50 years later, Moore recalls NFL’s ‘Greatest Game’

The 1958 NFL Championship Game has long been referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” in the league’s history.
Former Baltimore Colts star Lenny Moore, one of 17 future Hall of Famers to participate in the game, would like to clarify that moniker.

“It wasn’t the best game we ever played,” Moore said of his Colts teammates.

Moore points to the regular-season game Baltimore played roughly one month earlier, when the team trailed the San Francisco 49ers 27-7 at halftime, then rallied in the second half to post a 35-27 victory that gave the Colts the NFL’s Western Division title and guaranteed them a spot in the league’s title game.

While the Colts rallied behind the exploits of such legendary players as Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti and Moore himself, Moore gives credit to the team’s defense for pulling out that often-overlooked victory.

 “In that (49er) backfield was Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenney, John Henry Johnson,” Moore recalled. “Unitas called a fantastic game. But to shut that team down was almost an impossibility, and yet, we did. That was the best game we ever played.”

Certainly, the win over the Giants in the ’58 title game will certainly go down as the most remembered victory of Moore’s illustrious 12-year NFL career. It clinched the first of back-to-back NFL titles the Colts won during Moore’s time with the team.

One of the handful of items Moore saved from his days with the Colts, a white durene uniform that dates back to the late 1950s or early 1960s, is currently being offered by IroncladAuctions.com as part of its first-ever Ironclad Legends sale. Moore said the decision to sell the uniform wasn’t easy.

“I really wasn’t sure that I was going to do this because I only had a few (jerseys),” Moore said. “During our time, we gave things away. I remember all the Pro Bowls I went to; we just threw our jerseys in the stands. That’s what was happening in the 1950s and early ’60s. After we won the world championships, the college All-Star Games, whatever, we just gave them away. It wasn’t until later that I decided that some of the things I kept around, like shoes and a few jerseys, are going to be in the household. So this (opportunity) came along, and I started looking and I didn’t even know what I had. I found my jerseys and there was no problem authenticating it.”

For Ironclad co-founder Ray Schulte, the chance to offer items from Moore is a thrill, not only because this is the first Ironclad Legends sale, but also because this year marks the 50th anniversary of that title game.

“Lenny Moore revolutionized the halfback position. His athletic ability enabled him to become a catch and/or run threat,” said Schulte. “It is quite a thrill and honor for Ironclad to have Lenny consign one of his lightweight white durene jerseys from the 1958-61 time period to the Legends Auction.”

 Though much has been documented over the years about that memorable 1958 title game, Moore added one more point of interest. Remember, this was the first time a postseason game needed an overtime to decide a winner. And because the NFL did not use  overtime in the regular season games that were tied at the end of regulation, there was some confusion as to what would happen after the time expired in the fourth quarter and the game was tied.

“When they blew the whistle (as time expired), we went on our sideline, the Giants went on their sideline, and the referees got together and told us to sit tight,” Moore said. “I don’t believe they were sure exactly what move we should make. It (overtime) had never happened before.

“We started just like it was a new game. There was a coin flip, and we kicked off to the Giants. We held them, got the ball and then Unitas went crazy.”

The Colts not only went on to win that game, they also defended their title the next year, again beating the Giants in the NFL championship game.

During his 12-year career, Moore – who split time between receiver and running back – compiled 12,451 combined net yards. He tallied 5,147 rushing yards, 363 receptions and 113 touchdowns. He was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1956, the Player of the Year in 1964 and scored touchdowns in a league-record 18 consecutive games (a record LaDainian Tomlinson tied in 2005).

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