Raymond Berry Football Autobiography

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Raymond Berry is 86 years old now and just published a short autobiography of his life in football and beyond.  While the prose is a bit stilted at times it is an easy to read and digest compilation of his career.

Raymond Berry is probably best known, along with Johnny Unitas, for the Greatest Game Ever Played when his Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game and first ever overtime game in NFL history.  Berry caught 12 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in that game and was integral in the Colts’ win.  Those kinds of numbers would be incredibly impressive even in today’s pass happy NFL.  The Colts went on to win the NFL Championship the following year and were extremely competitive throughout Berry’s 12 year Hall of Fame career.

What stands out most about Berry is he was not the most athletically gifted athlete, although he was fast and had great hands.  He persevered and became one of the greatest receivers of all time through hard work and practice, practice, practice.  He and Johnny Unitas were the linchpins of what could have been an NFL dynasty had it not been for the roadblock of the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi.

Being a New England Patriots fan I was most interested in his years as the Patriots head coach including their loss to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX 45 to 10.  The 1984 Patriots, while they did go 11-5, really played over the level of their talent in my opinion, which attests to how good a coach Berry was.  He makes the assertion that the reason the game was so lopsided is he was a new head coach and installed a new offense that year, whereas the Bears defense under Buddy Ryan had been running the same system for five years.  Thus, had he had more time to install his offense, the level of play would have been more equal.

While the writing is somewhat uneven and the book jumps around subject wise a good bit, it is a worthwhile read for football fans.

All the Moves I Had: A Football Life

“The Best Game Ever: Giants V. Colts, 1958” Book Review

51h2bqqsmjll__sl500_aa240_The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL  by Mark Bowden

Review by C. Douglas Baker

The Best Game Ever is a fairly good account of what is probably the most famous game in NFL history—the 1958 NFL Championship game where the Baltimore Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 in the NFL’s first sudden death overtime game.

The game pitted some of the greatest players of all time against one another, such as Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry of the Colts and Frank Gifford and Sam Huff of the Giants.

It also sported three legendary coaches: Vince Lombardi on offense for the Giants, Tom Landry on defense for the Giants, and Weeb Ewbank, the head coach of Baltimore who went on to win another seminal NFL Championship when his New York Jets upset his former team, the Baltimore Colts, in Super Bowl III.

As most who follow football closely know, this game is considered the launching point of the modern NFL because it occurred in the early years of television and at least the last part of the game was seen by an estimated 30 million people. After this game, the popularity of professional football took off, particularly because the action is well suited for television viewing.

This book tells the story of the game mostly from the players’ perspective, focusing somewhat more on the Baltimore Colts, particularly Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry, who both had phenomenal performances in this game. But it also tells the story of other key players on both sides of the ball to greater or lesser degrees.

It does a less stellar job of building the drama of the game, maybe because we already know the outcome. But overall, it completely documents the game and the key turning points that lead to the eventual outcome.

These include Frank Gifford not making a first down on third and short that would have allowed the Giants to run out the clock to win the game, and the Unitas-to-Barry connection on an improvised play for a first down on the final drive in regulation to tie the game.

For a football fan, this is certainly an enjoyable book that provides some insight into the game and the players, particularly Raymond Berry, who gets the most coverage. While I wouldn’t classify this as The Best Football Book Ever, it is well done and worth reading.

The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL