The New York Giants try to stay warm and dry on the sideline bench during a heavy snow storm in this image taken by the legendary photographer Neil Leifer. The Giants (8-3 record) were facing off against the Cleveland Browns (9-2) on the final game of the regular season. Giants win, they force a playoff game against the Browns to see who goes to the NFL Championship game to face off against the Baltimore Colts, they lose, season over and it’s the Browns who advance to the title game.
Browns got the early jump when legend great Jim Brown ran for a 65-yard touchdown for a first quarter 7-0 lead. But the Giants would bunker down and do a good job containing Brown the rest of the game. In the meantime the Giants offense would scrap back and tie the game at 10-10 when halfback Frank Gifford hit end Bob Schnelker with an 8-yard touchdown pass. Soon after kicker Pat Summerall would kick a 49-yard FG with just minutes to spare for a 13-10 Giants win sending their 63,192 frozen fan base home in total glee.
In the division playoff the following Sunday, again at Yankee Stadium and in front of another big crowd of 61,174, the Giants would beat the Browns 10-0, holding Brown to just eight yards rushing on seven carries as Cleveland powerful offense could only muster 86 total yards. The win would set the Giants up for the title game against the Colts, winners of the Western Division, in what would turn out to be one of the most memorable and important games in NFL history.
On a personal note, while it’s not a baseball photo apart from Yankee Stadium and its signature facade looming mighty in the distance, it is one of my favorite sports photos. One because the players are old school who had little to protect themselves from the harsh elements like today’s football players, but also it was taken arguably during one of the most historic months in NFL history that included what many say is the greatest game ever, and a game that catapulted the National Football League prominently onto the American sports landscape.
And Yankee Stadium, baseballs most revered ballpark, was the backdrop of it all.
-Ron A. Bolton