By the end of the 1946 season I had the feeling that 1947 would be our year. Something happened in our last game - with the Bears as usual - that made most of us feel that way.
With time for one play we had the ball on their 5-yard line with the score tied 28 to 28. I tried to get [QB Paul] Christman's attention by kicking my foot. I wanted a field goal. Mal Kutner had told Christman he could beat the Bears' halfback so Paul called for a pass. I almost keeled over, but Kutner caught the ball and we won the game 35 to 28.
L: Jimmy Conzelman; R: Babe Dimancheff
The next year we fought the Bears all the way. And we were both eight and three as we got ready for the last game of the regular season. We would be playing them in Wrigley Field and as far as I was concerned that meant we were behind 7 to 0 before the first kickoff.
Now the Bears had a strong team. They were stronger than we were. So we thought we'd have to score first to have a chance. So we studied our scouting reports, and they showed that one of the Bears' linebackers was not as fast as the others. We decided to devise a play that would run our fastest halfback - Babe Dimancheff - at such an angle that this particular linebacker on the Bears would have to cover him. So we designed a pass play, taking into account the defense our scouts said the Bears would use deep in our territory. Now, ideally, we would use this play right at the start - and that meant we were hoping to win the toss and elect to receive.
Well, we had the play worked out Tuesday afternoon for the big game on the following Sunday. But at practice Babe Dimancheff didn't show up. I asked where he was, and somebody said, "He's at the hospital. His wife is having a baby." That was all right. One day's delay in rehearsing the play wouldn't make much difference. But next day Babe failed to show again. But he did telephone. He said the doctor said the baby might not arrive for two or three days. I asked him if it might be possible for him to drop in at practice and just run through the all-important play that we had built around him. Babe said, "Oh, Coach, I wouldn't leave my wife for a minute at a time like this."
So I said, "Babe, are you staying at the hospital around the clock?" He said he was and he promised that he would come to practice when the baby was born and he was absolutely sure that mother and child were doing well. I said, "Have you got a room out there at the hospital, Babe?" He said he didn't exactly have a room. I asked him if he had a bed in the waiting room or the corridor or what. The Babe said, "No, Coach, I'm sleeping in a chair."
I said that this game Sunday was pretty important to all of us and although I understood his feelings perfectly it was rather awkward to have the key man in our key play getting into condition by sleeping in a chair every night. He agreed that it was a shame.
Thursday came along. No Babe. But he called up with another cheerful bulletin from the doctor and added that he himself was resting well in his chair.
Friday afternoon we had our final practice before the big game Sunday. It looked like we'd have to get along without Babe Dimancheff. We wouldn't have a regular practice on Saturday.
But late Friday afternoon there was a call from Dimancheff. He said, "Great news, Coach. It's a girl, and we're naming her Victoria for the big victory we're going to win Sunday." I congratulated Babe and asked if he could come to a meeting that evening so we could diagram the play for him on the blackboard. He said he'd be there and would have a cigar for me.
That evening we had our meeting and explained the play to Babe. I was getting a little dubious about our chances, but Babe - after five nights sleeping in that chair - was bubbling over with confidence as he passed out the cigars.
We won the toss and elected to receive. The Bears kicked over the goal line. The ball was brought out to the 20, and Paul Christman called for the key play. The defensive left halfback of the Bears was pulled toward the center of the field on a fake by our right end, Mal Kutner. Babe Dimancheff swung to the outside, followed by the slower linebacker of the Bears. Babe gradually pulled away from him, and then at the 40-yard line he turned, and Christman threw the long pass. It worked perfectly. Babe grabbed it and streaked for a touchdown. We kicked the point and we were off to the 7 to 0 lead we figured we needed. We won 30 to 21, and the next week we beat Philadelphia for the national championship. I felt we owed it all to little Victoria.