Author: Reuben Frank
The city still owes the Eagles a parade. Two, actually. Because the 1948 and 1949 teams never got one.
“Philadelphia's always been great about the Eagles, and the fans have always very enthusiastic and supportive,” Al Wistert said. “They were excited when we won the championships, but there never was a parade.”
You may not be familiar with him, but Wistert is one of the greatest Eagles of all-time.
Wistert, in town from his home in coastal Oregon to be inducted last night into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, was a first-team all-pro in eight of his nine seasons with the Eagles. He played here from 1943 through 1951, was named to the NFL's 1940s All-Decade Team and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
In 1952, Wistert's No. 70 became the first number ever retired by the Eagles. Only five others have been so honored since.
While he played for the Eagles, Wistert coached football for two years at Riverside High School.
Wistert, who turns 88 next month, spent several hours at the NovaCare Complex yesterday, taking a tour and meeting players and coaches. He said this was his first trip back to Philadelphia in at least 20 years.
“I played at 215, and I was the smallest tackle in the league,” Wistert said. “Most of them were 230, 240 pounds, and some of them were 250. But I managed. You had to be pretty tough when you weren't that big.”
Wistert captained the teams that played in three consecutive NFL Championship Games. The Eagles lost the first, 28-21, to the Cards in 1947 at Comiskey Park — the Cards' last home playoff game. Then they beat the Cards 7-0 at Shibe Park in 1948 and beat the Rams 14-0 in 1949 at L.A. Coliseum.
“What I remember most is that we wanted to get those shutouts because whenever we shut out an opponent, we'd get a free dinner at Old Bookbinder's,” he said with a laugh. “All the players, their wives and their children. We got some pretty good meals by shutting people out.”
Wistert and Harold Carmichael were among the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inductees at the Hyatt Regency Penn's Landing.
“It's so exciting,” Wistert said. “It's unbelievable. Just unbelievable. It's like a beautiful dream.”