The defining moment of Ricky Watters career in Philadelphia came in his first game as an Eagle. On September 3, 1995, the Eagles opened up the season at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During the second-half, Ricky Watters alligator-armed not one, but two Randall Cunningham passes over the middle of the field. It didn’t help that the Eagles lost 21-6, and Watters was held to 37 yards rushing with two fumbles. Sure, Watters was booed by the hometown fans for not sacrificing himself for the team, but those boos were nothing compared to the aftermath of Watters’ postgame comments to the media.
Watters was honest, maybe too honest:
“Hey, I’m not going to trip up there and get knocked out. For who? For what? I mean, there’s another day. I’m going to make a whole lot of plays. I made a whole lot of plays where I was at before. I’ve always made plays.”
“For who? For what?” Those four words damned Ricky Watters in this town. He had committed a cardinal sin. The fans and the media jumped on Watters. The Inquirer labeled it “Wattersgate.” His words were spread in large print on the back cover of the Daily News. No matter what Watters did from that point forward, he didn’t have a chance to be accepted in Philadelphia as one of our “Philly guys.” And it’s a shame, because his on-the-field play stood in stark contrast to that comment.
His numbers are staggering. After scoring three touchdowns in a winning-effort for San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX, Watters came to Philadelphia as a free agent. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact. In 1995, he rushed 337 times for 1,273 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also added 434 yards on 62 receptions. In ’96 he amassed 1,855 yards from scrimmage with 13 total touchdowns. In ’97, he had 1,550 total yards and 7 touchdowns. He never rushed for fewer than 1,110 yards and never caught fewer than 48 passes. From ’95-’97, he carried the ball 975 times, more than any other player in the NFL. In ’95 and ’96 he was selected to the Pro Bowl team and named All-Pro.
Even though he spent just three seasons in Philadelphia, Watters ranks 6th in franchise history in rushing and 5th in rushing touchdowns. He is the Eagles all-time leader in rushing yards per game.
Based on his numbers, Watters is clearly one of the best running backs in Eagles history. But he didn’t let his numbers speak for themselves, and so he lands on this list as the 4th Most Underrated Athlete in Philadelphia Sports History.
We’re down to the finals, and by tonight at midnight we will have a winner. Eskin vs. Cataldi in the finals. Click here to vote!
The correct answer to this awesome trivia question? Walt Masters, born on March 28th, 1907 in Pen Argyle (near Easton). Masters was a Philly boy, though, graduating from West Philly High School and then attending the Wharton School at Penn. He played baseball and football at Penn, and was a star at both.
Masters made his MLB debut for the Washington Senators on July 9th, 1931, when he pitched an inning in a 14-1 blowout over the Red Sox. He pitched twice more that year, and then disappeared from baseball. He was also making money as a semi-pro football player, and baseball didn’t allow people to play other sports in the US. Masters tried to get around the rule by moving to Canada and playing for the Rough Riders (those Penn kids are a sneaky bunch aren’t they?) But the Rough Riders wouldn’t let him play football because they were amateurs and he had gotten paid for baseball, so he coached football and played baseball for an Ottawa team for a few years. He returned to Philly in 1936 and played briefly for the Eagles at QB. He went 1-6 for 11 yards with one INT, and ran 7 times for 18 yards. After the season, he signed with the Phillies and was on the team briefly in 1937. He didn’t have much more success on the diamond, where the pitcher appeared in one game and got blasted for 4 earned runs in a single inning of work against the Reds. Two years later, he would reappear on the Philadelphia A’s (making him also the answer to the question, “Who is the only player to play for the A’s, Phillies, and Eagles?”) He pitched in 4 games and finished the year with a 6.55 ERA.
During the war, former sports stars were in high demand, so in 1943 the 36-year old Masters played a few games for the Chicago Cardinals. He wasn’t very good, going 17-45, 249 yards, with 2 TDs and 7 Ints. He tossed 7 more passes for the Cards in 1944, and then was out of pro sports for good. He returned to Ottawa, where he played both football and baseball. He then worked in public relations for a company specializing in cleaning buildings in Ottawa. He died in Canada in 1992 at the age of 85.
Howard Eskin vs JD Drew is probably the premiere matchup in the Sweet 16. But Kobe vs. Fred-Ex is no slouch either. And Billy King, fresh off his upset of McNabb, is going toe to toe with “For who? For what?” himself, Ricky Watters. Billy Wagner is finally matched up with a true heavyweight, Norman Braman.
On the other side of the brackets, you can vote in an all-radio matchup, Angelo Cataldi vs. Mike Missanelli. Loudmouth Stephen A. Smith is up against Hip-hop, while Cinderella story Sam Dalembert has probably met his match in Rich Kotite. TO takes on Andy Reid in what should be a classic. To vote, click here. To see the full brackets, click here. Oh, and we’ve got our first reaction from a contestant. On Tuesday night, Howard Eskin wrote me on twitter, asking “What am I doing in this Sweet 16?”
What an opening week! (see the updated brackets here.) We see all of our #1 and #2 seeds advance, but after that it was wide open. Three number #3s (Lindros, Schmidt, and Mitch) go down to #14 seeds, and two #4 seeds (Dick Allen and Bobby Clarke-GM) go down to #13 seeds. We have two #11 vs. #14 matchups in round 2. Billy Wagner will take on Al Harris and Samuel Dalembert, who was obviously underrated, will take on Terry Francona. Some of the best 2nd round matchups (voting will begin this afternoon):
Howard Eskin vs. Von Hayes. Eskin cruised to a first round win over Lance Parrish, while Hayes eeked one out over Ed Snyder. I think Eskin takes this one.
Michael Vick vs. JD Drew. This is an incredible 2nd round matchup. This could come down to the last minute. There is no love lost for either of these men in Philly.
Bobby Abreu vs. First Down Freddie. Two different styles here. Abreu, who people thought was too understated, against Freddie Mitchell, who had a mouth bigger than his game. Going to be interested to see how this one turns out.
Scott Rolen vs. Stephen A. Smith. I think the committee underestimated how much loathing there is for Smith’s big mouth around here. I think this is going to be a close one.
Angelo Cataldi vs. Wheels. Two men behind that mic that drive people crazy. Is it Angelo’s obnoxious blathering or Wheels just being Wheels that infuriates people more?
UPDATE: Round Two voting has begun!
TO. Kobe. Toast. Eskin. Over the years, there have been plenty of players and sports personalities to come through this town that drove the local populace crazy. Well we’ve assembled them all, and they’re going head to head in a tournament that will determine the title of “Philly’s Most Hated”. The voting has already begun on our facebook page. I’ve posted 24 matchups so far, and will post 8 more tomorrow. First round voting will continue until Sunday at 5 p.m., when our first round winners will move on to the 2nd round. Voting for the 2nd round will then commence, and we’ll whittle it down to the Sweet 16 by next weekend. Here’s the full bracket, so you can start discussing future matchups if you so please. Be sure to vote, and tell your friends about it as well. We want to get as many votes as possible, so we can get a true taste of who Philly’s Most Hated are.
(6 points) Just how underrated is Byron Evans? His wikipedia entry contains exactly 2 sentences about his career with the Eagles, and one of those talks about how he was overlooked as a defender. But his value is best summed up in this article by Reuben Frank last year about (what else?) how underrated Byron Evans was:
He didn’t pile up sacks like Reggie. He didn’t shut down tight ends like Seth. He didn’t fly across the field and obliterate wideouts who dared venture across the middle like Wes and Andre. And he didn’t make historic interceptions like E.A. All he did was effectively stuff running backs and clog up the middle, which let all the other guys roam around and make all those big plays.
And unlike teammates like Jerome Brown, Allen and Joyner, who had ebullient personalities, Byron was very, very quiet. He was the one guy on that defense that preferred to let his play do the talking.
From 1989-1992, Evans was a beast on defense, averaging 145.5 tackles per year. He was the signal caller and defensive captain of a defense that included Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, and Reggie White. He was smart enough to not only play the most demanding position of Buddy Ryan’s complex 46 defense, but to master it. And lastly, you have to give him points for the Beanie Wiggle.
Evans now teaches high school and coaches football in Arizona. Here he is interviewed a few months ago, talking about how much he enjoys coaching and teaching.
A few parameters before we kick this thing off. First of all, these are 15 athletes we think are underrated by fans of Philadelphia. Not nationally. There are a couple who might even be overrated nationally, but locally don’t get the love they deserve. As far as how we scored it…we took each person who is a part of the site: myself, Lalli, and our host, Art from Foobooz, to list their 12 most underrated Philly athletes of all time. We then gave them each a point total (#1 got 12 points, #2 got 11, and so on) and added up the points. In case of a tie, I pulled an executive decision. We begin today, with #15. There were a number of guys who one of had listed, but who didn’t get enough points. The honorable mentions are:
Eddie Collins (5 points)
Jim Eisenreich (5 points)
Todd Pinkston (5 points)
Bernard Hopkins (4 points)
Rick MacLeish (3 points)
Mark Howe (2 points)
Sami Kapanen (1 point)
Manny Trillo (1 point)
Now let’s start with our list. We certainly are looking for feedback on this…through twitter, on facebook and in the comments. Please, please feel free to argue and make a case for guys you think should be on this list. This is a discussion, not something we want to cram down your throats. Let the countdown begin!
We’re gonna be working on a new project over the next couple of weeks, and we’re going to need your help. We want to come up with a list of the 20 most underrated athletes in Philadelphia sports history…athletes who are underrated by Philadelphians. In other words, not players that people slept on nationally, but guys who should be a lot better known right here in Philly, where they played. (We’ve already written about a few guys who will probably make the list, like Del Ennis and Joe Frazier.) They can be Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, Warriors, A’s, boxers, college athletes, tennis players, bocce sensations, etc. So please post in the comments or on our facebook page or by sending us a note on twitter. Thanks! We’ll start posting the list on Wednesday after we hear your suggestions and discuss amongst ourselves.