The Best Thanksgiving Day in Detroit

Following and even intensifying a trend, the Eagles had a losing steak at the start of 1968- 11 games.  A discouraged team came into to muddy Tiger Stadium for the Thanksgiving Day national telecast.  The Detroit Lions were 4-6-2 and a ten point favorite.   Conditions made for a wet, muddy, and sloppy game.   Nevertheless, the Eagles played well and recorded their first victory, a shutout.

The Eagles did not try to pass and mostly relied on the running of Tom Woodeshick and Israel Lang. They kicked a field goal in each quarter to account for all  of the scoring. Sam Baker, also the punter, was the placekicker.  He became in this the second leading scorer in NFL history.   Joe Scarpati did a good job holding the ball on the muddy field.  By contrast, the Lions tried to pass, ran some, but did not move the ball all day.  Turnovers are always big and this game was no exception.  The Eagles intercepted three passes and yielded none.  The Lions had only eight first downs.  The Eagles Floyd Peters and David Lloyd stood out stopping the run.   Final Eagles 12 Lions 0.

After the game, the Eagles locker room was relieved and jubilant. Coach Joe Kuharich said this team had the talent to be winners, not exactly a brilliant comment.  Kuharich also said he would substitute a Coke for Champagne.  I felt as though the Philadelphia Eagles had won the Super Bowl.   In a season like 1968, fans had to make the most of this victory.

In addition, remember the Philadelphia Eagles have never recorded a shutout in the Reid Era.  The last one was versus the Giants at Veterans, 24 to 0 in 1996. 

2002-They  came close in the following : The defense did not yield a score in a 37 to 7 victory at Washington; the only Redskins score came on a punt return; Eagles gave up just a field goal in the following games:17 to 3 over the New York Giants; 10 to 3 over the St Louis Rams; and 27 to 3 over the Dallas Cowboys.

2005- defeated San Francisco 42 to 3;

2006-defeated Washington 27 to 3

2007-the defense did not yield a score in a 17 to 7 win over the Miami Dolphins. The only the only touchdown came on a punt return.

2008-defeated the St. Louis Rams 38 to 3.  I don’t know what the Rams proved by kicking a field goal on the last play.


Death Valley Days in Black and White

Death Valley Days made the transition from radio to television in 1952.  I really enjoyed seeing the Twenty Mule Team haul the ore through Furnace Creek to the rail head at Barstow. The haunting bugle call reminded me of TAPS and really captured the lonely harshness of the territory. I have the model atop my bookcase and two photographs in my bedroom. A friend, a steelworker with dexterous hands, put the plastic together. The whole thing cost only three dollars but it is a professional job sitting on a varnished piece of wood. I have met some fine people along the way.

For the role of the kindly Old Ranger, the Borax Corporation chose veteran character actor Stanley Andrews. His affable introductions and friendly manner gave the impression he was telling you a story he remembered from way back. He got a his share of fan mail and visitors during his 12 years with Borax. Most of the folks never heard of Stanley Andrews but merely wanted the see the Old Ranger.
He gave you the details before the show, did commercials, and summed up the end.

The actress Borax used to promote the product was Rosemary DeCamp, a beautiful lady with a marvelous soothing voice. Her beauty was a more motherly type that appealed to housewives. DeCamp was often in the store, at home washing clothes with her four real life girls, or in a formal evening gown. In this last outfit, DeCamp was showing her flower vase just washed with Borax.

Ruth Woodman, from Rye, NY, wrote the stories after her many visits west. She claimed that every episode had some basis in fact. My two books on western history, Tony Hillerman’s Best of the West and Irving Stone’s Men to Match My Mountains include some of the stories. I suggest these books to historians of our west.

After seeing Andrews as the Old Ranger, we noticed his many roles in the movies. Although he played in a series on Frank Capra films in the thirties, Andrews was generally in the western genre. His two most memorable roles were in the Old West but critics and writers consider them drama. Oddly enough, both were not credited but he made the most of the them.

In the 1941 classic, the the Ox Bow Incident, he played Bartlett, a vindictive member of the lynch mob. He gave a memorable monologue inciting the men to pursue three rustlers who also murdered a local rancher. His arm gestures were emphatic as he held a stogie. Andrews was very noticeable during the pursuit. Once the bullying mob found the three men, Andrews cruelly questioned and taunted the three men. After the lynching, the sheriff arrives and tells the group there was no murder and they caught the three rustlers. Andrews’ has a glum brooding look as he drowns himself in whiskey. This mean character bears no relationship to the Old Ranger, 11 years along the road.

In 1946, Stanley Andrews played the sheriff in a big scale drama, the Sea of Grass. This was a generally faithful telling of the Conrad Richter novel. Spencer Tracy, the powerful cattle baron of Salt Fork NM, marries Katherine Hepburn, a St Louis belle. Andrews goes well in his role with his presence and commanding voice. This movie was not about good farmers versus the mean cattlemen. It showed the virtues and vices, hopes and frailties of each group matched against inevitable historical trends. There was almost no action, a great supporting cast, and even in black and white, it had some beautiful scenery. During his time as the Old Ranger, Andrews shunned movies but did moonlight on several TV shows.
Andrews retired in 1964. Death Valley Days become colorized and lost its appeal to me.

To return to the better back and white versions. Borax still retained the reissued versions splicing in new hosts, titles, and beautiful new musical scores. Local stations had complete latitude regarding times they aired the stories the sponsors used. The caveat-stations had to show Borax commercials at certain peak hours.
The new titles and hosts-The Pioneers with Will Rogers Jr., Western Star Theater with Rory Calhoun, and Trails West with Ray Milland. I do not know who composed the new music but the scores make great listening.

No Margin for Error

The seeming trend in recent years with Philadelphia.  Make one mistake in a critical situation and the player goes elsewhere the next year.  Consider this:

2006-Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles were leading 31 to 24 late in the game.  Dallas had the ball fourth and a half a mile inside their 30 with less than one minute left to play.  The Eagles had sacked quarterback Drew Bledsoe on the two preceding plays.   Bledsoe uncorked a desperation pass to Terry Glenn at the Eagles five yard line.    Defensive Back Micheal Lewis interfered with Glenn.  I had visions of Sudden Death  Overtime and maybe a loss.  The Eagles would be wasting seven sacks for 49 yards in losses; two pass interceptions; and two fumble recoveries

This of course did not happen.  After one incompletion,  Lito Shepard  got his second interception of the game and went 102 yards for a touchdown.  The Eagles won 38 to 24.  Micheal Lewis went to the San Francisco 49ers the next year.

2008-Philadelphia at Arizona

This game ranks as the biggest disappointment in my time of following the Eagles-56 years.  The Eagles could not move the football in early going.  Midway through the first quarter, Greg Lewis dropped a pass from McNabb that went 50 yards to the Cardinal 18.  The Eagles lost 32 to 25.  Lewis went to New England the following year.

2009-There were three games where one player made victory much more difficult

New York at Lincoln Financial Field

The Giants kicked at field to make the score 33 to 10, in the Eagles’ favor.   This was in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Jason Babin fielded poorly and the Giants covered the ball around the Eagle 30. Eli Manning threw for a touchdown.  Shady McCoy made a big touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to seal the game.   The Eagles won 40 to 17 but it should have been even easier.  Babin make a big block of a field goal in the game with Bears.   Even so, he was not with the team in 2010.

New York at the Meadowlands

In the second quarter, the Eagles were leading 14 to 0 but the Giants were driving at the Eagle 30.  Jerimiah Trotter juggled an interception; actually the play wound up as a completed pass.  The Trotter from three years ago would have run that ball down the sideline and a three touchdown lead.  The Eagles won 45 to 38.   The Eagles did not resign Trotter.

Denver at Lincoln Financial Field.

This is a first time I have seen a one player almost give a game in 40 some years.  With eight minutes left in the game,  Asante Samuel intercepted and ran to midfield.  The Eagles at the time were leading 27 to 13.  I thought it was time to relax.  Unfortunately, Macho Harris was clipping on the play. It was a 48 yard penalty, Eagles moving from midfield to the two.  The pass interception was the equivalent of a well placed punt.  Denver held, got great field position, and scored a touchdown.  Eagles 27 Broncos 20.  Macho Harris now fumbled the kickoff return and the Denver Broncos tied the game.  The Eagles got the win with a field goal on the last play.  Macho was not with the Eagles in 2010.

Elimination of NFL Blackout Policy

Both  FOX and CBS should eliminate the last two relics of the fifties-permit home television regardless of attendance and allow the telecast of the doubleheader games into cities having home games. CBS and FOX alternate weeks with doubleheaders and the National Football League short changes their audience. The fears about declining home attendance are groundless. Attendance depends on a team’s performance but will always increase will more television.

Before looking at the three big steps the National League took during the 1964-73 time frame, let’s look at the television set up in the late 50s and early 60s.  My statements may be redundant but that’s better than misunderstood. CBS, when there were 12 teams, telecasted all six games on a regional basis every Sunday. For cities with franchises,  away games were on television with complete home blackouts. Area without teams,of which there were many in those days, had one game each week.  Five additional points are critical:

1.Included in the contract were three national telecasts-Thanksgiving Day in Detroit and on the two Saturdays preceding the last two Sundays of the year.
2.If a team had a Saturday game, either on its own initiative or on a CBS hookup, this freed up the area for a Sunday telecast.
3.Telecasting cross country for regional games was cost prohibitive. Nevertheless, fans in these cities saw a game because their team was on the road. CBS gave your area an alternate game. In 1958, the Steelers opened the season with at loss at San Francisco. The local affiliate telecast the Chicago Cardinals vs. the New York Giants.
4.The Chicago area, having both the Cardinals and Bears, rarely had television shutting CBS out of a big market. There was a blackout even if only one team was at home. If both the Bears and the Cardinals were on the road, television had only one game. This was the major reason for the Cardinal’s move to St. Louis in 1960.
5. In spite of this agreement with CBS, the league treated the Championship Game separately and awarded it to NBC. It made things rather awkward for announcers like Ray Scott of the Green Bay Packers and Chris Schenkel of New York Giants appearing on two networks. Especially toward the season’s end, broadcasters could mention but not advertise the Championship Game. This odd arrangement ended in 1964.

Then came increased television exposure and more turnstiles circulating at Stadiums.

1964-CBS began televising doubleheaders with the same rules as before. If team was on the road,
Fans saw that game plus another. Complete blackouts continued during home dates. Cities without franchises got two games every Sunday.

1966-This was the year of several major changes. CBS began more frequent television of exhibition games. Many team owners claimed these games would show a lesser talent and cause fan burnout before the end of the season. CBS added a game at Dallas on Thanksgiving night. This has become a national tradition just as much as in Detroit. CBS telecasted two Monday night games every season from 1966-1969. Ratings were very high and this was, of course, the forerunner of Monday Night Football, which began with the merger 1970. Most important CBS limited the Sunday blackout to some extent. If your team was at home, CBS brought another NFL game into your area. The network still restricted, as it still does today, doubleheaders for cities with away games but to every city without a franchise, such as Phoenix or Portland.

1973-Congress passed and President Nixon signed a bill mandating television of home games if there was a sellout 72 hours before kickoff. Restating my position, each of the three major actions increased attendance.

In addition, the tri-state area of New York City and San Francisco-Oakland are the first and sixth largest metropolitan areas in the country. Since there are two teams even one being at home precludes doubleheaders. Networks are cheating two large areas and losing a big audience for advertising. Doubleheaders are in no way a incentive for people to stay home. If the past is any guide, attendance will increase with the elimination of these last two restrictions.

Lito Shepard vs the Cowboys

One of the Eagles I hated to see leave was Lito Shepard.  He was a good defensive back that stepped right in where Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor left off.   Better yet, Lito was at his best versus the Dallas Cowboys.

Both interceptions were off Vinnie Testaverde

at Dallas-Shepard topped the game off with a 102 yard interception return in the 49 to 21 victory.
at Home-Another pass interception ended Dallas  chances in a close 12 to 7 win,  This clinched the home field advantage and the BYE week for the playoffs

The Eagles lost both games with the Cowboys for the first time since 1998.    I did not mind the first loss but the second one ruined the entire season

at Dallas-Lito had the game’s only bright spot.  He jarred a ball loose from Terry Glenn that Sheldon Brown returned for a touchdown.  Horrible game with a 33 to 10 final.
at Home-Shepard intercepted a pass that lead to a field goal.  Injured in this game, he was out for the season.  Dallas scored two touchdowns in the last four minutes, one on defense the other on offense.  Philadelphia lost 21 to 20.  This was one of the worst defeats in the Reid era.


At Home-Shepard intercepted two passes.  One deep in Eagle territory halted a drive.  After that came the 102 yard interception return for touchdown to end the game.  The Eagles almost let this one slip away because of a pass interference call which cost them 50 yards.  This play by Lito Shepard saved the day.  The Eagles won 38 to 24.


At Dallas-Shepard’s interception and return set up the game’s only touchdown.  This was a brilliant defensive effort and the season’s biggest win.   Final 10 to 6.

2010 Victories That Should Have been Easier

Once again in 2010, there were victories that should have been easier.  Just as 2009, these came back to haunt the Philadelphia Eagles in losses to the Vikings, Cowboys, and finally in the playoff to the Packers.

Atlanta at home-31 to 17

The Eagles were 3-2 and Atlanta 4-1.  Fans will remember the big win over Washington and the comeback at the Meadowlands.  Even so, considering the Falcons’ record, 13-3, this was the most impressive win of the season.  Kevin Kolb had a great day torching the Atlanta defense.  He went 23 for 29 for 326 yards and three touchdowns.   On defense, the Eagles had three sacks and two turnovers.  David Ackers missed three of four field goal attempts.  If Ackers is his usual self, this would have been a blowout.

New York Giants at home-27 to 17.

Midway in the second quarter, the Eagles were leading 10 to 3.  This  was a third down play from the Giants 11.   Vick hit a wide open Jason Avant between the numbers, two yards in front of the end line.   Avant dropped the ball.  Instead of 17 to 3 it was 13 to 3, less than a two touchdown difference.  In the fourth quarter, the Eagles were leading 24 to 17 with just over four minutes left.  Asante Samuel intercepted  and returned the ball 20 yards to midfield.   Samuel must have been thinking touchdown because he did not secure the ball and fumbled it back to the Giants.  Nevertheless, the Philadelphia Eagles held together.  Shady  McCoy did some great running  and the Eagles kicked an insurance field goal.

Dallas on the Road 30 to 27

Fans always hate to attempt a field goal or punt on fourth and one.  It similar to leaving a runner on third base to end an inning.  With eight minutes remaining in the game Eagles had the ball at the Dallas 10 on fourth and one.  David Ackers kicked an 18 yard field goal extending the lead to 30 to 20.  Dallas came back with quick touchdown.  After that, the Eagles went back to basics.  Shady McCoy ran out the clock going through big holes in the Dallas line.  Sometimes the simplest approach is the best. If the Eagles would have kicked a field goal after another first down, the game would have been easier.   Consuming the clock when you’re ahead is always a plus.

Luck of Roaring Camp-Bret Harte

Bret Harte’s short stories really captured the realism of frontier life. His main characters relate to people in later western novels and supporting actors in movies. Among his most famous stories is Luck of Roaring Camp.The town was the usual collection of miners’ shacks, a grocery store, and saloons. Roaring Camp laid in a triangular valley, between two hills and a river. The inhabitants were all men, except for Cherokee Sal, who “serviced” the men as needed. These people in Roaring Camp were either fugitives, criminals, or prospectors. All were searching for gold and and often became reckless. Working all day and the frustration of finding nothing often causes this.

One evening Cherokee Sal was giving birth to a child. Stumpy, rumored to have two families elsewhere, helped deliver boy. Whether owing to the crudeness of the operation or some other reason, Cherokee Sal died a few hours later. Stumpy quite ingeniously used milk from a nursing donkey to feed the child. The men in Roaring Camp were saddened to lose Cherokee Sal and gave her the proper wake. Now they realized that they had a child on their hands. No one knew who the father was. Almost each miner suspected himself.

The prospectors, gamblers, and the store owners took turns babysitting each day. All of them regularly contributed money according to their means. No where did Harte state that there was an assessment on anyone. The townspeople began to import by carrier better
food and clothing for the baby and themselves. Some miners took the child to the diggings, left him in the shade, and checked on him at regular intervals. The men bathed and changed clothes often on a daily basis. Before that Harte stated they changed clothes like a snake shedding skin. They cleaned up their shacks to look much cleaner though still quite primitive. The General Store owner bought a carpet and a wider variety of dry goods.

While gambling and drinking continued, both greatly curtailed. This could have been out out of economic necessity. Supporting a child meant less
money for virtually everything else. I personally would like to think the men did not want to gamble and drink merely because a baby boy was there. Mr. John Oakhurst, a noted gambler, said that the baby was the luckiest thing that ever happened to Roaring Camp; hence the people named him Luck.The citizens of Roaring Camp made some plans to attract new people to their town. They wanted to build an economic base for the town beyond gold.

Many camps, as everyone knows, become Ghost Towns with no further veins or finding nothing at all. The men wanted to attract families hopefully to adopt Luck as full time parents. All of them loved the baby and Luck sure brought the town together. In spite of this, they recognized only full time parents could provide the best environment. At this time, Luck was not quite one year old. Then tragedy struck the Roaring Camp as a sleet and snow storm struck the town in November. Rivers swelled pulling away trees and miners shacks. Among these shacks was Kentuck’s whose turn it was to babysit Luck. People far downstream struggled to pull Kentuck out of the water. By the time they did, Kentuck was dying gasping for breath from drowning and badly injured by falling debris. Kentuck though was holding Luck who was already dead. As John Steinbeck said in his later novel whether through the economic system, acts of nature, or the cruelty of men to each other, the best laid plans Of Mice and Men are often never realized. Kentuck might have saved himself by quickly leaving the shack but chose to remain with the baby.

What this short story shows is the responsibility we all have for Child Heath and Protection. At the risk of being repetitious, children’s issues are like two concentric circles. In that outer area we all are generic parents and every child is ours. The inner circle is strictly for real parents, their children, teachers, and any other professional help.