1941 Fifty Years Ago

PrintPrintEmailEmail

Although New York had already won the National Football League’s Eastern Championship two weeks earlier, more than fifty-five thousand Giants fans turned out on Sunday, December 7, to cheer their team against the rival Brookyln Dodgers. The Giants were favored to beat Brooklyn and go on to play the winner of that day’s Chicago Bears-St. Louis Cardinals game for the world title. The Sunday New York Times assured, JAPAN RATTLES SWORD BUT ECHO is PIANISSIMO , while its sports page observed, “the attention of fans and players is bound to be distracted a bit by the Bear-Cardinal battle in Chicago.”

The crowd that filled the Polo Grounds was also there for Tuffy Leemans’s Day. The veteran carrier for New York, Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans, was honored with a silver tray inscribed by his fellow Giants, as well as a watch and fifteen hundred dollars in defense bonds. Tuffy then made a short speech in gratitude, and Mrs. Leemans received a rose bouquet in equal tribute from the boys on the line.

In the game that followed the presentation, the saluted veteran struggled for only eighteen yards, hemmed in as he was by Brooklyn’s rugged defense. Pug Manders and Ace Parker…each born “Clarence”—ruined Tuffy’s day, with Brooklyn’s Bruiser Kinard clearing the way for the carriers. Manders’s ninety yards and three touchdowns were more than the Giants’ offense managed all day. The Dodgers led 21 to 0 with twenty-three seconds remaining when New York finally scored to make a slightly less humbling loss of the game.

The radio audience had been following Ward Cuff’s return of a Brooklyn kickoff at 2:26 P.M. when a news bulletin broke in to announce that the Japanese had bombed a place called Pearl Harbor. At the Polo Grounds they knew only that a Col. William J. Donovan had been paged over the RA. system for a call from Washington. This caused “ominous buzzing around Coogan’s Bluff,” noted the Times reporter, but failed to rob the events in Chicago of their urgency. As the Dodgers and Giants were leaving the field, officers and enlisted men in the Army were ordered to their stations over the RA. The results from Chicago still had not come in.