JIM GALLAGHER was out to eat Sunday morning when a patron asked the owner of the restaurant whether the Eagles' game that night would be postponed by the pending snowstorm. The owner said he had no idea, but there was someone sitting right nearby who might - he introduced the patron to Gallagher, an Eagles spokesman and front-office exec from 1949 to '95.
"I said, 'Sure, we'll play,' " Gallagher recalled yesterday.
So Gallagher was surprised when the NFL decided the Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings shouldn't play Sunday night, which just happened to be the 50th anniversary of the Birds' most recent NFL championship.
"I never heard of that before," said Gallagher, who added that he didn't oppose the decision, and also could not recall any Eagles night games played in raging snowstorms.
Maxie Baughan, a linebacker on the '60 Eagles, said there was no way that title-game victory over Green Bay would have been postponed by snow - as it happened, it was played in the aftermath of a storm, at Franklin Field.
"There's a different mentality now than there used to be," Baughan said yesterday. "I remember one game we played in Pittsburgh, they lined the [snow-covered] field with coal dust. The referee called both coaches over and said, 'We can't see the markings; don't argue the calls, they'll be fair, and whatever happens, happens.' That was just the way it was.
"I was surprised [the Eagles didn't play Sunday]. It seems like the decision was made by the mayor. Back then, I'm not sure the mayor would have made any decisions for the NFL."
(Mayor Nutter and the Eagles have said he was not involved in the decision.)
Baughan, who lives in Maryland, had read of Gov. Rendell's negative reaction. "Seems like he's of the old school," Baughan said.
In King of Prussia, Tommy McDonald, who famously was dwarfed by a snowbank after scoring a TD in the '60 title game, was fine with the idea that DeSean Jackson didn't have to go skidding through the snow Sunday night.
"I'm just glad they were smart enough to do that," McDonald said when asked about the postponement. "With people traveling in conditions like that, accidents can happen. The fans come first."
McDonald was thinking about the anniversary of the '60 game on Sunday, he said.
"Everybody was afraid of Green Bay, but we beat 'em," he said. "What an experience! To do that was like being in the movies - a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was the best Christmas present I ever had."
Despite all the talk about how rugged things were in the old days, "we didn't play that much in snowstorms," McDonald said. "It didn't snow that day [of the Green Bay game]. They'd done a pretty good job of getting the snow off the grass."
Ed Khayat, a defensive tackle on the '60 team and later the Birds' head coach (1971-72), strongly supported the postponement decision.
"It looked to me like everything was handled exactly the way it should have been," Khayat said. Postponing "makes it safer for everybody."
Khayat recalled several snow adventures, including the Pittsburgh game Baughan mentioned. "I remember we couldn't fly home, so we took a train," he said. Khayat said once the team got back to Philadelphia, which also was snowed in, he was able to get to his apartment at 39th and Chestnut, but he and roommate J.D. Smith had to accommodate teammates who lived in South Jersey and couldn't drive across the bridge.
Pressed to recall a postponed Eagles game from his 46 years with the team, Gallagher could think of one - a preseason game in the '60s against the Lions, scheduled for Mexico City. Gallagher said he and a Lions representative spent about a week in Mexico trying to set things up, but "there was a lot of activity with students fighting with the army" and the game was rescheduled for Franklin Field.
Much like some fans who didn't take Sunday's postponement at face value, Gallagher said he wasn't sure student unrest was the real reason behind the decision.
"I don't know if they didn't sell enough tickets, or what," he said.
This week's storm caused another Eagles-related postponement, by the way. Gallagher and some of the old-time Birds were scheduled yesterday to head out to an assisted-living facility in Manheim, near Lancaster, to visit Steve Van Buren, perhaps the greatest Eagle of all time, the star of the 1948 and '49 championship teams. They rescheduled for later in the week. Van Buren turns 90 today.
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