Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1948: Chicago Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped without losing the continuity of the article.

Pittsburgh Coach Jock Sutherland
Jock Sutherland

Cardinals T Stan Mauldin
Stan Mauldin

Steve Van Buren

Chicago Cardinals RB Elmer Angsman
Elmer Angsman

Charlie Trippi

Eagles Captain Al "Whitey" Wistert
Al Wistert

Eagles QB Tommy Thompson
Tommy Thompson

NFL rules changes for 1948:
  1. Plastic helmets were prohibited because some claimed they were being used more as weapons than as protection.
  2. An artificial tee was permitted for kickoffs.
  3. When the passer is sacked, the game clock is stopped until any receivers who had gone downfield have a reasonable time to return to the huddle.
  4. When the offense is charged with delay of game, the defense may decline the penalty.
  5. It is illegal to bat or punch the ball while it is in a player's possession.
  6. All officials are equipped with whistles, not horns.

Two deaths, a coach and a player, rocked the NFL in 1948.

  • Pittsburgh coach Jock Sutherland, who had just led the Steelers to their best season ever - a tie for the Eastern crown before losing to the Eagles in the playoff - died suddenly in April of a brain tumor. The Steelers fell from 8-4 in '47 to 4-8 in '48.
  • The defending league champion Chicago Cardinals were stunned when, after defeating the Eagles 21-14 in their opener, T Stan Mauldin collapsed and died of a heart attack in the locker room. The distracted Cards lost their next game to the Bears 28-17, then rattled off nine straight wins. That set up the annual season finale against the Monsters of the Midway in Wrigley Field as the de facto Western Conference playoff since both teams boasted 10-1 records. The heavily favored Bears, who allowed the fewest points in the league, led 21-10 entering Q4 only to have the Cardinals score two touchdowns to repeat as division champions.
  • In the East, the Redskins started strong behind the passing of Sammy Baugh. They shrugged off a 45-0 pasting by the Eagles in Game 4 to compile a 6-2 record. Then opponents took advantage of the Skins' porous pass D to score over 40 points in three straight games to knock Washington out of the Eastern race. That opened the way for the Eagles to defend their crown with a 9-2-1 record. (Redskin opponents passed so much that rookie DB Dan Sandifer set a league record with 13 INTs.) The Eagles' Steve Van Buren led the league in rushing for the second straight year with 945y. Greasy Neale's 5-2-4 defense finished second to the Bears in points allowed and led the league in offensive-defensive yardage differential, outgaining opponents by 1,482y. To counter the growing passing threat, Neale had his LBs slow opposing receivers coming off the line of scrimmage, a tactic that came to be known as the "Eagles Defense."

    Steve Van Buren was born in La Ceiba, Honduras, where his father was a fruit inspector. When Steve was 10, his parents died, and he and his three sisters came to New Orleans to live with their grandparents. Too small to make the Warren Easton High School team until his senior year, he became an outstanding end who caught the eye of LSU Coach Bernie Moore. After playing end as a sophomore and blocking back as a junior, Steve finally got a chance to carry the ball as a senior and made the most of the opportunity. He gained 847y and scored 14 touchdowns in eight regular season games, then became the MVP of the 1944 Orange Bowl.
    The Eagles selected Van Buren in the first round of the draft (#5 overall). He immediately helped reverse the dismal fortunes of the franchise.
    Andy Barall, in his article "Remembering Steve Van Buren" ("The Fifth Down, The New York Times N.F.L. Blog) on the occasion of Steve's death in 2012, described the Hall of Famer's ability like this: Van Buren was better than the 1940s athletes he was competing against. He was equally effective running inside or outside. When Van Buren was in the open field, even if a defender had a good angle on him, he could still run past him or, if necessary, he would lower his shoulder and run over him. “(Red) Grange had the same ability to sidestep, but he didn’t have Van Buren’s power to go with it,” said Greasy Neale ...
    Steve made the highest salary on the team, $13,000, which was $1,000 more than Coach Neale.

So the title game for the fourth time featured a rematch of the previous year's finale.

  • As good as the teams were in '47, each had been improved. The Eagles added depth to their line while Chicago did the same for their backfield.
  • The Cardinals, winners of five straight over Philly if you count two exhibitoin games, were established as a 3 1/2 point favorite, although the forecast of either rain or snow for game day threw all bets off and opened the door to breaks deciding the winner.
  • Chicago coach Jimmy Conzelman considered his team "false favorites." We are a tired club that has been going at top speed since July. The Eagles have been able to coast for the last couple of weeks, and they will have the advantage of playing on their home grounds, which should be worth one touchdown at least. Statistics lean to them, too, and I just can't see how we have been installed as favorites.
  • Neale refused to get caught up in the discussion of which team should be favored. I believe we are as strong as the Cardinals along the ground and in the air. The weather might force the breaks.

    Arthur Daley of The New York Times described the two head coaches as a pair of amiable and delightful whacks. He added that they were two of the most colorful characters in sport, each blessed with a keen sense of humor even though Conzelman is funnier by far. Oddly enough, though, neither of them ever can see anything light or gay during a football game. They are studies in dark and moody concentration. Since he once was an actor, Jimmy gives with the facial contortions, emotionally expressive at all times. Greasy is a bundle of nerves, striding up and down the sidelines so impatiently that he never wears an overcoat, regardless of the weather.

Each team worked out the day before the game.

  • Greasy directed his Eagles through a spirited 90-minute drill that concentrated on pass offense and defense, kicking off, and protecting against EP kicks.
  • Shibe Park was sold out for the big game - 37,061 tickets with no standing room. The net gate was estimated to be in the neighborhood of $127,000. Add the $33,000 for radio, television, and movies to get a total of $160,000.
  • The Cardinals worked out after their train arrived Saturday morning. Their session was deemed "less vigorous" by observers.
  • Both teams were as near to full strength as could be expected after a grueling season. Ernie Steele and Russ Craft, a couple of Neale's DBs, nursed pulled leg tendons but were expected to play with extra taping. The Cardinals' QB Paul Christman had endured a hard luck season. First, he suffered a fractured left wrist in the first Bears game October 4. After being sidelined for six weeks, he returned the last Sunday of the regular season to face the crosstown rivals a second time. But this time Christman broke the index finger on his right or throwing hand. The cast would be removed Sunday morning, but it was unlikely Paul would be able to grip the ball. (He would not play at all.) Conzelman was prepared to use Ray Mallouf, "the small man from SMU," who had led the Cards to victories in every game he started during Christman's absence.
  • Since the two teams ranked first and second in total yardage in the 10-team league, a wide-open contest like 1947's 28-21 thriller was expected if the weather would cooperate. Both T offenses featured good balance:
    Cardinals: 2560y rushing + 2134 passing = 4694 total
    Eagles: 2378y rushing + 2241 passing = 4619 total
  • As you would expect, the offensive juggernauts boasted a number of men who made multiple All-Pro teams.
    Chicago: E Mal Kutner, G Buster Ramsey, C Vince Banonis, HB Elmer Angsman, HB Charlie Trippi, FB Pat Harder
    Philadelphia: E Pete Pihos, T Al Wistert, QB Tommy Thompson, HB Steve Van Buren, FB Joe Muha
1948 Western Division Champion Chicago Cardinals
1948 Chicago Cardinals
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
6 Dick Wedel G 5-11 205 Wake Forest 1
7 Elmer Angsman HB 5-11 200 Notre Dame 3
11 Chet Bulger T 6-3 260 Auburn 7
15 Bob Zimny T 6-1 233 Indiana 4
17 Bob Hanlon DB 6-1 195 Notre Dame 1
20 Buster Ramsey G 6-1 220 William & Mary 9
22 Ray Mallouf QB 5-11 180 SMU 4
24 Red Cochran B 6-0 190 Wake Forest 2
31 Jerry Davis DB 5-10 178 SE Louisiana 1
32 Vince Banonis C-T 6-1 230 Detroit 5
33 Vinnie Yablonski FB 5-8 195 Fordham 1
34 Pat Harder FB 5-11 203 Wisconsin 3
36 Walt Szot T 6-1 222 Bucknell 3
37 Vic Schwall HB 5-8 190 Northwestern 2
41 Billy Dewell E 6-4 208 SMU 6
42 Bob Dove E 6-2 222 Notre Dame 3
44 Paul Christman QB 6-0 210 Missouri 4
49 Charley Eikenberg QB 6-2 205 Southwestern La. 1
50 Joe Coomer T-G 6-6 280 Austin 5
51 Frank Liebel E 6-1 211 Norwich 7
53 Bill Campbell T-C 6-0 195 Oklahoma 4
55 Jack Colhouer G 6-1 225 Oklahoma State 3
57 Bill Blackburn C 6-6 228 Southwestern La. 3
61 Bob Ravensberg E 6-0 190 Indiana 1
62 Charlie Trippi B 6-0 185 Georgia 2
64 Dick Loepfe T 6-2 230 Wisconsin 1
66 John Doolan HB-E 6-1 190 Georgetown 4
67 Corwin Clatt FB 6-0 210 Notre Dame 1
68 Plato Andros G-T 6-0 240 Oklahoma 2
70 Sam Goldman E 6-3 228 Ohio State 4
73 Hamilton Nichols G 5-11 210 Rice 2
75 Ray Apolskis C-G 5-11 205 Marquette 6
76 Loyd Arms G 6-1 215 Oklahoma State 3
80 Mal Kutner E-DB 6-2 195 Texas 3
82 Marv Jacobs T 6-2 235 None 1
82 John Badaczewski G 6-1 239 Western Reserve 3
87 Babe Dimancheff HB 5-11 180 Butler 4
99 Marshall Goldberg B 5-11 190 Pittsburgh 8
1948 Philadelphia Eagles
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
11 Tommy Thompson QB 6-1 192 Tulsa 7
15 Steve Van Buren HB 6-0 200 LSU 5
27 Al Johnson QB 6-0   Hardin-Simmons 1
30 Bosh Pritchard HB 5-11 164 VMI 4
32 Jack Myers FB 6-2 200 UCLA 1
33 Russ Craft DB 5-9 178 Alabama 3
35 Pete Pihos E 6-1 210 Indiana 2
36 Joe Muha FB 6-1 205 VMI 3
37 Ernie Steele DB 6-0 187 Washington 7
39 Bill Mackrides QB 5-11 182 Nevada-Reno 2
41 Gil Steinke HB 6-0 175 Texas A&M-Kingsville 4
43 Les Palmer HB 6-0 190 North Carolina Stae 1
43 Jim Parmer B 6-0 193 Texas A&M 1
44 Ben Kish B 6-0 207 Pittsburgh 8
45 Noble Doss HB 6-0 186 Texas 2
49 Pat McHugh DB 5-11 166 Georgia Tech 2
51 Frank Szymanski C 5-11 225 Notre Dame 4
52 Vic Lindskog C 6-1 203 Stanford 5
53 Alex Wojciechowicz C 5-11 217 Fordham 11
61 Duke Maronic G 5-9 209 None 5
64 Mario Giannelli G 6-0 265 Boston College 1
65 Cliff Patton G 6-2 243 TCU 3
66 Bap Manzini C 5-11 195 St. Vincent 3
67 John Magee G 5-10 220 Rice 1
70 Al Wistert T-G 6-1 214 Michigan 6
71 Otis Douglas T 6-1 224 William & Mary 3
73 Fred Hartman T 6-1 229 Schreiner College 2
74 Walter Barnes G 6-1 238 LSU 1
75 George Savitsky T 6-2 244 Pennsylvania 1
76 Bucko Kilroy G-T 6-2 243 Notre Dame 6
79 Vic Sears T 6-3 223 Oregon State 7
80 Neill Armstrong E-DB 6-2 190 Oklahoma State 2
81 Dick Humbert E 6-1 179 Richmond 5
83 Jack Ferrante E 6-1 197 None 6
86 Hal Prescott E 6-1 199 Hardin-Simmons 3
88 Jay MacDowell T-E 6-2 217 Washington 3
89 John Green E 6-1 192 Tulsa 2
1948 NFL Championship Game Program

Shibe Park grand entrance
The 1948 game was the first NFL championship to be televised, although only in the northeast. Harry Wismer announced the ABC broadcast.
  • In the early years of television, viewers often saw "snow" (static) in the picture. When they tuned into this game, the snow they saw was real because a storm rolled through The City of Brotherly Love early on Sunday, December 19. Snow started falling at 7AM and continued all day.
  • The wet accumulation disrupted ground transportation, stranding many ticket holders in their neighborhoods. But a surprising number of diehards walked long distances to reach Shibe Park. Only 4,500 ticket holders stayed home.
    Eagles star RB Steve Van Buren almost missed the game. He awoke that morning, saw the heavy snow and went back to sleep, assuming the game would be postponed. An hour passed and Van Buren decided he should go, just in case. He could not move his car so he took public transit from his home in Drexel Hill to Shibe Park in North Philadelphia trudging the last seven blocks through knee deep snow.
  • Outside the stadium, people sold tickets for as little as $1 or even gave them away. Fans accepted a new ticket if it put them under the overhang for better protection from the elements. Fortunately, only 7,000 seats were uncovered.
  • Neale wanted to postpone the game, recalling the icy footing in the Windy City the previous year. He left his team in the locker room to confer with Cardinals' coach Conzelman and commissioner Bert Bell.
  • Neale told Bell that it was foolish to work for a championship all season only to have it decided partly by the weather. But if the Cardinals insisted on playing, his team would be ready.
  • Conzelman said his team was ready to play and couldn't see any reason for postponing the game. After all, the conditions would be the same for both sides.
  • Contemplating the sellout crowd and the ABC broadcast, Bell ordered the game played. Bert told the press that his hands were tied. We must consider the many out-of-towners who made long trips to see the game. There are 1,000 fans here from Chicago and many from Erie, Pittsburgh, New York, and other cities. We will have to play.
  • One wag commented, They ought to play here today for the gate and at Miami Beach next Sunday for the championship.
  • When Neale returned to the locker room, he told his team: Can you believe it? They want to play. Let's go beat the hell out of them.
Eagles help remove tarp before 1948 NFL Championship Game.
Eagles help remove the tarp.
The conditions "beat the hell" out of both squads.
  • Unlike Comiskey Park the year before, the Shibe Park field was covered. However, so much snow had fallen - an estimated 4" - that the grounds crew enlisted the two teams' muscle to drag the tarpaulin off. The 1:30 kickoff was delayed thirty minutes.
  • Officials had to guess at the yard lines because the chalk had stuck to the tarpaulin, and the problem got worse as the snow fell throughout the game. Ropes were stretched along the sidelines and fastened to stakes to mark out of bounds. Bell made the teams promise not to question Referee Ron Gibbs' judgments on matters of down and distance. Three alternate officials, in addition to the regular five, operated along the sidelines and in the end zone.
  • The stadium lights were turned on.
    Eagles G Duke Maronic recalled the day. That's one game that shouldn't have even been played. Nobody wanted to play it - the players, the coaches, the owners, the officials. We all wanted Bert Bell to call it off. Hell, it was a blizzard, but Bert said that the networks were committed ...
    [G Mario Gianelli] and I went to breakfast at nine o'clock in the morning. It snowed a foot in the hour it took us to eat. We got out to Shibe Park, and you couldn't see a thing. But they were determined to play the game. A tarp was on the field and had to be taken off. The players helped the grounds crew do it. I think even some of the Cardinals helped us. We damned near had a disaster. One of the workers got caught in the thing, and we were just rolling him right up along with the tarp. The poor guy was wrapped up to his neck before we finally realized it. He coulda been suffocated!
    Even after we got the tarp off, the field was a mess. It continued to snow. You couldn't see a thing. I remember going downfield under a punt, and you couldn't see it. It just disappeared. Finally, when it came down, you still couldn't see the ball, just the shape of it under the snow.
Eagles bench during 1948 NFL Championship Game.
Eagles try to keep warm on their bench.

After the decision to play was made, the Eagles still had a problem.

  • With an hour to kickoff, Philly's star RB Steve Van Buren was nowhere to be found. Seeing the snow falling when he awoke that morning in his suburban home, he assumed the game would be postponed and went back to sleep.
  • After another hour, he decided he had better get to Shibe Park just in case. Unable to get his car out of the driveway, he took a bus, a trolley, and a subway to get as close as possible to the stadium, then walked last seven blocks in blinding snow, arriving less than a half hour before the scheduled 1:30 kickoff.
    The 28,864 hardy souls who actually showed up saw the only spectacular play right away.
  • Quarter 1
    Daley described the conditions like this: The gladiators slipped and slithered and skidded. They couldn't cut or turn. They couldn't pass. They couldn't kick, every soggy punt dropping down as though it had been hit by a mashie with plenty of backspin on it.
    With the stadium lights on from the opening kickoff, Jerry Davis took Muha's kickoff on the three and ripped off 25y before Craft dropped him. But T Vic Sears' sack of Malhouf forced Chicago into a three-and-out. So Ray punted to the Philly 35. Snow had already covered the field in the short time since the tarp was removed.
    The Eagles immediately called a play they had planned to open with all week - "81 special." QB Thompson threw a long pass through the swirling snow to E Jack Ferrante who caught it in stride on the Card 20 just behind a pair of defenders, Davis and Red Cochran, both of whom slipped down as they tried to catch them. Jack also slipped down but rose out of the snow and outran the two Cards into the end zone for an apparent 65y touchdown. However, Ferrante had been too anxious to get downfield and drew an offside flag from linesman Charley Berry.
    Ferrante recalled the opening play. I don't think I'll ever forget that game. Hell, they won't let me. Tommy Thompson and Greasy always liked to give the opposition something to think about right away. So we worked all week on a pass play for our first play from scrimmage. It was called the "Ferrante Special." That was the thing that made Greasy such a great coach. He could always come up with a play to win. I was to get as deep as fast as I could. They'd call it a fly pattern today. I broke from the line of scrimmage - our 35 - and Tommy just let it fly. I grabbed it at their 20, went down, got up again, and ran in. There was only one problem. The play was called back because of an offside penalty. I was really steaming about that. I went up to the ref and said, "Who the hell was offside?" You know, I was really going to line out the guy that cost us the six points. The ref said, "You." That shut me up!
    Eagle T Al Wistert isn't so sure Ferrante was offside. I've looked at that film a lot over the years, and I still have doubts. Remember, the field was covered with snow. You couldn't see the yard lines or anything, and the line was set for pass blocking. Sure, Blackjack [Ferrante] was the first to move, but with the linemen all dropping back on that initial step to set up, I think it only looked like he left early. He was the only guy going forward. Naturally, it could look as if he were offsides.
    If today's rules were in effect then, the official would have blown his whistle and stopped the play as it got started because of the illegal motion.
    Later, Van Buren ripped off a 26y gain at right tackle, the longest scamper by any back all afternoon. But the drive bogged down, and Cliff Patton missed a 44y field goal try.
    Trippi tried a sweep around right end, but LB Alex Wojciechowicz drove him onto a snowbank just off the sideline. Then Angsman broke through left tackle on a quick opener into the secondary. The Cardinals reached the Eagle 30 thanks to a another saunter by Angsman. But the Eagle defense held, and Pat Harder lined up for a 37y field goal. The Chicago players dropped to their hands and knees to clear the snow from the placement spot. With the goal posts barely visible and the wind swirling, Harder's kick sailed wide left. This would turn out to be the visitors' deepest penetration of Philadelphia territory all afternoon.
    Van Buren, moving better than anyone in the ankle deep snow, ripped off two good gains for a first down. Then Thompson decided to pass. Faking a short one, he shot a long throw down the middle, but Cochran intercepted as the period came to a close.
    Eagles 0 Cardinals 0

Vic Sears

Eagles E Jack Ferrante
Jack Ferrante

Eagles LB Alex Wojciechowicz Alex Wojciechowicz

"Snow Bowl" action; Eagles in white jersies
  • Quarter 2
  • A tremendous 50y punt by Muha with the wind put Chicago in a hole and set up a scoring opportunity for the Eagles when Patton recovered a fumble by Angsman on the Cards 21. But two passes by Thompson fell incomplete, and Cochran intercepted the third.
    Shortly afterward, Mallouf punted from his own goal, and Pat McHugh returned the kick 25y or so. [That's the best estimate from the video with no yard stripes visible.] Thompson faked a pitchout to "The Flying Dutchman" (Van Buren) going left but handed to Bosh Pritchard who rambled through a big hole at left tackle for a nice gain. Thompson next called on rookie Jack Myers, who took the handoff and rambled about 10y to the 5 (or the 7 depending on which account you prefer). Sending Van Buren in motion to the right, Thompson stepped back and threw to a wide open Pete Pihos but too long, Pete getting a face full of snow as he dove futilely for the ball out the back of the end zone. Patton came on for what would normally be an easy field goal attempt but missed to keep the game scoreless.
    The Cardinals then cranked up a drive that began with a Trippi ramble for 25 or so yards. Then, on a broken play, Mallouf spun left but, finding no one to hand to, reversed and ran up the middle for a few yards. Ray then flipped a quick one to E Billy Dewell over the middle for 15 to the Philly 39. But soon afterwards, Walter Barnes broke though to nail Mallouf for a big loss as he faded to pass as the half came to a close. Eagles 0 Cardinals 0
    Rookie "Piggy" Barnes had quickly won the respect of the other tackle, veteran "Bucko" Kilroy. He was like my running mate. On the field, he looked out for me; I looked out for him. Once, Kilroy walked to the other end of the field during pregame warm-ups to challenge the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team. Piggy said, "You're crazy, you know that." But then he said, "Wait up, I'll go with you."
    After returning from World War II, Piggy became an All-Conference lineman at LSU and a collegiate weightlifting champion. Following his retirement from football in 1952, Barnes became a movie actor. When he died in 1998, his ashes were spread over the field at Tiger Stadium at his request.
The Eaglets flag corps supplied the halftime entertainment, braving the snow. Daley marveled that they were dressed as though this were a Tournament of Roses festival. Brrr!
Eagles E Pete Pihos
Pete Pihos

Walter Barnes

 Fun in the snow
  • Quarter 3
    The Eagles received to start the second half while the Cardinals chose to go against the wind in order to have it at their backs in the final period.
    Thompson called the same play that had worked earlier, a fake pitchout to Van Buren going left before pivoting and handing to Pritchett for a substantial gain at left tackle. But when Steve cracked up the middle, he fumbled forward and Marshall Goldberg corraled the pigskin for the Cards.
    Mallouf pitched a perfect strike down the middle to Kutner to move the ball into Eagle territory. Trippi sliced off right tackle for about 8y. On 4th and two, the Cardinals went for it, handing the ball to Charlie on the same play at right tackle, but he fell short to turn the ball over to Philly at the 31.
    Thompson called his favorite play but to the opposite side. He faked the pitchout to his right and handed to Van Buren who crashed through right tackle for a good gain. Steve then took a simple handoff and dipped around right tackle into the secondary for 15y. Tommy decided to try a special play that Neale had designed for Pihos: the middle screen. Pete would slide down from his end position and catch the pass as the offensive line formed a wall of blockers in front of him. But on this occasion, the defense stuffed Pete as soon as he caught the ball. Next, Pritchard took a short pitch around the left side but was stopped short of the first down. So Muha punted to Trippi, who took the ball on the bounce inside his five and returned to the 19.
    The Eagles finally got the break they needed when Mallouf fumbled the snap as he pulled away from center, and the ball fell loose in the backfield behind the offensive linemen. DT Bucko Kilroy threw his 243lb bulk at the ball and covered it as he slid through the snow on the 17.
    Pritchard took a first down handoff from Thompson after the quarterback faked a pitchout to Van Buren and slipped and slid to the 11 on the last play of the period.
Cardinals DB Marshall Goldberg
Marshall Goldberg
Eagles T Bucko Kilroy
Bucko Kilroy

Van Buren scores the game's only touchdown.
  • Quarter 4
    When the teams moved to the other end of the field, they played on virgin snow because the footprints from the previous plays at that end had already been covered. On second down from the 11, Muha hurdled over the center of the line for 3y to the eight. On a sneak, QB Thompson put his head down and drove for a first down on the five. "Give it to Steve!" the crowd chanted. Sure enough, on the next snap, Van Buren took the handoff from his left halfback position and followed Muha through a big hole at right tackle created by Kilroy kicking out the left end. No one touched Steve until he was crashing into the end zone. Like the Cardinals earlier, the Eagles scraped away the snow to clear a spot for the holder, Thompson, to place the ball for the extra point try. Thus aided, Patton kicked his 67th straight PAT.
    Eagles 7 Cardinals 0 only 0:53 into the final quarter.
    The rest of the period saw the Eagles control the ball as Chicago ran only only six plays. But the visitors started auspiciously when Vic Schwall made a brilliant return of Muha's kickoff, breaking three tackles to gain good starting position. Mallouf faded to pass and, with good protection, hit Babe Dimancheff out to the left for a good gain. But the attack stalled there.
    After the punt, Thompson again took the snap and faked a pitchout but this time kept the ball up the middle for 17y. Van Buren picked up four over right tackle. On a crossbuck, Pritchard found a hole at left tackle and burst for seven more. "Weavin' Steven the Moving Van" swung wide around right end for a first down on the Chicago 47. Pritchard used his jackrabbit speed for 15y around left end. Next, Thompson reprised his fake-pitch-keep-up-the-middle to the 23. But finally the defense drew the line and forced a field goal try. But Patton's 34-yarder failed, keeping the Cards' slim hopes alive with five minutes to play.
    Bosh Pritchard had an unusual off-season occupation: big band singer. While plaing football in the Navy, "The Crooning Halfback" sang with the band at halftime and would have done the same in Philly except that Neale wouldn't allow him. So Bosh did most of his performing after the games. Russ Craft: We'd go into a club, and we'd take bets on how long it would be before Bosh was up on the bandstand. Actually, he was a pretty good singer, but we needled him something awful. Pritchard: I was the team funny man. ... Greasy encouraged it, particularly before games. He said I kept the boys loose. I'd get on the team bus and I'd say, "All right, all together now ..." And I'd start singing the VMI fight song. All the guys would laugh and boo. That's how we'd get ready to play.
    Conzelman put in QB Charlie Eikenberg to do some chunking, but his tenure started badly with a sack back to the eight. Getting more desperate, the Cardinals tried a dipsy-do. Eikenberg handed to FB Harder running right. Pat threw downfield, but Steele snared the throw on the Chicago 42.
    "Supersonic Steve" nearly broke loose for a touchdown around right end, but an ankle tackle sent him stumbling forward to the ground where a defender fell on him. Alternating runners and directions against the numb exhausted men in red, Thompson pitched to Pritchard who sprinted to the 13. The Eagles ate up the rest of the time with Thompson sneaking to the two on the last play of the game.

Eagles RB Bosh Pritchard
Bosh Pritchard
Cardinals FB-K Pat Harder
Eagles DB Ernie Steele
Ernie Steele

Steve Van Buren totes the leatherin 1948 NFL Championship Game.
Van Buren runs as Kilroy comes up to block.
The jubilant Eagles hoisted Neale on their shoulders and carted him triumphantly off the field. Meanwhile, Philly fans did the same to Van Buren.

15:40 video of the 1948 Championship Game -
source of most of the play-by-play above
Footage of the snow and tarp removal, opening touchdown called back,
and Van Buren's score

Final statistics:
  • First downs: Eagles 16 Cardinals 6
  • Yards rushing: Eagles 57-225 Cardinals 34-96
  • Passing: Eagles 12-2-/7 Cardinals 11-3-1/11
  • Return yardage: Eagles 3-29 Cardinals 4-62
  • Fumbles-Lost: Eagles 1-1 Cardinals 3-2
  • Penalties: Eagles 3-17 Cardinals 4-33
  • Punting average: Eagles 37.0 Cardinals 37.4
1948 NFL Champion Eagles exult
Eagles rejoice around Coach Neale.
Eagles G Duke Maronic: Talk about cold! A lot of us just ran for the locker room after the game and went straight into the hot showers. I mean, we didn't take off our uniforms or anything - just our headgear. We stood under the hot water just to thaw out. It wasn't as cold as some games have been, but being soaked and all really got to you.
  • Captain Wistert exulted as he entered the locker room. Well, gang, we got the championship! That's the one we've been waiting for.
  • Neale gave most of the credit to his QB. We got the break, that fumble, and we cashed in on it. Thompson was the key. He called almost all the plays on his own and called 'em right and he ran hard and handled the team without a flaw. It was a grand game, a wonderful one under the conditions of snow and cold and slippery footing. And a tough one to lose, Jimmy, he told Conzelmann when the latter came to offer his congratulations.
  • Conzelman replied, Your Eagles surely played fine ball. It was tough out there today; those fumbles hurt us, but your boys deserved to win. It was a case of who got the first break. They outplayed us and deserved to win. On the fumble that led to the only score: You couldn't say it was by anyone in particular, just one of those things.
  • Van Buren as he pulled the tape off his banged up ankles after gaining 98y on 25 carries: The boys sure cut me a hole for that touchdown. I went right into it as fast as I could go. Sure was glad to that referee signaling it was over.
  • Outside the Eagle locker room, hundreds of well-wishers hammered on the door as Bell came to congratulate the team he owned before becoming Commissioner. A real bunch of champions, he told Greasy. Nobody could have asked for a better game under the conditions.

Gloom hung thickly over the Cardinals as they hurriedly dressed, anxious to get away.

  • Trippi: We all knew that the team which got the breaks would win. The Eagles got the break and capitalized on it. They were the better team today and deserved to win.
  • Assistant coach Phil Handler: We'll get 'em next year. Sure, the fumble was the payoff. But we've beaten the Eagles five out of the last six, and we'll make it six out of seven next time we play 'em.

    But next year has yet to come for the Cardinals franchise. Like another Chicago team, the Cubs, the Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals have yet to win another NFL Championship. Unlike the Cubs, who last played in the World Series in 1945, the Cardinals reached the Super Bowl after the 2008 season but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The players split 70% of the net receipts of $156,937.50, the second highest in playoff history.

  • The Eagles earned $1,540.84 per person.
  • The Cards got $874.39 each and voted an equal share for Mauldin's widow.
 1948 NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles
Articles on the title game in Monday's newspapers were accompanied by a piece on the meeting of five AAFC owners, including Arthur McBride of the Browns and Dan Topping of the Yankees, with a corresponding group for the NFL in Philadelphia. For the first time, the two sides sat down at the same table together the day after the title games. The older league's representatives, much better prepared than the AAFC contingent, controlled the agenda. The NFL pitch was simple: They would welcome the Cleveland and San Francisco franchises but no others. While some AAFC owners were happy to go quietly into the dark night with no further losses, Buffalo and Baltimore wanted an opportunity to buy into an NFL franchise. But the NFL reps stuck to their guns - take it or leave it. No offer of a common draft was ever on the table. McBride and Tony Morabito of the 49ers stayed loyal to their colleagues. Unless everyone agreed to dissolve the AAFC, they would forego the opportunity to jump to the NFL. The joint statement after ten hours of stalemate held out hope that future meetings might provide some formula for a common understanding between the two leagues.
References: Championship: The NFL Title Games plus Super Bowl, Jerry Izenberg (1970)
What a Game They Played: An Inside Look at the Golden Era of Pro Football, Richard Whittingham (1984)
"Philadelphia Memories," Jim Campbell (1979 NFC & AFC Championship Game Programs)
The Eagles Encyclopedia, Ray Didinger and Robert S. Lyons (2005)
Top of Page