As MNF marks its 700th game tonight, veteran crew member Steve Hirdt recalls highlights
If Monday Night Football’s director of information Steve Hirdt were asked to pen his memoirs, he would include descriptions of divisional rivalries, imposing conquests and Hall of Famers like Joe Montana, Jack Youngblood, Jerry Rice and Merlin Olsen.
The events and the characters are all part of the rich history of MNF, the longest-running prime time sports series in the history of American television, which kicks off its 700th game tonight in St. Louis when the Rams host the San Francisco 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Steve Hirdt, MNF director of information, shares these tidbits about the series.
· One of MNF’s original sponsors was Marlboro Cigarettes (cigarette advertising on television was banned in 1971 – one year after MNF began).
· The success of MNF proved the viability of showing major sports events live in prime time. Before MNF, the World Series, the Super Bowl and the NBA and NHL Finals were shown during the day.
· The 49ers-Rams game tonight is MNF game No. 142 on ESPN (the first 558 games aired on ABC before the series moved to ESPN in 2006).
· The 49ers have won an NFL-best 45 MNF games in their franchise history (followed by the Dallas Cowboys: 43).
· 49ers Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice – who celebrates his 52nd birthday today – holds seven MNF records: most games played (45), most games started (42), most receptions (254), most receiving yards (4,029), most touchdown receptions (34), most touchdowns scored (36) and most 100-yard gains as a receiver (14).
Now in his 33rd season, Hirdt, the Executive Vice President of Elias Sports Bureau, has been part of MNF longer than any other member of the ABC or ESPN crews who has worked on the 45-year-old series. For Front Row, he recounts a few highlights from the first 699 MNF games, including two memorable games from the 16 that have been played through the years in St. Louis:
On the most spectacular play, in his opinion, in MNF history:
It occurred Jan. 3, 1983: “The Dallas Cowboys had the ball on their own one-yard line and they handed it to [Tony] Dorsett, and he went 99 yards for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. At that time, I was in the graphics truck and I see Dorsett gets the ball and looks like he might run all the way, so I said to our director Chet Forte, ‘If he scores, this will be the longest run in the history of the league. Tell [MNF commentator Howard] Cosell.’ So our director said to Cosell, ‘This will be the longest run in the history of the league.’ By this time, Dorsett had scored the touchdown. Cosell says on the air, ‘That’s the longest run in the history of the league.’”
On memorable MNF games played in St. Louis (the Rams hosted 10 and the Cardinals hosted six)
It occurred Dec. 11, 2006: The Rams lost to the Chicago Bears, 42-27. Devin Hester – who was then a rookie with the Bears – tied an NFL single-game record by scoring two touchdowns on kickoff returns. That was one of the most memorable performances ever on Monday Night.
On one of the more dramatic endings of an MNF game
It occurred Oct. 28, 2013. [It was] one of the few NFL games where, on the last play of the game, a team is trying to score a touchdown and if it succeeds, it wins; if it fails, it loses: Seattle was playing at the Rams, and Seattle had a 14-9 lead. On the last play of the game, the Rams were at the one-yard line; if they scored a touchdown, they would win and if they failed, Seattle would win. Seattle stopped them from the one-yard line on the last two plays of the game and won 14-9.
A look at MNF milestone games, courtesy of Hirdt:
|Sept. 21, 1970||Browns 31, N.Y. Jets 21||Cleveland Stadium|
|Nov. 14, 1977||Cowboys 17, St. Louis Cardinals 24||Texas Stadium|
|Oct. 15, 1984||Broncos 17, Packers 14||Mile High Stadium|
|Nov. 19, 1990||Dolphins 10, L.A. Raiders 13||Joe Robbie Stadium|
|Oct. 28, 1996||Vikings 13, Bears 15||Metrodome|
|Oct. 28, 2002||Eagles 17, N.Y. Giants 3||Veterans Stadium|
|Oct. 20, 2008||Patriots 41, Broncos 7||Gillette Stadium|
|Oct. 13, 2014||49ers vs. St. Louis Rams||Edward Jones Dome|