Man Who Scooped Up Immaculate Reception Football Tells Story
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On Saturday at noon, Heinz History Center kicks off a full weekend of activities as Steelers fans celebrate the greatest play in football history.
Tickets are still available for “Immaculate Reception Memories,” featuring a visit from Franco Harris and the man who has held on to that celebrated football for the past 40 years.
But Jim Baker of West Mifflin never saw the play that made that pigskin famous.
“Very hard for me to see the play because I’m only 5’5”,” Baker says. “And that was a problem in itself. So like everyone else, I had to jump up, stand up as high as I could to watch what was going on.”
He says he and his nephew were in the end zone when Roy Gerela kicked that very same ball for the extra point.
“Went a little bit to the right, hit the concrete embankment where the first row seating was. Come down, bouncing down. There was a lot of us that fought for it; I’m sure they remember who they were,” Baker said. “I come off the bottom of the pile with the football. And of course, I come out looking for my nephew, instantly focused on him, and grabbed him and said ‘Let’s run!’”
For Baker, the ball has meaning that goes beyond its place in NFL history. His 4-day-old son came home from the hospital that day. Sadly, Sam Baker died of cancer 33 years later.
“That particular week,” his father recalls, “I’m the father of a newborn son, my second son. The following few days later, baby Jesus was born. I get the Immaculate Reception football. You put it all together, it’s tears of happiness. I’m one of the luckiest persons in the world.”