Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Here Comes the Fun

There’s nothing like two straight division titles to start Phillies fans on a dangerous path; we just might start to become optimistic about the team. “Wait ‘til next year” is out, "Can't wait ‘til next year!” is in.

The back-to-back titles brought references to the great Phillies teams from 1976 to 1981. That’s where the giddy optimism kicks in. This Phillies group could enjoy similar success thanks to a strong, young core group entering their prime.

The teams that reached five playoffs and won a World Series from ’76 to ’81 featured four everyday players who started each of those seasons—Bob Boone, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, and Garry Maddox—and four pitchers who were regularly used: Steve Carlton, Larry Christenson, Ron Reed, and Tug McGraw. (Schmidt, Maddox, and all four pitchers also played on the ’83 World Series team, but those Wheeze Kids were a different group in a fluky season.)

So which Phillies regulars of the last two years figure to anchor the team if there is to be a string of playoff appearances—and which will be hitting the road?

Among everyday players, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins are the only locks. Pat Burrell, Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino also started both seasons, but it’s unlikely Burrell will be back, Ruiz hasn’t hit well enough—especially with youngster Lou Marson looming—and Victorino is annual trade-talk fodder.

Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs and Chris Coste were the other significant contributors in both seasons. Coste, 35, is too old to last too long, though Werth and Dobbs, both 29, could factor in the Phillies’ future.

The pitchers who’ve taken part in the last two and could be around for a five- to seven-year run: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Clay Condrey, Ryan Madson, and J.C. Romero. The others are either too old (we’ll miss you, Jamie), not good enough (adios, Adam), or Johnny-come-latelies (welcome to the fun, Brad).

But perhaps the most significant change that could affect the team’s repeat chances: the expected departure of GM Pat Gillick. His ability to fill in the missing pieces the last two years demonstrates what a successful GM can do for a team with such a talented core group of players.

It’s also worth remembering that things change quickly in pro sports. The 1976 playoff team’s everyday regulars included Dick Allen, Dave Cash, and Jay Johnstone, plus starting pitchers Jim Lonborg, Jim Kaat, and Tommy Underwood—none of whom were around for the 1980 title.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

High gas prices and a split MVP? Is it 1979?

With pennant fever raging, who wants to talk about the National League MVP race? One problem: there is no pennant race without Ryan Howard and his monster September, which brings us back around to … the MVP balloting.

Plus, it’s the Phillies' off-day, so why not?

If you’ve followed baseball since the emergence of two recent plagues—steroids and fantasy baseball—you know that one is a bad addiction corrupting the games we follow and the other is a banned substance.

Which is why the current arguments over the MVP race include a few too many arguments by numbers geeks. One writer says plainly, “There is no good statistical argument that could possibly favor any other player in the league as more valuable this season.”

Could he be referring to the major-league leader in home runs and RBIs—by a wide margin in both categories—whose team is in first place? Or is he talking about a player who missed a month of the season to an injury but whose stats are impressive even if his team is in fourth place?

The thing is, baseball is not solely about statistics, or else it’d be hard to argue with the writer’s push for Albert Pujols for MVP. The guy, once again, is having a great season in what is almost surely a Hall of Fame career. His numbers across the board are impressive, he’s a good guy, and he likes puppies—what’s not to love about the guy?

But in sports, a little thing called winning actually matters. And when one player gets hot, boosts his own and his teammates’ productivity, carries them into first place, and leads the league in several categories, that’s the very definition of a most valuable player. And this season, that person has been Ryan Howard.

First off, let’s make it clear: there are just two legitimate MVP candidates, with apologies to fans of Carlos Delgado and Chipper Jones. Delgado rebounded from a lousy start to produce a very good season on a wild card-hopeful team, and Jones, when healthy, has hit for a high average—though low power numbers—on a fourth-place team 18 games out of first place.

But neither stands out the way Pujols and Howard have. That’s why it’s time to break out the Sister Sledge, pretend it’s 1979 all over again, and let first basemen from St. Louis and Pennsylvania share the award. 1979 co-MVPs Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez, meet proposed 2008 co-MVPs Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols.

The similarities are eerie. In 1979, Stargell was the power-hitting anchor on a playoff team that would ultimately win the World Series. Hernandez was a high-average hitter and all-around team leader. In 2008, Howard is the ball-crushing fulcrum of Philly’s most likely playoff-bound offense, while Pujols provides a .350 average and solid defense.

Granted, Howard, at .248, would be the first NL MVP with a lower batting average than Marty Marion’s .267 in 1944. But if baseball rewarded numbers only, A-Rod would have seven MVPs instead of three. Again, winning actually matters in baseball.

Pujols and Howard already each have one MVP award, so why not a shared one, just like old times? At the ceremony announcing the award, MLB can even break out the “We Are Family.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hard-Luck Hamels: Cy Young Candidate?

It’s not your imagination, Phillies fans: Cole Hamels is having a hard-luck season for the ages. He took the loss in last night’s 3-2 game, despite going seven innings and allowing just two earned runs. In many ways, that’s nothing new for him this year.

Hamels has gone at least seven innings in 24 of his 33 starts—tops in the majors, as Sam Donnellon notes in today's Daily News. What we’ve also seen before—a lack of run support for Hamels, who fell to 14-10, a record that’s a wholly misleading indication of his success this season.

Hamels has done enough to be considered for the Cy Young, if only the Phillies bats hadn't been snoring when he pitched. His run support is 4.72 per game—Kyle Kendrick (5.84), Joe Blanton (5.41), and Jamie Moyer (5.26) get more, Brett Meyers (4.43) and Adam Eaton (3.99) less. But a look at several of Hamels’ losses and no-decisions reveals just how well he’s pitched—and how poorly the Phils have hit in those games.

Five of his losses came when he gave up three runs or less while pitching seven innings. In other words, he pitched well enough to deserve the win. But the bats failed him—in those five games, the Phillies were shut out three times and scored a total of four runs.

And that’s just the losses. Hamels has been brilliant in six games in which he received a no-decision:

—7 IP, 0 ER in a 1-0 win May 20 against Washington
—8 IP, 2 ER in a 6-2 loss June 11 against Florida
—7 IP, 2 ER in a 6-3 win July 13 against Arizona
—8 IP, 2 ER in a 3-2 loss July 20 against Florida
—7 IP, 2 ER in a 4-3 loss August 12 against Los Angeles
—7 IP, 1 ER in a 6-4 loss August 28 against the Chicago Cubs

Now, for fun, let’s assume the hitters had come through in just two of his five well-pitched losses. That would improve Hamels to 16-8. Now, suppose the hitters produced in time to change just half of those six no-decisions to victories.

By that reasoning, Hamels would be 19-8 with a 3.09 E.R.A. on a possible division-winning team—and a top contender for the Cy Young. And the question of the day wouldn’t be, should Hamels sit the last game to get some rest, but should he start it in order to pick up his 20th win.

Now, for perhaps the ultimate hard-luck Phillies season, we can look to another lefty: Steve Carlton’s 1973 season. Coming off his 1972 Cy Young-winning year in which he won 27 games for a 59-win team, Carlton found the baseball gods against him.

He went 13-20 for a 71-win team that featured the likes of Billy Grabarkewitz, Mike Anderson, and two green kids named Schmidt and Bowa who were learning on the job.

Six of Carlton’s 20 losses came when the Phillies were shut out. In his first eight losses, the Phillies scored a total of 11 runs and he pitched into the seventh inning in all but two of them. His run support for the season—granted, it was a different era—was a mere 3.62.

The end of the season brought Carlton no relief. In his last 17 starts, the Phillies scored more than three runs just three times. And the real kicker: They scored just 14 runs total in his last 10 losses of the season.

But he had one consolation that Cole Hamels won't this year: a Cy Young on his mantel. — JR

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Phillies' All-Time Best Reliever Is...

You’re the manager of the Phillies—if it helps, the Rolaids are in the bottom desk drawer. It’s Game 7 of the World Series, bottom of the ninth. The Phils are up 1, nobody out, and the heart of the opponent’s batting order is due up.

You make the call to the bullpen—but this is no ordinary ‘pen. Out there spitting sunflower seeds and warming up are the best relief pitchers in Phillies history. You get to make the all-time decision: who gets the call to save the game?

Brad Lidge’s record-setting success this season—37 straight saves and counting—highlights an often forgotten bit of Phillies history. They’ve had some stellar relief pitchers over the years, especially considering the relief-pitcher-as-rock-star era only began in the mid-1970s, when 30- and 40-save seasons became the norm among the league leaders.

Steve Bedrosian in 1987 is the only Phillie since the 1970s to lead the NL (with 40), though there have been several all-stars and aces among the mix. Consider: Gene Garber, Ron Reed, Tug McGraw, Al Holland, Bedrosian, Kent Tekulve, Mitch Williams, Jose Mesa, Billy Wagner, Brett Myers, and Lidge. Even Doug Jones and Heathcliff Slocumb had all-star seasons with the Phils.

Missing from that list are the four other Phillies to lead the NL in saves since World War II: Andy Karl (15 in ’45), Ken Raffensberger (6 in ’46), Jim Konstanty (22 in ’50), and Jack Meyer (16 in ’55).

So, who’d be the Game 7 pick? For argument’s sake, we’ll look only at each pitcher’s best season. For example, while McGraw pitched 10 seasons with the Phils , we’ll count 1980 only, when he finished fifth in the Cy Young voting with 20 saves and a 1.46 ERA for the world champions.

From the two groups listed above, it’s easy to make a first cut to narrow the field, keeping Lidge, McGraw, Konstanty, Bedrosian, Holland, and Wagner. Even so, that leaves out 40-save seasons by Mesa and Williams, plus standout seasons by Garber and Reed from the 1976 and 1977 bullpens that Baseball Prospectus ranked as the second-best in baseball history! McGraw was also in the ‘pen on those two teams.

The quick rundowns: we know the season Lidge is having, and McGraw’s ’80 year was noted. Konstanty won 16 and saved 22 in 1950 for the Whiz Kids when he was the NL MVP, the first reliever to win the award. And Bedrosian won the ’87 Cy Young, going 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA and 40 saves.

Holland was the consensus MLB relief pitcher of the year in 1983, finishing sixth in Cy Young and ninth in MVP voting, going 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA and 25 saves. And Wagner went 4-3 with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves in 2005.

Now looking at those six in the bullpen, I think if you’re the Phillies manager you can put away the Rolaids and relax. You can’t go wrong.

All of them except for Wagner and Lidge (so far) won either an individual honor or a team title. So those two are out. Bedrosian was dominating and Holland was overpowering but neither had that something special that separates McGraw and Konstanty.

Konstanty pitched in a major-league record 74 games in 1950, which was unheard of then, and had 16 wins to go along with his 22 saves. His is clearly the best season in Phillies history by a righthander.

But I’m going with McGraw, who got tougher as the season and the playoffs progressed. He pitched in all five NLCS games, earning saves in two. He then pitched in four World Series games, winning one, saving two and finishing with a 1.17 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. The fact that one of those strikeouts gave the Phillies their only world championship plays a part in my pick, too.

But, who knows—check back in a month. If Lidge is still perfect and hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, I may have a different answer. —JR

Thursday, September 11, 2008

30 Years Ago: Penn, Magic, & the Final Four

A quick note: I figured I'd share this story I found while organizing my office. It's something I wrote for Sports Illustrated as part of the hiring dance to be a reporter back in 1992. The writing's raw, but I was 25...and didn't get the job. But I liked working on the story and there are a few good quotes about a vastly different basketball era. I haven't followed up with any of these guys—anyone who wants to send along info, feel free.

Bob Weinhauer can look back at his own naivete and laugh now, but at the time, he was serious about where he thought his 1978-79 Penn basketball team could finish its season. He even put it in writing.

Weinhauer, who had replaced NBA-bound Chuck Daly as the Quakers coach, wrote a letter to each Quaker before the season and outlined five goals he wanted the team to reach. The fifth, and most unlikely, was to reach the Final Four, a dreamer’s hope so remote that no team in school history had achieved it. In fact, Bill Bradley’s Princeton Tigers in 1965 were the only Ivy League team in the national semifinals since 1944.

“I was young, enthusiastic, and it was my second year as a college head coach,” Weinhauer said. “I tried to be the eternal optimist to the players, but in my own head I was the worst pessimist. But I told the team that when you get to the NCAA playoffs, anybody can win the thing.”

The Quakers reached Weinhauer’s goal and advanced further than even most starry-eyed optimists could have envisioned. Penn lost in the Final Four to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team, which went on to defeat Indiana State and Larry Bird in the most eagerly awaited national championship game in years. Penn’s stunning run through the NCAA Tournament was capped by a Final Four appearance most believe won’t be repeated by an Ivy League team.

Amazingly, Penn, with nearly a decade of 20-win seasons, almost snuck into the Final Four a year ahead of schedule at the expense of the Atlantic Coast Conference, then the East’s only powerhouse conference. The Quakers led eventual NCAA runner-up Duke by eight points with eight minutes left in their 1978 second-round match-up. If not for the 84-80 loss to the Blue Devils, Penn would have needed just a victory over Villanova to advance to that season’s Final Four.

“That game [against Duke] kind of opened our eyes and showed us we were that close,” said Tony Price, Penn’s top scorer and rebounder in 1979. “We never really talked about how far we could go. We just felt we didn’t get a whole lot of respect because we were from the Ivy League.”

His team’s success in the ’78 tourney convinced Weinhauer to go to the Final Four weekend that year—his first-ever trip to basketball’s Disney World. So motivated, Weinhauer made up his checklist of goals—a few of which were easily within reach of the talented team. They were:
1. to win the Cabrillo Classic in December;
2. to beat Wake Forest and Virginia—the only two ACC teams on Penn’s schedule;
3. to win the Philadelphia Big 5 title;
4. to repeat as Ivy League champions
5. to make it to the Final Four.

If nothing else, Weinhauer’s wish list challenged a determined group of players. The school’s academic rigors aside, Penn’s seniors had endured four years of putdowns about basketball in the Ivy League. As freshmen ineligible by league rules to play varsity, Tony Price, Tim Smith, Matt White, Bobby Willis, and Ed Kuhl led a freshman team that went 17-1. So by 1979, with several key additions to that nucleus, Penn’s senior-laden team felt ready to break out from the Ivy stigma.

After losing in triple overtime in its Cabrillo Classic opener to Lute Olson’s Iowa team, one that would reach the Final Four in 1980, Penn suffered a humbling 110-86 consolation game loss to San Diego State. The defeats in the tournament turned out to be the only one of Weinhauer’s goals the Quakers didn’t reach.

Things clicked for Penn, which lost just three more games before the Big Dance, as several players slid more comfortably into their roles, particularly point guard James “Booney” Salters, who could shift from up-tempo to slow-down on the fly, and subs Ken Hall, a sophomore banger, and Vincent Ross and Angelo Reynolds, freshmen now eligible to play.

“They had everything—rebounding, scoring, team playmaking, defense, and they were very well-coached,” said Princeton coach Pete Carril, whose Tigers lost to Penn by one point twice in overtime during the season.

By March, the only thing Penn lacked was respect from the voters in the national polls, and the NCAA tournament selection committee. At 21-5 and unranked before the tourney, Penn drew a ninth seed in the 10-team East Regional bracket, meaning the Quakers were one of 16 teams to play a first-round game, while 24 others drew byes in the 40-team tournament.

“When the seedings came out, we laughed about it,” Price said. “I don’t think [the seeding committee] cared for us that much. There was talk about taking away the Ivy League’s invitation, but that kind of quieted down after that year.”

Penn opened against Iona, led by eventual Sixer Jeff Ruland and coached by a guy who’d make his own noise in the tournament four years later—Jim Valvano. Price had 27 points and 12 rebounds, but it was clutch foul shots by the youngsters off the bench that saved Penn down the stretch. In the final four minutes, Hall and freshman Tommy Leifsen, who had hit just seven of 16 foul shots all year, each drilled four straight free throws to preserve the 73-69 victory.

The triumph looked to be short-lived since Penn faced third-ranked ACC champion North Carolina in the second round. Even worse, the game was to be played in Raleigh, N.C., a state in which no ACC school from North Carolina had lost an NCAA tournament game in 18 years.

But Penn had one thing working in its favor. “We were stretching the day before the North Carolina game and I went around to the guys and we talked about how we had a secret,” said then-Penn assistant coach Bob Staak. “And I said, ‘Nobody knows it, but we’re going to beat North Carolina.’ And the players kind of picked up on, ‘We’ve got a secret,’ so that after we beat them, it kind of became our slogan.”

The Quakers’ speed and playmaking broke the Tar Heels’ trapping zone, leaving stars Mike O’Koren, Al Wood, and Dudley Bradley on the short end of a 72-71 loss to the no-namers from the Ivy League. Price’s 25 points led four Quakers in double figures, and suddenly the team that couldn’t buy publicity going into the tournament had stolen it.

Almost, anyway. Vendors at the tournament trying to cash in on Penn hawked buttons touting Penn State. Weinhauer calls the victory the “high point of my whole coaching career.”

In Greensboro, N.C., the next weekend, Penn defeated eighth-ranked Syracuse, 84-76, in a track meet, and St. John’s, 64-62, in a thriller decided by Salters’ two foul shots with 23 seconds left. Still, their secret was safe. The day after Penn had won to advance to the Final Four, the Greensboro Daily News ran a front-page boxscore reading, “Penn State 64, St. John’s 62.”

Perhaps subconsciously, no one could seem to accept the appearance of an Ivy League team in a high-profile Final Four with the likes of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and DePaul’s Mark Aguirre.

Penn’s biggest difficulty going into its semifinal matchup may have been securing game tapes of Michigan State; in those days, videotaping was not common practice. So instead of being familiar with the aerial artistry of Magic and Greg Kelser, some of the Penn players were still skeptical about Johnson right up to game time.

“A 6-9 guard, that was something unheard of,” said Price, the East Regional MVP as a 6-7 forward. “In my mind, I’m saying this guy can’t be 6-9. He’s probably 6-7 or 6-6 and the media is making him out to be bigger. Then, right before the game, we’re shaking hands at halfcourt, and I thought, man, this guy really is 6-9.”

It didn’t get easier for the Quakers, who couldn’t shake a major case of the jitters. At four minutes, the score was tied 4-4; several missed layups and Penn turnovers later, Michigan State held a 32-6 lead with seven minutes left in the half. The final score, 101-67, belied what several observers felt might have been a closer game.

“That was a misreading of the situation,” Carril said. “They missed a bunch of layups in the beginning, and that lowered their confidence.”

Dan Baker, executive secretary of the Big 5 and part of Penn’s radio team that year, agrees. “Despite the lopsided loss, if things had broken right, Penn could have been competitive with Michigan State and Magic,” he said. “And that’s not to diminish the fact that Michigan State was a great team.”

Penn lost to DePaul in the consolation game, 96-93 in overtime, but the two defeats didn’t take away from the team’s accomplishments. “Yeah, we ended up in the Final Four,” said Hall, “but it was the road to the Final Four that was great. It was just the best couple of games a team could ever put together. There were a lot of hard, tough games to be played, and there was not an easy team along the way.”

The experience is a special one for Weinhauer, who remembers it when tournament time rolls around each year.

“You have to have some breaks, and you have to have people who—it’s a cliché but it’s true—rise to the occasion. We did things in the tourney, like the North Carolina win in North Carolina, that just show what makes college basketball such a great game.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eagle Hall of Famers?

Those who read yesterday’s post know that Al Wistert tops the list of former Eagles most Hall of Fame-worthy. So who else belongs? That’s where the fun starts.

The Eagles are the NFC East team with the least number of “primary contributors,” according to the Hall’s determination on which team the player made his biggest mark. (Though the Hall doesn’t include Norm Van Brocklin or Alex Wojciechowicz in the team’s total, and without them, the Eagles wouldn’t have won their titles in 1948, ’49, and ’60).

The Eagles, with just 9, fall behind New York (18 primary contributors), Washington (17), and Dallas (10), though the team has seen three primary inductees since 1998: Tommy McDonald, Bob Brown, and Reggie White.

And it looks like there’ll be more where they came from. Below is my list of Eagle players and coaches on the Hall of Fame radar. Remember, this is “primary contributors” only, so that rules out 2008 Hall finalist Cris Carter (Minnesota) and 2009 senior committee finalist Claude Humphrey (Atlanta). —JR

Should make it:
Eric Allen: 6-time All-Pro, 6-time Pro Bowl (5 each with Eagles); 20th all-time with 54 INT
Brian Dawkins: 5-time All-Pro, 6-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles)
Randall Cunningham: 4-time All-Pro, 4-time Pro Bowl (3 each with Eagles); 1990 MVP. Here’s a convincing argument for Cunningham.

Could go either way:
Harold Carmichael: 4-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles); NFL 1970s All-Decade team
Donovan McNabb: 5-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles); 2004 NFC Offensive Player of the Year
Troy Vincent: 3-time All Pro, 5-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles)

Time is on their side:
Andy Reid: Five division titles, four NFC championship game appearances. Five more typical Reid seasons and he’s in.
Brian Westbrook: 1-time All-Pro, 2-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles); needs a few more strong seasons.

Close, but…:

Wilbert Montgomery: 2-time Pro Bowl (both with Eagles), College Football Hall of Fame
Bill Bergey: 4-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles); set NFL record for INT by LB. Bergey may only be eligible via the seniors committee; if so, he’s probably not going in.
Jon Runyan: 1 Pro Bowl (with Eagles); 180 consecutive starts prior to 2008
Dick Vermeil: The Rams Super Bowl title helps; but who gets to claim him if he makes it?

Has their time passed?:
Al Wistert: 8-time All Pro (all with Eagles); captain of ’48, ’49 title-winners; named to NFL 1940s All-Decade Team; College Football Hall of Fame
Maxie Baughan: 5-time All-Pro (all with Eagles); College Football Hall of Fame
Pete Retzlaff: 5-time Pro Bowl (all with Eagles)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hall of Fame Eagle Oversight

You never know what you’ll find until you start looking. That’s a good motto for this blog and also this week’s story.

I thought the topic—who will be Philly’s next Hall of Famers, beginning with a look at former and current Eagles—would lead to Randall Cunningham, Eric Allen, Brian Dawkins, and Bill Bergey. I didn’t think I’d end up learning about—and talking to—one of the Eagles’ all-time greats whom not only has the Hall of Fame forgotten, but so have the Eagles.

Before a little research, I didn’t know Al Wistert (I’m betting a few Hall voters don’t either) but his accomplishments should have earned him a place in the NFL Hall of Fame and recognition on the Eagles Honor Roll. He’s in neither.

It’s simple: Al Wistert is the most decorated Eagle—by far—not in the NFL Hall of Fame. The eight-time All-Pro—and five-time consensus pick—played nine seasons and captained the NFL title-winning 1948 and 1949 champions, the only NFL team ever to win consecutive titles by shutout.

His coach and four teammates of those two-time titleists are in the Hall (Greasy Neale, Steve Van Buren, Pete Pihos, Chuck Bednarik, and Alex Wojciechowicz), but not the two-way tackle. Wistert was a college All-American at Michigan, is in the college football Hall of Fame, and was named to the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade team.

“I don’t know why I’m not” in the Hall of Fame, Wistert told me. One possibility: his first few seasons were during the World War II years, which voters may have held against him. However, he wasn’t taken into the service because he broke his left wrist while playing at Michigan and required several operations on it—“it still isn’t right,” he says. As a result of the injury, he always wore a cast on the wrist when he played.

Wistert, who played from 1943-51, suffered the Hall of Fame triple whammy: he was a lineman; his peak years occurred when the Pro Bowl was suspended for the war so despite his eight-time All-Pro status he made just one Pro Bowl appearance; and he played in a forgotten NFL era.

Of the 33 players on the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade team, just 15 are in the Hall of Fame—and just four of the 14 tackles, guards, and centers. By contrast, 28 of the 34 from 1950s All-Decade team are in the Hall, including four of the six tackles, guards, and centers.

Wistert was the first Eagle to have his jersey number retired (70), which occurred the year after he stopped playing. “It was a very good feeling and still is to this day,” he said. Of the seven players with retired numbers, he and Reggie White are the only ones not in the Eagles Honor Roll.

As the 87-year-old noted three years ago in a story on the Eagles’ own website, “The two things that would really make my career complete are to be inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll,” Wistert said. “It would be an honor for me because I would be with so many former teammates.”

The Eagles can do their part to honor Wistert properly. Induct him into the Honor Roll. He’ll be returning to Philly November 13th to be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

The Eagles host the Giants on NBC’s Sunday night game Nov. 9th. The organization should make it a night for the ages, one in which the team celebrates an Eagles legend and the captain of one of its three championship teams. — John Roach