[Ads-l] "Hail Mary"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 29 16:09:14 UTC 2017

My latest Wall Street Journal column is on the "Hail Mary" in football and


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Barry Popik has researched this expression in the past:


A couple of modest antedatings... Barry includes a cite from Jan. 10, 1932,
quoting Jim Crowley's anecdote about the 1922 Notre Dame-Georgia Tech game,
which Crowley told at the annual banquet of the American Football Coaches
Association. He told the same anecdote a couple of weeks earlier at a
meeting of the Rochester Ad Club.

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY), Jan. 1, 1932, p. 28, col. 3
"'Hail Mary' Best Play of Irish 1922 Eleven, Avers Presbyterian"

As cited by Barry and the OED, the first use of "Hail Mary play" associated
with Roger Staubach comes from the Sporting News, Jan. 15, 1972. That
article quotes Navy coach Wayne Hardin, recalling the 1962 Navy-Michigan
game in Staubach's sophomore year. Hardin was previously quoted on this a
month before in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Philadelphia Daily News, Dec. 17, 1971, p. 49, col. 2
"...And Victory for the Crew-Cut Warriors Too!" by Stan Hochman
"He was parallel to the ground, his feet in mid-air and he threw a pass to
Pat Donnelly, who took it back for a one-yard gain. Afterwards I asked if
he really saw Pat or was he throwing it away? He said, 'Let's call it my
Hail Mary play.'"


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