Listen to audio of Immaculate Reception HERE""

Immaculate Reception

To this day, the effusive Fuqua, now a product manager for the Detroit News, says that he knows what "really" happened on the amazing play. "

" But, says Frenchy, he has told only one other person - the late Art Rooney. And to this day, Fuqua remembers what Rooney told him: "Frenchy, let it stay immaculate." "

The wording from the 1972 NFL rule book that allowed Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" touchdown to stand: "If a defensive player touches pass first, or simultaneously with or subsequent to its having been touched by only one eligible offensive player, then all offensive players become and remain eligible." "

Who used the term "Immaculate Reception" first? Michael Ord. Never heard of him? Myron Cope, the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers announcer hadn't either until his phone rang at the WTAE-TV studios the night of the game. It was moments before Cope was to go on the air with his report of the Steelers' improbable triumph. A woman by the name of Sharon Levosky said that her friend Michael had a suggestion for a name for Franco Harris' catch - the "Immaculate Reception." Cope loved it, used it on the air, and the rest is history...

Raiders head coach John Madden: "We got fogged in at the start of the trip and nothing went right from then on. You play 21 ball games for this moment -- fourth down. Then the ball bounces off one man's chest into another man's arms and it's over. No tomorrow." "

" Steelers head coach Chuck Noll: "Franco made that play because he never quit on the play. He kept running, he kept hustling. Good things happen to those who hustle." "

" Raiders tackle Gene Upshaw: "It's a helluva way to lose. He just threw the ball up for grabs, a desperation pass, and it bounced into a guy's hands. One fluke play. I guess that's football, but I can't accept it." "

" Steelers center Ray Mansfield: "I went from the depths of despair to the apex of ecstasy.""

" Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood: "I didn't see the play. I was talking to the man upstairs. I didn't want to interrupt what I was doing. Next thing I know, the guys are jumping around and there goes Franco and I'm saying, 'Lord, I hope he has the ball.'" "

" Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw: "I've played football since the second grade and nothing like that ever happened. It'll never happen again." "

" Raiders tight end RAYMOND CHESTER: "I don't want to talk."

FRANCO's ITALIAN ARMY: Many of the Steelers had their own fan clubs ("Frenchy's Foreign Legion," "Bradshaw's Brigade," "Gerela's Gorillas," "Ham's Hussars"), but none had a bigger following than Franco Harris and his "Franco's Italian Army" (Harris is part African-American, part Italian). "

" On the day of the game, the real Army showed up outside Three Rivers Stadium, with two jeeps and a two-and-a-half-ton truck with a 105-mm howitzer attached. The reason? SGT. Harry Billings thought it would be a perfect day for a recruiting drive. Especially since three members of his 107th Field Artillery unit were playing for the hometown team - center Jim Clack, defensive end L.C. Greenwood and tackle John Kolb. "

" FROM FRANK TO FRANCO: Forty-five minutes after the game, a telegram arrived in the Steelers locker room. It said, "The following is an order: Attack, attack, attack, attack." It was signed, "Colonel Francis Sinatra (of Franco Harris' Italian Army)." "

" AN NFL RECORD?: It was almost as if a fifth quarter was added to the game. What might be the longest time period in NFL history between the scoring of a touchdown and the kicking of an extra point took place after Harris' score. It took a full 15 minutes to clear the field of fans so Roy Gerela could kick the PAT. "I don't remember how long it took them to clear the field," said Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, "but for all I cared, they could have taken a week." "


First-and-10 Steelers 20 Bradshaw passes to Harris for 9 yards."
Second-and-1 Steelers 29 (0:53 left) Bradshaw passes to Fuqua for 11 yards.
" First-and-10 Steelers 40 (0:37) Bradshaw's pass for McMakin broken up by Tatum.
Second-and-10 Steelers 40 (0:31) Bradshaw's pass for Shanklin incomplete.
Third-and-10 Steelers 40 (0:26) Bradshaw's pass for McMakin broken up by Tatum.
Fourth-and-10 " Steelers 40 (0:22) Bradshaw's pass for Fuqua broken up by defender. Ball bounces off Tatum into hands of Harris who runs into end zone for a 60-yard touchdown at 14:55. Gerela kick.
Immaculate reception was their baby... """

Tuesday, December 26, 2000

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Twenty-eight years have passed since they sat side by side in a tavern near Grant Street and poured not only libations but a foundation for a football eternity."

" Twenty years have passed since they last spoke, these two ordinary people who anonymously made an enduring contribution to Pittsburgh sports lore."

" They conceived the Immaculate Reception name, did Michael Ord and Sharon Levosky. They christened it, introduced it to Myron Cope, sent it on its merry way to national celebrity. Before them, the Dec. 23, 1972 event they witnessed from the Three Rivers Stadium upper deck was a monumental catch without a memorable moniker. After them, it held a permanent eminence and an everlasting symbolism for the Steelers' franchise, the now-closed stadium, the entire NFL."

" So here they sat last week, side by side again in a tavern near Grant Street, reunited."

" Twenty years melted like ice in an empty tumbler."

" Twenty-eight years."

""We used to go to the airport and welcome the team back," Ord began."

""Oh, yeah," Levosky added."

""You remember the Reverend?""

""Reverend Myers.""

" "Episcopalian?""

" "Presbyterian.""

""Nice guy. Used to sit behind us, Section 653, Three Rivers.""

""The church is no longer there, Highland Park Presbyterian.""

" So many things have changed since then. So much has passed."

" She pulled out a yellowing photograph of the two of them, circa 1970. She glanced at it through her dark-rimmed glasses, her countenance a portrait of stoicism inside a short, blonde frame, and she handed the picture to him. He perched a pair of pince-nez reading glasses in the middle of his round, cherubic face, and he seemed surprised to look back in time, long before the graying hair. They were an attractive couple back then. Neither, it should be noted, wore glasses."

" Their story all started in a simple leather shop on Walnut Street, Shadyside. Ord was the owner. Levosky was an employee. They began dating. One of their weekly rituals was the fall Sunday get-together at the brand-new bowl on the North Side, tailgating and a Steelers game followed by a tavern stop near Grant Street -- the Executive Place, the Beau Brummel or the Interlude on old Court Place."

""Where the U.S. Steel Building is now," Ord began."

""USX Tower," corrected Levosky, who works there."

" Among his nearly 10 Steelers season-ticket seats in the early 1970s, Ord used to take his girlfriend/employee, his father, Barney, and a bunch of friends to games. He still visualizes the amazing play that buried the Same Old Steelers and gave rise to Super Steelers of the 1970s, Terry Bradshaw to Jack Tatum/Frenchy Fuqua to Franco Harris to history."

""We were right at the 50. They were perfect seats. Everybody was standing. When the ball bounced off whoever it bounced off of, my father sat down and put his face in his hands. I'm sure a lot of people didn't see the play, they probably all reacted like my dad: The miracle season was over. Then, he heard everybody cheering, and he asked, 'What happened? What happened?' ""

" Hours later, at the Interlude, inspiration struck Ord like those Catholic-school nuns who used to rap his knuckles " 'cause I wrote with my left hand, and that's the devil's hand." He arose from his seat beside Levosky, stood on his chair and announced to the crowded second-floor bar: From here on, this day will forever be known as The Feast of the Immaculate Reception. The bar crowd rejoiced."

" Hours after that, the couple repaired to the home of Levosky's parents in Highland Park. They wanted to share their Interlude-induced appellation with a Steelers Nation. They thought of relating it to the Steelers' colorful commentator and WTAE-TV sportscaster, but the thought didn't completely register until about 11 p.m. -- the start of the station's newscast."

""I remember thinking, 'We really should tell Myron,' " Ord began."

""And I remember thinking, 'We're not going to get through,' " Levosky added."

" It being the care-free 1970s, and it being such a sure-fire nickname, both persisted. He wanted to make the call, but he considered himself "overserved" and worried about slurring his words. No, the public never would have embraced it so tightly if Cope had translated the nickname as the Amalgamated Resurrection. So Levosky dialed and did the speaking instead."

" She identified herself to the television-station switchboard as Sharon Levosky of MARC Advertising, which, at that point, she was. Next thing she knew, Cope's trademark warble was at the other end of the rotary phone. "I couldn't believe it," she recalled. "When I told him 'The Immaculate Reception,' he was laughing."

"" 'I can't say that on TV,' he said."

""I said, 'Sure you can.'"

""He said, 'I'll have to think about it.' ""

" Five minutes later, the diminutive Jewish sportscaster was on TV screens across Western Pennsylvania mentioning her name, the play's nickname, and what a good Christian girl she was -- as if this made the religious reference, well, kosher."

""He said he asked her if she was Christian," Ord began."

""He did not," add Levosky, who is Presbyterian. "He didn't know if I was Jewish or what.""

" Funny, but all her teachers figured Levosky for a Jewish name and always wondered why she came to school on the High Holy Days."

" Double Yoi."

""The next day, I got up, and it was everywhere," Ord began. "In the newspapers, on the TV. It hit the wires. It was instant success. It was incredible. We were featured in Time Magazine, I think.""

""Sports Illustrated," corrected Levosky."

""Anyway, in that story, Sharon didn't even mention me. Maybe she was mad at me. Were you mad at me?""

" "Probably.""

" Harris got a patent on the name, Franco's Immaculate Reception. The leather-store owner sold his business to go into the car and publication businesses, the leather-store employee went into advertising, and neither of the originators earned a penny off the Interlude inspiration."

""There was never any idea to make money on it," Ord said. "It just happened. I mean, I did get to meet Danny Rooney and his wife, and I got to know Myron and some of the players. That was nice. But what are you going to do? You got to go out and work.""

""Just watching the tribute to Three Rivers last week at the end of the game and hearing it again ... it's always a kick," Levosky added."

" Ord and Levosky drifted apart by the 1980s. She stayed near her Highland Park roots, and he moved from Point Breeze to the North Hills. He gave up his Steelers season tickets. He married. Time passed. Before long, there came the celebration of the Immaculate Reception's 25th anniversary. He was invited to the banquet at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in 1997, but he would only appear for a short time. You see, his wife, Patty Shabla, was in the end stages of cancer."

" Tunch Ilkin introduced Ord and Cope to the banquet crowd, "we did our little schtick, and I got home." A week and a half later, the cancer consumed his wife. A month and a half after that, his employer sold the business and handed Ord a severance check, remarking that his services were no longer required because he missed too much work tending to his dying wife."

" Levosky is an account supervisor with Market Place Print, Inc., a subsidiary of MARC Advertising. Ord is president of an internet company he helped to start, A Curb Above Productions. They didn't talk for a generation until I found Levosky and asked if a reunion was possible. She uncovered a phone number for Ord, and they talked on the phone for an entire football game."

" If I delivered no other gifts this Christmas, at least I could feel good about uniting them back at a Downtown tavern table, side by side."

""In this enlightened age, you can pull up all the information you want on the internet about the Immaculate Reception," Ord began. He looked at the handsome blonde woman sitting to his right. He smiled. "We live on.""