On This Day In Football History: The Greatest Game Ever Played Happened In 1958

THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED — Colts vs. Giants at Yankee Stadium
By Victor Mastro
On this day in December 1958, the “Greatest Game Ever Played” was the 1958 National Football League Championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium. The Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23-17. It was the first sudden death overtime game that went in the NFL record books as one that counted.  (The first overtime game, an exhibition contest in 1955, had the identical score, 23-17, with the New York Giants on the losing end to the Los Angeles Rams.)


It has been said that the 1958 NFL Championship game put pro football on the map and making televised NFL games a part of the American psyche.


The Baltimore Colts franchise had roots in The Bronx. The New York Yankees, All America Football Conference, 1946-1949, played in Yankee Stadium; they were disbanded in 1950. Another Bronx based team, the New York Yanks, became the Dallas Texans of 1952. That franchise folded and was replaced by the 1953 Baltimore Colts. Art Donovan, a Colt defensive tackle, came from The Bronx and played well in the ’58 overtime game. In 1968, he was the first Colt inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Reprinted below is a poem that describes the “The Greatest Game Ever Played” as it was in the Bronx 57 years ago on this day. The poem was written and published in the COFFIN CORNER by Bronx football historian Victor Mastro.
“DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” is the Bronx cheer,
Katcavage, Little Mo, Robustelli, and Grier.
Johnny Unitas, fresh, young and smart,
Pitches to Berry and Moore from the start.
Through the packed stadium’s azure sky,
The fearless Colt lets that ball fly.
Trapping and baiting — Baltimore fun!
He has our brave Giants on the run.
Mix guile with magic.
All can see
The score at the half — 14 to 3.
“DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” is the Bronx cheer,
Katcavage, Little Mo, Robustelli, and Grier.


coltsgiants8a-1-webThe Horse is reined in short on its call.
Heroic Giants defend that wall!
Remarkable comeback!
We’re up by three!
The clock’s running out.
A victory?
Gifford carries.
Just scant inches more?
Gino and Daddy slam shut the door!
Johnny Colt’s turn with the ball.
Eternities later, Steve Myhra ties all.
“DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” is the Bronx cheer,
Katcavage, Little Mo, Robustelli, and Grier.
Giants’ death knoll ready to chime.
“Seventeen-Seventeen!,” A first Overtime!


Giants dark blue, Colts in pure white.

The first to score will win this night.

Our New York pros have plenty of heart
But brash Johnny U. picks them apart.
Blue-clad Giants, tired — tired and old.
Dusk descends; the last bell has tolled.
“DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” is the Bronx cheer
Katcavage, Little Mo, Robustelli, and Grier.

Baltimore Colts 1958Unitas gold arm and Berry’s soft hands.

Fatality stills the sad New York fans.

Irresistably moving down the field,

The Colts force our Big Blue Dee to yield

Down to the one-yard-line. Alas!

A field goal? Or one more Johnny U pass?

The Horse bolts over. That’s our fate

On this day of glory in fifty-eight.


Katcavage, Little Mo, Robustelli, and Grier.

“DEE-fense!, DEE-fense!” was the Bronx cheer.




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