vikings, and not to pick on that hapless ’68 Eagle team, but with these 2 franchises facing off we had to feature another Philadelphia game, from December of ’68, between these 2 teams that became infamous because Eagle fans, weary of watching their team lose all year, actually booed and assaulted Santa Claus. The game itself wasn’t very memorable. The Vikings, a far superior team that year, won 24-17. Viking quarterback Joe Kapp had a pretty good game, running for a touchdown and tossing TD passes to Bill Brown and Gene Washington.

Played on December 15th, and being the Eagles’ final home game of the season, a halftime Christmas pageant was planned, a yearly tradition at old Franklin Field for the home finale. There had been a snowstorm earlier in the morning, and the guy who was supposed to play Santa in the pageant decided not to show up, leaving the team’s staff in a predicament. Unlike the movie Miracle On 34th Street, the real Santa didn’t appear to save the day. Enter Frank Olivo, a former Atlantic City craps dealer and Eagle season ticket holder who always dressed up in a Santa suit each year for the last home game. Team officials spotted him in the crowd and asked him to step in for the missing regular Santa in the pageant. He reluctantly agreed, and at halftime, walked out onto the field along with the other members of the pageant, waving to the crowd as he was asked to do. The game itself was competitive at that point, tied at 7-7 at the half, so no one really knows what put the Philly faithful in such a foul mood, but the crowd began to boo the poor substitute Kris Kringle. Maybe it was because he was a little too skinny to be a believable Santa, maybe it was his tattered suit, maybe it was the fact that the Eagles were just plain lousy that year and the fans were fed up. But on top of the booing, some fans decided to start pelting Olivo with snowballs, and before long he was running for his own safety.

In an interview years later, Olivo said at one point as he was running for cover he spotted a fan in the first row and watched him grab some snow, pack it into a snowball and fire it at him. He ran up to the wall, pointed his finger at the offender and yelled, “You’re not getting anything for Christmas!” Olivo wound up becoming a legend in Philadelphia sports history, and if you want to get a glimpse of some of what he was facing in the Franklin Field stands that day, take a look at the picture of him below in his place in the stands. It almost looks like he was smack dab in the middle of the local Mafia section.




Frank Olivo, AKA Santa Claus, in the stands in Philadelphia


Classic Team Logo of The Day

20 Oct


Logo of a college football team, the University of Maryland Terrapins, who now play in the Big Ten Conference after a long stay in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The program has existed since 1892, while this logo was used from 1970 until 1996. The Terps won one national championship, in 1953, and have sent many players on to pro football, including Gary Collins, Vernon Davis, Boomer Esiason, Frank Reich, Stan Jones, Tony Greene, Jermaine Lewis, Dick Modzelewski and Frank Wycheck.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

20 Oct


1970 Topps football card of a former wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, Gene Washington. Oddly, in the era that he played in the league, there was another player, also a star receiver, with the same name but no relation, who was with the San Francisco 49ers. Washington the Viking played seven years in the league, six with Minnesota before finishing up his playing career with a single season in Denver. Despite the relative shortness of his career, Washington was a two-time Pro Bowler and played in the Super Bowl in 1970.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: “No Punt Intended”

13 Oct

Non-conference matchups on the NFL schedule occur between franchises only every four years, so there aren’t anywhere near the amount of classic games to choose from for my weekly Throwback Thursday feature as there are for divisional rivals. However, every once in awhile one pops up that is memorable and stands out as the one I need to showcase for that week. This week, the AFC’s Buffalo Bills match up with the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers, which harkens back to a game played between these two teams on September 13, 1992, when both franchises were league powerhouses. They played a classic game that featured a ton of offense, and wound up being the first one ever played in NFL history in which neither team punted. Yes, San Francisco’s Klaus Wilmsmeyer and Buffalo’s Chris Mohr, their team’s respective punters, had the day off. The game is now known in NFL lore as “The No Punt Game”.

It was one of those games that gets described as a “shootout”, as the two clubs, led by future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Steve Young, combined to amass 1,086 yards of total offense. Each threw 3 touchdown passes, which is far short of the league record for most combined TDs, and even the final score of 34-31 in favor of the Bills wasn’t that high compared to some of the point totals racked up in today’s Madden video game style of play. Still, it was a fun game to watch with lots of thrills and big plays provided by Kelly and Young and by both their star teammates like Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Ricky Watters, and by lesser known players like John Taylor, Mike Sherrard, Odessa Turner and Pete Metzelaars. Despite all the offense, there wasn’t a 100 yard rusher in the game, but there were 4 100+ yard receivers, two for each team. One large oddity of the game: Future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, the greatest wideout of all time, had 3 catches for a paltry 26 yards for the 49ers.

Taylor caught 2 of Young’s 3 TD passes, while tight end Metzelaars caught a pair of Kelly’s. The offensive explosion was a little more rare to see than it is today, but despite all the back-and-forth action and the brilliant aerial display by both QBs, the winning touchdown came on a running play. It was an 11 yard scamper by the Bills’ Thomas, and was the only score in the fourth quarter.



San Francisco 49ers vs. Buffalo Bills at Candlestick Park Sunday, September 12, 1992. Bills beat 49ers 34-31. San Francisco 49ers tight end Jamie Williams (81) attempts to tackle Buffalo Bills defensive back Nate Odomes (37) after interception.

Buffalo’s Nate Odomes returns an interception in the No Punt Game



Classic Team Logo of The Day

13 Oct


Used from 1972 until 1999, this is the logo of a college football team that plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the North Carolina State Wolfpack. The program was founded in 1892 and is one of the oldest in the country. Former NC State players who went on to pro football fame include Alex Webster, Jim Ritcher, Mario Williams, Haywood Jeffires, Roman Gabriel, Torry Holt and Philip Rivers.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

13 Oct


1988 Topps football card of former NFL tight end Pete Metzelaars, who had a long 16 year career in the NFL with 4 different teams. His playing days spanned most of the decades of the 1980s and ’90s, with his longest stint being in Buffalo, where he spent 10 seasons. Since retiring as a player, Metzelaars has served in various capacities as an assistant coach in the NFL.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Mud Bowl

06 Oct

This week’s NFL schedule pairs the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles against each other, which takes this week’s Throwback Thursday feature back to Thanksgiving Day of 1968, to a dull, sloshing game between these 2 teams that became known as the “Thanksgiving Mud Bowl”. You rarely see games like this played nowadays with the advent of artificial playing fields and domed stadiums, but even as boring as it was, it was REAL football played in REAL conditions. In an era known for a style of play that was labeled “three yards and a cloud of dust”, this contest was more like “three yards and a cloud of slop”. There was very little offense displayed by either team, as the field conditions at Tiger Stadium were a quagmire due to 36 consecutive hours of rain in the Detroit area. Lions’ linebacker Wayne Walker described the muddy field as being “ankle deep”, while a Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter wrote that “Tiger Stadium’s turf made the average pig’s quarters appear to be wall-to-wall carpeted by comparison.”



Eagle QB Norm Snead prepares to hand off in the 1968 Thanksgiving Day “Mud Bowl”

The Eagles wound up winning the contest 12-0 on 4 field goals by placekicker Sam Baker. Although there was very little action in the game, there was plenty of controversy afterwards, due to a situation eerily similar to the recent New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” episode. In the 1960s, the NFL had a rule that only the home team was to provide footballs for game action, with the officials not having any control over the use of the balls like they do in today’s game. But on each of their field goal attempts, the Eagles’ equipment manager snuck dry balls in to the holder, Joe Scarpati, giving Baker a decided edge over the Lions, who used the wet, muddy balls on their possessions. Karma caught up with the Philadelphia club, however. They had a terrible season, but the Thanksgiving win turned out to be just enough to cost them the top draft pick in the next NFL draft. Buffalo got the pick instead and the Bills were able to choose O.J. Simpson. The Eagles wound up picking the forgettable Leroy Keyes.


More action from 1968’s “Thanksgiving Mud Bowl”




Classic Team Logo of The Day

06 Oct


Logo of a pro football team that played in the old Continental Football League for one season (1967), the Akron Vulcans. The league itself was formed to compete with the National Football League, and existed from 1965 until 1969. The Vulcans played only 4 games in that ’67 season before folding because of financial hardships. Their owner, Frank Hurn, had bought the team using borrowed Chicago mafia money and never was able to show any profit. The team’s three coaches for their short existence were all former NFL legends – Doak Walker, Lou Rymkus and Tobin Rote. The logo is somewhat similar to that of today’s Tennessee Titans of the NFL.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

06 Oct


1969 Topps football card of former pro player Sam Baker, who played 15 seasons in the NFL for 4 different teams. He was a halfback early on in his career but is mostly known as a longtime punter and placekicker. He began his career in 1953 with the Washington Redskins, then served 2 years in the military before returning to football in ’56. That year, he was a halfback but ended up handling both the punting and kicking duties to an injury to Eddie LeBaron and a car accident that ended kicker Vic Janovicz’s career. He wound up leading the NFL in field goals made and in average yards per punt and was named to the Pro Bowl, earning the nickname “Sugarfoot”. He earned 3 more Pro Bowl berths in his career, and passed away in 2007.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: “The Catch”

29 Sep

With the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys matching up on this week’s NFL schedule, picking the Throwback Thursday feature was a no-brainer. It’s one of the most memorable games in NFL lore, the 1981 NFC Championship game played between these two franchises. Played on January 10, 1982, it was a classic game whose outcome signified a “changing of the guard” in power in the NFC from the Cowboys, who dominated the 1970s, to the 49ers, who would go on to win multiple Super Bowls in the 1980s. It was a tough, close, exciting game, and the final drive by the Niners, led by Joe Montana in what was his introduction to pro football fans as “Joe Cool”, culminated in the play that would be forever known as “The Catch”. Trailing 27-21, Montana guided his club downfield and on a crucial third down play from Dallas’ 6 yard line, he took the snap, surveyed the field, and, unable to find an open receiver, sprinted out to the right with Cowboy defenders in hot pursuit. Just inches away from being pushed out of bounds, Montana launched a high pass into the corner of the end zone, which receiver Dwight Clark leaped up and snatched for the winning touchdown.

Some observers felt that Montana was actually throwing the ball away to try again on fourth down, but he and Clark claimed that they had practiced for just such a situation and that Montana knew exactly where his tall receiver would be. Niner coach Bill Walsh, when the pass was thrown, was supposedly already looking down at his play sheet for a play to call on fourth down. Regardless, the completion was made, San Francisco went on to win 28-27, and “The Catch” went into NFL history as one of it’s classic, unforgettable moments. There were some other classic moments in the ending of the game, actually. On the final play, there was an exchange between Montana and the Cowboys’ massive defensive end, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, that was an example of Joe Cool’s competitiveness. As he released the ball, Montana was crushed by Jones, and never saw Clark catch the ball. He only knew the result when he heard the home crowd cheering. Jones, lying on top of the 49er quarterback like a predator on his prey, told Montana “you just beat America’s Team”, to which Montana replied “well, now you can sit at home with the rest of America and watch the Super Bowl!” Another forgotten moment came after “The Catch”, when Dallas, with 51 seconds still left to play, started to drive downfield. Danny White hooked up with his star receiver, Drew Pearson, on a long pass and the Cowboy star appeared poised to break free to the end zone. Eric Wright, safety for San Fran, saved the day by running down Pearson and bringing him down with a horse-collar tackle, a move that is illegal in the NFL today. It’s certainly not a household play with NFL fans, but 49er faithful still refer to Wright’s game-saving tackle as “The Grab”.




San Francisco’s Dwight Clark makes “The Catch”