Monday, June 29, 2020

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame England for Losing to the U.S. at the 1950 World Cup

June 29, 1950, 70 years ago: The U.S. soccer team played England in a game everybody assumed England would win.

The England team was loaded. From 1949 and 1950 Football League Champions Portsmouth: Midfielder Jimmy Dickinson. From 1950 FA Cup winners Arsenal: Defender Laurie Scott. From 1949 FA Cup winners Wolverhampton Wanderers, who would go on to win 3 League titles in the 1950s: Defender Billy Wright (the national team's Captain), forward Jimmy Mullen, and goalkeeper Bert Williams.

From 1948 League Champions Manchester United: Defender John Aston and midfielder Henry Cockburn. From 1947 League Champions Liverpool: Midfielder Laurie Hughes. From the Tottenham Hotspur team that would win the 1951 League title: Goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, defender Alf Ramsey (who would manage England to the 1966 World Cup win), and midfielders Bill Nicholson (who would manage Tottenham to the 1961 League and Cup "Double") and Eddie Baily. From the Newcastle United team that would win 3 of the next 5 FA Cups: Forward Jackie Milburn.

From the Blackpool team that would win the 1953 FA Cup, a pair of geniuses: Right wing Stanley Matthews (known as the Wizard of the Dribble) and forward Stan Mortensen. From Preston North End: Forward Tom Finney. From Middlesbrough: Forward Wilf Mannion.

It speaks to the talent of this team that 6 of the players -- Wright, Nicholson, Milburn, Matthews, Finney and Mannion -- would have statues dedicated outside their teams' stadiums.

The U.S. team was taken from various clubs in the top league in the country at the time, the American Soccer League. There was nothing like a "first division" as in European or South American countries. And none of them was still in college, although they weren't over the hill: One player was 38, the rest were between the ages of 21 and 31, coming from ASL clubs in New York, Philadelphia, the Boston satellite city of Fall River, Pittsburgh, Chicago and St. Louis.

England started by beating Chile 2-0. The U.S. got off to a good start against Spain, jumping ahead 1-0 in the 17th minute. But the defense allowed 3 goals between the 81st and 89th minutes, and Spain won, 3-1.

This set up the U.S.-England meeting, at Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil on Thursday, June 29, 1950, 70 years ago today. Surely, this would be an easy England win, and nobody would talk about it forever.

As a British citizen familiar with the English game, as well as that of the country he had adopted, the U.S. manager, Bill Jeffrey, told the press, "We have no chance," and called his team "sheep ready to be slaughtered." One of the English national newspapers, the Daily Express, wrote, "It would be fair to give the U.S. three goals of a start."

England had 8 shots on goal in the 1st 32 minutes. U.S. goalkeeper Frank Borghi put on a heroic performance. Then, in the 37th minute, game an Ed McIlvenny throw-in, taken by Walter Bahr, whose shot toward foal was deflected by the head of Joe Gaetjens, and the U.S. led 1-0.

In the last few minutes of the game, the England players appealed for a penalty and insisted that a deflected shot had gone over the goal line, but were denied by the referee each time. Final score: America 1, England 0.

On July 2, the Americans were knocked out of the tournament, losing 5-2 to Chile, and England fell to Spain 1-0. Spain thus won Group 2, and only the 4 Group winners advanced to a knockout round. Uruguay ended up beating Brazil in the Final, an even worse defeat for Brazil, but not nearly as shocking around the world as the U.S. beating England. (Uruguay had, after all, dominated international soccer in the 1920s, won the 1st World Cup in 1930, and, obviously, was still pretty good.)

The 1-0 win over England has been nicknamed "The Miracle Match." In a nod to the U.S. hockey upset over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics, known as "The Miracle On Ice," this game has been retroactively called "The Miracle On Grass." Given how many shots Borghi had to stop, Belo Horizonte '50 was much closer to being a miracle than Lake Placid '80.

The Miracle On Grass was hardly seen then, and it has hardly been seen since. But it might just be the greatest upset in American sports history.

How could England have lost this game?

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame England for Losing to the U.S. at the 1950 World Cup

5. The Weather. Brazil is a tropical nation. The Americans, especially the players from St. Louis, were used to the kind of heat they were facing. In contrast, the entirety of the British Isles is further north than the entirety of the continental United States.

The English (and the Welsh, and the Scots, and the Irish) may complain about the cold and the rain, and long to spend time on the warm coasts of France, Spain and Italy. But they don't actually like to play football in the heat. And they did not handle it as well as the Americans.

The old saw from American-style football, "Don't blame the weather, it was the same for both teams" is frequently untrue, especially when one team is used to cold weather and the other plays in a dome. If this game had been played anywhere in England, the English would probably have won it.

4. The Media Disparity. The English were under intense pressure, after not playing in the World Cups of the 1930s, to finally put their money where their mouths were, and prove they were the best team in the world.

Since the establishment of the European Championships in 1960, and especially after they finally did win the World Cup in 1966, every 2 years, the media builds up the national side, makes them seem unbeatable, and then roasts them when they inevitably fail.

But the Americans faced no media pressure. Because they faced no media. There was a grand total of one American reporter at the game, and he had to pay his own way, because his newspaper wouldn't pay it -- even though it was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and there were a few St. Louisians on the roster. They wouldn't even "go for the local angle."

There were no annoying or embarrassing media questions for the U.S. team to dodge. There were no media questions at all.

3. Walter Winterbottom. At the time, he was a 37-year-old native of Oldham, outside Manchester, who played a few games for Manchester United, but saw his career cut short by having to serve in World War II. In a rotten case of "It's not what you know, it's who you know," he became an officer in the Royal Air Force, and gained access to Stanley Rous, the secretary of the governing body of English soccer, the Football Association (the FA).

In 1946, Rous talked the FA Council into appointing Winterbottom as the FA's 1st Director of Coaching, thus making him the national team's 1st real manager. He proved to be a bust. Under his leadership:

* 1949: England lost to the Republic of Ireland at Goodison Park in Liverpool, home of Everton. But that was considered a fluke. Or, as they would say in England, a one-off. As it turned out, it wasn't, not by a long shot:

* 1950: England lost to the United States in the World Cup in Brazil, and didn't make it out of the Group Stage.

* 1953: England lost on English soil to a team from outside the British Isles for the 1st time, getting embarrassed 6-3 by the "Magnificent Magyars" of Hungary at the original Wembley Stadium in London.

* 1954: England played a warmup match in Budapest, figuring another game with Hungary would be good preparation for the upcoming World Cup in Switzerland, but they got shellacked again, 7-1. lost. Maybe it was a good exercise after all: At the World Cup, they won their Group Stage. But they lost to defending Champions Uruguay in the Quarterfinal.

* 1958: England couldn't get out of the Group Stage of the World Cup in Sweden. To make matters more embarrassing, both Wales and Northern Ireland did make the knockout stage.

* 1962: England again reached the Quarterfinal of the World Cup, this time in Chile, but lost. At least it was to Brazil, the defending Champions, who won it again.

After that World Cup, Winterbottom was finally let go. If the current English media climate was in place in 1950, he probably would have been sacked before he got back on the plane. Especially since he left the already-beloved Stanley Matthews on the bench.

Can you imagine the reaction today if current England manager Gareth Southgate left his best player on the bench for a World Cup match? Then again, it's hard to say who that is. Raheem Sterling? Harry Kane, the diver and the great dribbler (and that doesn't refer to his footballing ability)? Jordan Henderson, who would be practically ignored by the media were he not Captain of Liverpool?
Regardless, in 2018, those guys started in 5 of the 6 games England played. Southgate only held them back from the last Group Stage game, because England had already advanced, and there was no reason to risk them for injury.

Stanley Matthews had been injured a few weeks before the 1950 World Cup, but was working his way back. Had he played, it's hard to imagine American goalie Frank Borghi keeping the same clean sheet against the kind of attacks Sir Stan would have launched.
Sir Stan

Soccer historian David Goldblatt has suggested that Winterbottom failed to properly learn from his defeats: "His inability to anticipate or learn significantly from the Hungarian debacle suggests that his grasp of tactics and communication with the players was limited." Another writer, William Baker, said that, due to having upper-class origins, he could not "effectively instruct, much less inspire, working-class footballers." And longtime football journalist Brian Glanville said, "I got on very well with Walter Winterbottom, but he was a rotten manager." Nevertheless, he was knighted in 1978, and lived until 2002.
Good man? Maybe. Good intentions? Certainly.
Good manager? Yer havin' a laugh, mate.

He was replaced by Alf Ramsey, who had played for him in the 1950 disaster, helped Tottenham Hotspur win the League title in 1951, and had just managed Ipswich Town to the League title. He knew England would host the World Cup in 1966, and he told the FA he could manage them to victory. He was right.

2. No Scouting. In the modern era, a national team would collect as much footage of an upcoming opponent as possible, and study the hell out of it, looking for any possible weakness. But there was no film of the U.S. team for the English to study. It wouldn't matter if they'd decided to look at it before leaving for Brazil, because there was no "it" to look at.

And the reports they had read about the U.S. team? They couldn't possibly have been reliable. They had no way of knowing whether Brookhattan, Ponta Delgada, or St. Louis Simpkins-Ford, and the players they were sending to Brazil on the U.S. team, were any good, or what their tendencies were.

And therein lay the biggest problem of all:

1. The Americans Were Good. In an exercise like this, the tendency is to make Reason Number 1 "The opposition were better." There's no way the U.S. team was better than the England team. But, as with the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Yankees in the World Series 10 years later, they were a good team, worthy of being on the field with the alleged world's best, and the fact that they won should not be considered that much of a shock.

You could say that, in their 1st game in the tournament, the U.S. defense collapsed at the end and let Spain win 3-1. Or you could say that they were 10 minutes from having a famous 1-0 win 4 days sooner than the one they actually got.

Yes, they got pounded 5-2 by Chile in their finale. But had they held that 1-0 lead against Spain, they would have finished atop the Group, and advanced to the Final Group. Would the win over England still have been considered an upset? Of course. Would it have been as much of a shock? No.

Put it all together, and accept that the conditions for England to win that game weren't so good, and you really can't blame them for losing. Their manager, yes. The players, no.

VERDICT: Not Guilty.

June 29, 1950: The Miracle On Grass

June 29, 1950, 70 years ago: The U.S. soccer team played England in a game everybody assumed England would win.

In the words of the immortal Felix Unger (as played by Tony Randall on The Odd Couple), "You should never assume. Because when you assume, you make an ASS of U and ME!"

The U.S. team played in the 1st World Cup, in Uruguay in 1930. In their Group Stage, they beat Belgium and Paraguay, each by a 3-0 score. This enabled them to top their Group and advance to the Semifinals. Then reality set in, and they got clobbered 6-1 by Argentina, who then lost the Final to the hosts, 4-2.

The 1934 World Cup in Italy was a simple knockout tournament of 16 teams, and the U.S. lost in the 1st round, to the hosts, 7-1. The U.S. withdrew from qualifying for the 1938 tournament.

The 4 "Home Nations" of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland -- England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland -- did not compete in these 1st 3 World Cups. There was a dispute between the U.K. and the governing body of world soccer, FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

Only 13 teams competed in 1930, and France, Belgium, Yugoslavia and Romania were the only representatives from Europe. Travel from Europe to South America was prohibitively expensive. So it wasn't surprising that no "nation" in the U.K. played in it.

In 1934, 12 of the 16 teams were from Europe, but no nation in the British Isles competed. This was also true for 1938, when it was supposed to be 16, but Austria withdraw after their "Anschluss" with Nazi Germany, making it 15. Ireland, then known as "the Irish Free State," entered qualifying, but failed to make it.

Then came World War II. The World Cups of 1942 and 1946 were canceled. Since Brazil was supposed to host in 1942, they got the 1st postwar World Cup, in 1950. And as the centerpiece, in what was then their capital city, Rio de Janeiro (the capital was moved to Brasilia in 1960), they built the most famous soccer stadium in the Western Hemisphere, the Estadio Maracanã. With standing room, it could hold nearly 200,000 people.

Only 13 teams entered this tournament. Finally, though, there was representation from Britain, the country that had invented the sport, giving the tournament more legitimacy than ever. It had not helped FIFA that, after the 1934 World Cup, winners Italy went to London and lost to an England team that then called themselves "World Champions."

The U.K. "football" authorities collectively decided that the 1949-50 Home Nations Tournament would send its top 2 teams. England won, and sent its team. Scotland finished 2nd, but the Scottish Football Association had decided only to go if they'd won, and so they withdrew, and only England went.

And what a team it was. From 1949 and 1950 Football League Champions Portsmouth: Midfielder Jimmy Dickinson. From 1950 FA Cup winners Arsenal: Defender Laurie Scott. From 1949 FA Cup winners Wolverhampton Wanderers, who would go on to win 3 League titles in the 1950s: Defender Billy Wright (the national team's Captain), forward Jimmy Mullen, and goalkeeper Bert Williams.

From 1948 League Champions Manchester United: Defender John Aston and midfielder Henry Cockburn. From 1947 League Champions Liverpool: Midfielder Laurie Hughes. From the Tottenham Hotspur team that would win the 1951 League title: Goalkeeper Ted Ditchburn, defender Alf Ramsey (who would manage England to the 1966 World Cup win), and midfielders Bill Nicholson (who would manage Tottenham to the 1961 League and Cup "Double") and Eddie Baily. From the Newcastle United team that would win 3 of the next 5 FA Cups: Forward Jackie Milburn.

From the Blackpool team that would win the 1953 FA Cup, a pair of geniuses: Right wing Stanley Matthews (known as the Wizard of the Dribble) and forward Stan Mortensen. From Preston North End: Forward Tom Finney. From Middlesbrough: Forward Wilf Mannion.

It speaks to the talent of this team that 6 of the players -- Wright, Nicholson, Milburn, Matthews, Finney and Mannion -- would have statues dedicated outside their teams' stadiums.

Sure, the host nation, Brazil, was the prohibitive favorite. But England were going to win the tournament. After all, England invented the sport.


The U.S. team was taken from various clubs in the top league in the country at the time, the American Soccer League. There was nothing like a "first division" as in European or South American countries. And none of them was still in college, although they weren't over the hill: One player was 38, the rest were between the ages of 21 and 31, coming from these ASL clubs:

* St. Louis Simpkins-Ford, sponsored by Joe Simpkins' Ford car dealership: Frank Borghi, 25, goalkeeper; Robert Annis, 21, defender; Charlie Colombo, 29, midfielder; Gino Pariani, 22, forward; and Frank "Peewee" Wallace, 27, forward.
Frank Borghi

* St. Louis McMahon: Harry Keough, 22, defender. Each of these 6 men was a St. Louis native. Borghi, Colombo and Pariani came from the "Dago Hill" neighborhood on the North Side, which also produced baseball legends Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. A line Berra would later use about the 1969 Mets, on whom he coached, would apply to this U.S. team: "We were overwhelming underdogs."

* Philadelphia Nationals: Walter Bahr, 23; and Ed McIlvenny, 25; both midfielders. Bahr was a Philadelphia naive, born on the exact same day as the great Ferenc Puskás, whose Hungary team did not enter the tournament but would star in it 4 years later. But McIlvenny was born and raised in Scotland, and had played in his homeland for Greenock Morton and in Wales for Wrexham. He came to America because labor paid more than "football" back home, and since he had begun the process of attaining American citizenship, he qualified for the U.S. team under the rules of the time.
Walter Bahr

* Brookhattan, which, as its name suggests, played home games in both Brooklyn and Manhattan: Joe Gaetjens, 26, forward. A native of Haiti, he came to New York in 1947, and led the ASL in scoring in the 1949-50 season. Then, as now, there was a notable Haitian community in Brooklyn.
Joe Gaetjens

* Brooklyn Hispano: Joe Maca, 29, defender. A native of Belgium, he played in his country's 1st division and for its Army team during World War II, then came to America. Perhaps someone thought "Maca" was a Hispanic-sounding name, and recommended Hispano to him and vice versa.

* Ponta Delgada: Frank Moniz, 38; John Souza, 29; and Ed Souza, 28; all forwards. Ponta Delgada was named for a town in the Azores, islands off the west coast of Portugal, and all 3 players were from Fall River, Massachusetts, a small city south of Boston with a large Portuguese community -- large enough that no close relationship between the 2 Souzas could be established. Because of "blue laws" in Masschusetts, Ponta Delgada played their Sunday games in Tiverton, Rhode Island, in a stadium whose northern boundary was literally the State Line.

* Pittsburgh Harmarville: Nicholas DiOrio, 29; and Robert Craddock, 26; both forwards.

* Chicago Vikings, so named for their largely Scandinavian ethnic makeup: Geoff Coombes, 31, defender.

* Chicago Eagles, so named for their largely Polish ethnic makeup: Adam Wolanin, 30, forward.

* Chicago Slovak, yet another mostly ethnic team: Gino Gardassanich, 27, goalkeeper.

This was probably the most talented national team the U.S. had ever had -- and would remain so for a long time to come. But nobody thought they would do much in the World Cup. The odds on them winning the tournament were given as 500-1.


June 24: Brazil opens the tournament, and the Maracanã, with a 4-0 win over Mexico.

June 25: England starts by beating Chile 2-0 at the Maracanã. Mortensen scores in the 39th minute, Mannion in the 51st. The U.S. gets off to a good start against Spain, with Pariani scoring in the 17th. But the defense collapses late, allowing 3 goals between the 81st and 89th minutes, and Spain win, 3-1. Elsewhere, Yugoslavia beats Switzerland 3-0, and Sweden beats Italy 3-2. As amazing as this game was, this would not be the biggest upset of the tournament, or even the 2nd-biggest.

June 28: Brazil can only manage a 2-2 tie with Switzerland, blowing 1-0 and 2-1 leads, with Switzerland equalizing in the 88th minute. Yugoslavia beats Mexico 4-1.

June 29: Spain beats Chile 2-0. Sweden and Paraguay play to a 2-2 draw. And then there was the game between England and the U.S. Surely, this would be an England win, and nobody would talk about it forever.

Indeed, in America, hardly anybody talked about it for decades.


This is what the world was like on June 29, 1950, 70 years ago today:

American soccer, as I pointed out, was barely noticeable. What would later be called Major League Baseball was no further south than Washington and Cincinnati, and no further west than St. Louis. And yet, there were teams in both the American League and the National League in Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Within 5 years, each of those cities would be down to 1 team.

The National Basketball Association had just completed its 4th season, its 2nd straight with the Champions being the Minneapolis Lakers, but their only Western outpost had just folded. It was known as the Denver Nuggets. That name would be used again. The next season would see the NBA following MLB and the National Football League in racially integrating.

The NFL had stretched to Los Angeles and San Francisco, but no further into the South than had baseball. And the National Hockey League had only 6 teams: The Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

In addition to the Lakers, the Red Wings, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Rams were defending Champions. Ezzard Charles was the Heavyweight Champion of the World. There was, as yet, no European Cup (the tournament now called the UEFA Champions League). Television and sports was still a new combination, as radio, newspapers, and movie theaters' "newsreels" still dominated the way people found out what was going on in "the world of sports."

The defining soccer players of my childhood? Pelé was a 9-year-old boy named Edson Arantes do Nascimento, nicknamed "Dico" by his family, and using radio and newspapers to keep tabs on the tournament, especially the Brazil team, in his hometown of Três Corações (Three Hearts) in the State of Minas Gerias.

Eusébio was 8, and living in Mozambique in Africa, then still a colony of Portugal. Sandra Mazzola was 7, and watching his father, Valentino Mazzola, star for Torino in Turin, Italy. Gianni Rivera was 6. Franz Beckenbauer was 4. Giorgio Chinaglia and Johan Cruijff were 3.

Arséne Wenger -- not a defining player of my childhood, but a defining figure in the game in my adulthood -- was 8 months old. And Charlie George, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Doctor Sócrates, Mario Kempes, Michel Platini, Liam Brady, Paolo Rossi and Diego Maradona hadn't been born yet.

The World Cup has since been held twice each in Mexico and Germany; and once each in Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, Italy, America, France, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Brazil again, and Russia.

And the Olympic Games have since been held in America 5 times; 3 times each in Japan, Italy and Canada; twice each in Austria, France, Norway, Australia, Russia and Korea; and once each in Finland, Mexico, Germany, Bosnia, Spain, Greece, China, Britain and Brazil.

America had 48 States. There were 22 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. There had not been a Civil Rights Act since 1886. There was Social Security, but no Medicare, Medicaid, Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA or Title IX. The ideas that abortion, same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana use would one day be legal were absurd -- but so was the idea that corporations were "people" and entitled to the rights thereof.

The President of the United States was Harry Truman. Herbert Hoover, and the widows of Calvin Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson, were still alive. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of Columbia University. John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lyndon Johnson was in the U.S. Senate. Jimmy Carter was in the U.S. Navy. Ronald Reagan was an actor. George H.W. Bush was in the oil business.

Joe Biden was 7 years old. Donald Trump was 4 years old (and hasn't gotten any more mature), while George W. Bush and Bill Clinton would soon reach that birthday. Barack Obama and Mike Pence weren't born yet.

The Governor of the State of New York was Thomas E. Dewey. The Mayor of the City of New York was William O'Dwyer. The Governor of the State of New Jersey was Alfred E. Driscoll. The current holders of those offices -- Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio and Phil Murphy -- weren't born yet.

There were still surviving veterans of the American Civil War, the U.S. Army's wars with the Native Americans, the Franco-Prussian War, and the Zulu War. There were still a living person who had witnessed the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, another who had witnessed the Wright Brothers' 1st flight, and a living former policeman who had worked on the Jack the Ripper case.

The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was John Boyd Orr, who had worked with the nascent United Nations to increase the world's food supply and get it to starving people. This is one of several examples of the Prize going to someone whose efforts were humanitarian and deserved some kind of recognition, but were not really related to the stopping or the prevention of a war.

The Prime Minister of Britain was Clement Attlee, and of Canada Louis St. Laurent. The head of state for both was King George VI of Britain. The Pope was Pius XII. The current Pope, Francis, was then Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 13 years old, and following the World Cup, though his native Argentina had not qualified for it. There have since been 13 Presidents of the United States, 2 British Monarchs, and 7 Popes.

Major novels of 1950 included Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway, Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, The Town and the City, whose author is listed on the cover as John Kerouac, although it's the debut novel of Jack Kerouac; Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester, Conan the Conqueror by Robert E. Howard, The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, and Pebble in the Sky, the debut novel of science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.

The year would also see the publication of Asimov's collection of short stories I, Robot; Damon Knight's collection of short stories To Serve Man, the title story later forming one of the most renowned episodes of the anthology TV series The Twilight Zone; and Beverly Cleary's children's story Henry Huggins -- not to be confused with Henry Higgins, the nasty dialectician created for the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, who died that year.

Later in the year, C.S. Lewis will begin his Chronicles of Narnia, by publishing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. His close friend J.R.R. Tolkein had published The Hobbit, but not yet any of his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

J.D. Salinger was still working on The Catcher in the Rye. Ian Fleming was working for a newspaper syndicate, and had not yet published any books. Vladimir Nabokov had, but they hadn't succeeded, so he was teaching at Cornell University. Truman Capote had published novels, but not yet the one for which he would be best known. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had been sent to what the Soviet government called a "special camp" in Kazakhstan. Robert Ludlum was producing Broadway plays, and hadn't yet published a novel.

Joseph Heller was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University. John Updike and Philip Roth had both just graduated from high school. Thomas Harris was 9 years old, Anne Rice and John Irving were 8, Winston Groom 7, Alice Walker 6, James Patterson and Tom Clancy 3, Stephen King 2, George R.R. Martin a year and a half, and Douglas Adams, Stieg Larsson, Helen Fielding, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer weren't born yet.

So no one yet heard of Dean Moriarty, Holden Caulfield, James Bond, Dolores "Lolita" Haze, Holly Golightly, Yuri Zhivago, Jason Bourne, John Yossarian, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, Alexander Portnoy, Hannibal Lecter, Lestat de Lioncourt, T.S. Garp, Forrest Gump, Celie Harris, Alex Cross, Jack Ryan, Jack Torrance, Jon Snow, Arthur Dent, Lisbeth Salander, Bridget Jones, Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter or Bella Swan.

Major films of the Summer of 1950 included The Asphalt Jungle (which helped launch Marilyn Monroe to fame), the best-known film version of Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate epic Treasure Island, the Western Winchester '73, the film version of the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, Father of the Bride, the baseball biopic The Jackie Robinson Story (with Jackie playing himself), Elia Kazan's epidemic film Panic in the Streets, the original film noir versions of Night and the City and No Way Out, the science fiction film Destination Moon, and the film noir tribute to old Hollywood Sunset Boulevard.

Kirk Alyn once again played the Man of Steel in Atom Man vs. Superman. Robert Lowry had recently played Batman in a serial. Gene Roddenberry was a Los Angeles policeman. Sydney Newman was helping to establish British episodic television, and hadn't yet created The Avengers (the 1960s spy series, not the superhero team) or Doctor Who. George Lucas was 6 years old, Steven Spielberg 3.

Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz had just founded Desilu Productions. While they hadn't yet begun filming I Love Lucy, this did make Lucy one of the earliest women, and Desi one of the earliest Hispanics (if a very light-skinned one), to have any creative control in Hollywood. American TV was dominated by anthology shows like Kraft Television Theatre and The Philco Television Playhouse; game shows like the brand-new What's My Line? and Beat the Clock; and variety shows like Your Show of Shows hosted by Sid Caesar, and Toast of the Town, which would later be renamed for its host: The Ed Sullivan ShowThe Hazel Scott Show made its debut on the DuMont Television Network, making singer Scott the 1st African-American woman to host a TV program.

Among the writers of Your Show of Shows were Neil Simon, his brother Danny Simon, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Selma Diamond, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen. Neil would base Felix Unger of The Odd Couple on Danny. Carl would create The Dick Van Dyke Show, basing his character Alan Brady on Sid, Dick's character Rob Petrie on himself, Rob's wife Laura on his own wife Estelle, their son Ritchie on real-life son Rob, Buddy Sorrell on Mel, and Sally Rogers on Selma. Mel would go on to create Get Smart with Buck Henry.

No one had yet heard of Joe Friday, Ralph Kramden, Marshal Matt Dillon, Captain Kangaroo, Paladin, Beaver Cleaver, Ben Cartwright, or any of the legendary TV characters of the 1950s onward.

The Number 1 song in America was "The Third Man Theme," Anton Karas' zither-driven theme song from an Orson Welles spy thriller film. Frank Sinatra was at a low point in his career, as his original fans, the "bobby-soxers," had outgrown him and weren't drawn to his new material. Nat King Cole, Frankie Laine, Patti Page and Teresa Brewer were the year's big singers.

Hank Williams was already big in the South, but not in the North. Elvis Presley was in high school. Johnny Cash had just graduated, and, before the World Cup was out, would enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, and Don and Phil Everly were in junior high. Tina Turner was 10 years old; John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Bob Dylan were 9; Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Aretha Franklin 8; George Harrison 7, Mick Jagger and Diana Ross 6, Pete Townshend 5, Cher 4, David Bowie and Elton John 3, Billy Joel 1, Bruce Springsteen 9 months old, and Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince weren't born yet.

Inflation was such that what $1.00 bought then, $10.64 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp cost 3 cents, and a New York Subway ride 10 cents. The average price of a gallon of gas was 23 cents, a cup of coffee 15 cents, a burger-fries-and-Coke meal 46 cents, a movie ticket 46 cents, a new car $1,700, and a new house $7,150. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed that day at 206.72. Not 20,006, or even 2,006, but two hundred and six.

The tallest building in the world was the Empire State Building in New York. Telephones had been possible in cars since 1946, but a phone you could carry around with you? Forget it. Telephone numbers were still based on "exchanges," based on the letters on a rotary dial. So a number that, today, would be (718) 293-6000 (this is the number for the Yankees' ticket office, so I’m not hurting anyone's privacy), would have been CYpress 3-6000.

There were no ZIP Codes, either. They ended up being based on the old system: The old New York Daily News Building, at 220 East 42nd Street, was "New York 17, NY"; it became "New York, NY 10017."

Color film was expensive, so it was far from universal. Color television was still in the experimental stage. Small transistor radios were still a few years off. Photocopiers, a few more, so carbon paper was a hot commodity in offices.

Computers were still in their early stages of development. Alan Turing was still alive and working on them, but Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee hadn't been born yet. A worldwide network of data, similar to what became the Internet, had been suggested as an idea in some science fiction stories. Diners Club had just introduced the credit card, but American Express had not yet popularized it. There were no automatic teller machines.

There were artificial kidneys, but no artificial hearts. Transplanting a kidney was possible, but not a heart, lung or liver. The polio vaccine was still in development. There was no birth control pill, but there was no Viagra, either. Insects and apes had been launched into space, but no object had yet been put into orbit.

In the Summer of 1950, Communist North Korea invaded capitalist (but hardly free) South Korea, and President Truman mobilized the United Nations to push them back, beginning the Korean War. This would also be the debut of jet airplanes in U.S. combat.

The European Coal and Steel Community was formed in Paris by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, beginning the process of creating the European Union. The Arab League signed a Joint Defence and Economic Co-operation Treaty. The African National Congress held a National Day of Protest against the apartheid government of South Africa. Radio Free Europe began broadcasting.

Guam was given the status of a U.S. Territory, and its residents were granted U.S. citizenship. The volcano Mauna Loa started erupting in Hawaii. On the U.S. mainland, the Rev. Billy Graham visited Truman at the White House. A fan watching a 4th of July doubleheader between the arch-rival New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds was killed by a sniper from a nearby apartment building. Sam Walton opened his 1st store in Bentonville, Arkansas, beginning the Walmart empire. And the U.S. Army used Cape Canaveral, on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, to launch rockets for the 1st time.

The book Red Channels was published, listing names of actors, directors, writers and producers as members of the Communist Party or sympathizers -- some, incorrectly. Nuclear technician David Greenglass was arrested and charged with spying for the Soviet Union. He cops a plea, and implicates his sister Ethel, and her husband Julius Rosenberg. Ethel and Julius would be executed for treason in 1953. Greenglass, who betrayed America more deeply than either of them, served less than 10 years, and lived until 2014.

Former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, and coffee filter inventor Melitta Bentz, and songwriter Buddy DeSylva died. Richard Branson, and Ann Wilson, and Huey Lewis were born.

That's what the world was like when the national soccer teams of the United States of America and England took the field (or "pitch") at Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil on Thursday, June 29, 1950, 70 years ago today.

Estádio Independência, during the 1950 World Cup

England wore blue shirts and white shorts, and lined up in the W-M formation that had been standard on their shores since Herbert Chapman brought it to Arsenal in 1925. Bert Williams was in goal. The back line was Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright and John Aston. The midfielders were Laurie Hughes and Jimmy Dickinson. And the 5-man forward line was Wilf Mannion, Tom Finney, Jimmy Mullen, Stan Mortensen and Roy Bentley.
Billy Wright

England's best player, Stanley Matthews, was left on the bench. Because substitutes were not allowed yet, manager Walter Winterbottom would not be able to bring him on at all.
Stanley Matthews

Bill Jeffrey, a 57-year-old Scotsman who was head coach at Penn State, and thus had coached the Philadelphia players, was the American manager. He had his players, wearing white shirts with a red sash from upper right to lower left, and blue shorts, in a 2-3-5 formation.
Frank Borghi was in goal. In front of him were the fullbacks, Harry Keough on the right, Joe Maca on the left. In front of them were the halfbacks: Right to left, Ed McIlvenny, Charlie Colombo and Walter Bahr. Then the forwards: Right to left, Frank Wallace, Gino Pariani, Joe Gaetjens, John Souza and Ed Souza. Bahr was usually the Captain of this team, but, since he was British, McIlvenny was chosen as Captain for this game.
Ed McIlvenny

As a British citizen familiar with the English game, as well as that of the country he had adopted, Jeffrey told the press, "We have no chance," and called his team "sheep ready to be slaughtered." One of the English national newspapers, the Daily Express, wrote, "It would be fair to give the U.S. three goals of a start."

Only 10,151 fans paid to watch this game, which kicked off at the traditional English soccer kickoff time of 3:00 in the afternoon, making it 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, on a Thursday. England won the coin toss, and chose to kick off.

In the 2nd minute, Bentley fired a shot that Borghi barely saved. By the 12th minute, Borghi had had to make another great save, an England shot just went over the crossbar, and 2 other shots hit the post. The U.S. didn't get a shot on goal until the 25th, and Williams blocked it. Between then and the 32nd, Mortensen fired over the crossbar twice, and Borghi just deflected a Finney header. If even half of these England attempts had gone in, England would have been up at least 4-0 by this point.

Then came the 37th minute. McIlvenny made a throw-in. Bahr took it, and shot from 25 yards out. Williams moved to his right to get it. But before he could, Gaetjens threw himself forward, and headed it in to Williams' left.

One-nil to the Stars and Stripes. Years, later Bahr said, "The overwhelming majority was Brazilians, but they rooted for us the entire time. We didn't realize why until after. They were hoping we would beat England and that Brazil would not have to play England in the final game." (In hindsight, this may have been counterproductive, as you'll see in my July 16 post commemorating that anniversary.)

The Americans' confidence had been seriously boosted, and they came out for the 2nd half like a house afire. They had another scoring chance in the 54th, but couldn't do anything with it. In the 59th, Generoso Dattilo, the Italian referee, awarded England a direct free kick, but Borghi saved Mortensen's shot. England was dominant for a while, and it wasn't until the 74th minute that the U.S. could get another shot.

In the 82nd minute, soccer history hung in the balance. Mortensen drove toward the penalty area, and Charlie Colombo brought him down. The way Keough described it, it sounds like Colombo should have been sent off. (No red and yellow cards in those days, but a player could be sent off for an egregious foul.) But the film cameras didn't get the foul into the highlights, so there's no way to know for sure.

England pleaded for the awarding of a penalty, but Dattilo didn't buy it, saying the foul was outside the area. He awarded a free kick. Ramsey took it, and Mullen headed it toward the goal. Borghi tipped it away. Again, the England players appealed to Dattilo, saying the ball had gone in, but he ruled that it hadn't crossed the line.

In the 85th, Peewee Wallace managed to draw Williams out of position, giving himself an empty net. But Ramsey managed to get in and clear his shot off the line.

Without much stoppage time, Dattilo blew his whistle. Final score: America 1, England 0. Or, as would be said in soccer circles, England 0-1 USA. No "Man of the Match" was given. Clearly, it was Borghi, who kept it from being about 7-1 in England's favor.


No one could believe it. Contrary to what we would expect today, not only was the game not broadcast live to the U.K. on BBC television, it wasn't even broadcast around the world on BBC radio. When the BBC reporter delivered the final score that night (it would have been around 10:00 PM, London time), many people remembered hearing it, and thinking it was an error: That it must have been England that won 1-0.

To make matters worse for England, their national cricket team also suffered an epic loss, with their 1st-ever home defeat to the West Indies, at Lord's Cricket Ground, "the Home of Cricket," just outside Central London. That was a bigger story in some papers. One headline read, "England Caned at Soccer Too." (So it has not always been the case that the English hate it when "football" is called "soccer," as modern "geezers" would have you believe.)

And in America? It was barely reported at all. Since several players were from St. Louis, Dent McSkimming of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wanted to cover it. He couldn't talk the paper into covering his expenses. So he applied for "vacation" time, paid his own way, and, when he got there, he discovered that he was the only American reporter at the game.

Soccer was so low on the totem pole of American sports at the time, the Post-Dispatch was one of the few papers to report the result at all. Not only had The New York Times refused to send a reporter, but, when they got the result from the Associated Press wire report, they refused to print it, figuring the report of the upset was a hoax.

The World Cup went on. On July 1, Brazil beat Yugoslavia 2-0. On July 2, the Americans were knocked out of the tournament, losing 5-2 to Chile in Recife, despite Wallace and Maca (with a penalty) scoring within a minute of each other. And England fell to Spain 1-0 at the Maracanã. Spain thus won Group 2, and only the 4 Group winners advanced to a knockout round. Elsewhere on that day, Italy beat Paraguay 2-0, Switzerland beat Mexico 2-1, and Uruguay walloped Bolivia 8-0.

The Group winners were put in a final Group, with the winner of the Group being declared the winner. This is the only time that this format has been used in the World Cup. On July 9, Brazil thrashed Sweden 7-1 at the Maracanã, and Uruguay and Spain played to a 2-2 draw in São Paulo. On July 13, Brazil beat Spain 6-1 at the Maracanã, and Uruguay beat Sweden 3-2 in São Paulo.

The final day was July 16, and Sweden's game with Spain in São Paulo was meaningless. Sweden won it 3-1. It was all down to Brazil vs. Uruguay, neighboring nations, at the Maracanã. Given the goal difference, all Brazil had to do was gain a draw, and they would be World Champions on home soil.

It remains the largest paying crowd in soccer history, 199,854. Brazil opened the scoring early in the 2nd half. But Uruguay scored in the 66th and the 79th, and won 2-1. Brazil had lost the world championship of their national sport, in their national stadium. It is known as Maracanazo in Spanish, Maracanaço in Portuguese: "The Agony of Maracanã."

Outside of the U.S. and the U.K., the Maracanazo is what the 1950 World Cup is remembered for. In England, it was part of a difficult run for the national side. In 1949, Ireland had beaten England at Goodison Park, home of Everton, in Liverpool. But that was considered a fluke, or, as they would say in England, a one-off.

It wasn't. In 1953, England lost at the original version of Wembley Stadium in London, their national stadium, to a team from outside the British Isles for the 1st time, a spectacular 6-3 performance by a Hungary team that became known as the Magnificent Magyars. Hungary would embarrass them again in Budapest the next year. And while England won their Group at the 1954 World Cup, they lost to Uruguay in the Quarterfinals.

England have rarely worn blue shirts since. It would be 9 years after the Belo Horizonte debacle before they did so again. Usually, their solid color shirt is red. And it would take until the appointment of Alf Ramsey as manager in 1962, after 2 more World Cup flops, before England would get its act together, and win the whole thing in 1966.

Inside the U.S., it took years for anyone to notice. Anniversaries passed: The 10th in 1960, the 20th in 1970 (a World Cup year), the 25th in 1975, the 30th in 1980, the 40th in 1990 (another World Cup year). It didn't help that the U.S. didn't qualify for the World Cup again until 1990. The North American Soccer League was founded in 1968, and it folded in 1984, and that included 4 World Cups, and the U.S. never came close to qualifying for any of them.

But the U.S. was awarded the 1994 World Cup, and thus automatic qualification. The team qualified for the 1990 edition, and did not make it out of the Group Stage. But in the buildup to 1994, Geoffrey Douglas wrote a book about the 1950 upset, titled The Game of Their Lives. A movie was made about it in 2005.

The U.S. advanced to the Round of 16 in 1994, didn't make it out of the Group Stage in 1998, got to the Quarterfinal in 2002, didn't make it out of the Group Stage in 2006, made it to the Round of 16 in 2010 and 2014, and didn't qualify for the tournament at all in 2018. Qualification for the 2022 World Cup has not yet begun.

The 1-0 win over England has been nicknamed "The Miracle Match." In a nod to the U.S. hockey upset over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics, known as "The Miracle On Ice," this game has been called "The Miracle On Grass." Given how many shots Borghi had to stop, Belo Horizonte '50 was much closer to being a miracle than Lake Placid '80.

The U.S. and England have played only 1 World Cup match since, a 1-1 draw in Bloemfontain, South Africa in 2010.


On July 7, 1964, President François Duvalier of Haiti, known as Papa Doc, declared himself President For Life -- in other words, dictator. Joe Gaetjens had returned to Haiti, and joined his brothers Jean-Pierre and Fred in a resistance movement. The morning after Duvalier's declaration. Joe was arrested, taken to a prison, and was never seen in public again. The man who scored the biggest goal in the history of American soccer -- seen by fewer people than Landon Donovan's 2010 winner over Algeria, but far bigger -- was 40 years old.

He was joined in death by manager Bill Jeffrey in 1966, Ed Souza and Frank Wallace in 1979, Joe Maca in 1982, Charlie Colombo in 1986, Adam Wolanin in 1987, Ed McIlvenny in 1989, Bob Annis in 1995, Geoff Coombes in 2002, Bob Craddock and Nicholas DiOrio in 2003, Gino Pariani in 2007, Gino Gardassanich in 2010, Harry Keough and John Souza in 2012, Frank Borghi in 2015, and Walter Bahr -- father of Matt Bahr and Chris Bahr, who both won Super Bowl rings as placekickers -- was the last survivor of this game, living until June 18, 2018, dying during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Walter Bahr with then-Vice President Joe Biden,
at the opening match of the Philadelphia Union,
their shared home team in Major League Soccer,
at Lincoln Financial Field, April 10, 2010.
The Union beat D.C. United 3-2.

From the England team: Bill Eckersley and Jimmy Dickinson died in 1982, Jimmy Mullen in 1987, Jackie Milburn in 1988, Stan Mortensen in 1991, Billy Wright in 1994, Alf Ramsey and Laurie Scott in 1999, Stanley Matthews and Wilf Mannion in 2000, Jim Taylor in 2001, manager Walter Winterbottom in 2002, John Aston in 2003; Henry Cockburn, Henry Watson and Bill Nicholson in 2004; Ted Ditchburn in 2005, Eddie Baily in 2010, Laurie Hughes in 2011, Bert Williams and Tom Finney in 2014, and Roy Bentley in 2018, 2 months before Walter Bahr.

The referee from the game, Generoso Dattilo, died in 1976. Estádio Independência in Belo Horizonte, the site of the game, was demolished in 2010, and rebuilt at the same location in 2012, in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup. Its official name is Estádio Raimundo Sampaio, for a former chairman of Sete de Setembro, a team that once existed and played at the previous stadium, named for Brazil's Independence Day, September 7. 1822. It is now home to 2 clubs, Atlético Mineiro and América.
Estádio Raimundo Sampaio today

The Miracle On Grass was hardly seen then, and it has hardly been seen since. But it might just be the greatest upset in American sports history. Not the most satisfying -- that remains the Miracle On Ice -- but the greatest.

        Sunday, June 28, 2020

        Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame John Elway for Not Playing for the Baltimore Colts

        did john elway play for the baltimore colts
        June 28, 1960, 60 years ago: John Albert Elway Jr. is born in Port Angeles, Washington. His father, better known as Jack Elway, was then the head coach of a high school football team there. Because his father moved around, John grew up in the Seattle suburb of Aberdeen, Washington; Missoula, Montana; Pullman, Washington; and the Los Angeles suburb of Granada Hills, California.

        John became a star quarterback in high school, and went to Stanford University, a school known for producing legendary quarterbacks, including Frankie Albert, John Brodie, and 1970 Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett. Since John Elway, they've produced Andrew Luck.

        Elway had the best pro career of any of them. He once held the record for most wins by a starting quarterback. He led the Denver Broncos to the AFC Championship in the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons, but lost the Super Bowl each time. It took him until the 1997 season to get back, but, with a good running game backing up his passing attack for the 1st time, he won back-to-back Super Bowls, and then retired. He then built another Super Bowl winner as the Broncos' general manager.
        The 1st round of the 1983 NFL Draft, on April 26, 1983, produced 6 quarterbacks. Elway was the 1st overall pick. Todd Blackledge of National Champion Penn State was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 7th pick, but his pro career was a disappointment. He has since become an admired broadcaster.

        The Buffalo Bills picked Jim Kelly of the University of Miami 14th, and he made the Hall of Fame. The New England Patriots picked Tony Eason of Illinois 15th, and he got them into their 1st Super Bowl.

        The New York Jets took Ken O'Brien of the University of California at Davis 24th, and he was a decent quarterback, but nothing more. For whatever reason, the man who might have been the most talented of the 6, Dan Marino of the University of Pittsburgh, fell to the 27th pick, and was taken by the Miami Dolphins, where he built a Hall of Fame career.
        Left to right: Elway, Blackledge, Kelly, Eason, O'Brien, Marino.

        Only one of them, Elway, won a Super Bowl. Put together, they were 2-9 in Super Bowls -- take Elway out, and they were 0-6. (Kelly was 0-4 of that.)

        Now, I come to the elephant in the room. With the 4th pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos picked... Chris Hinton, a guard from Northwestern University. The 1st pick belonged to the Baltimore Colts, and they picked Elway.

        Elway refused to play for the Colts. Of North America's "Big Four" sports, the NFL is the league in which the players have the least amount of power. yet Elway refused to play for the Colts.

        He was also a baseball player, and had already played in the New York Yankees' minor-league system. He told the Colts that if they drafted him, he would play baseball instead.

        How good was he? Hard to tell. In 1982, playing for the Oneonta Yankees of the New York-Penn League, which is "short-season Class A ball," he was an outfielder, playing 42 games, batting .318 with 4 home runs and 25 RBIs. He was 22 years old.
        John Elway of the Oneonta Yankees, 1982.
        That's pronounced "OHN-ee-ON-tah."

        If he had stuck with baseball, theoretically, he could have played for the Class A Fort Lauderdale Yankees in 1983, the Class AA Nashville Sounds in 1984, and the Class AAA Columbus Clippers in 1985, with a chance to ride the "Columbus Shuttle" and get called up to the big club that season, around or after his 25th birthday.

        He had a better chance to advance in football, but baseball did give him some leverage.

        He tried to take the high road. He said he wanted to remain on the West Coast, while Baltimore is on the East Coast. Somebody pointed out that the Yankees were on the East Coast, but Elway said, "They play baseball during the summertime." He wanted to avoid cold weather. (But he played in a few snowstorms for the Broncos.)

        But he let it slip that, "I would be a garbage collector before I'd play for Baltimore." Hearing that, Terry Bradshaw, still the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a man who was 4-0 in Super Bowls, told him, "You should play baseball," and told the media, "He's not the kind of guy you win championships with." As it turned out, the 1st 14 years of Elway's pro career showed that Bradshaw knew what he was talking about.

        The way history can change: One plan was to trade Elway's rights to the San Francisco 49ers for Joe Montana, who'd won the Super Bowl in the 1981 season, but had a bad 1982. The San Diego Chargers were negotiating a new contract with Dan Fouts, and thought that if they had Elway, that would make Fouts cave on his demands. Both of those teams were on the West Coast.

        The Colts were 0-8-1 in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Their quarterbacks were:

        * Mike Pagel, a rookie in 1982, starting all 9 games, with a completion percentage just over 50 percent, and 5 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. Like Elway, he was also a college baseball star, and helped Arizona State win the 1981 College World Series.

        * Art Schlichter, a star at Ohio State, winning a Big 10 title, also a rookie in 1982, expected to win the starting job, but lost it to Pagel in training camp, and appeared in just 3 games, with a completion percentage under 46 percent, no touchdowns, 2 interceptions. He was already in the midst of the gambling addiction that would ruin his pro career and, eventually, put him in prison. And...

        * David Humm, who led Nebraska to wins in the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls, and was Ken Stabler's backup on the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders' Super Bowl XI winners, but was 31 and had a grand total of 1 NFL start, which he lost. In 1982, he appeared in 2 games, with a completion percentage over 56 percent, no touchdowns, 1 interception.

        Pagel wasn't panning out. Schlichter was bad news. Humm was fine as a backup, but not as a starter. The Colts drafted Elway because they needed a quarterback. If they didn't sign Elway, they were up the creek.

        Ernie Accorsi, then their general manager (and later the GM who built 2 Super Bowl winners with the New York Giants), was sure that the 1984 Draft wouldn't be a good one for quarterbacks. He predicted that none would be taken in the 1st round.

        He turned out to be right: Not until the 10th pick of the 2nd round was one taken, Boomer Esiason of Maryland, by the Cincinnati Bengals. In the 3rd round, the Giants chose Jeff Hostetler of West Virginia, while the Washington Redskins chose Jay Schroeder of UCLA. The Colts would still have been better off taking Esiason, Hostetler or Schroeder than sticking with Pagel, Schlichter and Humm.

        On May 2, 6 days after the Draft, the Colts traded the rights to Elway to the Broncos for Hinton, quarterback Mark Herrmann, and the Broncos' 1st pick in the 1984 Draft, which turned out to be Ron Solt, a guard who'd protected Esiason at Maryland. Solt had a decent pro career. Hinton turned out to be one of the top offensive linemen of the 1980s.

        The key, though, was Herrmann. He had starred at Purdue, winning Big 10 MVP in 1980 and MVPs in 3 minor bowl games. But as a pro, he didn't do much: He failed to challenge Pagel for the starting job, lasted just 2 years with the Colts, went to San Diego, then to the Los Angeles Rams, and then closed his career with 3 more seasons with the Colts, retiring in 1992.

        Pagel led the Colts to a 7-9 season in 1983, a big improvement. But on March 29, 1984, team owner Bob Irsay moved them to Indianapolis. They hadn't made the Playoffs since 1977, and wouldn't again until 1987, wouldn't again until 1995, and would falter again before drafting Peyton Manning in 1998.

        Elway's refusal to play for the Colts has often been blamed for the team's move. And it was seen, and sometimes still is, as a total diva move. Has he been treated too harshly for it?

        Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame John Elway for Not Playing for the Baltimore Colts

        5. The Shadow of Johnny Unitas. It's been 18 years since he died, and 47 years since he last took a snap in a regular-season game, but Johnny Unitas, who lifted the Colts to glory at the end of the 1950s and kept them there into the early 1970s, is still in the conversation for the title of Greatest Quarterback Who Ever Lived.
        For that reason, his successor as Colt starting quarterback, Bert Jones, their starter from 1973 to 1981, couldn't do anything without it being measured against Johnny U. Pagel had the same problem. Elway would have as well.

        That wasn't a problem after the Colts moved. People in Indianapolis knew who Unitas was, of course. But he never played for them. What did they care what he did in Baltimore? It did no good for Indianapolis, or for Indiana as a whole.

        And once the Ravens arrived, people in Baltimore knew that this wasn't the Colts, so the next great Baltimore quarterback, whoever it turned out to be -- and you can debate whether Joe Flacco qualifies as having preceded Lamar Jackson in that regard -- he wasn't playing for the same team as Unitas.

        It's why every potentially great Yankees player gets measured against Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and so on; but no potentially great Mets player gets measured against Willie Mays, because, while Mays ended his career with the Mets, his best years in New York were with the baseball Giants.

        Elway would have known that playing for the Colts would have meant playing in the massive shadow of ol' Number 19. Whereas, in Denver, he was playing for a team that hadn't won a Super Bowl, or a title in the AFL before that. They'd had good quarterbacks: Frank Tripucka, Charley Johnson and Craig Morton. But the closest they'd gotten to a title was Morton leading them to the 1977 AFC Championship, and then losing Super Bowl XII. There was room for somebody to become the definitive greatest quarterback in Bronco history.

        Thanks to Elway, there no longer is such room. Peyton Manning, who did play for the Colts, albeit in Indianapolis, knew that before going to Denver, but his legacy was already secure, so wasn't an issue.

        4. Artificial Turf. From 1984 to 2007, the Colts played at the Hoosier Dome, renamed the RCA Dome in 1994. Since the Colts were going to move to Indianapolis no matter what Elway did, he would have ended up doing for most of his career what he never actually did: Play home games on artificial turf.
        The RCA Dome, in its last years. Artificial turf.

        All those years in Denver, no matter how bad the grass was, it was still natural grass, and it was better for his body. He played his last game at the age of 38, and he was still good enough then to lead his team to a championship, and be named the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl. Do you think that would have been the case if he played all those years on the plastic stuff?
        Mile High Stadium. Real grass.

        Okay, Peyton Manning was able to do it in Indianapolis. But I wonder what shape he's in now. In addition, for most of his career, the Colts were in the AFC South, where the road games were in Houston with its retractable roof, Jacksonville and Nashville, all with real grass.

        For Elway's entire career, the Indianapolis Colts were in the AFC East, where the road games were at the Meadowlands, Foxboro and Orchard Park, all with artificial turf, and frequently with nasty weather. He would have played very few games on grass at all.

        You may also have noticed: Indianapolis can be cold, but it is not on the East Coast.

        3. The Uncertainty. It's not just that the Colts were bad at the time. The organization knew it was going to play the 1983 season at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. But they didn't even know how much longer they were going to play in the Baltimore area.
        Memorial Stadium

        Irsay had wanted out of Memorial for a long time. Its seating capacity, its parking facilities, and especially its office space were much too small. He had told the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland that if the Colts didn't get a new stadium, he would move the team. They called his bluff, and refused to fund a new stadium. It turned out, he wasn't bluffing.
        Bob Irsay

        After all, even if Elway had played the 1983 season for the Colts, he wouldn't have been playing the 1984 season, or any future season, in Baltimore. As long as he was with the Colts after that, it would have been in Indianapolis.

        Does this contradict Reason Number 5? Or Reason Number 4? Not at all: In 1983, Elway didn't know the Colts were leaving Unitas' town. Apparently, neither did Accorsi: On a recent podcast, he said, "If he plays in Baltimore, the team never moves."

        But Irsay had his mind made up: No funding for a new stadium from the City or the State, no more Baltimore Colts.

        2. Frank Kush. The Colts' head coach at the time had previously coached Arizona State University from 1958 to 1979, 22 seasons. And he coached some pretty good players: Charley Taylor, Curley Culp and Mike Haynes are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. John Jefferson probably should be. Junior Ah You is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. J.D. Hill, Benny Malone, Woody Green and Bob Breunig had good NFL careers.

        But in all that time, he produced just 2 All-American quarterbacks: Danny White and Mark Malone. White was Roger Staubach's backup on the Dallas Cowboys for a few years. After Staubach retired, White got them to 3 straight NFC Championship Games -- and lost them all. Similarly, Malone was a backup to Terry Bradshaw on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had to wait until the Hall-of-Famer retired. But he didn't do much as their starter.

        Kush was a run-first coach. He might not have been the right head coach for a young quarterback. He certainly wasn't doing Mike Pagel or Art Schlichter any favors.
        Frank Kush, prowling the sideline at Memorial Stadium

        Then there was the story about how he lost his ASU job in 1979. A former player filed a lawsuit against the school, accusing Kush and his staff of mental harassment and physical abuse, including a punch in the mouth from Kush. Kush obstructed the investigation by telling his players not to talk to school officials, and it was this, rather than the accusations, that got him fired. He got 3 more pro coaching jobs in his lifetime, he never coached another college game. No other college would take a chance on him.

        But it's worth noting that Kush was cleared of the abuse charges, although not of various violations that would get ASU put on probation. It's also worth noting that none of the players I mentioned have backed up the accusations with abuse mentions of their own.

        And the most famous athlete who ever played for him has said nothing but good things about him. He was a black kid from just outside Philadelphia who came to Tempe on a football scholarship, and played for the freshman team in 1964, but was talked into switching to baseball. His name was Reggie Jackson.

        But once a reputation is damaged, it can be hard to repair it. Especially when somebody with a big mouth continues to bad-mouth you:

        1. Jack Elway. Like so many great athletes before and since, John Elway did pretty much what his family told him to do. Jack Elway had a playing career that ended with a knee injury in 1950, but he went into coaching, and became a highly respected high school coach in Washington State.

        He went on to become head coach at San Jose State from 1979 to 1983, and then Stanford from 1984 to 1988. He also coached the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League of American Football in 1991 and '92. From then until 1999, thanks to a good word from his son, he served as a scout with the Broncos. He died in 2001.
        Jack Elway as Stanford head coach

        Jack Elway did not like Frank Kush. Jack coached in the Pacific-8 Conference as an assistant at Washington State University (his alma mater) from 1972 to 1975. Arizona and Arizona State joined the league in 1978, making it the Pac-10. (It's now the Pac-12.) Before that, they were in the Western Athletic Conference. Jack didn't return to the Pac-10 until 1984, with Stanford. By that point, Kush was in Indianapolis with the Colts.

        Only once did Jack Elway and Frank Kush ever coach against each other. It was September 22, 1973, when Washington State, with Jack on the staff of head coach Jim Sweeney, went to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, and took on Frank's Sun Devils, then ranked Number 13 in the country. ASU won, 20-9.

        So, either something happened in that game that ticked Jack off; or something else happened, some other time, possibly the 1979 allegations. And this made Jack tell John never to play for Kush. (It shouldn't have been the other violations, because that wouldn't have mattered in the NFL.) And John listened to Jack, and told the Colts words to the effect of, "Hell, no, I won't go."

        On that podcast I mentioned earlier, Ernie Accorsi said, "I think he would have played for the Colts. We would have made a coaching change." Maybe this could have placated Jack Elway.

        There is a fascinating postscript. John's son, John Albert Elway III, known as Jack Elway like his grandfather, was an All-State quarterback at Cherry Creek High School in the Denver suburbs.
        John and Jack Elway III at the new Broncos stadium,
        currently named Empower Field at Mile High

        Jack signed to play for Dennis Erickson, who was the elder Jack Elway's offensive coordinator at San Jose State. He later became head coach at Idaho (where he won the Big Sky Conference in 1985), Wyoming, Washington State, Miami (where he won National Championships in 1989 and 1991 and 3 Big East titles), the Seattle Seahawks, Oregon State (where he won the Pac-10 in 2000), the San Francisco 49ers, and the school that the younger Jack Elway chose to attend, where Erickson had already won the 2007 Pac-10 title.

        That school was the one where Frank Kush made his name: Arizona State. And the playing surface at Sun Devil Stadium had been named Frank Kush Field. (Kush died in 2017.)

        After redshirting for his freshman season, 2009, Jack Elway realized that he was living out a dream that was not his own, and quit football. He graduated early with an economics degree, and went into the other family business: John has a string of car dealerships. But, again, there was the pressure of living up to what his father did. After 5 years, he quit that. He went back to Colorado, got into an argument with his girlfriend, and hit her. He pleaded down to a lesser charge, and was sentenced to probation.

        Then, one day, he saw someone wearing an unusual baseball-style cap. His name was Geoff Muller, and, together, they turned his basement business into a company called Mint Tradition. It's a success, and he's happy.

        How would the younger Jack Elway's life have been different if the elder Jack Elway had let John Elway think for himself, and accept being drafted by the Baltimore Colts? Hard to say. Jack and his sisters would still have been born, because John met his 1st wife, Janet Buchan, at Stanford, where she was a competitive swimmer. But maybe growing up in Indiana would have presented different opportunities to growing up in Colorado, and Jack would have left football and found his interest sooner.

        VERDICT: Guilty. Yes, you can blame John Elway for not playing for the Baltimore Colts. Plenty of athletes have been drafted by teams they didn't initially want to play for, and it worked out anyway.

        Besides, Kush only lasted 2 more years with the Colts. In 1985 and '86, the Colts were coached by Rod Dowhower. From 1986 to 1991, Ron Meyer, who got them to the Playoffs in 1987. They lost in the 1st round, 38-21 to the Cleveland Browns, who lost the AFC Championship Game to the Broncos.

        If Elway had been quarterbacking the Indianapolis Colts in the 1987 season, would he have helped them beat the Browns? And then reach Super Bowl XXII? Would his Colts have been so easily battered by the Washington Redskins in that epic 2nd quarter? Maybe, maybe not.

        But John Elway will always have a mixed reputation. Great athlete. Legendary quarterback. Struggled to turn individual success into team success. Finally got it done. Went out a back-to-back Champion.

        But also, something of a spoiled brat, who was almost 23 years old, and maybe, just that once, shouldn't have listened to Daddy.