When Terry Bradshaw checked into a Louisiana hospital 38 years ago Wednesday to get his right elbow repaired, he must have known his place in NFL history was already secure.
He’d won four Super Bowls as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. No other quarterback to that point had won more than two.
What he could not have known is that the namesake of the alias assigned to him that day would someday surpass him.
Bradshaw’s alias in checking into a Louisiana hospital on March 3, 1983? Thomas Brady.
Rings a bell, right?
This revelation, which came via a photo of the original 1983 United Press International story on Bradshaw’s surgery, was tweeted out by the account @QuirkyResearch Wednesday morning.
On this date in 1983, the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history checked into a Louisiana hospital using an assumed name. pic.twitter.com/Yr3ujc0fHC
— Quirky Research (@QuirkyResearch) March 3, 2021
The authenticity of the story is confirmed by a search of the newspapers.com archive, which shows the story running on Page 18 of the Latrobe (Pa.) Bulletin on March 23, 1983. (Apparently news of Bradshaw’s surgery took a few weeks to get out. Different world then.)
On the version shared by the @QuirkyResearch account, beneath the headline “Steelers’ ‘Tom Brady’ undergoes arm surgery,” the story reads:
“SHREVEPORT, La. — Hiding behind an alias, Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw entered a north Louisiana hospital and underwent minor surgery for muscle tears in the elbow of his throwing arm.
“The four-time winning Super Bowl quarterback was admitted to Doctor’s Hospital on March 3 under the name Thomas Brady. Bradshaw, who owns a farm south of Shreveport, was operated on the same day and left the hospital March 5, said hospital administrator Charlie Boyd.
“ ‘Many times, we have to admit people under an assumed name or under no name to keep the press and the fans away,’ Boyd said.”
This is where it gets tricky.
A Fox Sports spokesperson who was asked to confirm the story said Bradshaw, a longtime NFL studio analyst at the network, texted that it wasn’t true.
Perhaps there are some semantics at play, or perhaps Bradshaw just doesn’t remember. But it did happen. Newspaper articles from March 1983 feature quotes from Bradshaw talking about the alias.
The catch is that it was not a name he chose, but one that was given to him by the hospital without his knowledge. Not everyone would recall a 38-year-old alias that they didn’t even choose.
A story unearthed by Associated Press sportswriter Tim Reynolds, which ran in the March 24, 1983, Tampa Tribune, shed more light.
Yes, but it wasn't his alias.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 3, 2021
That story reads, in part:
“Bradshaw hadn’t been heard of much since the Steelers were eliminated from last season’s National Football League playoffs. Until Tuesday. That’s when a story broke out of Shreveport, La., saying he’d undergone surgery to repair muscle tears in his throwing arm.
“Actually, the patient was registered as Thomas Brady.
“ ‘I didn’t know anything about it,’ said Bradshaw of the alias. ‘I walked into the hospital exhausted. The doctors wouldn’t let me eat or drink for 24 hours. They took me to the emergency room, pulled down my pants and gave me a pre-op shot and — boom! — that was it.
“ ‘When I woke up after the operation, a doctor came into the room and told me they had used an alias so I’d be able to rest without being bothered. He said, “Your name’s Thomas Brady.” That’s how it happened.’ ”
The confluence of serendipity and foreshadowing in Bradshaw being given an alias that matches the name of the quarterback who would go on to win seven Super Bowls (and counting) is remarkable.
But it does make some sense. “T. Brady” is not that far off from “T. Bradshaw,” right?
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