NFL – Throwback Thursday: Friendly Fire

27 Oct

It’s already week 8 of the NFL season, and in contrast to our post from a couple of weeks ago that featured a game from just 8 months prior, this week our Throwback Thursday time machine will travel a long way back into the league’s history, to November 4, 1945 for a contest played between two Pennsylvania clubs, the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, who also are matched up on this week’s schedule. The explanation of why this game is significant requires some historical background. In 1943, in the midst of World War II, a lot of NFL players enlisted in the military to serve the country. As a result, the Eagles and Steelers found themselves in a position of lacking enough players to field teams. The owners of the 2 franchises made the mutual decision to combine rosters and field a single team, temporarily for the ’43 season, that the league record book would officially deem the “Phil-Pitt Combine” but would take on the unofficial moniker as the “Steagles”.

That takes us back to this week’s featured contest. The November, 1945 game would be the first time the clubs met as separate rivals again after their combined efforts a couple of seasons earlier. The Eagles were a contending franchise in the ’40s, and played in 4 title games later in the decade, winning a pair. As for most of their existence prior to the 1970s, the Steelers were awful. Ben Agajanian, whose career would stretch all the way into the 1960s with the AFL, put Pittsburgh on the board first with a field goal, but that’s all they would muster on the day. Eagle QB Roy Zimmerman zipped a pair of touchdown throws to end Jack Ferrante of 26 and 65 yards, and Philly was up 13-3 at halftime. The Eagles came out determined in the second half also, and took control of the game. Future Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren scampered 20 yards for a score and Zimmerman found Fred Meyer from 27 yards out to up the lead to 26-3 entering the final quarter. With the comfortable lead in hand, Philadelphia coach Greasy Neale turned to his running game. The result was 3 rushing TDs from 3 different backs. Jack Banta scored from 22 yards out with Mel Bleeker following up with a 14 yard jaunt. Abe Karnofsky added the icing to the cake with a 19 yard run for the final score, and the Steelers left town with their tails between their legs, on the wrong end of a 45-3 rout.

Despite the one-sided score, the players on each side must have still had a little love and respect for each other, as the entire 60 minutes was played without a single penalty being assessed on either side.


The Phil-Pitt “Steagles” from 1943


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