Ray's Replies: Should Eagles retire these numbers?
Your column about retiring numbers for the Eagles got me thinking.
● David Akers absolutely should have his number retired. No one who ever kicked for the Birds has a resume in the same universe as Akers. Retiring a number is, to me, an honor reserved for special players on a particular team. Those players don’t have to be all-time NFL greats deserving of a first ballot Hall of Fame selection. If that were the case, only Steve Van Buren, Reggie White and Chuck Bednarik would have their numbers retired.
● Tommy McDonald – How is his No. 25 not retired by the Eagles? Take a look at where he ranked among all the receivers who ever played when he retired. I don’t get it.
● Bill Bradley – Yes, his career wasn’t as long as the careers of others, but neither was that of Tom Brookshier. I can still picture Brookshier on the ground after he broke his leg. If my memory is correct, I believe that he was either chasing Willie Galimore or got blocked by Galimore when he got hurt. I know Bradley was a safety and Brookshier was a cornerback, but they were still both defensive backs, and Bradley was at least as good as Brookshier and probably better.
● Seth Joyner – Joyner was the anti-Jerry Robinson, who had one great year as a linebacker and then precipitously declined. Joyner had many, many years playing at the very top level and his penchant for making big plays was unmatched. Maybe lining up behind Reggie White helped Joyner, but maybe Joyner helped Reggie, too.
● Bill Bergey – Another relatively short career, but he should have his number retired, if only for his leadership skills. He was a fabulous player.
● John Runyan – His number could be retired for his attitude and ability to play through injuries alone. I was a big fan of some excellent tackles such as Stan Walters, Jerry Sisemore and, to a lesser extent, Ron Heller. Runyan was way, way better than all of them.
● Bob Brown - How in the world is it possible for Bob Brown’s number not to be retired. Is it the short career here? Is it his support for Joe Kuharich? Whatever, Brown may have been the best Eagles player ever. His number should hang from the upper deck.
Thanks for inspiring me to reach into the recesses of my diminishing memory.-- Henry GoldmanA.
Your heart is in the right place, Henry, but I think you are being a little too generous. The Eagles have officially retired seven numbers and they will make it eight this season when they retire safety Brian Dawkins' No. 20.
If they were to follow your recommendations, it would boost their total of retired numbers to 15, the same number as the Montreal Canadiens. That is a lot of retired numbers for a franchise that has won exactly three NFL championships.
Just for the record, the Boston Celtics have the most retired numbers with 21. The New York Yankees are next with 16. The Chicago Bears have the most retired numbers among NFL teams with 13. The San Francisco 49ers have 12, the New York Giants have 11 and the Kansas City Chiefs have 10.
Interestingly, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won the most Super Bowls, have retired only the No. 70, worn by Hall of Fame defensive tackle Ernie Stautner. The Dallas Cowboys, winners of five Super Bowls, have not retired any numbers. Some teams believe in doing it, other teams don’t.
I think the Eagles are just about where they should be. Dawkins certainly deserves to join Van Buren (15), Brookshier (40), Pete Retzlaff (44), Bednarik (60), Al Wistert (70), White (92) and Jerome Brown (99) as the select few to have their number retired. Dawkins is the first Eagle to have his number retired since White in 2005.
If you retire too many numbers, the honor becomes less special. You also risk running short on numbers at training camp when you have as many as 80 players in uniform. To retire a number is the highest honor a team can pay so it should be reserved for the truly iconic players or, in certain cases, those whose careers were cut tragically short (Brown, for example).
All the players you mention were very good and they deserve to be honored, but a place in the Eagles Honor Roll seems sufficient. McDonald, Bradley and Bergey are in already.
Akers, Joyner, Runyan and Bob Brown certainly deserve to join them.
By the way, your memory is pretty good. Brookshier suffered his career ending injury attempting to tackle Willie Galimore of the Chicago Bears at Franklin Field in 1961. I was there, too.E-mail Ray Didinger at email@example.com