January 11, 1959
Pasadena Star News
It's a rapid transit trip to straight jacket and padded cell for the man who gives points in professional football.
The boys who set up the odds wound up on the street of broken dreams once again yesterday as the Eastern Division dropped the Western Division, 28-21, in the ninth annual Pro Bowl Game at the Coliseum.
It was the West All-Stars by a touchdown plus, said the gamblers. But the East put on a tremendous defensive show, especially in rushing the passer, in the late stages to score an upset before 72,250, the largest throng ever to see the classic.
It was the fourth victory for the East as compared to the West's five.
Heads-up playing on both sides yesterday kept the final score in doubt throughout.
Things became so tight that most-valuable-player selectors also had to hold off until the last minute before they could tab the right man.
Steady Frank Gifford, the former University of Southern California star and now a leading light with the New York Giants, finally got the nod as the outstanding player. Doug Atkins, defensive end from the Chicago Bears, nailed down the outstanding lineman award.
Gifford, who flashed all around ability, snatched the top honor at the last minute from the Los Angeles Rams' Bill Wade, who seemed to have the West on the verge of its third straight win. Atkins' closest competitor no doubt was Gene Brito, the ex-Loyolan and Washington Redskin, who was playing his final football game at defensive end.
Personally, I thought Brito earned the award with the greatest of ease.
Brito launched a one-man blitz on the West quarterbacks in the second half and his performance set fire to the rugged East defenders.
He also was the guy who put quarterback Johnny Unitas of the National Football League champion Baltimore Colts out of action midway through the third period, thus taming one of the West's most talented performers.
Big Gene then turned his attention to Wade. Wily Will escaped the Redskin's clutches long enough to spark the West into the lead at the end of the third period, but Brito slammed the door in the final quarter. He led a brutal onslaught on the Ram QB and the rest of the West backs and that's all the East needed to get on the winning track.
Although he looked far from the passing whiz of old, ex-Ram Norm Van Brocklin dished up the payoff pitch for the East. Van passed 15 yards to fellow Philadelphian Palmer Retzlaff, with two minutes left in the game for the touchdown that won the contest. Lou Groza's conversion made the score, 26-21, and that was all the underdogs needed, although Tom Scott tackled Hugh McElhenny in the end zone for a safety and two more points with five seconds left.
The West looked like a shoe-in at the start of the game, scoring the first time it got the ball. After Yale Lary intercepted a Van Brocklin pass, Baltimore's Len Moore and Alan Ameche produced the score, the former rambling 37 yards around left end to the five and the latter bucking into the end zone. Les Richter converted and the West took a quick 7-0 command.
Lou Groza put the East on the scoreboard with nine minutes gone in the game via a 25-yard field goal. Gifford stepped into the picture the next time the East got the ball when he took a handoff from Van Brocklin and threw 40 yards to another Giant, Alex Webster, for the East's first touchdown (video). Groza missed the conversion, thanks to a bad pass from center, but the East led, 9-7.
The West, with Wade taking over for Unitas, regained the lead with 9:19 gone in second quarter, capping a 73-yard march in 12 plays with Wade passing to McElhenny for the touchdown. McElhenny took a flat pass from the Ram ace and turned in a great run for the final 33 yards. Richter converted and the West was on top, 14-9.
Little Eddie LeBaron of the Redskins and College of Pacific took over for the faltering Van Brocklin and put the East back in front with two minutes left in the half. The little guy moved his team 74 yards in eight plays, passing the final seven to Gern Nagler of the Cardinals. Groza drove home the conversion to give the East a 16-14 halftime lead.
A bruising East defense, led by Brito, had the West hanging on the ropes during most of the third period. But the Easterners couldn't capitalize on two golden opportunities. First, they missed on a fourth and one situation on the West 35. Then they failed to take advantage of a bad pass by center Joe Ringo during a punt situation.
Brito tackled the would-be punter, Yale Lary, on the West six, but Van Brocklin's pass on third down from the four was intercepted in the end zone by Lary.
Wade came on again to spark his team 80 yards in 12 plays on the next series to give the West a 21-16 lead as the third quarter ended. Wade, after passing brilliantly, completely fooled the East defenders on their 13 when he elected to run instead of pass. He found a wide open field and scored with ease. Richter converted.
Tragedy then struck Wade, who all but had individual honors sewed up. Passing from his 13, he threw directly to the East's Walt Michaels who returned the ball to the 13. The East couldn't move, but Groza stepped in to boot a 25-yard field goal that pulled the East to a 21-19 deficit.
It was the East the rest of the way. Van Brocklin moved his team 70 yards in nine plays, with his payoff toss to Retzlaff icing the contest.
Jim Brown, the NFL's most valuable player from Cleveland, carried the brunt of the East's ground attack.
Gifford completed three out of five passes for 75 yards, caught three tosses for 75 and carried six times for 12. Wade completed 12 out of 18 for 115, Van Brocklin nine out of 21 for 89, Unitas three out of eight for 27 and LeBaron four out of eight for 50.
In addition to Unitas, the Rams' Tom Arnett limped off the field in the third period. Both injured their legs and sat out the rest of the game.
Lenny Moore hauls in pass during '59 game. Here, on the cover of a 1959 football annual.