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Charlie Conerly (aged 38) moved restlessly in the cold wind at Yankee Stadium, staring up at the stands while an announcer listed, complete with commercials, the gifts the Giant quarterback had coming to him. Conerly looked up at the fans who a few years ago had hung signs saying, " Conerly must go!" His lined, tough face was expressionless, and when they finally turned over the microphone to him at the end of the ceremonies marking Charlie Conerly Day, he said simply, "Ah've had mah ups and downs heah with the Giants an' I want to thank you all foh stickin' by me. Thank you."
He posed impatiently for a moment by a Corvette, which was one of his gifts, then tossed off his sideline cape and began warming up for the game with the Washington Redskins. The Giants took the kickoff, and for the first minutes the old pro seemed a bit nervous and excited. His passes were thrown too hard and too high, reflecting a tension he had not shown during the rituals; then Conerly settled down. He played the first half of the game, picking the Washington defense apart coldly and precisely, throwing three touchdown passes and leading the Giants to a 45-14 victory which ensured them at least a tie for the Eastern Conference championship. Against the injury-flawed Washington defense, he changed his call at the line of scrimmage time and again to take advantage of weaknesses created as the Redskins tried to compensate for lack of personnel by overloading the defense at the expected point of impact. Twice he threw touchdowns to Bob Schnelker, a towering end, when Schnelker was covered by Richie McCabe, a small (6 foot) defensive halfback. Beautifully protected by the Giant line, he had time to pass, and, when the Redskins dropped off troops from the front line to blanket receivers, he had fine runners to call on in Frank Gifford, Mel Triplett and Alex Webster. It was a satisfying victory.
Frank Gifford, who carried the ball 16 times and gained 159 yards against the Redskins, reflects the attitude of the Giant team toward Conerly. "He means a lot for me," Gifford said. "He's a pro. When he quits, maybe I'll quit, too."
Aside from the innumerable calls from well-wishers and fans, the week before the Redskin game was much the same as the 140-odd other weeks Conerly has spent preparing for Giant games. He has, for 12 years, been the Giant quarterback, and the pressure of knowing that the team depends upon him more than upon any other one player for victory does not bother him. "It's a little different," he said before this game, "knowing everybody expects me to do well. I'm excited, with the banquet after the game and all. But I'll be all right when the whistle blows." He was.
The Giant victory was made doubly significant by the heroics of another quarterback in Cleveland. John Brodie (aged 24), who has been with the San Francisco 49ers for three years, took over as quarterback for the team in a bitterly played game with the Cleveland Browns which meant the difference between a possible division championship and ignominious collapse. When the 49ers were crushed by the Baltimore Colts last week, not the smallest blow to their hopes for their first Western Conference title was the serious injury to their own old pro quarterback, Y. A. Tittle. The injury meant that the 49ers, facing one of the league's toughest defensive teams at the end of a disastrous road trip, had to depend upon the relatively untried Brodie at quarterback. The least dismayed member of the team was Brodie.
"I'm not worried," he said a couple of days before the game. "I've got too much to think about to worry. That's one of the secrets of this game—you must keep thinking. You have to think athletically. I mean you have to occupy your mind with the ways you can beat a team. You have to feel confidence in what you are going to do. Then, if you're thinking that way, you don't have time to worry about them beating you."
Brodie is a handsome youngster. He is an excellent golfer who will play on the pro winter circuit. Unlike Conerly, whose week was fairly routine, Brodie found his pregame preparation considerably longer in work hours because of his starting assignment.
"I sat in with the coaches while they looked at the movies of the Colt game," he said. "And I sat in with them while we made up the ready list." The ready list is a selection of plays designed especially for the team to be played that week. "It takes up lots of time—maybe 20 or 30 hours of the four days you spend preparing for a game. But that's when you do the thinking."