Do You Believe in Miracles …


 

Over the years, there have been many great moments in sport …

… in college football, The Play (“The Bears Win, the Bears Win”)…

… in professional football, the Immaculate Reception and The Catch …

… giving a nod to Major League Baseball about which I otherwise don’t care … the historic home runs by Bobby Thomson, Bill Mazeroski and Kirk Gibson …

… and the Olympic triumphs of Billy Mills in the 1964 10,000 meters, Dave Wottle in the 1972 500 meters and the incomparable long jump by Bob Beamon in the 1968 Olympics …

… BUT …

… when it comes to great moments in sport, the greatest of all, in my opinion, occurred 35 years ago today …

The Miracle on Ice

… the 4-3 win by the U. S. Olympic Hockey team over the Russians …

… immortalized by the call of Al Michaels …

Do You Believe in MiraclesThe Russian hockey team came to the 1980 Olympics, held at Lake Placid, New York, as prohibitive gold medal favorites …

… they were, after all, a team of professionals in what was then supposed to be an amateur sport …

… supported full time by the Russian government.

The American team, on the other hand, was a collection of amateurs who were molded into a formidable opponent for the Russians by their hard-driving coach, Herb Brooks …

The Miracle on Herb Brooks CoachThe Americans and Russians met in one of the Olympic semi-final games on February 22, 1980 … and the Russians held a 3-2 lead going into the third period …

… the American team, however, rallied to tie the game at 3-3 …

… and then, with ten minutes to play, team captain Mike Eruzione scored what proved to be the game-winning goal.

The Miracle on Mike Eruzione Game Winning GoalOf course, that left the Russians lots of time … but a stubborn U.S. defense and the incomparable goal-tending of Jim Craig …

The Miracle on Goalie Jim Craig … turned away the Russians time and again … until there were just 11 seconds to play in the game …

… at which point Al Michaels …

Do You Believe in Miracles Al Michaels portrait… counted down the remaining time …

Do You Believe in Miracles Al Michaels… to the American victory.

The Miracle on Ice celebration with Herb BrooksThe Miracle on Ice celebrationOBIT BROOKSThe Miracle on Ice groupTwo days later, the Americans clinched the gold medal by defeating Finland 4-2.

Sports Illustrated celebrated the win over Russia with one of its most unusual ever covers …

The Miracle on Ice Sports Illustrated cover… it was headline news around the country …

The Miracle on Ice New York Daily News front page… became the stuff of books & a movie …

Do You Believe in Miracles book cover… and a legend which endures to this day.

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Team Captain Mike EruzioneThe Miracle on Mike Eruzione Team CaptainGoalie Jim CraigThe Miracle on Goalie Jim Craig autographThe Gold Medal Winning 1980 U. S. Olympic Hockey TeamThe Miracle on Ice team photo______________________________________

Thee Dot … 102

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December 7th … Army-Navy 1963


Besides being my wedding anniversary …

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https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/december-7th/

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… and the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor …

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https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/december-7th-a-date-which-will-live-in-infamy/

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… December 7th is a significant date to me for another reason …

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… the Army-Navy football game in 1963, about which I have blogged once before …

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https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/army-navy-football-1963-1966/

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Separate and apart from my personal interest in the game, the 1963 Army-Navy game had national significance, coming as it did on the heels of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

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… the game had been scheduled for November 30th, but was delayed because of the assassination … and there was some discussion of possibly cancelling it completely.

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The president, however, had been a big football fan, particularly of the interservice classic …

President John F. Kennedy Flips the Coin at the 10962 Army-Navy Game

President John F. Kennedy Flips the Coin at the 1962 Army-Navy Game

… and had planned to attend the game and flip the coin for the opening kickoff … his family, in particular First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, wanted the game to be played, even as the country was in the midst of the official 30 day period of mourning for the slain president.

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JFK, of course, was a Naval officer and World War II hero … about whom the movie PT-109 was made … so, after a one week delay, the game was on …  with Navy, ranked #2 in the country, a big favorite to win its 5th Army-Navy game in a row.

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Instead of names across their shoulders, the Navy uniforms featured the slogan “Drive for Five” … and the Middies were led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Roger Staubach.

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Rumor had it that an upset win by Army would put the Black Knights, in place of Navy, into the Cotton Bowl against #1 ranked Texas … and Army had a secret weapon named Rollie Stichweh at quarterback …

Army Quarterback Rollie Stichweh

Army Quarterback Rollie Stichweh

… so we cadets were hopeful.

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The game was played at Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium, which was later renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium in honor of the president … and the nation looked on as the two service academy teams met in honor of their fallen commander-in-chief.

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Army scored first, but Navy ran off three unanswered touchdowns to lead 21-7 with ten minutes to play … which was when Army … and Stichweh in particular … took over and mounted one of the most thrilling comeback attempts in college football history.

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First, Army drove to a touchdown … which was scored by … Rollie Stichweh on a one yard run … after which Army made a daring 2 point conversion, to make the score 21-15.

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And then, with everyone in the stadium expecting it, Army attempted an onsides kick … and succeeded … with the ball recovered by none other than that man Stichweh … after which Army once again drove deliberately (too deliberately, as it turned out) toward the Navy goal line.

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On a 3rd down run, Army halfback Ken Waldrop dove to the Navy 2 yard line with 18 seconds to play …

Army Fullback Ken Waldrop

Army Halfback Ken Waldrop Dives to the Two Yard Line

… but with deafening noise in the stadium and no timeouts remaining … Army was not able to get off a 4th down attempt to pull out the win.

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Like all Army fans, I was crushed when the officials waived off the game as time expired … and the memory remains vivid even after 50 years … but there is no doubt that the game helped to heal the grievous wound which the nation had suffered two weeks before.

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Oddly, the game is known in football history for another reason … it featured the first ever use of instant replay … showing Stichweh’s 4th quarter touchdown run.

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As mentioned in my earlier blog, Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins wrote an excellent story about the game … which I have saved to this day … and which is reproduced below.

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One other personal note … my guest for the 1963 Army-Navy game was none other than my then girlfriend and now fiancee Candy Sayes (Davis)!

Candy Sayes & I During Plebe Christmas at West Point -- December 1963

Candy Sayes & I During Plebe Christmas at West Point — December 1963 — Shortly After the Army-Navy Game

Army-Navy Game Logo

This year’s Army-Navy game will be played at 3:00 pm EST next Saturday, December 14th, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia … the Middies are on an 11 game winning streak against Army … the longest such streak in the 113 year history of the game … and lead the series 57-49-7.

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I, of course, will be rooting for Army … as will Candy’s brother, my West Point classmate, Trey Sayes … but she, her son Jason Davis, a 1994 Annapolis graduate, and my Dad (Lawrence Reilly, Sr., a retired Navy master chief gunner’s mate) will all be cheering for the Middies.

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For other stories about the national significance of the 1963 Army-Navy game, see:

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http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/1963-army-navy-game-helped-national-heal-jfk-assassination-article-1.1525535

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http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/ncaaf-video/20131115/army-navy-football-game-1963-kennedy-assassination.sportsillustrated/#

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http://www.capitalgazette.com/sports/navy_sports/in-army-navy-game-helped-a-nation-in-mourning-move/article_3cebe1a8-bd43-54c2-9712-595ae201a4f1.html

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http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/12/07/fifty-years-ago-army-navy-healed-a-nation.html?comp=700001075741&rank=3

A documentary has also been produced about the game and its importance to the country …

Army-Navy 1963 Marching On

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… it is called “Marching On:  1963 Army-Navy Remembered” and is described here:

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http://www.cbssports.com/general/eye-on-sports/24233349/film-on-63-armynavy-game-shows-impact-of-rivalry-jfk-tragedy

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Army Black Knights Logo

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The Army football website is here:

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http://www.goarmysports.com/sports/m-footbl/army-m-footbl-body.html

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Navy Football Logo.

Navy’s is here:

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http://www.navysports.com/sports/m-footbl/

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Arm-Navy Game Logo Football

The Wikipedia article on the history of the Army-Navy game is here:

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army%E2%80%93Navy_Game

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And here is the Dan Jenkins Sports Illustrated article about the game:

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USMA 1967 Army Navy game 1963 Sports Illustrated article

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Army-Navy Game 1963 Sports Illustrated Photo