The Famous Story Behind Lou Chesler’s “Million-Dollar Bet”

Lou Chesler has quite a unique history, one that people are still talking about.  Lou was a Canadian financier best known for his business sense and seeking out lucrative opportunities.   

He was famously involved in a “million-dollar bet” while watching the overtime of the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Colts and the Giants.   

Lou Chesler, Grandfather of Adam Arviv

Here’s the fascinating story and history behind that day, one that involved our beloved patriarch, Lou Chesler.

PGA Tour player Al Besselink was in Los Angeles to watch the game on television with another golfing buddy, then 49ers quarterback John Brodie.  Besselink says: “[Colts owner] Carroll Rosenbloom, [Canadian financier] Lou Chesler and [Miami businessman] Mike McLaney bet $1 million on the game.  I’d get $20,000 of the winnings. But they can’t win by a field goal. They need a touchdown.”

Back to the game.  It was overtime. The Colts had reached the 8-yard line, so it only made sense that the coach would send out the field goal team to win it.  But instead, at second and goal, quarterback Johnny Unitas elected to pass, completing the heart-stopping toss to end Jim Mutscheller, who was brought down on the 1-yard line.  On the third down, against all odds, the Colts scored one of the NFL’s most famous touchdowns for the 23-17 victory over the Giants.

A few days later, Al Besselink is in Louisiana to play golf in the New Orleans Open. He receives a call from Mike McLaney to “pick up a package” in New Orleans.  Al drives to the address where he is handed a bag of money. It’s all $100 bills. Besselink estimates there’s $300,000 inside. He delivers it to McLaney.

As Besselink said, “Mike bet $3 million on the game, divided between himself, his friend and partner Louis Chesler and owner Carroll Rosenbloom.” The trio had given between 31/2 and 51/2 points for the privilege of betting on the favored Colts, and Besselink noted that his friend had given him a piece of the bet for free, amount undisclosed.

Some say it was that famous bet that influenced the outcome of the 1958 Championship game. The obvious candidates would be quarterback John Unitas or coach Weeb Ewbank. Both are now gone. In the book Interference, author Dan E. Moldea quotes Unitas and Ewbank denying any bet or that Rosenbloom influenced any game decisions.

Whatever you believe, one thing’s for certain, what became known as the “Greatest Game Ever Played” catapulted the NFL into the television era and Lou Chesler was definitely a part of that.