Didinger: Eagles all-time toughness team

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Didinger: Eagles all-time toughness team

Friday, May 12, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.

By Ray Didinger
CSNPhilly.com

A reader, Dan Willig, sent along an interesting e-mail. He noted that head coach Andy Reid described No. 1 draft pick Danny Watkins as a tough guy in the mold of Jon Runyan.

It started Dan thinking: Who are the toughest guys ever to play for the Eagles. Runyan certainly would make the list but who else? Dan asked if I could come up with an All-Philly Tough team.

It took awhile, but I finally put one together. Some guys made the list for their ability to play through injury. Others made the list with the way they played. Nasty, in other words. Still, others made it because they were just plain Philly tough.

Ive covered the Eagles for more than 40 years so most of these players Ive seen up close and personal. For the others, I relied on the testimony of those who played with or against them.

Offense

Wide Receiver
Tommy McDonald (1957-63) The smallest player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (5-9, 172 pounds), McDonald was utterly fearless. His favorite route was the slant across the middle, the route most receivers are afraid to run. He was the last NFL player not to wear a face mask. He only wore one at the very end of his career when it was made mandatory.

Terrell Owens (2004-05) His career in Philadelphia ended badly, but nothing can take away from his performance in the Super Bowl when he caught nine passes for 122 yards on a leg still not fully healed from a fibula fracture. Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said, You could tell he was still hurting, but he played through it. He was tremendous.
Tight End
Keith Krepfle (1975-81) Looked like a choir boy, but he was a tough hombre. He once drove Dallas linebacker Hollywood Henderson 25 yards downfield while blocking on a run. Coach Dick Vermeil reran the play a dozen times at the next team meeting to show how the Eagles would ultimately beat the Cowboys. We have to be tougher than they are, Vermeil said. Krepfle was.

Tackle
Jon Runyan (1999-2008) The first big-money free agent signed by Reid, Runyan was a bargain at 30 million. He played nine seasons with the Eagles and never missed a start. He played through numerous injuries, including a cracked bone at the bottom of his spine. He started 144 consecutive regular season games with the Eagles. He played every snap to the whistle and occasionally beyond.

Bob Brown (1964-68) Nicknamed Boomer because thats the sound you heard when he hit someone. He was a massive man (6-4, 290) for that era and he possessed a mean streak as wide as his shoulders. John Madden coached Brown in Oakland and called him the most aggressive offensive lineman that ever played. Rams defensive end Deacon Jones said Brown had a cold-blooded mentality. Hed kill a mosquito with an ax.

Guard
Frank Bucko Kilroy (1943-55) A Philly native, Kilroy was one of the best linemen of his era and one of the most notorious. He was featured in a 1955 Life Magazine story that focused on violence in pro football. The article, Savagery on Sunday, described Kilroy as the toughest of the bad men. He started a brawl with the Chicago Cardinals by kicking their star halfback Charlie Trippi right in front of their bench. I was a bad boy, Kilroy once said, but only at times.

Todd Herremans (2005-current) The only current player on the team, but it is because he is a throwback who plays like an old-school lineman. He is a lot like Runyan which is why I believe he should be the Eagles right tackle, but thats another story in the way he finishes blocks and puts people on the ground. Herremans plays hurt and plays hard all the time.

Center
Guy Morris (1973-83) Morris was a guard and tackle in college, but he learned to play center when he joined the Eagles. In his first start against Minnesota, he fired out and put Vikings middle linebacker Jeff Siemon on his back. He went on to play 158 games for the Eagles and then played four more years in New England before retiring to a career in coaching.

Quarterback
Ron Jaworski (1977-86) Before Brett Favre came along, Jaws was the NFLs ironman quarterback. He started 116 consecutive games with the Eagles, a streak that began with the 1977 opener and continued until he went down with a broken leg in 1984. He took many big hits the blindside shot from Chicagos Mike Hartenstein is one of the hardest licks ever but he always got up. He never flinched and never complained; he just lined up and played.

Running Back
Wilbert Montgomery (1977-84) Played his best game, the NFC championship game, with a strained knee, bruised thigh and bruised hip. He spent two hours in the training room before the game then went out in sub-zero wind chill and carried the ball 26 times for 194 yards as the Eagles defeated Dallas. At 5-10, 195 pounds, he took a fierce beating, but finished with more carries (1,465) and more rushing yards (6,538) than any player in team history.

Fullback
Tom Woodeshick (1963-71) The final game of the 1968 season, the game that is best remembered as the day the fans threw snow balls at Santa, was the game that proved the toughness of the 6-0, 225-pound Woodeshick. His facemask was broken and the jagged end of the mask opened a bloody wound above his eye. As the doctor was stitching him up, Woodeshick begged to go back in the game. The doctor refused, fearing Woodeshick might lose his eye. And this was on the final day of a 2-12 season.

Defense

End
Reggie White (1985-92) The Minister of Defense was a great player, but he also was a very tough guy. He did not miss a game in eight seasons with the Eagles. He appeared in 121 consecutive contests. He once suffered a severe hamstring pull and the medical staff actually feared it was torn. It looked like White would be sidelined for awhile, but he shocked everyone by not missing a game. He credited the healing power of prayer.

Mel Tom (1967-73) A native of Hawaii, he used his hands so freely his nickname was Hawaiian Punch. The Eagles werent very good in those years and Tom would take out his frustration on the opposition. He once KOd Roger Staubach with a forearm to the head, drawing a hefty fine from the league and adding fuel to the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.

Tackle
Jerome Brown (1987-91) Well never know how good Brown could have been because he was killed in a car crash at age 27. But he was a big part of that Eagles defense under coach Buddy Ryan. Jerome was like a wild man on the field, said Mike Golic, who played alongside him. Every play was like a search-and-destroy mission.

Charlie Johnson (1977-81) A Vietnam veteran who joined the Eagles as a 25-year-old rookie, Johnson played a key role on the Super Bowl XV team. He was the nose guard in the 3-4 defense, which meant taking on double teams on every play. He still recorded 115 tackles, a huge number for a nose tackle, in the Super Bowl season.

Outside Linebacker
Chuck Bednarik (1949-62) His nickname Concrete Charlie says it all. Bednarik is the last true 60-minute man in pro football. He played both ways, center and linebacker, in the 1960 championship season. He was 35 years old, yet he played every play (except kickoffs) in the title game against Green Bay. His crushing hit on Frank Gifford (which KOd Gifford and sidelined him for a year and a half) was selected The Greatest Tackle of All-Time by NFL Films.

Seth Joyner (1986-93) Intense and intimidating, Joyner was the scowling face of the Gang Green defense. He demonstrated his toughness every week, but particularly in the 1991 House of Pain game in Houston. Playing with a 102-degree fever, Joyner had eight tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two sacks in a 13-6 win over the Oilers. If there is a better linebacker in the NFL, I havent seen him, said Dan Dierdorf, calling the game on ABC-TV.

Middle Linebacker
Bill Bergey (1974-80) Opponents feared him and rightly so. At 6-2 and 250 pounds, Bergey was a destructive force. He played the game hard and clean, but he left a lot of damage in his wake. He once required a police escort to leave Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh after knocking two Steeler quarterbacks, Terry Bradshaw and Terry Hanratty, out of the same game. Bergey didnt hit people, he blew them up.

Cornerback
Tom Brookshier (1953, 1956-61) The most physical cornerback and best open-field tackler in team history. The rules of the day allowed defenders to rough up receivers and knock them off their routes and no one did it better than Brookshier. Even the great Jim Brown said: I could run over most (defensive) backs but not Brookshier. He came in low and hard.

Sheldon Brown (2002-09) Dealt out two of the hardest hits in Eagles history. The first was a full-speed shot on a kick return against Dallas in his rookie year. The other was his hit on the Saints Reggie Bush in the 2007 playoffs, a hit so memorable it was written up in Sports Illustrated and revisited as an NFL Films feature. Brown played eight seasons in Philadelphia and appeared in every game, 128 straight, eighth on the teams all-time list.

Safety
Brian Dawkins (1996-2008) No explanation necessary. Anyone who saw Dawkins play knows why he is on the list. A ferocious hitter, Dawkins lit the fire for the Eagles defense for 13 years. He appeared in more games (183) than any position player in team history.

Andre Waters (1984-93) Popular among Eagles fans, not so popular with opponents, who nicknamed him Dirty Waters for his aggressive play. Sadly, Waters paid a steep price for his jarring tackles. Years of head trauma and multiple concussions resulted in brain damage that researchers believe contributed to Waters committing suicide in 2006 at age 44.

Special Teams

Kicker
Bobby Walston (1951-62) He was a full-time player in addition to being a kicker, which puts him ahead of all the kicking specialists. But more than that Walston was a true tough guy. He played tight end at 190 pounds and never missed a game in 12 seasons. He had a broken jaw in 1954 but refused to sit out. He borrowed a pair of pliers from an equipment manager and removed the wires from his jaw so he could play the next game.

Kick Returner
Brian Mitchell (2000-02) He excelled because unlike other kick returners, he attacked the wedge. John Harbaugh, who coached Eagles special teams in those years, put it well when he said: If you try to arm-tackle Mitch, hell rip your arm off. He returned kicks like a guy running between the tackles.

Kick Coverage
Louie Giammona (1978-82) There were quite a few candidates for this spot Ike Kelley, Vince Papale and Ike Reese all came to mind but, pound for pound, no one was tougher than the 5-9, 180-pound Giammona, who returned kicks in addition to blowing up the wedge in coverage.

OK, thats my team. If you feel I overlooked someone or you think you can come up with a better lineup, feel free to submit it. Ill run the best submissions in next weeks mailbag.
E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

Related: Didinger's Mailbag: Bloodlines, LBs, sleepers Buy Eagles gear

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

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Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

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The Associated Press

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

Of all the questionable decisions in Andrew Bynum’s career, this might just take the cake as the worst. No, it definitely does. 

Just look at that hair. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking at all?  

Bynum, who is no stranger to bad — I mean really bad — hair, looks to be enjoying his retirement. But let’s dig a bit deeper. Put on your polarized sunglasses and look past that bright yellow hair, because there is much more going on in this picture.

Forget his time as a member of the Sixers, smiling in a picture with a Penguins’ fan might be the biggest travesty Bynum has committed against the city.

And where was this picture taken? It appears to be a casino or arcade. Wherever it is, for the sake of Bynum’s precious knees, let’s hope it’s not a bowling alley