Sept. 20, 1964: If you’re a baby boomer, you’ve probably seen this photograph before. It’s been called the “agony of defeat picture” — a phrase obviously coined by a boomer familiar with the dramatic introduction of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
The image was made at Pitt Stadium on a Sunday afternoon in autumn of 1964. New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle had just been the recipient of a ferocious hit by Steelers defensive end John Baker. Tittle was 38 years old — ancient, by football standards. He was one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. But the moment this picture was made, Tittle’s career was nearing a painful conclusion. “That was the end of my dream,” he’d later say.
The photographer was the Post-Gazette’s Morris Berman, himself something of a legend. You’ve probably seen his 1945 picture of the bodies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress hanging upside down. Those who worked with Berman at the PG say he always wore a suit, a tie and a smile. We often come across Berman’s photographs in the PG archives. They stand out as being carefully composed, and show that Berman had a knack for capturing moments that were at once surprising and representative of whatever news event he was covering.
Berman’s image of Tittle is one of a handful of football pictures that transcend the game. It stands as a reminder of what we all must face — aging, and the deterioration of our skills and abilities. In Berman’s picture, Tittle looks like a man who has lost his place in the world. It’s a painful and not uncommon thing.
Oh, and one other note: The Steelers won the game, 27-24.
— Steve Mellon