Charley Trippi remembers the cold.
“Bitter,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
It was 28 degrees at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The grass was frozen.
You don’t forget a cold like that, even after all these years.
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“We played in tennis shoes,” Trippi said.
It was Dec. 28, 1947. The Chicago Cardinals played the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFL Championship.
The Cardinals won 28-21.
It was the last championship the franchise would see until this year when the Cardinals beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
“You know what they say,” Trippi said, “if you wait long enough and have patience, you’ll finally see everything.”
The Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.
“It was a long wait,” the 86-year-old Trippi said Monday from his home in Athens, Ga.
He was rookie in 1947, a halfback drafted out of the University of Georgia after an All-American career with the Bulldogs.
The Cardinals were Chicago’s team then. They were 9-3 in 1947.
They ran all over the Eagles. Trippi scored twice, once on a 44-yard run and another on a 75-yard punt return. Elmer Angsman scored on a pair of 70-yard runs.
“We never had a sustained drive,” Trippi said. “That was very unusual.”
Led by quarterback Tommy Thompson, the Eagles had an answer to the Cardinals running game. That is until a late interception by Marshall Goldberg clinched the title for the Cardinals.
The players celebrated that night at a local bar. The team would throw them a dinner dance.
“Yeah, but it was still football,” Trippi said. “Still blocking and tackling.”
They were going to own the league, those Cardinals. They were young and loaded with talent. Trippi would have a Hall of Fame career.
“We got old,” Trippi said. “They never injected young players into the program.”
The Cardinals went 11-1 and returned to the title game the following December, but lost 7-0 to the Eagles in Philadelphia during a snowstorm.
“It wasn’t a football game,” Trippi said. “You couldn’t see the lines. It was more pushing and shoving. The fans got cheated. They came to see a championship game and saw a pushing game.”
It’s not hard to find members of the Pittsburgh Steelers last championship team. Many will be playing Sunday against the Cardinals.
You might see some of the Steelers from the Steel Curtain dynasty milling about Tampa Bay this week. You see quarterback Terry Bradshaw every Sunday during football season.
But those ’47 Cards are becoming fewer and fewer each year. Five are still with us.
“I still see some of the fellas,” Trippi said. “Sometimes we get together at the golf outing at the Hall of Fame. We like to brag about how good we were. We become better players as the years go on.”
The Cardinals moved from Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona, playing first in Tempe and now in Glendale.
Trippi’s heart was packed and moved to each stop. You spend 14 years in one organization as a player and coach and the team is in your blood, Trippi said.
The blood will stay in Athens on Sunday.
Trippi is going to watch the first NFL Championship Game in Cardinals history since that snowy day in Philadelphia from his favorite chair.
“I’m going to watch it on my TV,” Trippi said. “I can see it better. And I’m going to see a good football game, and the Cardinals are going to win. How about that? I’m optimistic.”
Roger Mooney, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.