Franco Harris died earlier this week, just days before the 50th anniversary of his “Immaculate Reception.”
His Pittsburgh Steelers will retire Harris’ number 32 in Saturday’s ceremony with the Las Vegas Raiders, the same team Harris scored that legendary touchdown.
Saturday’s ceremony will commemorate not only the play, but the life of Harris.
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But an ESPN New York radio caller wanted to remember Harris differently. I chanted
“I feel sorry for the dead man…it was an illegal capture,” Louis said.
Louis has an argument that has never been fully resolved.
While it is widely believed that the pass hit Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum, and what happens on the field, the ball actually hit Steelers’ John Fuqua. The claim is also widespread.
At that time, an attacking player’s batted ball could not be advanced by another attacking player. By rule, only the attacking player who touched the ball first was eligible to catch unless a defender touched it later.
Franco Harris Reminisced About ‘Immaculate Acceptance’ Hours Before He Died On Current Steelers Podcast
“I’m 79, remember. [Raiders defensive back] Jack Tatum didn’t touch the ball,” Louie said, suggesting that Fukua did, but he was the only one who should have been eligible to catch it and move it forward.
The Raiders’ head coach at the time, John Madden, at first believed the ball touched Tatum, but later said, “We will never know what happened.” Although he said he had never touched the , he later admitted that he wasn’t sure.
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The Steelers lost the AFC Championship the following week to the Miami Dolphins, 17–0.