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December 17, 2017

NFL 1957 season, map with helmets & final standings; champions: Detroit Lions./+ 1957 NFL attendance data & info on 1957 NFL teams’ uniforms.

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NFL 1957 season, map with helmets & final standings; champions: Detroit Lions



By Bill Turianski on 17 December 2017 twitter.com/billsportsmaps.
Links…
-1957 NFL season
-1957 Detroit Lions season (en.wikipedia.org).
-1957 NFL season (pro-football-reference.com).
-1957 NFL Teams [illustrations of uniforms of the 12 NFL teams of 1957] (gridiron-uniforms.com).

The map… The map, done in the style of 1950s newspaper graphics, shows the primary helmets and jerseys worn by the 12 NFL teams of 1957. Final standings for the 1957 NFL season, along with team-colors worn that season, can be seen at the lower-right of the map. Home helmets and jerseys are shown alongside the standings. There also is a small section devoted to 1957 NFL attendance data. At the top-right of the map-page is a section devoted to the 1957 NFL champions, the Detroit Lions (also see the next 6 paragraphs and the illustration below). At the far-right-hand-center of the map page, are 1957 Offensive leaders in the following categories: QB Rating & Passing Yards & Passing TDs: Johnny Unitas, Colts. Rushing Yards & Rushing TDs: Jim Brown, Browns. Total Yards from Scrimmage & total TDs: Lenny Moore, Colts. Receiving Yards: Raymond Berry, Colts.

The 1957 Detroit Lions are champions, demolishing the Cleveland Browns 59-14, and winning their third NFL title in 6 years.
During the 1950s, in just a 6-year span, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns faced each other 4 times in the NFL title game. They had previously met in 1952, 1953, and 1954, with Detroit winning in close games in ’52 and ’53, and with Cleveland winning big in ’54. But in 1957, the underdog Detroit Lions won big over the Cleveland Browns, 59-14, thanks to 5 turnovers and the steady leadership of back-up QB Tobin Rote.

The betting line was Browns by 3 points, and the Las Vegas odds-makers probably gave that 3 point edge to Cleveland because it was a case of a veteran coach (Paul Brown) versus a rookie coach (the Lions’ George Wilson). And also, the Lions’ team leader and longtime-QB, Bobby Layne, was out injured. And looking at the regular season stats, Detroit had, on paper, a mediocre +20 points difference, which was only 6th-best in the league that year. But the Browns had never won in Detroit. Plus, the Lions were the hottest team in the league at that point, having won their last 4 games, and 6 of 7 (including beating Cleveland 20-7 in week 11). And the Lions were coming off a Tobin-Rote-led 24-point comeback-win over the 49ers, in the Western Conference tiebreaker playoff game, a week earlier. So, the oddsmkers might have thought Cleveland were favorites, but there were plenty of signs pointing to a Detroit win.

1957 NFL Championship Game: Detroit Lions 59, Cleveland Browns 14…
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Photo and Image credits above – Aerial photo of Briggs Stadium, circa mid-1950s, photo from Virtual Motor City via photos.metrotimes.com. Detroit Lions 1950s-era logo [2014 retro-redesign], image from irononlogo.com. Interior shot of Briggs Stadium, circa mid-1950s, photo by Wayne State University via Virtual Motor City via photos.metrotimes.com. Photo of Tobin Rote [in 1957 NFL title game], by Marvin E. Newman at gettyimages.com. Illustrations of Lions and Browns 1957 helmets, by gridiron-uniforms.com/[1957]. Bobby Layne, on crutches, hugs Tobin Rote post-game, photo by AP via freep.com. Detroit Free Press front page [Dec. 30 1957], photo from freep.com.

Aided by two 1st-quarter turnovers (1 FR, 1 INT), all 3 possessions by the Lions in the first quarter led to scores (1 FG, and then two 1-yard-TD-runs: the first by QB Tobin Rote, and then another 1-yard-TD by HB Gene Gedman). Then, early in the 2nd quarter, Detroit pulled a trick play…Tobin Rote, who was also the place-holder for Field Goal attempts, called for a fake-FG in the huddle. It resulted in a 26-yard TD pass to End Steve Junker. That made it 24-7, and the rout was on. A 19-yard interception for a TD, by Lions DB Terry Barr, gave the Lions a 24-point lead at halftime (31-7). In the 2nd half, the Browns scored an early 3rd quarter TD, but the Lions answered with 4 TD passes, 3 by Rote, and the final TD pass by 3rd-string QB Jerry Reichow. In the 3rd quarter, Rote threw a stupendous 78-yard-pass to End Jim Doran, and then a 23-yard-TD-pass to Steve Junker. In the 4th quarter, Rote threw a 32-yd-TD-pass to End Dave Middleton. And so, with the game safely in hand, Rote was substituted for Reichow, who then threw a 16-yard TD pass to HB Howard ‘Hopalong’ Cassady. Final score: Lions 59, Browns 14.

The 45-point margin of victory by the Lions made it the most lopsided NFL title game since the Bears’ 73-0 win over Washington in 1940. The Lions had won their fourth (and last) NFL title.

1957 Detroit Lions: 3 All-Pro players; plus 7 from the ’57 Lions that were later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Note: All-Pro, below, means: 1957 AP, 1st team.
-Jack Christiansen (DB/KR): 1957 All-Pro; Christiansen was inducted into the HoF in 1970.
-Joe Schmidt (MLB): 1957 All-Pro; Schmidt was inducted into the HoF in 1973.
-Lou Creekmur (OT): 1957 All-Pro; Creekmur was inducted into the HoF in 1996.
-Bobby Layne (QB); Layne was inducted into the HoF in 1969.
-Yale Lary (DB/P); Lary was inducted into the HoF in 1979.
-Frank Gatski (C); Gatski was inducted into the HoF in 1985.
-John Henry Johnson (FB); Johnson was inducted into the HoF in 1987.

Two games into the next season (1958), the Lions front-office decided to stick with Tobin Rote, and part with the older and more expensive Bobby Layne. Layne was traded to the basement-dwelling Pittsburgh Steelers, and it is said that an incensed Layne predicted that the Lions would not win another championship for 50 years. He was right. The Detroit Lions have gone 1-10 in the playoffs since 1957, and are the oldest NFL franchise that has never won a Super Bowl title. They haven’t even made it to a Super Bowl: the closest that the Detroit Lions have ever got to a Super Bowl appearance was a loss to Washington in the 1991 NFC championship game. As of late December 2017 [with the Lions failing to qualify for the playoffs], it has been 60 years and counting since the Lions have been the NFL champions. There is just one thing I don’t understand…why is the player who led the Lions to their last NFL title, Tobin Rote, not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? (See following link.)

-From the Detroit Athletic blog, Tobin Rote belongs in Canton (by Howard Bak at detroitathletic.com/blog).
-From the Detroit Free Press, 1957 Detroit Lions: Full 60th anniversary coverage (freep.com/story/sports).
-From Golden Football Magazine site, NFL Championship Games: 1957, Cleveland Browns @ Detroit Lions [illustrated chart-style article] (goldenrankings.com/nflchampionshipgame1957.html).
-Video of 1957 NFL Championship Game (at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, MI), Detroit Lions 56, Cleveland Browns 17 [1957 NFL Championship - Lions vs. Browns - Vol. 1]; [1957 NFL Championship - Lions vs. Browns - Vol. 2]; [1957 NFL Championship - Lions vs. Browns - Vol. 3] (videos uploaded by Vol Brian at youtube.com).


1957 NFL attendance.
Note: also see the 1957 NFL Average Attendance chart at far-lower-right of the map page {source: pro-football-reference.com}.
In 1957, the NFL was in the midst of its steadily-increasing popularity, and broke 3 million total attendance for the first time. There were 3,062,449 tickets sold for the 72 regular season games of the 1957 NFL season. That averaged out to 42,534 per game (up an impressive +3,914 per game or up 10.1%, from 1956). The highest drawing NFL team was once again the Los Angeles Rams (at 68 K). Second-best draw was the 8-4 San Francisco 49ers (at 65 K), who drew 19-thousand-more-per-game than in 1956 (a league-best 43.9% increase). The 49ers drew so well in ’57 because they had an almost-championship-caliber team, one that came very close to winning the Western Conference (Detroit beat them in a rare conference [divisional] playoff tiebreaker game). So Bay Area fans responded by flocking in droves to Kezar Stadium, to see the Niners. Third-best attendance in 1957 was Detroit (at 55 K). The Detroit Lions of the 1950s, who won 3 NFL titles in that decade (1952, 1953, 1957), really packed them in at Briggs Stadium [aka Tiger Stadium], back then. Fourth-best crowd-size in 1957 was the much-improved Cleveland Browns (at 54 K), who featured rookie sensation Jim Brown (rushing yardage-leader & Rookie of the Year). The Browns had the second-best attendance improvement (17-thousand-more-per-game or +36.2%, from 1956). The other NFL teams of 1957 which drew above 40-thousand were: the reigning champions the New York Giants (at 48 K), the Baltimore Colts (at 46 K), and the Chicago Bears (at 44 K). The Colts are noteworthy here, as it was the still-young franchises’ first plus-40-K-attendance season (6.9-K more per game than in 1956). Their increase in attendance came thanks to the galvanizing presence of Johnny Unitas, who, in his first full-season as their starting QB, led the Colts to their first winning season (7-5). Unitas led the NFL in passing yardage and QB rating in 1957. In the following two seasons (1958 and ’59), the Colts would be champions.

New stadium for Green Bay in 1957. One more thing with respect to attendances deserves a mention…1957 was the first season of Green Bay’s new City Stadium (II) [renamed Lambeau Field in 1965]. The stadium the Packers had played in from 1932 to ’56, the bare-bones City Stadium (I), had just a 25,000-capacity {see this aerial photo circa mid-1950s}. A few years previously, the then-basement-dwelling Green Bay Packers had been told by the league office to either build a bigger stadium or move full-time to Milwaukee (Green Bay played 3 of their 6 home games, each season, in Milwaukee, during this era; in 1958 they started playing 4 in Green Bay and 2 in Milwaukee). When the Packers opened their new stadium in 1957, City Stadium (II) had a 32,500 capacity. {Here is an aerial photo of the first game played at what is now called Lambeau Field, from Sept. 29 1957.} The Packers were drawing 22.4 K in the last 3 games at the old stadium in 1956 (which was 89.7 percent-capacity). In 1957, the Packers drew to almost full-capacity for their first 3 games in the brand-new City Stadium (32.1 K at 98.7 percent-capacity). And remember, this was when the Packers were really bad (3-9 in ’57; 1-10-1 in ’58). The next year of 1958, the Packers drew 27.9 K overall, averaging 30,824 in their 4 home games in Green Bay (which was a solid 94.8 percent-capacity), but in their two home games in ’58 at Milwaukee County Stadium [capacity: 43.7 K], the Packers drew worse: 24.5 K v Rams mid-season and then only 19.7 K v 49ers in late November. So their brand-new and 7.5-K-larger stadium was being filled pretty well, despite how bad the Packers were in this era. The problem was the Packers’ Milwaukee games in the 1956-58 time period: they were getting lousy attendance (like less than 50 percent-capacity in the 43.7-K Milwaukee County Stadium). One might be tempted to say that that was an example of how the small-town Packers were no longer able to hold their own in the modernizing NFL of the late 1950s. But the problem wasn’t in their small-town venue (in Green Bay). The Packers’ attendance problem was in their big-city venue, in Milwaukee. (How ironic, and a foreshadowing of the fact that the Packers, way down the road, in 1995, stopped playing games in Milwaukee, because they could sell out Lambeau Field easily and they did not need the crutch of the big-city venue in Milwaukee anymore.) Today, the only thing that still remains from Lambeau Field’s original structure of 1957 is some concrete that comprises the nearest stands to the field, and the structural steel below that. {For more on that, see this article with a great photo of old City Stadium (II)/Lambeau Field circa early 1960s, Lambeau Field started with a chain-link fence around it (by Cliff Christl, Packers team historian, at packers.com)}. Lambeau Field is the oldest continually-operating NFL stadium, and after the Boston Red Sox’ Fenway Park and the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, Lambeau Field is the third-oldest continually-operating major league venue in the USA and Canada. (Lambeau Field now has a 81.4-k-capacity.) The next NFL team to change their venue would be the Philadelphia Eagles in the following year (1958), when the Eagles moved from the decaying Connie Mack Stadium [aka Shibe Park], into the much-larger Franklin Field.


Helmet and uniform changes in the NFL in 1957.
{1957 NFL uniforms at Gridiron Uniform Database site.}
-In 1957, it became mandatory in the NFL for home teams to wear their dark jersey, and for the visiting team to wear their white (or light-colored) jersey. Previously, NFL teams could wear whatever colored jersey they wanted, even if the two teams both ended up wearing dark-colored jerseys. And some teams only wore one jersey the whole season (as the Bears, the Lions, and the 49ers did, the season before, in 1956). This rule change showed the growing influence that television had on the NFL…the rule change was necessary because, on their black-and-white televisions, viewers at home could not distinguish between the two teams when both were wearing dark-colored jerseys. So home-team-dark-jerseys, and visiting-team-whites, was mandated.

-In 1957, the Baltimore Colts would introduce their large-horseshoe-in-center-of-helmet logo, which the Colts franchise still uses to this day; likewise the Colts new jersey design which featured arced shoulder stripes {1957 Colts}. The Colts had previously worn a small-horseshoe-on-the-back-o-f-the-helmet {see this illustration I made for my 1956 NFL post}. Sixty years later, the Colts wear still this exact same helmet-design, with only the dark blue color having changed (and only very slightly, see this illustration I made in 2013, Baltimore/Indianaplois Colts: the 4 shades of blue the Colts have worn}.

-In 1957, the San Francisco 49ers switched their helmet-color from white to gold (a blank metallic-gold helmet), and they also switched to gold pants {SF 49ers 1947-48 gold helmets/3-stripe-red-jerseys [YA Tittle]}. Both the gold helmets and gold pants had been first worn by the 49ers back in 1949, when the team was in the AAFC. Also in 1957, the white jersey of the 49ers had a unique red-gold-red striping {1957 49ers}; {here is a very nice color shot of the 1957 49ers [running out onto the field v Rams at LA Coliseum}...a very nice look, but in the following season of 1958, the Niners went back to their plain-one-color-striping on the sleeves of their white jerseys, which was in the same style as the red jersey's striping, and which dated back to 1950, and which is still worn to this day. The 49ers would keep the gold-helmets-and-pants for one more season ['58], before switching back again to silver helmet and pants (and then introduced the S-F-in-football-logo on that silver helmet in 1962), then the Niners switched back to gold helmet and pants once again, for good, in 1964.

-In 1957, the Chicago Bears, because of the new dark-jerseys-at-home/light-jerseys-away rule, wore white jerseys for the first time in 17 years (worn last in 1940) {1957 Rick Casares game-worn jersey.} (The Bears still wear essentially the same white jersey to this day.)

-In 1957, the Cleveland Browns added jersey-numbers to their orange helmets. {Reproduction of 1957 Jim Brown helmet (pasttimesports.biz).} {1957 Browns.} {black-and-white photo of 1957 Browns helmet w/ jersey-numbers [Jim Brown].} This was the first instance of the color brown on the Browns’ helmet (brown stripes flanking the center-white-stripe appeared in {1960}). The Browns would only wear this jersey-numbers-on-helmet style for 4 years (1957-60).

-In 1957, the Green Bay Packers’ alternate helmet-&-color-scheme of white-and-dark-forest-green was worn (this color-scheme existed for 3 seasons for the Packers [1956, '57, '58]). The Packers wore this white-and-dark-forest-green gear only once in ’56 (on opening day). But here, in 1957, when the NFL introduced the aforementioned rule that said home teams must wear dark jerseys at home and light-colored jerseys on the road, the Packers wore the white-and-dark-forest-green colors for all 6 of their road games {1957 Packers}; {1957 Packers at Rams, with Packers in white helmets-and-jerseys-with-dark-green-trim}. Then, in the next season (1958), the Packers wore white-helmets-with-dark-forest-green-jerseys for all games making it the only season in the Packers’ history, besides {1922}, when gold (yellow-orange or metallic-gold) was not in their colors. 1958 was also the Packers’ worst season ever [1-10-1]. {Here are the dreary and forgettable uniforms of the 1958 Green Bay Packers.} In 1959, with the arrival of coach Vince Lombardi, the Packers began wearing their current color-scheme of gold (yellow-orange) and dark-green. And were much better.

-In 1957, the Los Angeles Rams wore white jerseys for the first time ever (they only had worn yellow/orange or blue or red/black ['37] or red ['49] jerseys previously). Like the Bears, the Rams had been wearing only one uniform for several seasons (the Rams wore just a yellow/orange jersey from 1951 to ’56). The Rams were the only NFL team in 1957 that had three jerseys (blue, yellow/orange, white) {1957 Rams}.

-In 1957, the New York Giants introduced a subtle alteration of their helmets, placing jersey-numbers on the front of their blank-dark-blue-helmet-with-red-center-stripe. This helmet-design does not get noted at Gridiron Uniforms Database, but at MG’s Helmets, and at the Helmet Project site, the numbers-on-front-of-helmet design for the Giants of this era is noted, but just not by a specific year [when the design originated]. Well, I’ve looked at plenty of 1950s-era Giants helmets recently, and I can tell you for sure that the numbers were added to the front of Giants’ helmets in 1957 (and the jersey-numbers stayed on the front of Giants helmets all the way up to 1974). All you have to do is look at this photo from the Giants’ 1956 title-march {1956 NY Giants on the bench: Gifford, Beck, Conerly, Webster}, and then look at this photo from 1957 {Giants defense takes down Jim Brown, 1957}. The Giants put those jersey-numbers on the front of their helmets in ’57. Even without the Giants’ small-case-NY logo {which wasn’t introduced until 1961}, that ’57 Giants helmet-design with the jersey-numbers on the front was a pretty solid look. I wish more teams would utilize that look (like the Steelers do; see below).

-In 1957, the Pittsburgh Steelers, like the Browns, introduced jersey-numbers on their yellow/orange-gold-with-black-stripe helmets {1957 Steelers}. The Steelers wore this style for 5 years, from 1957-61 {The next link show this style of helmet, 1960 Steelers [Bobby Layne in Steelers huddle].} In 1962, the Steelers got rid of the large-jersey-numbers-on-the-side-of-helmet, and kept the plain yellow/orange-gold-helmet-with-black-stripe, and then later in the ’62 season they finally introduced a logo…the Steelers’ US-Steel-with-starbursts logo (Nov. 1962). {Here is a shot of safety Willie Daniel in the 1962 Steelers’ gold-helmet with US-Steel-and-starbursts logo, which was worn for the last 5 regular season games in 1962.} The US-Steel-logo-with-starbursts on a black helmet was introduced in Jan. 1963. The US-Steel-with-starbursts logo has always been worn on only the right-side of the Steelers’ helmet. In 1963, along with the introduction of the modern-day black-helmet-with-US-Steel-logo, the Steelers re-introduced jersey-numbers on the helmet, but smaller numbers worn on the front of the helmet…a look that the NY Giants pioneered in 1957 (see Giants’ section above). The Steelers have worn the small-jersey-numbers on their helmets ever since 1963…{Steelers helmet circa 1963 (John Baker)}; { Steelers’ helmet ca. 1980 (Jack Lambert)}; {Steelers’ helmets ca. 2016}.
___
Photo and Image credits on map page…
Detroit Lions…
Detroit Lions mid-1950s-era leather helmet and plastic-shell helmet, photos unattributed at The Football Book published by ESPN via uni-watch.com/2007/10/30/uni-watch-book-club-the-football-book/. Bobby Layne, 1st photo (color) by George Gellatly at nfl.com. 2nd photo of Bobby Layne, photo unattributed at nflpastplayers.com/bobby-layne. Lou Creekmur, photo by Frank Rippon/NFL at nfl.com. Color photo of four 1957 Lions players [Charlie Ane, Howard Cassady, Tobin Rote, Yale Lary], photo unattributed at helmethut.com. Tobin Rote, 1st photo: 1959 Bazooka trading card from footballcardgallery.com. 2nd photo of Tobin Rote: photo of Rote from 1957 NFL Championship Game, by Marvin E. Newman at gettyimages.com. John Henry Johnson, photo unattributed at pinterest.com. Joe Schmidt, photo unattributed at sportsattic2.com/nflphotos/Schmidt,Joe. Jack Christiansen, photo unattributed at profootballhof.com/players/jack-christiansen.
1957 NFL Offensive leaders…
Johnny Unitas [photo from preseason 1957], photo by Ozzie Sweet/Sport magazine [Dec. 1958] via nflfootballjournal.blogspot.com/[Johnny Unitas feature]. Jim Brown [photo from 1957 v Cardinals], photo by Cleveland Browns via waitingfornextyear.com. Lenny Moore [photo from preseason 1957], photo unattributed at pinterest.com. Raymond Berry [photo of 1957 Topps card], from myalltimefavorites.com/indianapolis-colts.

Map was drawn with assistance from images at these links…
48-state-USA/southern Canada, worksheeto.com/post_50-states-and-capitals-printable-worksheet.
Section of Mexico, as well as coastlines-&-oceans, lib.utexas.edu/maps/hist-us.
-Thanks to the contributors at pro-football-reference.com
-Thanks to the contributors at NFL 1957 season (en.wikipedia.org).
Special thanks to Tim Brulia, Bill Schaefer and Rob Holecko of The Gridiron Uniform Database, for giving billsportsmaps.com the permission to use football uniforms illustrations from Gridiron Uniform Database {GUD}.

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