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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeNewsSportsLegendary Broadcaster, NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford Dead at 84

Legendary Broadcaster, NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford Dead at 84


Frank Gifford played in seven Pro Bowls with the New York Giants. (Photo: AP)

NFL Hall of Famer and legendary broadcaster Frank Gifford, a died Sunday at his Connecticut home of natural causes just seven days shy of his 85th birthday. Gifford, a former New York Giants No. 1 draft pick, is survived by his wife, television personality Kathy Lee Gifford, among others.

“We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live,” the family said in a statement, “and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being.”

Frank Newton Gifford was born Aug. 16, 1930, in Santa Monica, Calif., as the son of an itinerant oil worker. Growing up in Depression-era California, Gifford had estimated the family moved 47 times before he even entered high school, and at the worst of times slept in parks or the family car while eating dog food. He was a star at Bakersfield High School and was an All-American during his senior season at the University of Southern California.

Gifford was drafted by the Giants in 1952, playing both offense and defense in New York. He was named NFL Player of the Year in 1956, when he rushed for 819 yards, picked up 603 yards receiving and scored 9 touchdowns in 12 games. The Giants destroyed the Chicago Bears 47-7 at Yankee Stadium that year, which was before they had their own stadium, and Gifford shared a locker with Mickey Mantle. He was named to seven Pro Bowls for three different positions – defensive back, halfback and flanker.

In 12 seasons with the New York Giants, Gifford scored 34 rushing touchdowns and 43 receiving touchdowns, which led to his election to the Hall of Fame in 1977 and Gifford’s jersey number, 16, was retired by the Giants in 2000.

But his career wasn’t all easy-going or happy-ending.

He fumbled twice early in the 1958 NFL championship game — which was dubbed was dubbed “The Greatest Game Ever Played” by everyone but Gifford — and they both led to Baltimore Colts touchdowns. He would came up short on a critical third down later in the big game, which the Colts won 23-17 in the league’s first ever overtime game. The Giants were forced to punt in the ’58 game, leading to a famous drive led by Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas that sent the game into overtime. Gifford and his teammates felt he was robbed by an incorrectly spotted ball with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, later video technology employed for a 50th anniversary documentary indicated the call was correct.

“Not my greatest game,” Gifford told the AP in 2008, taking responsibility for the mishaps. “I fumbled going out (of the end zone) and I fumbled going in.”

Gifford retired after the 1964 season, four years after a devastating hit by 233-pound Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik in November 1960. The hit flattened Gifford and is widely believed to have shortened his football career. Bednarik was pictured standing over the unconscious Gifford pumping his fist, a celebration many thought to be callous, in poor taste and way over the top. Gifford was in the hospital for 10 days and sidelined until 1962.

He then turned to broadcasting, initially working with CBS before joining ABC’s “Monday Night Football” in 1971 as a play-by-play announcer before moving on as an analyst. His marriage to Kathie Lee Gifford, who famously called him a “human love machine” and “lamb-chop” to her millions of viewers, kept Frank in the spotlight. He was a handsome, straight-talking man of character who enjoyed enormous popularity among the viewers and fans. Gifford even tried to put his movie star-like looks to use in Hollywood, where he appeared in roughly a dozen films, most notably “Up Periscope,” a 1959 submarine movie.

Gifford also hosted “Wide World of Sports” and covered several Olympics, where he made his call of Frank Klammer’s gold medal run in 1976, which is considered a broadcasting masterpiece. He announced 588 consecutive NFL games for ABC, not even taking time off after the death of his mother shortly before a broadcast in 1986. While he worked with others, including Dan Dierdorf, Al Michaels, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson, Gifford was most known for the eight years beside Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. The show marked a milestone in Americancultural and sports, extravagantly throwing parades for the visiting announcers and celebrities, including for John Lennon and Ronald Reagan.

“I hate to use the words ‘American institution,’ but there’s no other way to put it, really,” Gifford told The Associated Press in 1993. “There’s nothing else like it.”

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