Craig Ellenport: Baltimore Colts’ 1958 Title Win Led To ‘Exponential Growth’ Of NFL

There has not been a shortage of great moments in the NFL’s first 100 years, but author Craig Ellenport believes one highlight in Baltimore’s history stands out among all of them.

In honor of the NFL’s 100-year anniversary, Ellenport compiled some of the most memorable moments in the league’s history and ranked them in his book, “The NFL 100: The Greatest Moments of the NFL’s Century.” It includes aspects of the sport like “Monday Night Football” and NFL Films that forever changed how people view and watch professional football.

But out of all the high points in the NFL’s long and successful history, Ellenport narrowed the most important down to the Baltimore Colts’ 23-17 overtime win against the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship game as the most pivotal moment in the league’s history.

“It was such a great game and there were so many great players and legends and Hall of Famers on the field at one time for both the Colts and the Giants,” Ellenport said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 23. “The day after that game, people were talking about it to the point of generating interest and excitement in the NFL that had not been there before that game.”

The NFL was in plenty of uncharted territory as the Colts were set to play the Giants in the NFL Championship. The game was nationally televised, which was not common. And then, as the clock hit zero and the score was still tied at 17, everyone from the coaches to the player had no clue what was going to happen next.

The Colts went on to win the game thanks to Alan Ameche’s touchdown run in overtime, and it soon went on to be called “the greatest game ever played.”

“Joke all you want about Donovan McNabb not knowing the rules of overtime, every player on that field was unsure what was happening when regulation ended and it was a tie game,” Ellenport said.

Ellenport said many of the moments in his book often had a lasting effect; one event would lead to another. The same was true after the 1958 championship. Ellenport said the interest and buzz for professional football could be linked to inspiring owners to create the AFL

“It could be argued that without the excitement that was generated the ’58 title game, you don’t have an AFL,” Ellenport said. “There was a direct result from this game that led to the exponential growth of the NFL.”

Ellenport feels fine with how he ranked the moments themselves. Although he’s sure people are going to debate with him about certain things being higher or lower on his list, he welcomes it.

He admits there might have been a game to come around that would have been as good as the matchup between the Colts and Giants, so maybe the league didn’t necessarily need that game. But there is no denying that it almost singlehandedly changed the game forever.

“Another game might have come along … and it may have been a good game, maybe not overtime, but maybe more exciting,” Ellenport said. “Who knows?”

“The NFL 100: The Greatest Moments of the NFL’s Century” is available on Amazon.

For more from Ellenport, listen to the full interview here: