March 28, 2015 |
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Despite a gray mist that clung to this city like grief, the South Bethlehem neighborhood where Chuck Bednarik grew up was visible from the second floor of Connell's Funeral Home on Thursday. Across a roiling Lehigh River, so too were the now-dormant smokestacks of the Bethlehem Steel foundry where the late Eagles legend's Slovak-born father had earned a hard living. Bethlehem said goodbye to Bednarik with a lengthy public viewing, a civic event that pointed out how much, at the end, Bednarik had in common with his faded industrial hometown.
March 24, 2015 |
I WAS 4 YEARS OLD and living in Virginia when the Eagles won the 1960 NFL championship, so I don't have any great memories of watching Chuck Bednarik play, as a center or a linebacker. But I do have a favorite Bednarik moment. It happened during the 50th anniversary celebration of that 1960 title. The team was hosting a dinner for the surviving vets, at the Linc. There was a red carpet outside, and players would emerge from cars to be greeted there by, among others, Swoop, the feathered mascot.
March 24, 2015
ANYONE WHO grew up in the Philadelphia area, no matter when you happened to be born, knows about "the hit. " If you need additional explanation, you must be a newcomer (either that, or you watch the "Godfather" trilogy on a loop). "The hit," the only one truly worth talking about in mythic terms, is the one that Chuck Bednarik put on Frank Gifford in the game between the Eagles and the Giants at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 20, 1960. I was born a year and two weeks later. Yet although biology insists that I wasn't even conceived at the time when Gifford was impersonating a log, I feel that moment as if I'd watched it in real time.
March 23, 2015 |
Most of the 68,000-plus fans who cram into Lincoln Financial Field on a given Sunday during the NFL season are too young to have any recollection of Chuck Bednarik's decorated playing career. They know, however, who he is, what he did, and what he meant to the Eagles. Is that not the ultimate sign of greatness? How many living athletes in this or any other city will be able to say that more than 50 years after their careers ended they were still remembered and revered? Here's a hint: You can cut off some fingers and still count the ones in Philadelphia.
March 23, 2015 |
Chuck Bednarik, the immovable, irascible son of a Bethlehem steelworker whose Hall of Fame football career was more notable for lasts than firsts, died Saturday morning following a brief illness. His family said Mr. Bednarik, 89, died in a Bucks County assisted-living facility. Perhaps the greatest player in the long histories of both the University of Pennsylvania and the Eagles, Mr. Bednarik starred on the last Penn teams to aspire to national prominence; was a veteran leader on the last Eagles team to win an NFL championship; and, most famously, was the last of the NFL's "60-minute men. " "With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend," Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.
September 1, 2014 |
For many fans, the replica NFL jerseys they've been purchasing in ever-growing numbers since the 1990s are religious vestments. Donned with faith on Sundays, imbued with spiritual significance, their unique color and design reveal their wearers' sectarian leanings, their communion with fellow believers. Alter these sacred garments and you risk being tarred as a heretic. If Eagles supporters needed a reason to dislike Jeffrey Lurie - and this being Philadelphia, antipathy toward ownership is as natural a state as low expectations - he provided them with a solid one not long after purchasing the team in 1994.
August 12, 2014 |
They saved Chuck Bednarik's introduction for last. He emerged Sunday onto Franklin Field through a giant, inflatable Eagles helmet. Steadying himself on a walker, the 89-year-old could not reach out to shake hands as he passed the column of current Eagles. So they went to him. Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin leaned in and said a few words. The two stood just a few yards from the spot where Bednarik sat on Green Bay running back Jim Taylor as the clock expired in the 1960 NFL championship game.
August 12, 2014
THERE WAS no artificial turf or an inflatable plastic Eagles head for the players to run through onto the field, when the Birds won the 1960 NFL championship at Franklin Field, their home from 1958-70. But despite those differences, the bricks and concrete were the same yesterday, as the Eagles held their final public training-camp practice in front of a crowd of about 28,000 people, in the oldest stadium still being used for NCAA football, built on the Penn campus in 1895. Legends from the past were honored, and attendees included Chuck Bednarik, Pete Retzlaff and Jeremiah Trotter, among more than 30 others.
May 6, 2014
FIRST ROUND Van Buren? Third?: In his later years, Steve Van Buren would have this running comedy act with Chuck Bednarik. Van Buren was the Hall of Fame running back, the star of the Eagles' 1948 and '49 championship teams. Bednarik was a kid on the '49 team and the veteran who played both ways on the 1960 championship team. And so it went . . . Steve: You were the best. Chuck: No, you were the best. The conversation would continue, wander. Stories would be told and retold.
January 5, 2014 |
Decades ago, when the Eagles rarely soared and the Saints were an unholy mess, the two franchises that will meet in Saturday night's NFC wild-card playoff made history. Until Philadelphia's generous first visit to New Orleans, on Nov. 5, 1967, the Saints, an expansion team midway through their inaugural season, had never experienced victory, never scored in the fourth quarter, never rushed for 100 yards. All that changed on a mild Sunday afternoon at Tulane Stadium, when the 0-7 Saints rode a Flea to their first-ever win. Walter "Flea" Roberts, an undersized running back they'd plucked off Cleveland's roster in the expansion draft, scored three diverse and entertaining touchdowns in New Orleans' landmark, 31-24 win. For Joe Kuharich's Eagles, the surprising loss to an expansion team was so dispiriting that they would win just twice in the season's second half and plummet into one of the deepest and longest lows in franchise history.