R. I. P. – Y. A. Tittle

 

Former pro football quarterback Y. A. Tittle passed away away October 8, 2017 at the age of 90.

After a fine college career at Louisiana State University, Tittle proceeded into professional football, starting out with the Baltimore Colts in the All American Football Conference (AAFC) in 1948. When the Colts, who had joined the NFL in 1950, folded at the end of that season, he found himself with the San Francisco 49ers and he would play for the 49ers for a decade before ending his Hall of Fame career with the New York Giants at the end of the 1964 season.

Tittle is most remembered for his final few seasons with the New York Giants. Considered washed up and an “old” 34, he was traded to the Giants after the 1960 season for offensive lineman Leo Cordileone (who, when informed of the trade, quipped “Me, even up for Y A Tittle? You’re kidding.”) before the 1961 season. He would have his best seasons – leading the Giants to three straight conference titles (1961 – 63) setting & then breaking his own record for touchdown passes in a season ( 33 in 1962 followed up with 36 in 1963) along the way, although he and the Giants would lose all three NFL Championship games. A photo of Y. A. (the Y. A. stands for Yelberton Abraham – no wonder he preferred Y. A.!) taken during a September 20, 1964 game between the Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers is one of the most famous photographs in sports history. That photo, of a bloodied Tittle kneeling in the end zone after a hit by John Baker which resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown, is shown above.

Tittle had plenty of highlights during his career – he was voted the NFL MVP by UPI in 1957, 61 & 62, and the NFL MVP by both the AP and the Newspaper Enterprises Association in 1963. Of those, only the AP award still exists and is now considered the de facto MVP. He was part of the 49ers’ “Million Dollar Backfield” along with fellow Hall of Famers Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson from 1954-56. The 3-time first team All-Pro also teamed with split end R C Owens to develop the “alley-oop” – a play in which Tittle would toss the ball up such that the tall and excellent jumper Owens could make the catch by out-jumping his defender. His career was capped by his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. After his playing career, Tittle had a long and successful career as the owner of an insurance firm in Palo Alto, California. He was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Minnette, in 2012.

RIP.

Here’s a link to a short video (5 minutes) of Tittle’s career for those so interested.

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  1. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was  intercepted for a touchdown.

    • #1
  2. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Great write up of one of the most underrated QBs in NFL history.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Yeah, I remember him, though his career with the Giants ended just before I turned 13. RMR is right; Y.A. is underrated and forgotten.

    • #3
  4. JcTPatriot Inactive
    JcTPatriot
    @JcTPatriot

    I think that is the only picture I have ever seen of Y. A. Tittle, and I’ve seen it a hundred times. That’s kind of sad.

    • #4
  5. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Great write up of one of the most underrated QBs in NFL history.

    Thanks.

    • #5
  6. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was intercepted for a touchdown.

    That was also back when the Steelers were perennial also-rans.

    • #6
  7. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was intercepted for a touchdown.

    That was also back when the Steelers were perennial also-rans.

    The Giants were very bad that year, after quite a run of success.  I’m remembering that Tittle was moved aside for the immortal Gary Wood.

     

    • #7
  8. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Sad, but inevitable for us all. Y.A. was the first person I can recall as a child that I heard of going only by initials. That was novel for me. He seemed so old to me then, although he was actually a few years younger than my parents, apparently. Funny how our perspective changes.

    • #8
  9. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Rodin (View Comment):
    Sad, but inevitable for us all. Y.A. was the first person I can recall as a child that I heard of going only by initials. That was novel for me. He seemed so old to me then, although he was actually a few years younger than my parents, apparently. Funny how our perspective changes.

    I was 10 at the time of that photo and I had the same impression about Tittle as just ancient.

    • #9
  10. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    A name from my childhood! If even I’ve heard of a football player, that means he’s famous.

    • #10
  11. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    @jctpatriot – Some other Tittle pictures for you:

    • #11
  12. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Here’s a photo of that Million Dollar Backfield I mentioned. Left to Right are Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry, Tittle and John  Henry Johnson

     

    • #12
  13. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    For several years I had an office about a block away from his insurance agency in Palo Alto.  The first time I walked past there I had a “you’re kidding!” reaction to the name above the door.  Checked it out, and it really was the man himself.  Never ran into him, though.

    • #13
  14. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was intercepted for a touchdown.

    YA Tittle is definitely a name from the past. But John Baker I was acquainted with. He worked for Senator Morgan and I would occasionally ride up in an elevator with the two and got to be on speaking terms with them just after I got out of university. Then John Baker became sheriff of my home county. He was a big, big man. You wouldn’t want to mess with him.

    • #14
  15. Dominique Prynne Member
    Dominique Prynne
    @DominiquePrynne

    A shout out for a Marshall, Texas native!  Mr. Tittle attended Marshall HS football games well into his late 80s  (in his wheelchair with a blanket over his legs).  What a love for the game, the competition and the young men who play!

    • #15
  16. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    I read a story a couple years ago in one of the national sports periodicals about YA and his recent trials with his health and the death of his wife. I think he has a daughter that is a renown sports writer and she authored the piece. I’ve slowly weened myself off of a sports addiction over the past few years and would never even pick up a magazine but for some reason the article seemed to call out to me. It was powerful. He dutifully took care of his ailing wife and late in life resurrected a great relationship with his daughter. He had many health problems after his career as a result of the beatings he took but stoically never complained or accepted offers of help from others. If I remember right, he was a very private and reclusive person and largely stayed away from the game after retirement. If I recall the story correctly, both he and his family held some bitterness towards the Giants over some perceived dirty business with his contract. I think he suspected that the Giants had placed a bounty on his head, so that he wouldn’t be able to finish the season thus allowing the Giants to not pay his full salary. His own teammates were in on it, in his mind. The article seemed to suggest that there was no evidence for this belief but he held it intensely nonetheless.

    • #16
  17. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Hang On (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was intercepted for a touchdown.

    YA Tittle is definitely a name from the past. But John Baker I was acquainted with. He worked for Senator Morgan and I would occasionally ride up in an elevator with the two and got to be on speaking terms with them just after I got out of university. Then John Baker became sheriff of my home county. He was a big, big man. You wouldn’t want to mess with him.

    I didn’t know anything about Baker except his role in the famous photo of Y. A. when I started to put this post together. From all accounts it seems like he was a good man. He’s listed at Football-Reference as 6′-6″ and 279 lbs which was big even by NFL standards in 1964. I read somewhere, but I can’t find it now, that he used that Y. A. photo in his first run for sheriff with a slogan something to the effect of “I’ll do to crime what I did to Y. A. Tittle.”

    • #17
  18. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    There was a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie back around 1968??  called A Punt A Pass And A Prayer with High O’Brien about an older quarterback trying to come back from injury that had a scene similar to the one that led to that iconic photo.  Not sure why I remember that.

    • #18
  19. Israel P. Inactive
    Israel P.
    @IsraelP

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was intercepted for a touchdown.

    I heard it on the radio.

    • #19
  20. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    tigerlily (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    I was in attendance at that game in old University of Pittsburgh Stadium in 1964. Big John Baker really hit Y. A. on that play. That was before quarterbacks wore skirts as Jack Lambert was fond of saying. When he was hit the ball was intercepted for a touchdown.

    That was also back when the Steelers were perennial also-rans.

    Oh yea they were. It was said that even though the would lose the game they always won the fights.My dad and I had season tickets starting in 1958. They were like $15 for the season. We gave them up never to be able to get them back when I was drafted in 1968.

    • #20
  21. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):
    @jctpatriot – Some other Tittle pictures for you:

    I have that football card! That’s how I will always remember him: poised and ready to battle.

    • #21
  22. Ray Inactive
    Ray
    @RayHarvey

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Great write up of one of the most underrated QBs in NFL history.

    I totally agree with that.

    • #22
  23. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Ray (View Comment):

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Great write up of one of the most underrated QBs in NFL history.

    I totally agree with that.

    Thanks Ray.

    • #23
  24. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    RIP, sir…Appreciate the post and the wonderful memories, pics, and conversation!

    • #24
  25. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    Thanks @TigerLily. I collect autographs and I have the bloody Y.A. picture autographed Y. A.  It’s one of my favorite possessions. Y.A made me a Giants fan for life.

     

     

    • #25
  26. Quake Voter Inactive
    Quake Voter
    @QuakeVoter

    Grew up a Giants fan during the controversial Pisarcik or Golsteyn era (that was actually a thing).  Tittle was then still a deeply admired, almost revered, man amongst the Giants groundlings in Queens.  More than the blow dried Gifford.  Perhaps more than Huff, though that’s a close call.

    That photo seemed to capture defeat when I was twenty.

    At fifty, it’s more heroic, even wise.

    I’m always reminded of The Dying Gaul whenever I see it.

    Dying Gaul

    • #26
  27. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    I came across this short video (2 minutes) of the highlights from the 1963 title game between the Giants & Bears.

     

    https://youtu.be/mb6ycEqIcv8

    • #27
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