Are You Ready For Some Football?

In recognition of the start of the 2011 National Football League season, I thought these images from the Oliver F. Atkins collection would provide some good historical comparison. These images are from a Saturday Evening Post assignment that Atkins did on Johnny Unitas, “The Passer Nobody Wanted,” published November 1, 1958. Unitas was the quarterback for the Baltimore Colts and a legendary American professional football player. Unitas came to the Colts in 1956 when they offered him a $7,000 contract. In 1958, he led the Colts to a 23-17 overtime victory over the New York Giants in the NFL Championship, often referred to as one of the greatest American professional football games ever played.

Johnny Unitas on the sidelines on October 26, 1958. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, Box 99, Folder 14. Photo © SEPS

Although the images in the Atkins collection are not from that game, there are multiple shots from two other games that season. One of those games appears to be a nighttime game on October 26 against the Washington Redskins at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Colts won that game by a score of 35-10.

Johnny Unitas (right) passes the ball during a game against the Washington Redskins on October 26, 1958. Oliver F. Atkins Collections, Box 99, Folder 14. Photo © SEPS

The images are a unique set in the Atkins collection because he did not often photograph athletes or sports events, but he appeared to have fun with this assignment by capturing different game angles and sideline activity. You might notice a dark area on the edge of the negative frame from the daytime game below. The dark area indicates that perhaps the camera was not closed tight enough and some light leaked in and partially exposed the film.

Baltimore Colts cheerleaders during a game against the Detroit Lions on September 28, 1958. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, Box 99, Folder 14. Photo © SEPS

This collection was reprocessed with funds provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.