“We would stay in this low-priced motel out by the ballpark on Saturday nights,’’ receiver Jerry Reichow said. “We were walking through the little lobby to the bus, and glancing at the TV, and somebody said, ‘Hey, did you see that? Somebody just shot that guy.’ ”
The somebody was Jack Ruby, and that guy was Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK’s assassin.
“We had seen a lot of people die on television in cowboy and gangster shows, but we never had seen someone actually get shot in real time, in front of our eyes,’’ Zamberletti said.
Flatley said that was all anyone was talking about in the locker room before the game — Ruby shooting Oswald.
“And then Van Brocklin came into the room and gave us hell, as only he could do,’’ Flatley said. “He was yelling, ‘Forget about that stuff; start thinking about the Lions, you bleepity-bleeps.’ ”
CBS had made a decision not to televise sports that weekend. Stadium music was a minor issue in 1963, but the Vikings chose to play none. The St. Louis Park Parkettes, the high school cheerleading group, did not appear at the game.
“The Lions were more a veteran team and they didn’t bring much that day,’’ Zamberletti said. “Our players were younger, they had won only three games, and they had Van Brocklin screaming at them. Our guys played our rear ends off.’’
The Vikings still trailed 31-27 in the final four minutes, when quarterback Fran Tarkenton mustered a 68-yard drive featuring Flatley, the receiver from Northwestern who would be selected as UPI Rookie of the Year.
Flatley caught passes of 31 and 35 yards on the drive. Tommy Mason scored the winning touchdown, backing into the end zone from 2 yards.
“There really wasn’t much of a celebration,’’ Flatley said. “The crowd was smaller (28,763) and it had been silent for much of the afternoon.
“Remember, the fans were far away from the football field in that ballpark. I’ve talked to people who were at the game and told me they could hear the offensive and defensive signals all afternoon.’’
JFK’s funeral was held the next day in Washington. “John-John saluting the casket,’’ Zamberletti said. “That’s what I can’t forget. Broke our hearts.’’
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.