This Date in Flyers History: The 35th Game

On January 6, 1980, the Flyers and Sabres were knotted at 2 heading into the third period. Just 3 minutes and 45 seconds into the final period, Bill Barber scored on Buffalo goaltender Don Edwards to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.  A lead which the Flyers would not relinquish.  While a win in January doesn’t usually amount to much when looking at the NHL regular season as a whole, Barber’s game winning goal on this date 22 years ago elevated the ’79-’80 Flyers to a place no other professional sports team has ever, or will ever reach.

The win over Buffalo marked the 35th game in a row in which the Flyers were unbeaten, the longest such streak in professional sports.  After a 1-1 start, “The Streak” started with a win in the 3rd game of the regular season.  On October 14th, 1979 the Flyers beat the Leafs at home on a late goal from Bob Kelly.  For the next 84 days, the Flyers would not lose.

Over the course of The Streak, the Flyers won 25 games and tied 10.  They played every team in the league, except the Washington Capitals, earning at least one point in each contest.  On December 9th, the Flyers tied the Blackhawks 4-4 pushing the streak to 24 and surpassing the previous team record of 23.  On December 22nd, they went to the Boston Garden, a building in which the Flyers hadn’t won in nearly 5 years.  However, the tear continued and the Flyers dominated en route to a 5-2 win and their 29th straight game without a defeat.  This win set a new NHL record.  The previous record (28 games) was held by the ’77-’78 Montreal Canadiens.

Finally, on January 7, 1980, the Flyers streak came to an end in a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota North Stars

Credit for the streak lays mainly with the Flyers goaltending.  In this case, it was the tandem of Phil Myre and rookie Pete Peeters who carried the team through almost 3 months of unbeaten play.  Myre and Peeters shared duties, with a virtual even split in starts during the 35 game streak.  Fittingly, both played in the 35th game against the Sabres as Myre started but became ill and needed to be replaced by Peeters.  Offensively, Ken Linseman, Reggie Leach, and rookie Brian Propp led the way.

If you watched HBO’s 24/7 series on the Flyers and Rangers Road to the Winter Classic, you got to see the teams celebrate the New Year.  For some reason, I imagine watching the ’79-’80 Flyers ring in the New Year 33 games into their streak with with only 1 loss would have been much more entertaining.


Why We Hate Dallas

For Eagles fans, it’s death, taxes and hatred for the Cowboys.  Despising America’s Team is instinctual, almost genetic.  Just as our fathers passed down the ”bleeding green” passion that turns the majority of fans into manic depressives on Sundays, they also imparted the feeling that we should hate Dallas above all others.  We don’t know why, we just know we are supposed to hate them.

Sure, there’s no shortage of reasons to dislike the Cowboys (See Exhibits A, B, C, D, E and F), but I’ve always wondered why it’s them and not the Giants, or the Mets, or the Penguins, or the Celtics that hold that not-so-special place in our hearts.  Luckily, Ray Didinger answered that question this week on Comcast Sportsnet:

If you are a younger fan, you probably never heard about Dallas linebacker Lee Roy Jordan cheap-shotting the Eagles’ Timmy Brown and knocking out four of his teeth. That happened in 1967 and turned the rivalry into a blood feud.

The Cowboys and Eagles first met in 1960, but 1967 was the first year they were divisional rivals. That year, the National Football League Capitol Division (now known as the NFC East) was formed.  It consisted of Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington and New Orleans, who would be replaced by the New York Giants in 1968.

The first meeting of the ’67 season took place on October 29 at Franklin Field and ended with a 21-14 Eagles victory.  Other than a surprise onside kick that turned into an Eagles touchdown drive, the upset win was pretty uneventful.  The same can’t be said for the second Eagles/Dallas game that year.  It was December 10, 1967 and the 4-7-1 Eagles traveled to Dallas to take on the division leading 8-4 Cowboys.  The Cowboys had already clinched the division, rendering the outcome of the game meaningless.  But Dallas’ “doomsday defense” made it a statement game; a statement made at the expense of Timmy Brown’s jaw.

Timmy Brown always had success against the Cowboys.  In ’66 he ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns in one game against Dallas so it’s not a stretch as to why Brown was a target.  In fact, Brown was interviewed by Stan Hochman years later and said he received phone calls the morning of the game from some of the Dallas guys he knew telling him there was a contract on his head.

In the late stages of the game, with Dallas having dominated the Eagles and built a 31-3 lead, the Cowboys fired the first shot in the “blood feud” that exists to this day.  The Eagles possessed the ball and a passing play was called in which Brown was a decoy.  After quarterback Norm Snead’s pass to another receiver fell incomplete, Timmy Brown slowed down and dropped his head.  And that’s when it happened: Dallas middle-linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, who was in Brown’s vicinity, dropped Brown with an elbow to the face mask well after the whistle sounded.

With Brown dazed on the ground, Jordan stepped over the injured Eagle, taunting him.  The blow was significant; it fractured Brown’s jaw and loosened six of his teeth.  Brown said, “I wound up eating nothing but liquids for a month and a half. Jordan got a 15-yard penalty and that’s all.”

The root of the hatred Philadelphians harbor towards the Cowboys, their coaches, their cheerleaders, their fans, their stadium and their colors was a cheap shot on Timmy Brown.  A cheap shot that earned Lee Roy Jordan a bounty.  Buddy Ryan wouldn’t have it any other way.

 


The Kicker Who Wasn’t

Other than winning a Super Bowl, David Akers has had one major goal throughout his career: to convince us all that he is a football player, not just a mere place-kicker.  Maybe that was just part of his make-up, or maybe it was all the time he spent in Philadelphia. This is the town where work ethic and grit are paramount to performance and talent. Kicking field goals wasn’t good enough; he wanted to show us how tough he was.

During his time as and Eagle, he would throw his 5’10″ – 190 lbs. frame into oncoming traffic covering kickoff returns, he would make diving tackles on returners, and he would beast opposing coaches and then mix-it up with opposing players…by himself, on their sideline.  But it was one game against the Oakland Raiders that settled the argument, once and for all.  Akers isn’t just a kicker.

On September 25, 2005, the 1-1 Eagles were home against the 0-2 Raiders.  After the coin toss, the Rocky montage, and the fireworks, the Eagles lined up to kickoff to start the game. Akers approached the ball and just as he struck it, he collapsed to the ground and clutched the back of his right leg.  A flag flew and a whistle was blown; the Birds were offside.  Akers got off the ground, placed the ball on the tee, and limped back to his starting position.  On the retry, Akers collapsed again, and the Eagles were offside again.  This time Akers was taken off the field and trainers began working on his hamstring.  Mike Bartum was sent in and booted the third attempt at the opening kickoff out of bounds.

Akers’ injury kept him on the sidelines.  The trainers and coaching staff didn’t even think he could make an extra point.  After a Brian Westbrook 18-yard touchdown run in the second half, Mark Simoneau was chosen to try the game-tying extra point.  It wasn’t successful.  The box score reflects that it was blocked, but in reality, Simoneau drilled the ball into the back of his teammate, Steve Spach.  The Raiders led 10-6 at the half.

During halftime, Akers returned to the field with a heavily taped right leg and began trying extra-point length chip shots.  He had to alter his stance, his approach, and his weight distribution in order to give the ball the best chance of eeking through the uprights and him the best chance of not ending up in a heap after each kick.  It was clear he was in a lot of pain.

When the third quarter began, Donovan McNabb, who was battling through a sports hernia, got things going.  A short touchdown pass to Terrell Owens gave the Eagles a 12-10 lead.  Akers convinced the training staff and his coaches that he could make the extra point, so he limped out onto the field for the P.A.T.  And he made it, giving the Eagles a three point lead.  Then, after a Westbrook touchdown reception, Akers gingerly made another extra point to push the score to 20-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The lead wouldn’t hold; after a Janikowski field goal, the Raiders tied the game on a Doug Gabriel touchdown catch with 2:17 remaining in the game.

A touch back on the ensuing kickoff placed the Eagles on their own 20.  With a healthy Akers, the Eagles would have only needed about 50 yards to get into range for a game-winning field goal.  With a hobbled Akers, the Eagles were thinking end zone.  ”We wanted to score a touchdown, so we wouldn’t have to worry,” said Reid after the game.  McNabb hit Westbrook on two consecutive passes to reach midfield, then Greg Lewis and T.O. chipped in catches and the Eagles found themselves on the 17 yard line with 31 seconds remaining.  But they still weren’t in field goal range.  After a Nnamdi Asomugha illegal contact penalty and then a T.O. 7-yard reception, McNabb spiked the ball with nine seconds remaining five yards from goal line.

The outcome of the game would rest on David Akers’ injured leg.  And just like he had countless times before, the dependable Akers made another important field goal.  He collapsed in pain again, but this time it was accompanied by celebration.

Said Mike Bartum after the game, “They call him a kicker, but he’s not a kicker.  He’s a football player…A tough guy.”

Akers will receive a very warm welcome this Sunday at the Linc when he returns as a 49er.  Not just because he holds the franchise records for points and field goals, but because he was more than just a kicker.  He was a leader.  A football player.


This Day in Phils History: Morandini’s Unassisted Triple Play

On September 20, 1992, the Phillies were floundering in last place in the NL East and facing the division-leading Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.  Curt Schilling and Randy Tomlin dominated for their respective clubs pushing the game into extras with a 2-2 score.  The score remained knotted until the bottom of the 13th inning, when Jeff King smoked an RBI liner into center field off Keith Shepard scoring Cecil Espy and giving the Pirates a 3-2 win.

A 13-inning-win is exciting in and of itself, but this game will be remembered not for the score, but for a defensive play that occurred in the bottom of the 6th.  With the game tied at 1, Andy Van Slyke led off the inning with a single to right field.  Barry Bonds then hit a seeing-eye single between Juan Bell and Dave Hollins.  With no outs and men on 1st and 2nd, Schill was in a bit of trouble as Jeff King stepped to the plate.  King worked a full count then smoked a line drive towards Morandini.  The second baseman leaped to make the catch, stepped on second to double Van Slyke, who was almost to third, then tagged Bonds, who had taken off from first.

Morandini’s was the first unassisted triple play in the majors since Ron Hansen made one for the Washington Senators in 1968.  It was the first in the National League since Jimmy Cooney’s for the Cubs in ’27.

In terms of Philadelphia baseball history, Morandini was the first to accomplish the feat.  No Philadelphia Athletic is credited with an unassisted triple play and the only other Phillie to make one is Eric Bruntlett, whose game-ending triple play sunk the Mets on August 23, 2009.


A Look Back: The 2004 NFC Title Game

With the Eagles facing Atlanta this Sunday night, let’s take a look back at the one Eagles/Falcons game that stands above all others:  The 2004 NFC Championship game.  It’s a game I will always remember; hell, it’s a game every Eagles fan who was around will always remember.  It isn’t so much the game itself though, it is what the game meant to this city.

It’s crazy how different the sports psyche of this town was in 2004 than it is now.  We all know the history.  Philadelphia hadn’t seen a championship since ’83 and was in the longest such streak for any city with 4 major sports teams. This was when Philly sports teams were cursed; we couldn’t win.  Even Smarty Jones fell short.  The Eagles were no different.  The Reid-McNabb led Eagles had made the NFC title game in 2001 and lost to the favored Rams.  The next year, the Birds again made it to the conference championship game, but were stunned by the Buccaneers in the last game at Veterans Stadium.  Then in 2003, the Eagles gave us 4th and 26th in the divisional game against the Packers only to lose horribly in the NFC title game against the Panthers at home.

For a franchise that hadn’t been to the Super Bowl in more than 20 years, ending the season one game short in 2002 and 2003 left the entire city in a collective clinical depression.  These losses were devastating.    Remember, this was when the entire city lived and died with the Eagles; it was long before the rediscovered love affair with the Phillies sparked back up.  Philadelphians were invested in the Eagles, and they had perpetually let us down just when we were on the brink of the promised land.

In the offseason prior to the 2004 campaign, Jeremiah Trotter came home and the Eagles added two key free agents in Javon Kearse and a little-known, quiet, role player receiver from Tenneessee Chattanooga.  After a blistering 13-1 start, the Eagles rested their starters for the final two games of the year.  With a bye in the first round and then an easy home win against the Vikings, the Birds again found themselves one win away from the Super Bowl as a home favorite in the NFC Championship Game.  Their opponent would be the Atlanta Falcons.

The game was played Sunday, January 23, 2005…just after a blizzard blew through Philadelphia leaving 2 feet of snow and 17 degree temperatures with brutal 25 mph winds. (Note: The snow was a good omen.  The Eagles won their first championship in 1948 at Shibe Park in a blizzard.  The weather was so bad that fans were given free entry into the game if they brought a shovel and helped clear the field.)  With those conditions, neither team could rely too much on the passing game and if the Eagles were going to finally get to the Super Bowl, they would need to limit Mike Vick’s game-breaking plays.

After winning the toss, the Eagles decided to kick and put their defense on the field first.  Andy Reid was confident in Jim Johnson’s scheme, which clearly focused much more on containing Vick than it did blitzing.  Jevon Kearse and Derrick Burgess played the edges and didn’t let Vick loose.  After forcing a quick three-and-out, the Eagles drove downfield to the Atlanta 29 where they failed on a fake field goal attempt to Chad Lewis and turned the ball over on downs.  After a 34-yard-drive, Atlanta was forced to punt at the Eagles 38 with a chance to really pin the Birds deep.  Swirling winds wreaked havoc on Chris Mohr though, who could only manage an 8-yard punt.  The Birds took advantage with a 70-yard drive that featured a 36-yard run by #36 and ended with a 4-yard TD plunge by Dorsey Levens, who was pushed into the endzone by Jermaine Mayberry.

On the ensuring possession, Atlanta took 9 minutes off the clock driving to the Eagles 2 with a 1st and goal.  With their backs against the wall, Jim Johnson’s bend-but-don’t-break defense came alive. On first down, the Birds stuffed T.J. Duckett for a loss.  On second down, Michael Lewis blitzed and knocked down a Vick pass attempt.  On 3rd and goal from the 4, Vick dropped back to pass, saw nobody open, and took off up the middle towards the end-zone.  That’s when Hollis Thomas made the first big defensive play of the game when he launched himself at Vick and planted him at the line of scrimmage.  A Jay Feely field goal made the score 7-3.

The Eagles answered with a drive of their own that was kept alive by Donovan McNabb.  On a 3rd and 11 at the Eagles 40, McNabb eluded three defenders in the pocket and then fired to Freddie Mitchell for a first down.  Then, a long completion on an underthrown ball to Greg Lewis put the Eagles on the Atlanta 4.  McNabb capped the drive with a TD pass on a play-action to Chad Lewis for a 14-3 lead.

When the Falcons got the ball back with about 5 minutes left in the first half, they got their running game going a bit.  Then Vick completed a long pass to Alge Crumpler at the Eagles 10, who was absolutely annihilated by Brian Dawkins, but somehow held onto the ball.  Warrick Dunn then raced for a TD through the middle to bring the Falcons within 4 points at halftime.

The Eagles opened up the second-half with a 60-yard drive (Westbrook accounted for 48 of those yards) that ended in a David Akers FG to increase the lead to 17-10.  From this point on, the Eagles defense played to perfection.  Burgess and Kearse didn’t allow Vick any freedom and Trotter and co. stopped Dunn from any significant gains.  Vick was sacked a total of 4 times and he lost more yards on those sacks than he gained through scrambling.

After both teams traded punts, the Falcons started on their own 10-yard line with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.  On 1st down, Dawkins picked off Vick and took the ball to the 11-yard line.  However, Atlanta stood strong and forced the Eagles to settle for another David Akers field goal and a 20-10 lead.

The Eagles entered the 4th quarter with a lead in the NFC Championship Game, something they hadn’t done in their previous three appearances.  The defense continued to limit Vick and the Atlanta offence.  Burgess picked up his second sack of the day on an incredible open-field, one-on-one tackle on Vick.  After two straight Falcon drives ended in punts, the Eagles got the ball on their own 35 yard-line 10 football minutes away from the Super Bowl.  Reid and McNabb would orchestrate their best drive of the day.  An 11-play, seven-minute drive ending in another Chad Lewis TD reception put the Eagles up 27-10 with less than 3 and a half minutes remaining.

That deal-sealing touchdown started the party.  The crowd at the Linc didn’t sit down the entire second-half, but it was much nerves than excitement.  That changed when Chad Lewis hauled in that pass.  The crowd erupted in pure, unadulterated elation.  A weight had been lifted off the Eagles and off this city.  Finally.  Chants of “Super Bowl! Super Bowl! Super Bowl!” went on for what seemed like forever.  Grown men hugging and high-fiving and crying and watching the clock count down to 00:00. As I said before, I’ll never forget it.


Opening Day Upset: The World Series of Football

It was called the World Series of Football, but in reality it was supposed to be a joke.  To be honest, it was a set-up.  In the game that opened the 1950 season, the big, bag Eagles of the big, bad NFL were supposed to dominate the pass-happy Cleveland Browns of the recently-defunct All-America Football Conference. Nobody thought a team from the AAFC could compete with an NFL team, especially the NFL team that had one the league title for the past two seasons.  All Cleveland’s coach Paul Brown wanted was a chance to play against an NFL team.  And on September 16, 1950, he finally got that chance.

In 1944, Arch Ward (the same Arch Ward who invented MLB’s All-Star Game)  founded the All-America Football Conference, which would have its inaugural season in 1946. Unlike other competing leagues, the AAFC had a real chance to unseat the NFL as the preeminent professional football league in America. It’s owners were richer than NFL owners.  Ward, the sports editor at the Chicago Tribune, would ensure that the AAFC would receive ample media coverage.  With air travel’s rising viability, the AAFC placed franchises from Florida to California, while the NFL was stuck in the Northeast.  And importantly, they had talent: it’s ’46 rosters included 40 of the 66 College All-Stars, 2 recent Heisman Trophy Winners, and over 100 players who had played in the NFL.

Not surprisingly, the NFL’s view of the AAFC and its teams wasn’t very positive.  It was referred to as a “cheese league.”  It was laughed at.  During the advent of the league, Redskins owner George Marshall said “I did not realize there was another league, although I did receive some literature telling about a WPA project.”  He also bluntly voiced what most NFL guys thought: ”The worst team in our league could beat the best team in theirs.”  This type of talk fueled a war of words between proponents of the two leagues, but because there were no interleague games, the debate was never settled.

Though there was talent in the AAFC, it was concentrated at the top of the league.  While those teams were successful, the majority of teams were not.  The talent gap caused many teams to go into the red.  And even though the AAFC enjoyed higher attendance than the NFL, the league’s debt ultimately lead to its downfall after the 1949 season.  After that season, the three successful teams from the defunct league, the Cleveland Browns, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts, merged into the NFL.

The merger finally allowed AAFC teams and NFL teams to compete.  Taking full advantage, NFL commish Bert Bell (who had an unsuccessful run as Eagles coach from 1936-40) elevated opening day of the 1950 season into the “World Series of Football” by pitting the Philadelphia Eagles against the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles were the class of the NFL, having won the championship in ’48 and ’49.  The Browns were far and away the best team in the AAFC.  Under coach Paul Brown, they won the AAFC title in each of the league’s 4 years of existence and went 47-4-3 during that span. However, they didn’t get any respect from the NFL establishment.  They were merely a big fish in a small pond; a little brother compared to the real teams of the NFL.  By scheduling them against the Eagles, Bell looked to put the Browns in their place and prove once and for all that NFL talent trumps AAFC talent.

Earle "Greasy" Neale

Eagles coach Greasy Neale held little regard for the Browns, or any other team for that matter.  Prior to the season, Neale was as confident in his team a certain backup quarterback is in his, “This is the best team ever put together, who is there to beat us?” And with players like Tommy Thompson, Pete Pihos, Steve Van Buren, and Chuck Bednarik, nobody really called into question Neale’s arrogance.

Paul Brown

However, the Browns were stacked with talented players too.  Seven players would be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: quarterback Otto Graham, wide receiver Dante Lavelli, fullback Marion Motley, center Frank Gatski, kicker Lou Groza, and defensive linemen Bill Willis and Len Ford.  But more than the players, the Browns had a coach.  Paul Brown was an innovator whose legacy changed the NFL forever.  Just to name a few of the things that Brown did before anyone else:

  • Subjected players to intelligence tests prior to signing them.
  • Implemented specific game plans for opponents.
  • Created the “practice squad.”
  • Called plays from the sidelines.
  • Created playbooks and film study.
  • Hired year-round assistant coaches.

Even with those players and even with that coach, because the Browns played in the AAFC, the Eagles were favored on all accounts.  Prior to the game, Paul Brown said, “The Eagles may chase us off the gridiron, but we’ll be on hand for the game with no alibis…Truthfully, I don’t know what to expect tomorrow night.  We have been told the Eagles out class us, but we will be on hand.”

On hand they were.  From coaching to kicking, the Browns absolutely dismantled the Eagles in every aspect of the game.  And they did so in front of 71,000+ fans at Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, a record for the largest home crowd for a regular season game that still stands.

Marion Motley and his Chuck Taylors

Philadelphia got on the board first with a field goal. However, it didn’t take long for the Eagles players to realize that they were the ones in over their heads, not their counterparts from the AAFC.  The Browns aerial attack, developed by Brown and orchestrated by Graham, was more sophisticated than that of any team in the NFL. A 59-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Dub Jones gave the Browns a 7-3 lead.  On the ensuing drive, the Eagles marched right down the field to a first-and-goal at the Cleveland 6.  Knowing there wasn’t any room to throw, Paul Brown subbed in his monstrous  fullback Marion Motley as a middle linebacker.  Motley stuffed three straight runs to contribute to a debilitating goal-line-stand and the Eagles morale quickly sank.

Graham gave the Browns a 21-3 lead on touchdown passes to Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie, and then punched in a 1 yard touchdown run to put the game well out of reach.  The final score was 35-10, but to most observers, that score didn’t reflect how dominant the Browns really were.  Graham threw for 346 yards and 3 TDs while the Browns defense stifled the Eagles, holding the defending NFL champions to less than 250 total yards.

The New York Times described the game as follows:

Certainly, the beautifully coached Browns, with Otto Graham, as great as he ever was at Northwestern and since he became a professional, leading the attack, Greasy Neale’s Eagles were made to look bad. The Eagles’ defense against Graham’s passes was woefully weak, even if they managed to minimize the Cleveland trap plays, featuring Marion Motley. Graham went overhead thirty-eight times and completed twenty-one, good for 346 yards and three touchdowns. His was a magnificent display of aerial artistry and his was a job so well done that the difference between the elevens was greater even than the actual margin.

After the game, the Eagles players were reserved.  Tackle Bucko Kilroy said, “It was no upset.  Man for man, they were just a better team.”  Greasy Neale wasn’t gracious in loss and instead criticized Brown, saying “he’d be a better basketball coach because all he does it put the ball in the air.”  Paul Brown, not one to respond verbally, instead let his team answer Neale’s criticism: When the Eagles and Browns next met, the Browns beat the Eagles 13-7 without one official pass attempt.

Fans of the Eagles today hardly ever go into games with unshakable confidence that we are going to walk away with a victory.  No matter how much better we are than our opponent on paper, there’s always that voice in the back of our heads rifling off the “what ifs” and the “buts.”  From what I can tell, that voice was born on September 16, 1950.

Click here for an NFL Films piece on the game, ranked as the 4th biggest upset in NFL History.


Mr. Nickname: Darryl Dawkins

Nickname Week at Philly Sports History is coming to a close, but not before we look back at Darryl Dawkins. “Chocolate Thunder” is the king of pseudonyms.  Truly before his time in terms of marketing himself, he personified the term athlete-entertainer.  You think Shaq and his nicknames were original?  Not even a little. “Double D” was coining nicknames for himself and his dunks while Shaq was still in diapers.

And there’s no doubting that “Sir Slam’s” dunks were deserving of nicknames; the power with which he threw down borders on terrifying.  Take a look at the video below:

Here are several of the most memorable nicknames “Dr. Dunkenstein” came up with for his dunks:

  1. “Your Mama”  When the “Master of Disaster” first broke into the league and was practicing with guys like Dr. J., Jellybean Bryant, World B. Free and Doug Collins, he wanted to show everyone he was a player.  After his first powerful dunk, he turned to the guy who attempted to play defense and said “Your Mama.”  When the rest of the players asked him what the hell he was talking about, he said “That’s my ‘Your Mama’ dunk.”
  2. “The Heart-Stopper” At 6’11″ and 250 lbs., “King Kong” was an imposing presence to say the least.  So when he froze defenders in the lane with powerful drives to the hoop, he would call those dunks “Heart-Stoppers” because it looked like they made the defender’s heart stop.
  3. “The Greyhound Bus” Greyhound Bus described when he would go coast to coast and finish with a dunk.
  4. “Left-Handed, Spine-Chiller Supreme” Although “Charming Chocolate” was right-handed, he often dunked lefty.
  5. “Turbo Sexophonic Delight” Makes sense when you consider he was an alien from the planet Lovetron who spent the offseason practicing interplanetary funkmanship.
  6. “Chocolate Thunder Flyin’, Glass Flyin’, Robizine Cryin’, Parents Cryin’, Babies Cryin’, Glass Still Flyin’, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Thank You Wham Ma’am I Am’ Jam” His first backboard shattering slam. (right)
  7. “The Chocolate Thunder Ain’t Playin’, Get Out The Wayin’, Backboard Swayin’, Game Delayin’, Super Spike” And his second backboard shattering slam, after which the NBA forever changed to collapsible rims.

Honorable Mention Dunks: “Dunk You Very Much,” “The Rim-Wrecker,” “The Gorilla, “The In Your Face Disgrace,” “If You Ain’t Groovin’ You Best Get Movin’ Dunk.”


Best Nicknames in Sixers History

Nickname Week rolls on here at Philly Sports History.  So far, we’ve taken care of the Eagles and the Flyers.  Today we take a look at the best nicknames in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers.  There are way too many nicknames in team history to remember them all, but here are 10 of the best in no particular order.  As always, let us know if you can think of any others that should have cracked the Top Ten.

  1. “World” Lloyd Bernand Free - Lloyd was given the nickname “World” in high school for his all-world talent, so he did the reasonable thing and officially changed his name to World B. Free.
  2. “The Boston Strangler” Andrew Toney – The origin of this nickname is pretty obvious.  He dominated the Celtics in the playoffs, most memorably with a 34 point night in Game Seven of the ’83 Eastern Conference Finals.
  3. “The Round Mound of Rebound” Charles Barkley – As a stocky 6’5″ forward who took home the rebounding title in ’86-’87, it’s not surprising Sir Charles was given this moniker.
  4. “Chocolate Thunder” Darryl Dawkins - Dawkins’ nickname came from an unlikely source: Stevie Wonder. In an interview with Dime Magazine, Dawkins told the story: “Stevie Wonder used to come the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what’s going on, and he would say, ‘Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk.’ And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name. I think I can wear that well. I don’t even know if he remembers, it’s been so long, but I’ll keep that.”
  5. “Dr. J.” Julius Erving - Julius Erving had a buddy in high school, Leon Saunders, who “could outtalk anybody to the point where would lecture whoever else was around.”  Because of this, Erving called him the “Professor.”  Saunders figured they both should have professional sounding nicknames, so he started calling Erving the “Doctor” and it stuck.  It was later shortened to “Dr. J” when he started playing pro basketball.
  6. “The Answer” Allen Iverson - Although his nickname growing up in Hampton, VA was “Bubba Chuck,” once he was drafted by the Sixers he became “The Answer” for the struggling franchise.
  7. “Pooh” Johnny Dawkins – Dawkins was nicknamed “Pooh” by his family when he was a child and it lasted.
  8. “Jellybean” Joe Bryant - A high school teammate gave Bryant the nickname “Jellybean” because he had all the moves of the guard, even though he was a 6’9″ power forward.
  9. “The Kangaroo Kid” Billy Cunningham – Cunningham was called “The Kangaroo Kid” because of his insane leaping ability.
  10. “The Big Dipper” Wilt Chamberlain – Wilt had many nicknames, but preferred “The Big Dipper,” which was coined by friends at Overbrook H.S. because he had to dip his head to get through doorways.

 


Best Nicknames in Flyers History

More than in any other sport, hockey players refer to their teammates by nickname only.  Listen to one post-game interview with a player and you will hear nothing but nicknames when he is talking about his teammates.  Other than the obvious ones which just add “ie” or “s” to a shorter version of the players last name (Richie, Carts), nicknames generally come from inside jokes.  This phenomenon speaks to the camaraderie of the locker room; the “us” against “them” mentality.

Picking up on Johnny’s list of the Best Nicknames in Eagles History, here is a list of the best nicknames for players who’ve worn the Orange and Black.  I’ve also thrown in the best names given to lines in team history.  Be sure to let us know if I missed any.

The Players

  1. “Zeus” Dave Schultz (While the media stuck with “Hammer,” his teammates called him “Zeus.”)
  2. “Big Bird” Don Saleski (His mop top hair made him a dead ringer for the Sesame Street character.)
  3. Bob “Hound” Kelly
  4. Andre “Moose” DuPont (He was the size of a moose.)
  5. “Cowboy” Bill Flett (The guy was literally a cowboy.  He grew up wrestling steer and riding broncos.  And he dressed like one too, boots and cowboy hat included.)
  6. “Hawk” Rick MacLeish (After some off-color comments he made to a woman at a bar, she pressed his nose flat with her fingers and said “Hawk Nose! Hawk Nose!.”  This happened within earshot of Bill Clement, who coined the name “Hawk.”)
  7. “Ash Can” Barry Ashbee
  8. “Frank” Antero Niittymaki (Named after the famous mobster Frank Nitty.)
  9. “Chico” Robert Esche (Keith Tkachuk saw Eshe’s sticks, which have “R. Esche” on them, and said “When did Chico get here?” referring to goaltending great Glenn “Chico” Resche.)
  10. “Arnie” Bill Barber (Teammates thought he looked like the pig on Green Acres, Arnold Ziffel.)

The Lines

  1. The Legion of Doom (Lindros, LeClair, Renberg)
  2. The LCB Line (Leach, Clarke, Barber)
  3. The Fighting Dans (Dan Kordic, Daniel LeCroiux, Scott Daniels)
  4. The Deuces Wild Line (Gagne, Forsberg, Knuble- all had “2s” in their numbers)
  5. The Crazy Eights Line (Lindros, Recchi, Fedyk- all had “8s” in their numbers)
  6. The Blackhawk Down Line (Roenick, Amonte, Zhamnov- all former Blackhawks)

 


Richie Ashburn Kicks You While You’re Down

On August 17, 1957, Richie Ashburn showed the world his true colors.  Although he is universally beloved in Philadelphia for his performance on the field and the relationship he forged with fans as a broadcaster, he was actually a belligerent grandmom hater.  Just ask Alice Roth.

Mrs. Roth, the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth, decided to take in the Phillies-Giants game with her two grandsons, Preston and Tom, at Shibe Park.  She and the two young boys were seated in the press box behind third base when Richie Ashburn stepped to the plate.  Whitey, known as one of the best pitch-spoilers in baseball history, lined a foul right at Mrs. Roth.  Unluckily, she was paying more attention to her grandsons than the game and didn’t see the ball coming.  It struck her directly in the face and broke her nose.

As medical personnel rushed to take care of the bleeding and dazed Roth, the umpires called time. After she was attended to for a short while, play resumed.  The next pitch came in and Ashburn did the unthinkable: He sent another foul ball to the left side that hit Alice…while she was lying on a stretcher being carried out of the section.

For another foul ball related article, check out the story of Robert Cotter