The Day the Dodgers Beat the Vikings

On January 12, 1975 the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-6 in Super Bowl IX. At first glance the score may seem a bit low, but the 1970's Vikings and Steelers teams were defensive power houses. Another contributing factor was the playing conditions at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. A morning rain had soaked the turf causing it to be slick and not very conducive to scoring. The slippery conditions affected both teams. The Steelers missed one field goal and fumbled the snap on another. A fumbled exchange between Fran Tarkenton and Dave Osborn led to a Steelers safety.  Near the end of the first half, Tarkenton threw a pass to John Gilliam that was a bit high. Gilliam jumped and was hit by the Steelers' Glen Edwards. The ball was knocked into the air and intercepted by Mel Blount. The half ended with the score 2-0 in favor of the Steelers.  

The Vikings would finally get on the scoreboard in the 4th quarter when Matt Blair blocked a Bobby Walden punt that was recovered in the end zone by Terry Brown. Unfortunately, Fred Cox missed the extra point. That left the score 9-6, Steelers, with 10 minutes left in the game.


On the very next series, Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers on a 12-play drive that ate up nearly 7 minutes and resulted in a Larry Brown 4-yard TD reception.  The Vikings got the ball back, down 16-6 with 3:20 left on the clock. On first down from their own 39-yard line, Tarkenton threw a pass 28 yards down field intended for Gilliam.  The pass was intercepted by John Wagner, and returned for 26 yards, effectively sealing the victory for the Steelers.


This was the Steelers first Super Bowl appearance and victory.  It was the Vikings 3rd Super Bowl loss. (Spoiler: It wouldn’t be their last.) The game cemented Terry Bradshaw’s place in football lore. Before that game he was often criticized by media for his erratic play and numerous interceptions. The irony of the situation is that the game was originally supposed to be played indoors in the Superdome but construction had not been completed and therefore the game was moved to Tulane. 


Video - Super Bowl IX Recap

(YouTube wont let me embed this so you have to click on it if you want to watch)

A month after that game however, the Vikings would get their revenge on the Steelers, and the weather conditions would vastly improve.  Tropically, you might say.


In February, 1975, ABC Sports was filming a new competition for television called “Super Teams” in Hawaii. It was a take on their popular TV show “Superstars” where famous athletes and actors from various TV shows would face off in different competitions.   


Super Teams” would be hosted by O.J. Simpson and Keith Jackson and featured the two teams from the most recent World Series as well as the two teams from the most recent Super Bowl.  In the 1974 World Series, the Oakland Athletics had bested the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games. The first “Super Teams” would therefore feature the Athletics and the Dodgers in one semifinal and the Vikings and Steelers in the other. The two winners would face each other in the finals for a reported share of $331,000 prize money.  The winning team would receive $15,300 per man. 


The 4 day competition was held at Punahou school and the Hilton Hawaiian Village beach near Waikiki in Honolulu, from February 8-11. 

The Super Team rosters were as follows: 

Minnesota Vikings: Dave Osborne, Chuck Foreman, John Gilliam, Ron Yary, Mick Tinglehoff, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Wally Hilgenberg, Paul Krause and Jeff Siemon


Pittsburgh Steelers: Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Jim Clack, Ray Mansfield, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood, Andy Russell, Mike Wagner, and Mel Blount.


Los Angeles Dodgers: Steve Garvey, Jim Wynn, Joe Ferguson, Andy Messersmith, Ron Cey, Bill Buckner, Don Sutton, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Steve Yeager.  


Oakland Athletics: Reggie Jackson, Sal Brando, Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Bert Campaneris, Ray Fosse, Vida Blue, Bill north, Dick Green, and Gene Tenace. [1]

Day 1 of competition - February 8, 1975

The first round of the competition would include four events:

-4-man bike race (1 mile)

-6-man relay race (1320 yards)

-6-man obstacle course

-5- man swim relay   

On the baseball side, the Dodgers were up 3-1. They won the relay race, obstacle course and swim relay, while the Athletics won the bike relay.

The Vikings won the swimming and running relays, but the Steelers won the bike race and the obstacle course. There was some controversy however, as the Vikings lodged 2 protests. The first occurred during the bike race.  The seat on Alan Page’s bike became loose during the race. While Page was trying to correct the situation, the Steelers lead became insurmountable and they went on to victory.  The complaint was upheld, but that meant the last 2 legs of the bike race would have to be run again. The Vikings then decided to withdraw the complaint and cede victory in that event.


The other complaint came during the relay race in which the Steelers had originally been victorious - and by a large margin.  During the race, Franco Harris had wandered into the running lane of Paul Krause and made contact affecting Kraus’ stride.  The Vikings protested and were awarded the victory.  Following the incident, Harris called the Vikings “crybabies”. [2] [3] Ray Mansfield of the Steelers said later, "They couldn't win this thing. We had to give it to them." [6]

Link to Day 1 Results

Day 2 of competition - February 9, 1975

Day 2 included three events:



-Canoe race


Much like the 4th quarter of Super Bowl IX, the Steelers held a late lead late in the competition (3-2) after winning the volleyball match 15-7.  In other words, the Vikings would have to come from behind with only two events remaining.  


This time however, the water on the field would play to the Vikings favor  and they won the canoe event by 11 seconds. 


That left the tug-of-war to decide who would go on to the finals. The final event took place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village beach. 


In a 16-minute-long, grueling test of strength and fortitude, that should go down in the ABC Wide World of Sports Hall of Fame, the Vikings got their revenge and beat the Steelers in the tug-of-war.  Outweighed by 43 pounds (1469 to 1426) the Steelers were the heavy favorites. At first it looked like it would be over quickly and in the Steelers favor, as they had pulled to an early lead.  But the Vikings dug in and prepared to outlast their larger foes. According to a Jim Caple ESPN article, the ABC producers didn’t think the event would last more than a few minutes and they had to go to a commercial break during the middle of it. [4]

The Honolulu Advertiser reported that both teams were in obvious pain.  Their wives, who were watching from the sidelines, were becoming concerned. Bev Osborn said, "I just remember the veins sticking out in Dave's neck and arms. I thought they were going to pop. We got very concerned at the end. You wondered how much longer they could go on. By their expressions, you knew they couldn't last."  Wally Hilgenberg’s wife Mary, was reduced to tears watching the struggle. 


Slowly but surely, and inch by inch, the Vikings got the rope back and eventually pulled it over the line for the victory.   [5]   [6]

Many of the players laid in the sand for an hour after the competition as they were unable to move. Mick Tinglehoff said, “I’ve never been in so much pain in my life.”  His hands hurt so much he was unable to sign autographs after.  


Was it the Super Bowl?  No.  But if you ask some of those players about it, they’ll tell you how important it was to win that tug-of-war.  Jeff Siemon said, "We felt vindicated. We had prevailed, and it meant something. I think I would be understating it if I didn't acknowledge that it was important to every guy that we not lose again.


The Vikings advanced to face the Dodgers in the finals.  The Dodgers had thwarted off a slight comeback from the Athletics who won the volleyball match. The Dodgers however, sealed the victory with a win in the canoe race, leaving the tug-of-war irrelevant. It was won by the Athletics.    


Link to Day 2 results

Day 3 of competition - (Finals Round 1) - February 10, 1975

The finals were held over the next two days and in the same event order as the semifinals.  At the end of Day 1, the Vikings and the Dodgers were tied at 2.  The Dodgers won the bike race and the obstacle course. The Vikings won the relay race and the swim relay.  [7]

Link to Day 3 results

Day 4 of competition - (Finals Round 2) - February 11, 1975

Heading into Day 2, the Dodgers were somewhat concerned about leaving it up to the tug-of-war after watching the Vikings and Steelers go at it in the semifinals.  It was their goal to make sure it didn’t come down to that last event.  Most viewed the canoe event as the pivotal contest of the day.  The Dodgers won the canoe event by over 2 boat lengths. They then went on to  win the volleyball game 15-8, and even won the tug-of-war. 

The tug-of-war rules allowed for a weight limit.  The Vikings had 6 players on their side, while the Dodgers were allowed 8.  Dave Osborn said, “They beat us in like 30 seconds. They just had more arms and legs to work with.” [8]

Link to Day 4 (Final) results

The day after the competition, a headline in the Honolulu Advertiser said “Vikes lose another big one…”  Mick Tinglehoff countered, “The main thing to us was beating Pittsburgh. We proved it to ourselves that we could beat them. Everybody in the country will see that tug-of-war and remember it.”


The Super Teams competition was aired on ABC’s Wild World of Sports in March 2, 9, and 16, of 1975. It proved so popular that the competition was held for many more years after that first tournament. 


In January of 1977, the Vikings played in Super Bowl XI and were soundly beaten 32-14 by the Oakland Raiders.  A month after that loss, the Vikings once again participated in the Super Teams competition along with the Oakland Raiders, but also with the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees.  Just like their first appearance on the television show, the Vikings avenged their Super Bowl loss by beating the Raiders 5-2 in the semifinal round of the competition. However, this time ABC officials did not allow the tug-of-war to go that long.  A 10-minute time limit had been instituted as a safety precaution. [9]

In the finals, (You can see where this is going, right?) on Saturday February 12, 1977, the Cincinnati Reds beat the Vikings 5-2, which included a victory in the tug-of-war event [10]

(The idea from this blog came from Mr. Z Movies, who remembers watching the Super Teams competition as a child.  Thanks, Mr Z. for sending me down this rabbit hole.) [11]

Photos (click on each for larger view)