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Cronin's Corner: Remembering the Giants of old

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By George Cronin

[EDITOR'S NOTE: George Cronin is a long-time Giants fan and regular contributor here at Big Blue View. He has graciously agreed to occasionally provide us with some recollections of the Giants of old.]

As fans, we can take pride in the fact that the Giants, one of the five original teams that formed the NFL in 1925, is the only organization that still exists. Big Blue has much to be proud of, having appeared in 15 championship games and winning six titles. The earliest titles were won in 1927, 1934 and 1938.

I can't say much about the chamionship games of those years, although I have a vague recollection of my older brother and grandfather listening to the '38 game and rooting enthusiastically for Big Blue (I was five.)

Fifteen players have gone to the Hall of Fame (HOF), and five of them--LT, Rosey Brown, Sam Huff, Mel Hein and Emlen Tunnel--appear on the Sporting News list of the 100 greatest football players. Those five automatically go on my all-time Giants team. A few HOFers had at least a cup of coffee with the Giants, including Larry Csonka and Hugh McElhenny, both of whom I remember vividly.

During his three years with the Giants Csonka, past his prime, was hurt a lot and didn't do much, but you could see the respect the other players gave him. He did have at least one great day in a game I watched when he led them to victory on a muddy field,running over would-be tacklers and gaining over a hundred yards in the mud.

I watched McElhenny drive the crowd wild, reversing four or five times deep in his own backfield and running at least a hundred yards to pick up something like a 3-5 yard gain.

I do remember hearing a lot about HOFers from earlier eras. Benny Friedman, eg, was the best QB of his generation and a triple threat back (run, pass, and kick), as were many of the backfield stars prior to the introduction of the T formation. In the 20s, he played for the Detroit Wolverines and led the league in passing and rushing TDs, scoring and extra points. Like all the players in those earliest years, he played offense and defense.

Tim Mara bought the Wolverines so he could get Friedman, who threw 20 TDs in his first Giants year, a record that lasted until 1942. I've seen vintage movies of him, and his control over that rounder ball was remarkable. When I was a kid, people spoke of him with the kind of awe later generations spoke of Luckman, Baugh, Graham and Unitas. Apparently he wasn't too well liked, not getting into the Hall until 2005.

I never saw Cal Hubbard play football, I saw him as an umpire of many major league baseball games after he quit football. Later, he was baseball's supervisor of umpires. He was inducted into the first HOF class and was also selected as the greatest tackle in the NFL's first 50 years.