By Dr. Ken 


Please read the title of this month’s column again and note what the error might be. Obviously, there was no Super Bowl until the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs squared off after the 1966 season and even then it was not named, referred to as, nor called the “Super Bowl.” There was in 1962, a game to determine the champion of the National Football League and another game to decide the same outcome for the still new American Football League. Played first on December 23rd, the AFL’s version of the game would be difficult to top. Within the rather modest venue of Houston’s Jeppesen Stadium, a limited crowd of 37,931 spectators was more than overcome by the “Kick To The Clock” drama of the double overtime 20-17 Dallas Texans victory over their rival Houston Oilers. The game was an artistic success, exciting from beginning to end, and like many of the AFL contests, chock full of offense.



Oiler’s “Human Manhole Cover” Charles Tolar in action against the Dallas Texans


With Curt Gowdy, the underrated but terrific Paul Christman, and Jack Buck announcing the game on the ABC network, the ebbing and flowing game that saw the Texans dominate the first half, and then fall to the severe weather change brought in by a Texas “Blue Northern” that charted wind speeds that immediately altered game strategy, was riveting. The persistence of the Oilers in battling back while fighting the elements was inspiring and of course, finally was determined by the Texans’ Tommy Brooker’s twenty-five yard field goal in the second overtime period. In many ways, this overtime, immediate classic was even more exciting and significant than the 1958 Colts-Giants Championship Game.


This of course would not be enough to yet push an inter-league contest into existence, that would have to wait until the completion of the 1966 season, and the NFL still had its own championship game to play. The 1962 NFL Championship Game is on my mind as we go into the annual Super Bowl frenzy because all of the talk in the New York City area is related to the weather. “What if it snows?” “What if the temperature is around zero?” We just completed a weekend of snow, sleet, wind-driven snow drifts, and machinery that just would not work due to the frigid temperatures. Only half of my snow blower proved operational as one of the auger pins sheared and I learned the folly of throwing snow with half of the machine and literally pushing it with the other. I would have been more efficient with a shovel.



Thus the potential problems related to general travel in the Northeast, commuting to the game, safety and comfort, and the level of play on the field, concerns expressed by both the corporate sector involved with the NFL and the fan base are legitimate.


I was fortunate to have tickets to the 1962 NFL Championship Game but I had two seasons worth of New York Football Giants season tickets thanks to the United States Army. I always hung out with an older crowd and through my father’s work managing nightclubs, always had exposure to “adult situations” even as a pre-teen. Because my immigrant father believed that there were certain “life skills” that every man would need to survive in the world, I had very early lessons in iron working, driving, fighting, and gambling. While I managed to avoid the last item on the list for a lifetime, the remainder of “the must learn” list has paid dividends. I learned to drive both automatic and manual transmission cars and trucks at the age of nine and was entrusted with the transport of the iron shop’s twenty-four foot flat bed truck at the age of fifteen. I was doing valet parking regularly when I was eleven and twelve and thus was friendly with my co-workers, all in their late teens and early twenties. Our boss was in retrospect, in his mid-twenties or early thirties, certainly “ancient” by my standards and a former football player at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He was, being Bronx born and raised, a die-hard Football Giants fan, to distinguish those from the fans who cheered on the New York Baseball Giants until their departure for San Francisco prior to the 1958 season. He and his group of buddies had season tickets to Giants football games and when one member of their group was drafted into the military, I was offered his season tickets during his two year absence. The price was right, at what I recall as $35.00 for a seven game slate of bleacher seat viewing the first year, and a bearable increase to $42.00 for the 1962 season. This was too good to pass up. Bleacher seating was considered low class; no protection from the elements, wooden slats with a white number and lines painted upon the wood between which one would place their buttocks, so-called riff-raff all around, and a lot of alcohol consumption was the summary of “sitting in the bleachers.” The absolute advantage however, in addition to sitting in what were literally “the cheap seats,” was an unobstructed view of the field from the middle of the lower level, at the thirty-five yard line behind the Giants’ bench. Wow, this was heaven.


The 1962 season was one of the great ones, with records by Y.A. Tittle, the return of Frank Gifford, and the usual Herculean effort by the Giants vaunted defense. The championship game would find “us” hosting the Packers who had thoroughly spanked the G-Men in the ’61 Championship Game so anticipation was high. Unfortunately, the prevailing winds too were high while the ambient temperature was not, making for what many believe to this day, was a colder venue than the famous Ice Bowl game of 1967. Though the record for cold weather games was broken by this past month’s Wildcard Weekend playoff game in Green Bay, long before “wind chill stuff” was thought about or mentioned, the ’62 Yankee Stadium site was nothing less than a huge stand-up freezer. The 64,892 fans were subjected to nothing short of 40 mile-per-hour winds that brought the single-digit temperatures down to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory range. Being an ignorant high school student-athlete with perhaps more attention needing focus upon the “student” end of things, I was insufficiently dressed as Jim Taylor and Sam Huff waged an epic battle; super tough Giants middle linebacker punching and eye-gouging the super tough fullback of Green Bay who in turn bit and clawed at his nemesis. Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke won the Most Valuable Player award as guard Jerry Kramer augmented his All Pro offensive line work with three important field goals. The brutal weather conditions affected both teams and it affected me. As the third quarter began, I hobbled on frozen feet, poorly protected by two pairs of socks and work boots, to the concession stand where I purchased a steaming cup of hot chocolate. The fellows I was with, as well as those in the row above them, had numerous derisive comments as I poured the hot chocolate into my boots in an effort to warm up my feet. Of course, as the hot chocolate cooled and eventually froze to slush and ice inside my boots, I found my feet encased in blocks of ice. I was totally incapacitated and despite the excitement of the 16-7 Packers victory in this classic, tooth-and-nail battle, I was distracted by increasing pain in my lower extremities. The summary was predictable: partially carried to our car parked many blocks from Yankee Stadium; boots removed to reveal black and frozen feet which led to a terrified “Oh my gosh, he’s got frostbite and gangrene,” forgetting that the hot chocolate itself had stained my feet black; feet firmly planted upon the dashboard heater for the ninety minute drive home so that circulation could be restored. Humorous at the time for its sheer stupidity, the story of course was amplified over time until it was known that I had made multiple deliveries of hot chocolate, coffee, and chicken soup into my boots and barely avoided amputation minutes after the game!



If the populace now fears an ice cold Super Bowl Game at the new MetLife Stadium, they perhaps should hope more fervently for a great game that rivals the 1962 National Football League Championship Game.