50 Years Later: How The Colts-Giants 1958 NFL Championship Changed Pro Football

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIDecember 27, 2008

They call it "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

The events that unraveled 50 years ago today would forever change the culture of Professional football as it ascended from baseball's offseason spectacle to our countrys's sport of choice.

Perhaps never before or since has a football game had the impact that this legendary showdown had. The championship game was contested between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants. The location was legendary Yankee Stadium. The goal was to bring home an NFL Championship.

One could argue that this was the first NFL Championship game to posses a Super Bowl-like atmosphere as many consider this legendary encounter to be a pre-cursor to our current Super Bowl.

And why not?

The significance of this game is both impossible to overstate and ignorant to under-rate. After all, this game was no ordinary NFL Championship game.

The Baltimore Colts possessed six future Hall of Fame players and were coached by the future Hall of Famer, Weeb Ewbank. Yes, the very coach that would later be replaced by Don Shula and the same coach that would lead the New York Jets to a legendary upset over the Colts in Super Bowl III. But that is a story for another time.

The Giants were not short of greatness themselves. Their team included six future Hall of Fame players themselves.

How about their coaching staff?

Would you believe that Vince Lombardi was their offensive coordinator and Tom Landry was their defensive coordinator?

The showdown was set and millions of people sat and waited in anticipation.

Over 45 million people watched this NFL classic. Even Vice President Richard Nixon was one of the many notable people in attendance.

And the game itself?

The game would not disappoint.

The Colts would gain a 14-3 advantage in the first half. In the second half, the Giants fought and clawed their way back to a 17-17 tie.

What was to be done at the end of regulation?

Overtime as we all know it today was something nonexistent back in 1958. As a matter of fact, never in NFL history had a game gone into sudden death overtime. This became the first game in NFL history to be pushed to that extent.

A national television audience were about the witness the birth of a legend.

Johnny Unitas led the Colts down the field, his legend growing with every completion. All the people saw was Unitas to Berry, Unitas to Berry.

Johnny Unitas knew they could do it. Raymond Berry knew they could do it. And I have to believe at some point, even the Giants defense knew they were going to do it. Throughout the game, Berry totalled 12 receptions (a Championship record that stands to this day). The drive culminated as Alan Ameche ran in for the game-winning touchdown.

The historical significance of this event will never be forgotten in the annals of NFL history. Today marks the 50 year anniversary of this event. I wrote this article to illustrate the significance and importance these events have, even on the 20-year old Colts fans of today.

I can only hope that this article, along with the history of this game will gather the proper amount of exposure needed to illustrate the importance of this monumental event.