On Dec. 19, 1948 the city of Philadelphia was to play home to the first televised NFL Championship game, pitting the West Division champion, and defending NFL champion, Chicago Cardinals and the home town Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles were also defending East Division champions and were looking for revenge after the previous season’s loss to the Cardinals, 28-21, in the championship bout. Mother Nature had other things in mind.
Snow piled on the city, raising questions as to whether or not the game would even be played or if it would be postponed. To today’s Philadelphia fan, this story may seem all too familiar. The championship game, held in Shibe Park, was delayed for thirty minutes while the grounds crew cleaned up the field.
The major problem was that they could not remove the tarp with the amount of snow that was piled on it. Eventually the crew had asked for the help of both the Eagles and the Cardinals to remove the tarp from the field, a stark contrast to when the Phillies helped to put on a tarp.
As if getting the tarp off wasn’t enough of a problem, the snow fall was so rapid that seeing the yard lines was near impossible. It was up to the head ref to use his best judgment and keen observation skills to determine first downs, touchdowns and so on. Could you imagine such a decision being used today? Not likely.
Despite the weather over 36,000 fans made their way to Shibe Park to watch the weather aided defensive battle. Through three quarters of play the scoreboard had not been dented. When Chicago fumbled early in the fourth quarter on their own side of the 50-yard line, the Eagles took advantage.
Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren scored the game’s only touchdown, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead, which would later become the final score.
Van Buren’s story is interesting. He was called earlier that day by Greasy Neale to ask if his star player was coming to the game and he said that there was no way the game would be played.
Sure enough he learned that it would. He then had to travel to Shibe Park. He could not get his car out of the drive way so he had to take a bus into the city, take a transfer to a train to city hall, transfer to the subway, and then walks six blocks to the stadium. After the game, he did the whole thing in reverse.
The Eagles ultimately got their revenge on the Cardinals. Perhaps the 2009 Cardinals will take this story to heart and aim for revenge on the Eagles. The 1948 NFL championship game was the Cardinals’ last appearance in the championship game, and 1947 was their last championship.
One thing is for sure though. The 2009 NFC Championship game will never find itself on a top ten list of bad weather games. The game time temperature will be surely be 72 degrees with the dome roof covering the field.