Yes, the NFL draft is coming up at the end of the month. But after that, we’re pretty much football-less until training camp opens three months later. The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, is hoping to fill the void with the play Tommy and Me, which will run from April 7 through April 17 at the New Hope theater.
Tommy and Me was written by Ray Didinger, who, if you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic, you may know from NBC Sports Philadelphia’s pre- and post-Eagles’ games coverage. Before all that, Didinger covered the NFL for The Philadelphia Bulletin and The Philadelphia Daily News for more than 25 years. It was as a local sportswriter that he kinda-famously lobbied to get Tommy McDonald into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tommy and Me is the story of how that happened, and the unique friendship that bloomed in the process.
McDonald’s is a name that goes way (way) back. But it’s one that most Eagles fans have at least heard of. That’s because he was integral to the Eagles winning the 1960 NFL Championship. And before that magical night on February 4, 2018 – a few months before McDonald died at age 84 – it was all we had. With the Eagles trailing 6-0 midway through the first quarter of the 1960 championship game, McDonald caught a 22-yard pass from Norm Van Brocklin, then pulled down a 35-yard touchdown throw on the next play. The Eagles went on to defeat the highly vaunted Green Bay Packers and Vince Lombardi.
That game was a springboard for McDonald, who had his best seasons over the next two years. In 1961, he led the league in receiving yards and touchdowns. More importantly, he embarrassed the Giants. In 1961, he had seven receptions for 237 yards – which is still an Eagles’ single-game record – and two touchdowns. Two seasons earlier, he caught three touchdown passes and ran a punt back 81 yards for another touchdown against the Giants – with his jaw wired shut a week after he had broken it.
By the time he retired in 1969, McDonald was a six-time Pro Bowler (five as an Eagle). He finished his career with nearly 10,000 all-purpose yards and 84 touchdowns, which was the second-highest total in league history at the time. And he was only 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. (Also, he was the last non-kicker to play in the NFL without a facemask. Though he rarely missed a game because of an injury.) And yet, McDonald was not a shoo-in for the hall of fame.
He was finally inducted in 1998, thanks largely to Didinger’s campaign. A fan favorite during his playing days in part because of his positive spirit, McDonald marked his induction with what’s been described as “one of the most enthusiastic, heartfelt and bizarre acceptance speeches ever.”
Following most performances at the Playhouse, Didinger will lead a discussion with a special guest. On opening night, it’s Eagles great Harold Carmichael, who was inducted into the hall of fame last year. You can buy tickets here.