Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Versatile Gifford led the Giants
By Mike Puma
Special to ESPN.com
Dec. 30, 1956 - With Frank Gifford catching four passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, the Giants won their first NFL championship in 18 years by decimating the Chicago Bears, 47-7, on a rainy Yankee Stadium field.
The Giants came out in sneakers and it helped them keep their footing while Chicago players were slipping on the wet turf as the Giants gained a 34-7 halftime lead.
"The Bears were supposed to be the roughest team in football," Gifford said. "As we quickly discovered, however, they had no idea what we were up to. Our offense and defense just kept outsmarting them, doing things they had never seen before and that are done all the time today."
Gifford scored the Giants' last touchdown, catching a 14-yard pass from his roommate, Charlie Conerly, in the fourth quarter.
"As well as our coaches had prepared us, we weren't afraid to improvise on the field," Gifford said.
Odds 'n' Ends
As a senior in high school, Gifford worked as an usher at the 1948 Rose Bowl, where he became hooked on USC, even though the Trojans were crushed by Michigan, 49-0.
At USC, Gifford won the combined prize for athletics and academics called the "Trojan Diamond Award."
While in college and early in his pro career, Gifford appeared as an extra in several movies.
When the Giants moved to Yankee Stadium in 1956, Gifford used Mickey Mantle's locker space.
Gifford earned his B.A. from USC in 1956 while playing for the Giants.
Gifford had two 100-yard rushing games -- 108 against the Washington Redskins in 1956 and 126 versus the Chicago Cardinals in 1957.
In 1957, Gifford finished fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 588 and 10th in rushing with 528.
Gifford's longest run from scrimmage was 79 yards, against the Redskins in 1959. It is the third longest run in Giants' history.
In 1961, his season of retirement before returning to the Giants, Gifford
served as a team scout.
Gifford holds the Giants record for highest average gain rushing in a career at 4.30 yards (3,609 yards on 840 attempts).
His 484 points are second in Giants' history to Pete Gogolak's 646.
Gifford was 2-for-7 in field-goal attempts as a Giant. He also had 10 PATs.
In 1965, Gifford toured Vietnam to show films and talk football with
Gifford was one of the first former NFL stars to jump into network
television. "When I started in this business there was a perception that
football players couldn't talk," he said. "It took awhile for that to
change. I guess I'm one of the people who helped it along."
As part of CBS' broadcast of Super Bowl I in January 1967, Gifford
got an exclusive pregame interview with Packers coach Vince Lombardi.
ABC sports boss Roone Arledge wanted to hire Gifford for Monday Night Football's first season in 1970, but Gifford was still under contract at CBS.
Gifford's broadcast partners in 27 seasons on Monday Night Football: Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, Fred Williamson, Fran Tarkenton, Alex Karras, Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf.
Despite receiving constant criticism from Cosell, Gifford said he harbored no resentment toward him.
Boomer Esiason replaced Gifford in the booth in 1998.
Gifford worked several Olympics and served as a host for ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Gifford helped recruit Simpson to play for USC and was instrumental in getting Simpson hired at ABC.
Gifford began serving on the Special Olympics board of directors in 1983.
In 1984, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New York honored Gifford with its Founders Award, which included a $100,000 research grant in his name.
Giants owner Wellington Mara was Gifford's presenter for the Hall of Fame in 1977. Gifford returned the favor 20 years later.
Gifford's No. 16 was retired by the Giants in 2000. "Frank Gifford is the son any father would love to have and the father any son would be proud to have," Mara said.
In 1996, Gifford's wife Kathie Lee suffered much embarrassment when it was reported that clothing she endorsed was made in a sweatshop.
Gifford's daughter from his first marriage, Vicky, married Michael
Kennedy, the son of Robert. Michael allegedly had an affair with the family babysitter and Vicky filed for divorce. While they were separated, Michael died in a skiing accident on Dec. 31, 1997.