The Last Time the NFL Played on Tuesday...

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Citing public safety concerns related to the forecasted winter storm that ultimately dumped more than a foot of snow on much of the Philadelphia area, the National Football League postponed Sunday night’s Eagles-Vikings game until tonight. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, tonight’s game is the first NFL game played on a Tuesday since 1946. Here’s a brief history of that game and the people involved.

Why Tuesday?

The Boston Yanks and New York Giants were scheduled to open the 1946 NFL season under the lights at Boston’s Braves Field on Monday, September 30, but a “deluge of rain that drenched downtown Boston throughout the morning” forced the postponement of the game until Tuesday. From the New York Times: “Waiting until early afternoon for a change in conditions, Owner Ted Collins of the Yanks and Stout Steve Owen, the Giants’ coach, agreed to put the contest over until tomorrow night.”

Where was the postponement announced?

Sunday’s announcement echoed through family rooms and sports bars via the host of every fan’s pregame show of choice and left fantasy football players scrambling to adjust their lineups based on the news that the game would not be played in a whiteout. In 1946, the announcement came at the first weekly gathering of the Boston Yanks Marching and Chowder Club, which was held at the Parker House. The dignitaries present included Massachusetts Governor Maurice J. Tobin, Boston Mayor James. M. Curley, and NFL Commissioner Bert Bell.

Where’s the beef?

Tobin had recently wired President Truman that hospitals throughout Massachusetts were without meat. He had also launched an investigation into whether meat being hidden in storage was the cause of the meat famine affecting the country at the time. As reported in the New York Times, Tobin used the Marching and Chowder Club meeting as a forum to discuss the matter. “Commenting on the amount of beef in the Yanks and Giants squads, Governor Tobin…said he wished his investigators could find as much in their search. ‘The famine then would be at an end,’ he said.”

On Sunday, Philadelphia Governor Ed Rendell didn’t find anything funny about the NFL’s decision to postpone the game. “This is football! Good lord, Vince Lombardi would be spinning in his grave that we canceled the football game for the snow,” he said.

How did the coaches react to the news?

Eagles head coach Andy Reid, whose team is still in the hunt for a first-round bye in the playoffs, said the NFL made the right choice to postpone Sunday’s game and downplayed the difficulty of preparing for next week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys on short rest. Owen was a little more outspoken in 1946, with his Giants scheduled to play at Pittsburgh the following week. “It won’t give us much time to get in shape for the Steelers, and it might turn out where it would cost us a championship,” he said. To his credit, Owen didn’t criticize Collins’ decision. “With no break in sight, it would have been a bad night for football anyway, and especially for any customers,” he said.

What happened in the game?

Merle Hapes rushed for two touchdowns and Ken Strong added a field goal as New York dominated Boston, 17-0, in front of a small crowd of 16,500. The game story included no mention of the field conditions. The short week didn’t cost the Giants at Pittsburgh. They defeated the Steelers, 17-14, en route to a 7-3-1 regular season record.

Who was Merle Hapes?

The former Mississippi standout rushed for five touchdowns during the regular season, but was barred from playing in the 1946 championship after he and quarterback Frank Filchock were reportedly offered bribes to fix the game against the Chicago Bears. Filchock denied the offer and was allowed to play in the game, a 24-14 Giants loss. Bell banned Hapes indefinitely during the offseason for “acts detrimental to the NFL and to pro football.” Hapes’ suspension was lifted in 1954, but he didn’t play another down in the NFL. The policy that requires NFL teams to report injuries in advance of a game was first instituted by Bell for the 1947 season, and many believe it was in direct response to the gambling rumors surrounding the 1946 championship. Bell hoped the policy would help prevent gamblers from manipulating the betting line by securing insider information about a player’s status.

Who was Ken Strong?

Strong, the other player to score in the NFL’s last Tuesday night game, played several different positions, including fullback, before he became a kicking specialist for the Giants. Strong accounted for 17 points in “The Sneakers Game,” the Giants’ 1934 championship game win against the Bears. The game, which earned its nickname after the Giants’ equipment manager borrowed sneakers from nearby Manhattan College to help New York’s players get better traction on the frozen field, ranks No. 8 on the NFL’s top 10 list of bad weather games. Strong is often credited as being the first player to successfully convert a fair catch kick, which allows a team to attempt a field goal from the line of scrimmage on the first play after a fair catch. Only three other players have successfully converted a fair catch kick in NFL history.

December 27, 2010 - 7:05pm
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