The ghosts of Red Grange, Ernie Nevers, George McAfee and Jim Thorpe moved over in football's Valhalla yesterday to make room for a mercurial rookie from Kansas, who tore up the record book and the sodden turf of Wrigley Field with one of the most spectacular demonstrations of ball carrying in the history of the sport.
Leading a Chicago Bear team that was hellbent on revenge for an opening day humiliation, Gale Sayers staked out squatter's rights on the San Francisco end zone, scoring six touchdowns and contributing 36 points to a 61-20 triumph by which the Bears preserved a mathematical chance of bringing a championship playoff birth to the north side on Jan. 2.
Operating on a field made slick by intermittent showers, and considered more suited to San Francisco's heavy power backs than his twinkle-toed ballet technique, Gallopin' Gale raced 80 yards with a screen pass for the Bears' first touchdown in the third minute of play.
He returned a punt 85 yards in the fourth period, charged 50 yards on a pitchout in the fourth minute of the third quarter, and had other touchdowns of 21 yards, 7 yards and one foot. None was routine. All were spectacular, including the one from one foot out on which he landed on his head with his feet straight up in the air. He inscribed his name in the National league record book with that of Nevers and Dub Jones, an old Cleveland Brown, the only other players who had ever scored six touchdowns in one league contest.
Bears Were Victims
Nevers and Jones, incidentally, did it against the Bears, Nevers on Thanksgiving Day in 1929 in Comiskey Park, where he scored all 40 points in a 40-6 Chicago Cardinal victory, and Jones in Cleveland in 1951.
The six touchdowns gave Sayers a total of 21, one more than Jimmy Brown of Cleveland, who was held scoreless in Los Angeles yesterday, and establishes a new National league record for a season.
Sayers carried the ball only nine times from scrimmage and scored on four. He ran up an overall yardage of 336 yards113 by rushing, 89 on two pass receptions and 134 on punt returns.
Sayers' performance, ranking as it did with nothing most of the 46,278 had ever seen, was in keeping with the rest of the entertainment which featured long runs, long passes and prolonged cheers, eventually, for every Bear in the park.
Down to the Wire
The victory was the Bears' ninth and, coupled with Green Bay's triumph over Baltimore, boiled the western division race down to a dog fight in its final phase next weekend.
A Ram victory over Baltimore in Los Angeles, a 49er triumph over the Packers in San Francisco and another Bear conquest over the Vikings in Wrigley Field would stretch the season for the Chicagoans into a divisional playoff in Green Bay the day after Christmas.
To round out the winning total, the largest ever piled up by a Bear team in a regularly scheduled contest, Mike Ditka made a spectacular one-handed catch on a 29-yard pass for a touchdown; Rookie Jimmy Jones, the receiver on sensational passes of 54 and 51 yards, scored on an 8-yard toss; and John Arnett, who had set up Sayers' second touchdown with a 77-yard kickoff return in the second period, plunged 2 yards off tackle in the fourth period.
Halas Has the Answer
In the final analysis, it was another of the increasingly frequent triumphs o f71-year-old George Halas, the venerable maestro of strategy and psychology, over a Johnny-com-lately in the coaching business.
When the sodden condition of the field watered down pre-game odds on the Bears in deference to the 49ers' bigger and less agile running backs, Halas stripped the rubber cleats off his minions and replaced them with a nylon product which is longer and more penetrating on soft underfooting.
Next, he tossed nothing at the 49ers, offensively or defensively, that they had not seen before, either in that 52-24 fiasco in San Francisco, or in the truckload of movies clubs exchange these days.
Stayed with Old Stuff
bears 61, 49ers 20