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When the Eagles called West Philly home

February 2, 2018

The last time the Eagles won a championship, the roar that followed the final whistle could be heard as far west as 40th Street, according to one newspaper reporter.

Some 67,000 fans poured out onto 33rd Street after the Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers in a 17-13 nail-biter to win the NFL Championship on Dec. 26, 1960. The game was played at Franklin Field at 33rd and South Streets, which the Eagles called home from 1958 to 1970. 

Back then, the Eagles spent many of their working days during the season in West Philly. Their games were at Franklin Field and the team practiced at the Philadelphia Armory at 32nd and Lancaster Avenue (now owned by Drexel).

The Eagles moved to Franklin Field from Connie Mack Stadium (aka Shibe Park, bringing tens of thousands of fans to West Philly every other Sunday or so during the season until the team moved to Veterans Stadium in 1970.

Those dozen seasons – and that 1959-1960 season in particular – included some watershed NFL moments at Franklin Field. Here are a few:

• Earlier in the season, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell died from a heart attack at Franklin Field in the final minutes of an inter-state battle between the Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 11, 1959.

• The Packers loss to the Eagles in that 1960 championship was the only post-season loss for Packers legendary coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers went on to win five of the next six championships, including the 1967 title – Super Bowl I.

• The decades-long national narrative of the dastardly Eagles fan started at Franklin Field. The team was a dismal 2-11 coming into a home game on Dec. 15, 1968.  The crowd began to get on coach Joe Kuharich and owner Jerry Wolman. A Christmas-themed halftime show wasn’t enough to raise their crowd’s foul mood. As a fan dressed as Santa Claus began tossing candy canes to the crowd, many Eagles fans revolted. They started pelting Santa with snowballs as the TV cameras were rolled. As any die-hard Eagles fan knows, the national media still brings the incident up when they’re in town or the Birds are in a big game.

That 1960 championship game and the celebration that followed also brought out the worst in some Eagles fans. Thousands poured on the field and a small group made a beeline for the police that was trying to contain the crowd. Two officers were hospitalized.

Police Commissioner Albert Brown blamed a “handful of people with a history of ‘hoodlumism.'”

That sounds about right.

Part of The Philadelphia Inquirer story about the 1960 NFL Championship played at Franklin Field.

 

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