National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


The Sneakers

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Pro Football Hall of Fame via AP Images

A light mixture of freezing drizzle and flurries, with temperatures in the teens and 20s, resulted in an icy, frozen field at the Polo Grounds on December 9, 1934.  The Chicago Bears, after winning 18 games in a row, were the heavy favorites as they took on the New York Giants in a rematch of the previous season's championship game.

As play began, the men on the field had great difficulty gaining secure footing.  Their cleats refused to break through the frozen ground.  By the middle of the third quarter the score was only 13-3, with the Bears in the lead as expected.  One of the Giants players remarked that sneakers would work better on the ice than their cleats.  The Giants' head coach knew that one of his clubhouse assistants also worked at Manhattan College, a few miles up Broadway from the Polo Grounds.  He sent the assistant to retrieve some sneakers from the college.  The assistant returned at the beginning of the fourth quarter carrying nine pairs of basketball shoes. 

The Giants players put the sneakers on and never looked back.  In the fourth quarter they scored 27 points (four touchdowns and three PATs) to beat the Bears 30-13.

In a bizarre coincidence, the Bears played the Giants in the championship game again in 1956.  In New York.  In December.  On a frozen field.  Footing was terrible so the Giants switched to sneakers.  The Giants beat the Bears 47 to 7.

The weather map below, from December 9, 1934, shows low pressure sliding southeast out of Canada bringing Great Lakes moisture and cold Arctic air into the Northeast.

weather map for the sneakers game