Cardinals-Eagles have played for titles before Print
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Thursday, 15 January 2009 11:33
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 The last time the Cardinals won an NFL championship, they called Chicago home, the helmets typically had no facemasks, and Charley Trippi was their star, scoring on a 44-yard run and a 75-yard punt return.
The team they beat? The Philadelphia Eagles, 28-21 at the original Comiskey Park.
They lost to the Eagles 7-0 the next year in a Philadelphia snowstorm, never imagining they'd have to wait 60 years for a shot at another title - appropriately against the team they beat for their last one.
``I was hoping it would be a lot sooner,'' says the 86-year-old Trippi, who spent nine years as a Cardinals player and five more as an assistant coach for the team. ``I guess you have to wait longer for some things than others.''
Back in 1947 the Cardinals were something of an afterthought, even in their own city. The Bears reigned on the North Side, where they shared Wrigley Field with baseball's Cubs.
, the Cardinals trailed their traditional rivals, but beat the Eagles 45-21 after trailing 7-3 at the half. Then they traveled from the South Side to the North Side, beat Sid Luckman and the Bears 31-21, and won the Western Division.
Unlike the Cardinals of the last half-century, one of the NFL's more penurious franchises as it moved first to St. Louis and then to Phoenix, this was a team built with money by owner Charles Bidwill, father of Bill Bidwill, the team's current owner who was then a water boy. The senior Bidwill died before the 1947 season and never saw his expenditures come to fruition.
The Cardinals were coached by Jimmy Conzelman, who installed the innovative T-formation, and had what was dubbed the ``million-dollar backfield'' with quarterback Paul Christman, fullback Pat Harder, and halfbacks Elmer Angsman and Trippi. Trippi was a quadruple threat - he ran, passed, played defense and punted - and had been signed for the unheard-of salary of $100,000 to keep him from the rival All-American Football Conference.
The Eagles, coached by Earle ``Greasy'' Neale, who like Conzelman was later elected to the Hall of Fame, won the East at 8-4. Their star was running back Steve Van Buren, who was inducted into the hall in 1965, three years before Trippi got in.
s icy. Bill Bidwill recalled this week that the Eagles sharpened their spikes for the conditions and some Cardinals were cut early, so the officials made the Philadelphia players change their shoes.
Meanwhile, Conzelman had his team don sneakers, a trick used on an icy field at New York's Polo Grounds 13 years earlier to help the Giants beat the Bears in what's been known ever since as ``The Sneaker Game.''
It worked for the Cardinals, too.
Angsman had two 70-yard touchdown runs and Trippi scored on his long run and his punt return.
Still, the game wasn't clinched until 30-year-old Marshall Goldberg, in the next-to-last season of a distinguished career on both offense and defense, intercepted a pass by Tommy Thompson. Thompson went 27-for-44 for 297 yards, setting two playoff records in what was still primarily an era of the run.
There wasn't nearly as much scoring the next season when the 9-2-1 Eagles and the 11-1 Cardinals met for the title in Philadelphia. In fact, there nearly wasn't a game at all.
There was so much snow in Philly that Van Buren, thinking commissioner Bert Bell would postpone the game until the following Sunday, didn't bother to show up.
After a frantic call from Neale, he just made it - taking three trollies and then walking 12 blocks to get to the stadium just before kickoff.
``It should never have been played,'' said Trippi, who grew up in western Pennsylvania but played at Georgia. ``You couldn't see the yard markers and the referees were just guessing where to put the ball and whether it was a first down or not.''
Still, more than 36,000 fans showed up for what was the first televised championship game.
The announcer was Harry Wismer, who has his own place in pro football history as the founder and first owner of the AFL's New York Titans, who became the Jets after he sold them to Sonny Werblin. Christman, the Cardinals quarterback, was a trailblazer in another way, going from the field to the booth as the analyst paired with Curt Gowdy on AFL telecasts.
As might be expected, the game was scoreless until the fourth quarter. Then Angsman fumbled, the Eagles recovered deep in Chicago territory and Van Buren scored from 5 yards out 1:05 into the fourth quarter.
It was the first championship for the Eagles, who went on to win again the next season in Los Angeles, where they beat the Rams 14-0, and again in 1960, when they defeated Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers 17-13.
That was their last title, although they went to the Super Bowl after the 1980 season and will be in their fifth NFC championship game this decade. Philly also lost the 2005 Super Bowl.
h more sour, of course - until this season, they had made the playoffs only once since arriving in the desert from St. Louis in 1988.
After that 1948 loss, the Cardinals started to slip: to 6-5-1 in 1949, 5-7 in 1950, then to the bottom: 3-9, 4-8, 1-10-1, 2-10, the kind of record that became relatively commonplace as they wandered around the country.
Trippi remains a Cardinal. If his team finally makes it to the Super Bowl, he says he will be there - ``if Mr. Bidwill invites me.''
As the star of the Cardinals' last title team, that would be more than fitting.
 

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