Gearing Up for the Super Bowl: Unitas-to-Berry Touchdown Ball in 1958 Championship at Auction

A football caught by Hall of Fame split end Raymond Berry from legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas in the 1958 NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium, will be auctioned by Huggins & Scott Auctions with bidding ending Feb. 11.

58footballSports Illustrated’s legendary pro football writer Tex Maule dubbed the 1958 NFL title game “The Best Game Ever”. NBC broadcast the title game nationally (it was a blackout in New York) to more than 45 million people. The dramatic title game became the first pro football contest to go into sudden death, which the Colts won 23-17 on Alan Ameche’s one-yard plunge for a touchdown. The 1958 championship game’s theatrics has been widely credited with boosting the popularity of the National Football League. It sparked the creation of the rival American Football League in 1960, which eventually led to the first Super Bowl in 1966 and professional football overtaking baseball to become America’s most popular sport.

58football2The Bert Bell signature pigskin has the “Wilson” trademark stampings along with a “Thorp Sporting Goods” logo stamping and symmetrically arranged identifiers, including “National Football League – Eastern Conference – Western Conference” in elegant cursive font.

Berry’s 15-yard touchdown reception capped an 86-yard drive in the second quarter. Placekicker Steve Myhra’s extra point through the closed-end at Yankee Stadium gave the Colts a 14-3 lead. There were no nets used behind the goal posts at the time, so the PAT was caught by a grocer R.J. “Lanky” Bilbrough from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Bilbrough sought out legendary Baltimore Sun sportswriter John Steadman with instructions to give Berry the prized pigskin. Steadman forgot to give Berry the football until 1985-86. Steadman apologized in a typed letter and gave the history of the football to Berry, who was the New England Patriots coach at the time.

Bidding for the football begins at $10,000. Additional information on the football can be found here.

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