Talk about a unique piece of sports memorabilia.
A football thrown by Hall of Fame Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas to Hall of Fame split end Raymond Berry for a touchdown in the classic 1958 NFL championship at Yankee Stadium sold for $62,140 last night at Huggins & Scott Auctions.
This wasn't just any championship game. It's commonly referred to as the "Greatest Game Ever Played," ending with Alan Ameche's 1-yard touchdown plunge in sudden-death overtime to give the Colts a 23-17 victory.
The game, which was broadcast to over 45 million people nationally, sparked the creation of the American Football League in 1960, which set the stage for the first Super Bowl in 1966.
Berry's 15-yard touchdown capped an 86-yard drive in the second quarter and gave the Colts a 14-3 lead after the extra point. The extra point is key to how the ball came up for auction.
There were no nets behind the goal posts at the time, so the ball sailed into the stands and was caught by R.J. "Lanky" Bilbrough, a grocer from Maryland's Eastern Shore. Bilbrough contacted Baltimore Sun sportswriter John Steadman, asking if he could get the football back to Berry.
According to Huggins & Scott Auctions, Steadman forgot to give Berry the football until nearly 30 years later. Steadman apologized in a typed letter and gave the football to Berry, who was then the head coach of the New England Patriots.
The auction item included the football, the letter from Steadman to Berry and a letter from Berry back to Steadman. There was also an original letter from Bilbrough and a diagram of where he sat, along with a copy of the newspaper photo showing him with the ball after the game.