Yesterday: Eagles-Giants memories
BY JEFF MOELLER
Special to the Press
This weekend’s Eagles-Giants playoff game was another interesting battle in the long-standing rivalry between the two teams. But is it a rivalry? We always tend to think of any Philly-New York matchup as a highly-contested one.
We all know about the “Miracle of the Meadowlands,” but does anyone recall the “Miracle of the Meadowlands II?” Or did the Eagles and Giants ever end in a tie? And did the Eagles have a Sports Illustrated postseason jinx?
In this week’s version of my Yesterday column – a reminiscing about the 1960s, 70s, 80 and sometimes beyond- I will look at the Philly-New York rivalry as well as some sports and pop culture tidbits.
Those Classic Clashes: The most notable games of the 1970s involving the two clubs was a Monday Night upset and the Miracle of the Meadowlands, which I have already chronicled in this column.
We all know what happened at the Miracle of the Meadowlands, but the 1970 Monday Night game may have slipped our memories.
The Giants were riding a five-game winning streak with a 6-3 mark, and the Eagles were saddled with a 1-7 record under Jerry Williams. Philly never backed down in the battle between quarterbacks Roman Gabriel and Fran Tarkenton, but the real star was kick returner Billy Walik, whose four kickoff returns for an average of 36.8 yards apiece set up two key Eagles’ scores in the 23-20 victory.
Walik, a wide receiver from Villanova, played with the Birds through the 1972 season and was waived in training camp the following year. He had a brief stint in the World Football League and the Canadian Football League.
From the second meeting in 1975 to the second meeting in 1981, the Eagles had won 12 straight over the Giants. You can trace that back five more games, as the Giants won only one game during the span.
In the series dating back to 1933, there was only one tie game, and that occurred on Sept. 23, 1973 at Yankee Stadium in a 23-all tilt. You will have to dig down deep to remember this one. Does anyone remember football games at the old Yankee Stadium and the University of Pennsylvania?
The game was a true back-and-forth rumble with the Giants tying it late in the game on a late 14-yard field goal by Pete Gogolak during a time when the goal posts weren’t moved back.
Roman Gabriel was the Eagles’ quarterback, and Tom Sullivan and Norm Bulaich were in the backfield with a budding star named Harold Carmichael and veteran Ben Hawkins leading the receivers. Norm Snead was the Giants’ quarterback, and Ron Johnson was in their backfield.
Ex-Bloomsburg State star tight end Bob Tucker led the Giants along with Bob Grim and Don Hermann (do you have their football cards?).
Mike McCormick coached the Eagles, and Alex Webster led the Giants.
Those were the days when we all knew who those players and coaches were.
Miracle of the Meadowlands II?: Almost 10 years to the date of the famous game in 1978, the Eagles met the Giants at Giants Stadium in 1988 with a chance to get back to the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
It will be a classic battle that went into overtime tied at 17. Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan chose to have Luis Zendejas attempt a 31-yard field goal on a third-and-five to end the game.
New York’s Lawrence Taylor blocked Zendejas’ kick, but Eagles defensive end Clyde Simmons scooped up the loose ball and rambled 15 yards into the end zone for the apparent winning score.
At the time, game officials were stymied whether or not it was a legal play and could Simmons advance the ball. Since he was behind the line of scrimmage, Simmons’ score was valid, and the Eagles were off to the postseason.
The Eagles had beaten the Giants earlier in the year at the Vet in a game where Randall Cunningham leaped over Carl Banks during a play on Monday Night Football.
Was it the SI jinx?: On Jan. 19, 1981, Sports Illustrated had the then Oakland Raiders on the cover with the heading, “Bring On the Eagles!”
Well, it didn’t prove to be a jinx as the Raiders dumped the Eagles, 27-10 in Super Bowl XV.
Some Eagles’ Blues: Aside from the Giants, the Eagles likely suffered their most devastating home defeat when they lost to Tampa Bay, 27-10, in the second of three consecutive NFC Championship Game defeats on Jan. 19, 2003.
The game often has been tapped as “Black Sunday,” as everything seemed aligned for the Birds to advance to the Super Bowl.
Remember former Penn State and Tampa Bay wide receiver Joe Jurevicius? He had a 71-yard touchdown pass from Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson in the game that proved to be a momentum swinger.
Another Classic Game: Anyone have the Sports Illustrated Football Game? When I looked back into it, I knew I had it.
The game contained charts from each team in the 1971 season. The game began in 1970 and expanded through the 70s, including the title “Paydirt” in its description. The later “Paydirt” version had Washington running back Larry Brown and Dallas safety Cliff Harris on the cover.
It was played with a roll of the dice to match a column along the top and the side. Plays were designed from the team’s previous season.
Fly Like An Eagle: In March 1976, the Steve Miller Band released the song, “Fly Like An Eagle,” which had a strong connection to the team before the season.
The song rose to number 10 on the billboard chart, and it is still a popular hit.
Land of the Giants: From 1968 through 1970, the TV show “Land of The Giants” aired on ABC.
It was set in the future year of 1983 when a crew in a spaceship was caught in an orbital storm and time warp, thrusting them into the future.
They encountered a world where everything was 12 times larger than on earth.
I briefly remember the show, and it was part of a series of sci-fi shows that dominated the TV landscape at the time.
Memory Lane: Every week, I’ll recount a likely forgotten player, manager, coach, or announcer from days gone by.
Do you remember Eagles’ tight end John Spagnola? The former Bethlehem Catholic and Yale standout originally was drafted by New England in 1979 before he joined the Eagles as a free agent.
The popular Spagnola was a productive contributor over his eight years with the Eagles from 1979-87, catching 256 passes for 2,833 with 14 touchdown passes.
He had brief stops with Seattle and Green Bay before he ended his career with the Packers in 1989.