Fri, Feb 08 2013 02:31 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
My late uncle John Bauer played one season in the NFL for the 1954 New York Giants. As a kid, I vividly remember meeting him during a visit to Tinley Park, a suburb of Chicago, in the early 1960s: He was the biggest person (in both height and girth) I had ever seen.
His name is firmly entrenched in family folklore. A native of Benton in the southern part of the Prairie State, he played for the University of Illinois from 1951-53. Color television sets were just making their debut at that time and the entire family gathered around to watch the 1952 Rose Bowl game in which the Fighting Illini were playing Stanford.
My uncle finally got his moment in front of 96,825 fans and what was then the first nationally televised college football game. But it was a moment that will live in infamy: He fumbled on the four-yard line.
Illinois still won the game 40-7 to complete an undefeated 8-0-1 season.
Bauer, who must have appeared like a giant at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds in those days, was selected in the first round of the 1954 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns, impressively the 12th pick overall.
However, he didn’t sign with the Browns and was subsequently part of a six-player trade involving the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay then dealt him to the Giants where he played guard and tackle.
His inability to stick with the Browns proved costly as Cleveland went on to win the 1954 NFL championship title.
Bauer returned to the Giants’ training camp in 1957 after a tour of duty in the Army.
The NFL was brutal then, and he ultimately left the team before the start of the season for that reason.
Today, the NFL has become the pinnacle of sports entertainment in the United States. Certainly, Sunday’s 34-31 Super Bowl win by the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers will be remembered as a classic in the series, now in its 47th edition.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, with three touchdown passes, was named the game’s MVP but it took a defensive stand by the Ravens to deny the 49ers a potential game-winning touchdown.
Flacco is sure to benefit from a fat contract, possibly worth $20 million, but don’t necessarily expect Baltimore to repeat next year as bonuses and player re-signings are bound to exact a heavy financial toll on the reigning Super Bowl champs.
The 2012 Super Bowl champion Giants, in fact, failed to even make this year’s playoff cut.
San Francisco, however, proved it is the real deal after rallying from a 28-6 deficit in the second half, overcoming both a 34-minute game delay due to a power outage at the New Orleans Superdome and the Ravens’ seemingly insurmountable lead. The 49ers had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter at 31 points but missed on a two-point conversion, leaving Baltimore in front 31-29.
A Ravens field goal later extended the lead to 34-29 and it was left to 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick to guide his team to the Baltimore five-yard line in search of the game-winning touchdown. But the Ravens defense held.
Bonita Vista Middle School graduate Alex Smith, who led San Francisco to the NFC championship game last year, watched the game’s dramatic ending from the 49ers sideline. Smith began the 2012-13 NFL season as San Francisco’s starting quarterback but was sidelined with a concussion midway through the season, opening the door for Kaepernick to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl with two exciting playoff victories.
Should Smith elect to remain with the Bay Area team, even in a back-up role, he could be wearing a Super Bowl championship ring come next season.
© 2009 The Star-News