Does August 8, 1961, mean anything special to you?
It should … I mean, it was a pretty big day.
The Atlas-F missile was launched from Cape Canaveral.
The Fantastic Four were introduced by Marvel Comics, available to comic book fans for the first time.
“The Edge” – U2 guitarist – was born.
All three have varying degrees of significance, depending on what you think is important.
For me, though, the biggest story of that fateful day took place in Hamilton, Ontario.
Because for the first time – and only time – a Canadian Football League team defeated a team from the “modern” American Football League.
It was also the only time a CFL and AFL team played, but still … pretty, pretty cool.
Playing by CFL rules (three downs to make a first down, 12 players to a side, etc.), the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the Buffalo Bills, 38-21.
According to the game report in United Press International:
Hamilton quarterbacks Bernie Faloney and Tom Dublinski, both Americans and former NFLers, riddled the Buffalo defense with a consistent passing attack. Faloney connected for three of Hamilton’s five touchdowns, while Dublinski kept the Ti-Cats rolling along when he was sent in to spell Faloney. Just to add icing to the cake, Frank Cosentino, the Ti-Cats’ No. 3 quarterback, flipped a 50-yard TD pass to Ralph Goldston in the final minute of play to put the game completely out of reach.
While just an exhibition played in front of 12,000 fans, it still was a point of pride for the Canadians.
Buffalo was one of the founding franchises of the AFL in 1960, and for a CFL side to beat a major American pro team was significant; the league was winless against NFL competition.
Its only other conquest of a United States-based pro team was in 1941 when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Columbus Bullies, 19-12. (Columbus played in an earlier iteration of the AFL that lasted from 1940-41).
Looking back years later, the Tiger-Cats should’ve won considering the talent on their team.
Faloney was an All-ACC performer at Maryland who went on to help three different CFL teams win the Grey Cup. He’s enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, the University of Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, and the Western Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.
His jersey was retired by the Tiger-Cats in 1999.
Cosentino was also elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and was a two-time Grey Cup champion, while Goldston was on a pair of Grey Cup teams himself and named to the CFL All-Star team four times.
Dublinski was the first Utah player to sign a pro football contract, and threw for 30 TD passes and 3,561 yards while playing for the Toronto Argonauts in 1955.
The Ti-Cats finished their 1961 season 10-4, losing to Winnipeg in the Grey Cup, while the Bills struggled to a 6-8 mark.
There was talk after Hamilton’s exhibition triumph that the CFL – which was 0-8 against the NFL over the years – would concentrate solely on playing exhibitions against the AFL going forward.
Turns out, this game was the last interleague matchup ever played.
Bud Adams, owner of the AFL Houston Oilers, proposed a game between CFL and AFL All-Stars in which Canadian rules would be used when the CFL team had the ball and American rules would apply when the AFL All-Stars were on offense. (That would’ve been a logistical nightmare considering how much longer and wider the CFL playing field is).
There was even some discussion about the possibility of the CFL and AFL champions meeting in a two-game set at the end of each year, with the rules of the home team in effect for each game.
Ultimately, nothing came of either plan.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle was timing; the CFL season ended roughly a month before the AFL played its championship game.
So call it an experiment, a gimmick, or whatever you like, August 8, 1961, was the end of a professional football era.
It’s just a footnote to the game’s history, but an interesting one.