Giants vs. Lions October 21, 1962
by John Delach
Authors note: Set out at the end of this post is a remarkably clear photograph taken during a game between the New York Football Giants and the Detroit Lions in 1962. It was shot from the closed end of Yankee Stadium looking out toward the outfield bleachers. The colors are so vivid that the photographer must have used Kodachrome film. My son recently discovered this photo on an obscure internet site. With my daughter’s help, we uploaded it to this post making this endeavour a family undertaking.
In 1962, at the age of eighteen, I purchased a season ticket paying for it in cash. The cost was $35.50, $5.00 dollars a game times seven home games plus a fifty cents service charge. I purchased this ticket in person at the Giants’ office then located at 10 Columbus Circle from a woman behind a barred window that resembled a teller’s cage in a bank.
At eighteen, I was over-the-top in my anticipation to begin seeing my new-found heroes in person, but the schedule delayed my quest. The New York Yankees, the prime team in Yankee Stadium, as expected, made it to the World Series where they beat the San Francisco Giants, The Football Giants were relegated to road warriors for the first four games of that season, opening with a loss to the Cleveland Browns. They made up this loss beating the Eagles, Steelers and Cardinals prior to playing their first home game in Yankee Stadium. On that delightful autumn afternoon, October 14, 1962, my brand new team of record let me down by losing my very first home opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-17.
The Lions were next and came into this game with a record of 4 and 1 having beaten the Steelers, 49ers, Colts and Rams but having lost to their rivals, the Greenbay Packers, 9-7.
Back then, the Giants home games had a scheduled starting time of 2:05 pm that was in deference to the then existing New York blue laws that prohibited the sale of alcohol including beer before 1 pm on Sundays. This allowed Harry M Stevens, the stadium’s concessionaire, an hour and change lead time prior to kickoff to sell his frothy beverages to the sell-out crowd. The game that day was played on a drop-dead beautiful autumnal afternoon captured in this photograph by the delightful views of the bleacher crowd basking in the mild October weather. It is mostly male and white as it would be today, but it reflected the dress standards of the time. While a good number of these men are in shirtsleeves, they wear what we would call today, business shirts. And every shirt is the same color; white.
Others have on jackets, some wear ties and some, hats too. But, not baseball caps; they sport head coverings that we used to call fedoras.
Those were magnificent times to be a Giants fan and have the privilege to have a ticket admitting you to Yankee Stadium to see the likes of Y.A.Tittle, Del Shofner, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli and Roosevelt Grier. I was a City kid without a car or a driver’s license who rode the subways to the game. My journey began in Ridgewood, Queens to Union Square where I transferred to the IRT Jerome Avenue train on the Lexington Avenue Line, (today the Number 4 train.)
Attending the games was a gift. Those train rides were exciting. VIPs rode the rails. I saw Jim Farley, the former Postmaster General and power broker board the train at 86th Street several times wearing his tweeds and carrying his walking stick. What a thrill to be in the company of a swell like Mr. Farley!
Nothing was greater than the thrill to be on that train when it broke free from the subway tunnel just south of the stadium and brilliant light flooded the cars as the train emerged into the noon time glare as the train turned north onto River Avenue. We caught an all too brief glimpse of the field as the train sped past the stadium before easing into the 161st Street station. The crowd stampeded out onto the platform, descended onto River Avenue and into the atmosphere of stale beer, cigar smoke, hot dogs, peanuts and the anticipation of the game.
The photograph resurrects memories of that day. Look at people sitting on the field. The band: wearing scarlet uniforms sits behind the end zone in left field, to the right, under the Coca-Cola sign, fans sit on folding chairs in front of the Yankees’ monuments in center field. This was where the Giants arranged for people in wheelchairs to watch the game. Most of the people in folding chairs were their companions and this was 1962, long before ADA!
Above that same Coca-Cola sign, others watch from the IRT elevated station. This prized perch was by invitation only exclusively offered on a “who you knew” basis from some unknown Transit supervisor.
The photograph captures an ordinary pass play. Y.A. Tittle (14), the Giants quarterback is setting up to throw what could be a screen pass to his halfback, Joe Morrison (40) who is moving to Tittle’s left. Ahead of Morrison, tackle, Rosey Brown (79) zones in on Lions’ outside linebacker, Wayne Walker (55). Behind them, middle linebacker, Joe Schmidt (56) is tracking Morrison but tackle, Roger Brown (76) seems to be holding back. Defensive end, Sam Williams (88) is charging Tittle unimpeded up the middle having gotten by Giants guard, Darrell Dess (62) while Giants halfback, Phil King (24) and tackle, Jack Stroud (66) double-team an unidentified Lions player, probably Alex Karras (71). Giants tight end, Joe Walton (80) is peeling off to the right on his pass route under the watchful eye of corner back, Dick Lebeau (44) while Lions outside linebacker, Carl Brettschneider (57) makes his rush from the Tittle’s blind side having beaten Giants guard, Greg Larson (53).
A marvelous photograph, the colors so vivid that they shock the senses, and yet, only a photograph of an ordinary play taken on a sunny afternoon at the big ballpark in The Bronx. Brilliant!
For those of you keeping score: the Giants won 17-14 giving the Lions their second defeat of the season.
Despite gaining revenge on the Packers later on Thanksgiving by smothering them 26-14, that was the only loss Green Bay would endure in 1962 finishing 13-1. The Lions finished second in the West with an 11-3 record losing the last game of the season in Chicago, 3-0.
The Giants didn’t lose another game that season winning the NFL Eastern Division with a record of 12-2, but we lost to the Packers in the NFL Championship Game, 16-10 in a frigid and wind-swept Yankee Stadium on December 30th.