September 28, 2012 |
SOME MEN ARE meant to lead. They are meant to nurture, to take the first steps so others may follow. Brian Dawkins always was such a man. When the Eagles retire his No. 20 jersey Sunday night they will honor 13 seasons of class and character, of a well of talent and integrity exploited to its final drop. Seldom do athletes merit this sort of honor. Consider some of the group that Dawkins joins. There is No. 15, running back Steve Van Buren; a champion, a finisher, perhaps the greatest of all Eagles; a man whose death in August reminded us of the quality of his play and the depth of his character.
September 14, 2012
A BRONZE BUST sat on a table in the sanctuary of the chapel. It was the replica that the Pro Football Hall of Fame gives to its inductees, the one they gave to Steve Van Buren. A bust, an urn, a photograph, a football, a single red rose - and, on the other side of the space, a portrait of No. 15, carrying the ball. The arrangement was simple and dignified, like the man. More than 100 people came to The Chapel of the Four Chaplains, at the Navy Yard - family, friends, fans. Steve Van Buren, arguably the greatest player in Eagles history, the hero of their 1948 and 1949 NFL championship teams, died last month at the age of 91. The memorial service was arranged as a final goodbye, open to the public.
August 24, 2012 |
STEVE Van Buren, the Hall of Fame running back who propelled the Eagles to the 1948 and '49 NFL titles, died Thursday evening in Lancaster of pneumonia at 91. Few fans alive today ever saw him play, but Van Buren might have been the best NFL player of the postwar '40s. Barroom historians like to debate whether Van Buren or center/linebacker Chuck Bednarik is the greatest Eagle of all time, with modern-era defensive end Reggie White polling well in some precincts. Certainly, Van Buren dominated his peers as no other skill-position Eagle ever has. Van Buren won four league rushing titles from 1945 to '49. To a franchise that has experienced so few championship celebrations - three, the most recent in 1960 - Van Buren was a cherished link through the years to the days when head coach Greasy Neale's Eagles were the undisputed class of the league.
February 1, 2012 |
THE EAGLES who won back-to-back world championships in the late 1940s were a rugged bunch of birds - and one of the toughest was their star receiver, No. 35, Pete Pihos. The son of Greek immigrants, hardened by serving in World War II's Battle of the Bulge under Gen. George Patton, Pihos dashed his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame not so much for his ability to catch a long pass as the way he flattened defenders on the way to the end zone. Like many NFL greats of postwar years, Pihos then galloped into retirement and relative obscurity, ending up as a construction manager in North Carolina.
November 20, 2011 |
In Chuck Bednarik's opinion - which he is not afraid to offer - being honored with a statue is similar to taking a step toward sainthood. No wonder Bednarik was in such high spirits on Saturday afternoon. As a Franklin Field crowd that included many former teammates looked on, a 9-foot bronze statue of Bednarik was unveiled at halftime of the Penn-Cornell football game. "Statues are saints; they go to heaven. You're putting me in heaven while I'm still alive," Bednarik said.
November 18, 2011 |
IT HAS BEEN nearly 50 years since Chuck Bednarik last planted an opponent's face into the sod at Franklin Field, and yet his accomplishments have never been forgotten. As the greatest Eagles player of all time and the greatest college football player this city has ever seen, he's now going to be immortalized. Tomorrow, Concrete Charlie becomes Bronze Bednarik. A 7-foot bronzed statue of Bednarik will be unveiled during halftime of the Penn-Cornell game (1 p.m. kickoff). Bednarik played for the Quakers from 1945-48 and then went immediately to the Eagles with the No. 1 overall draft pick following his senior year.
October 27, 2011 |
CHUCK BEDNARIK arrived on the University of Pennsylvania campus midway through the 1945 football season, not long after being discharged from the Army Air Corps. He had not played football for 3 years. Within 2 weeks, he was starting. The next 3 years, he started at center and linebacker in the days when Penn used to draw 70,000 to Franklin Field. With the first pick of 1949 NFL draft (actually held on Dec. 21, 1948, not long after Bednarik's final game at Penn), the Eagles chose Bednarik.
August 16, 2011 |
BETHLEHEM - They filed past the tall, gaunt, old man in single file, most of the soldiers looking past him to the practice field ahead, where their clean, crisp uniforms were about to mingle with the muddy practice uniforms of the Eagles on Military Day at training camp. Every now and then, though, there was one who knew who the old man was, who would stop with an item to sign and a fervent wish to express, that the players of today were more like the white-haired fellow in the Pro Football Hall of Fame polo shirt, squinting through wire-rimmed glasses.
June 21, 2011
Eddie Khayat has called as many friends and former teammates of Chuck Bednarik as he can find to help with plans for a statue of the legendary Eagle at Franklin Field. Now, Khayat, a lineman on the 1960 NFL championship team, is turning to you. "I always felt that the Eagles fans were part of the team," Khayat said. "There were 67,000 fans at the 1960 championship game. If there are 15,000 of those fans still with us, and if we could get everyone to contribute $1, it would go a long way to help.
June 6, 2011
The back-page story in Friday's Daily News was about the organized effort to raise enough money to construct a statue of Penn and Eagles great Chuck Bednarik, which would be placed at Franklin Field, where he starred in college and in the NFL. That made us wonder which other Philadelphia sports legend might be deserving of a statue beyond those already immortalized. The results of a reader poll conducted on philly.com show that 27.8 percent of respondents thought Bob Clarke should be honored with a statue, followed by 20.6 percent for Smokin' Joe Frazier and 13.6 percent for Reggie White.