Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Boston Yanks and Their Tuesday Night Game

There has been a decent amount of talk about the NFL's first Tuesday football game since 1946. 64 years ago.  Many critics of the timing point to the fact that Tuesday is usually an off day for teams and players - after the game and the following day’s walkthrough and film review.  Everyone who reports on it likes the idea that these rich football players have to play on a Tuesday night, but not many talk about the circumstances behind and the results of that last Tuesday night game played on October 1, 1946.

Courtesy of Bowman
 Boston, MA. 1pm.  After heavy sustained rains in Boston the day before, the originally scheduled football game (which was to be the season opener for both teams) between the Boston Yanks and the New York Giants was postponed because the field (to be played at the Boston Braves field) at what is now Boston University’s Nickerson Field, was considered unplayable after those rains.  The original game was scheduled for a Monday night instead of the usual Sunday scheduling.  It is unclear why a game back then was going to be played under the lights on a Monday in the first place.  Our research shows that Monday games were rare back then, and obviously TV was not much of a consideration to the timing of the game.

Well, in any event, it ended up not being much of a game. The New York Giants truly dominated the Boston Yanks, winning the game 17-0 before about 16,000 dreary and wet Yanks' fans. Giants' running back, Merle Hapes scored on a 3 yard rush in the first quarter and an 8 yard run in the fourth quarter to account for the game's only touchdowns. Ken Strong accounted for the Giants’ remaining points after a 36 yard field goal in the second quarter. The game was not even that close, however, as the Giants outgained the Boston Yanks 271-139.  To add further humiliation, the Boston Yanks' quarterback Paul Governali could only muster 27 yards passing after only completing only three of 18 attempts. To his “credit,” quarterbacks for all teams in 1946 only completed 46% of their passes. (Mark Sanchez was truly from a different era!)

By all accounts, really, this was a lousy game for the Boston Yanks; and as a precursor to modern day complaints, the Boston Yanks' owner, Ted Collins (who wanted to have the team in New York so badly that he still named the team the “Yanks” despite Boston being the team's home. (Imagine rooting for a football team named the "Boston Yanks.")) regretted having to move the game to a Tuesday night as fewer fans showed up and team lost a "boatload" of money.  In the end, the opener for the team was a portend of things to come in that 1946 season as the Boston Yanks that season managed only two wins, only besting the lowly Detroit Lions who went 1-10 that year to finish in last place in the NFL West Division. Despite only tying the lowly Yanks later on in the season, The New York Giants wound up 7-3-1 and lost to the Chicago Bears in the 1946 NFL Championship game.   Despite his good fortune in that Tuesday night game, Hapes was prohibited from playing in the Championship Game as it was discovered that he was offered a bribe to throw the NFL Championship game. He never played another down in the NFL. The issues surrounding Hapes also led to the institution of teams having to report their injuries to the league during the week so that gamblers would not be able to pay for inside knowledge – everyone was playing from the same deck.

Incidentally, the Boston Yanks franchise moved to New York after the 1949 season and then became the Dallas Texans in 1952. Although through team and player transitions the teams were not mirror images of one another through their myriad of cities and nicknames, the original Boston Yanks in 1953 became – aghast! – the predecessor to the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts. I’m sure if Bill Polian were running the team back 1946, the rules for that game would have been changed to benefit the Yanks.

Personally, I wish the NFL were on every night during the season.  Not just on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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