"The Greatest Game":
Baltimore Colts Vs. New York Giants
by Bill Hughes

In December,1958, I was working on the Baltimore docks as a longshoreman for the Alcoa Steamship Co. I was living in Locust Point and was a Colts fan right from the start.
Phot by Bill Hughes
John Unitas, was taken on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman, held at St. Jude Shrine, Baltimore, Md.

Like many from the south side, I was excited about the upcoming championship game against the Giants. After a very good 1957 season, the Colts looked like the real thing in '58, with John Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry having banner years.

It may be difficult for pro sports fans of this era to realize with the megabucks Orioles' Camden Yards facility and Ravens' stadium, but back in the late 50s, Baltimore was considered a hick town. In fact, it was boring, too. There was no "Harborplace", National Aquarium, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Morris Mechanic Theatre, Center Stage, or $800 million subway system to be found. This was also long before the "Do-It- Now Mayor", the incomparable William Donald Schaefer, arrived on the municipal scene to do his unique version of urban renewal.

That other great attraction, "Fells Point", wasn't even on the tourist map. Then, it was just a run down neighborhood featuring decaying
Photo by Bill Hughes
Jim Mutscheller, was also taken on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman

warehouses and pot-hole-filled streets, drunks, and sleazy pubs, that even "Elvis" wouldn't be found dead in. Although, the city has just gotten a new major league baseball franchise, (thanks to the herculean efforts of then-Mayor Thommy "The Elder" D'Alesandro), the no-names Orioles were a pathetic joke. In short, in 1958, Baltimore City was a "loser".

My unchecked enthusiasm, however, at age 21, led me to buy two tickets for the contest and to take my Highlandtown girlfriend with me. The tickets cost $4 each! Today, $4 might get you a large beer at a Ravens game, but not much more. The Baltimore Sun ran a photo of some of us lucky fans lining up at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street to buy the Colts/Giant ducats. I was thrilled to see my mug in it.
Photo by Bill Hughes
Art Donovan on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman

I was looking forward to driving to New York for the game, my first trip there, but decided at the last minute to take a train from Penn Station. We left early that morning, Sunday, Dec. 28, and were lucky to get a seat. It was very crowded.

After arriving in New York, we took the subway to the Bronx and to fabled "Yankee Stadium". I had a rush of adrenalin when I first sighted that legendary arena, a/k/a, "The House that Ruth Built". When we got to our seats, the usher politely wiped them off and then stuck out his hand. I thought to myself, "He wants to welcome me to New York by shaking my hand." I quickly found out by the look on his frowning face that he wanted a (gasp) tip! Under coercion, I gave him a quarter.

I was pleased to see other southsiders at the event, like John "Hopit" Haspert, Emmet Prenger and Eli Burkum. Soon, after the game started, I got another jolt from the New Yorkers. When we would stand to cheer for the Colts, the locals would invariably yell at us in a loud mocking voice, "Sit down you farmers!" I had never thought of myself as being a farmer, although my late mother, Nora Thornton, was raised on a farm in the west of Ireland.

I'll leave the actual description of the rightly-labeled "Greatest Game" to the sport writers. My memories of it, however, will forever center around the dramatic final touchdown run by Alan "The Horse" Ameche, the pin point passing of quarterback Unitas, and the record breaking 12 receptions by the end Berry.
Photo by Bill Hughes
Lenny Moore, on Jan. 5, 2001, at the funeral for sports writer John Steadman

The train ride back to Baltimore was a special trip unto itself. The happy Baltimore fans were at a "Mach-3" level of unbridled celebration. Some of them were carrying parts of the goal post with them, others could barely walk to their seats from having one-beer-too many. It was a party train like no other. It lasted right through to our landing at Penn Station and spilled out into the joyful night on to Charles Street.

I felt then as I still feel today, that the victory by the Colts over the Giants, on that memorable day, by a score of 23-17, in the first NFL televised overtime championship game, placed the city in the pantheon of pro sports towns. The Colts' victory also proved to me, and to many others of my generation, that Baltimore City was a winner, too!

(Editor's Note-Bill Hughes is a Baltimore attorney, author and actor and former columnist for The Sentinel.)

(Published in The Baltimore Chronicle, December, 1998 issue.)

To read more articles like this, please visit Bill Hughes' Site
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