by John Delach
Jim Brown died when he was 87 on Thursday, May 18th after leading a long and remarkable life on and off the gridiron. This remembrance is about the three-years I witnessed his football greatness at Yankee Stadium, 1962, 63 and 64; particularly, 1963.
Writing his obituary for The New York Times, Richard Goldstein described Jim Brown’s style: “In any game, he dragged defenders when he wasn’t running over them or flattening them with a stiff arm. He eluded them with his footwork when he wasn’t sweeping around ends and outrunning them. He never missed a game…in 118 consecutive regular-season games even though he played one year with a broken toe and another with a sprained wrist.”
When I am asked who was the greatest football player? I always reply, “Jim Brown was the greatest that I have ever seen.”
His greatness revealed itself on the playing field at Yankee Stadium on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, October 13, 1963 before 62,956 fans. The day featured Mara weather; a sunny coolish afternoon, perfect for football. The Cleveland Browns were 5 – 0 and the Giants were 4 – 1. When it was over, the Browns had won the match, 35-24 remaining undefeated while Big Blue dropped to 4 – 2.
The Giants held their own at the end of the first half, ahead 17 to 14 although Jim Brown did score a one yard rushing touchdown by leaping over the Giants massive tackle, John Lo Vetere and knocking him backwards into the end zone
Robert Riger, author and artist, wrote: “The turning point of the game was an outside run of 72 yards in the third quarter.”
Brown described to Riger how it developed. “Frank Ryan (the Browns QB) just dropped back, turned, and threw to me as I flared out 15 yards to my left. I took the pass at ¾ speed, then came inside a little. Two of our men took care of Scott (LB) on the outside. Huff (MLB) was ten yards deep and as he came up; I gave him a slight fake inside and then veered to the outside and ran right by him. As I went down the sideline, Barnes dove and missed. Patton never saw me and, Winter, the linebacker chased me to the goal, but it was just a matter of outrunning him.”
Jim Brown finished the day with a 32-yard running play for his third touchdown (although he actually ran 62 yards on that play including 30 yards laterally across the field.) “I ran (from behind Ryan) and had three options: over center, off tackle, or outside. I went outside because that’s where it (my opening) was. Robustelli gave it a half inside move reacting to my start inside, then when I swung wide, the tackle got him. Green put a good block on the linebacker who closed in. When I saw the outside open, I knew it would go. Once you turn that end – Robestelli is the key – you know you have five yards. If your halfback gets the linebacker, you know you’ve got ten. I got both of them. Now, which way? I saw three of them coming across fast from my right. But behind them across the field I saw three of my own blockers. I knew if I dropped a shoulder and went straight, I would get the first down, but when I cut back because I wanted to break it all the way. I cut sharply and ran 30 yards across the field and I caught them all going the wrong way. I picked up my blockers and they just chopped the rest of that defense down as I opened up.”
John Mara, Giants president and co-owner remembered watching Jim Brown play when he was a kid. “He would carry multiple defenders for extra yardage before crashing to the turf. He stood-up slowly and painfully made his way to the huddle as if that run had taken everything out of him. Instead, if he received the ensuing handoff, he would hit the line of scrimmage with even more ferocity.”
Likewise, when the press interviewed him after the game, they would hear this: “That Giants defense busted us but good. I always want to do good in New York. Today I got over 200 yards, but that was the roughest, hardest game I have ever played in the six years I’ve been playing.”
That was a good day for Jim Brown, but not that unusual. Once, when he had a similar game against the Baltimore Colts, Artie Donovan the Colts prized defensive end remarked when asked what Brown had done that day: “Take away, the one yard power TD, take away the 72 yard catch and run and take away the 32-yard run and he didn’t do nothing!”
Sam Huff, the Giants Hall of Fame Middle Linebackers once said: “You don’t tackle Jim Brown, you grab onto his legs and wait for the calvary to arrive.”
In response Brown retorted: “Sam Huff made it to the Hall of Fame by grabbing onto my legs often,”
Jim Brown also excelled in the sport of lacrosse and he could have been the greatest professional Lacrosse ever, had there been such a thing as professional lacrosse. He was once asked what would be the perfect week for him and replied: “Play lacrosse six days a week and play football on Sunday.”
RIP Jim Brown
I had faith that you got to see Jim Brown live at Yankee Stadium. All I saw was him on television. What a force. I had not known he never missed a game until I read the fine NY Times obit. John, thanks for more memories of him.