Sunday, October 5: Gameday, Redskins @ Eagles – A Flashback

After we got to Philadelphia yesterday, I walked over to Reading Terminal Market — not to plumb the mind of the average Philly fan, not to see what the read the buzz on the streets of the city, nothing like that at all. I just went because I was hungry, and I had heard that the Market had a bunch of different food options, and was a pretty neat place to boot. Both of these things turned out to be true, and I got to hear a whole bunch of conversations about today’s game as a special bonus.

Most of the chatter revolved around the fact that the Redskins were apparently staying in a nearby hotel (true), and that their buses had blocked traffic when they arrived (true), and that this somehow reflected some level of contempt for the average Philadelphian and his need to commute (emphatically not true). I overheard a rumor that one of the Redskins coaches had said in the elevator that they had brought body bags for the Eagles. (I cannot verify this, of course, but I can’t imagine any of our coaches doing that in this situation, and I have a suspicion that this person was muddling an eighteen year old story.) A few people opined on the differences between FedExField and RFK Stadium, which seemed irrelevant to today’s game in Philly, but was still amusing to hear.

The most interesting thing I heard, though, was a story I had never heard before. A woman waiting in line for a cheesesteak at Rick’s held forth on the game between the Redskins and Eagles on December 7, 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and I found myself scribbling down notes as she talked.

According to her rendition, the game started before the attack. Fans in the stands and players on the field were unaware that the bombing had happened, the game went on as planned, and the Redskins went into the half with a large lead. At halftime, though, the teams were notified of the attack, and many players were called to active duty on the spot, including both the first and second string quarterbacks for Washington. As a result, the Eagles rallied to win behind an enormous second half.

This, I thought, was a terrific story, and it certainly put the lie to my idea that the Eagles/Redskins rivalry was only about the fans. In fact, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard this story before, so I headed back to my hotel room to look it up.


And … well, parts of it are true, anyhow. Of the three NFL games under way right around the time of the attack, the Redskins game was the only one where no general announcement was made. The game started after the bombing, but communications in 1941 didn’t travel as quickly as they do today, so everyone present was in the dark.

According to Michael Richman’s Redskins Encyclopedia, the P.A. announcer began making announcements calling various service personnel by name to report to their offices in Washington.

The dramatic scoring change, though, after the players were called to active duty … that appears to be completely false. A 1999 Sports Illustrated story looking back at the game describes the scene like this:

Only the boys in the press box had any idea [about Pearl Harbor]. Just before kickoff an Associated Press reporter named Pat O’Brien got a message ordering him to keep his story short. When O’Brien complained, another message flashed: The Japanese have kicked off. War now! But Redskins president George Marshall wouldn’t allow an announcement of Japan’s attack during the game, explaining that it would distract the fans. That made Griffith Stadium one of the last outposts of an era that had already slipped away.

The crowd oohed and cheered. When the game—and season—ended with Washington a 20-14 winner, a few hundred fans rushed the goalposts.

The only player from the game that I can find mentioned as specifically being called to active duty apparently didn’t have much effect on the score of the game: Eagles halfback Michael “Nick” Basca, who would lose his life in combat in France three years later. He’s in the Sports Illustrated piece, and also a member of the Chester County (PA) Hall of Heroes.

Even if the story isn’t quite accurate as told, it’s still a good one. And it was interesting to see Eagles fans in their natural habitat. If, as I’ve been told, these people are going to be throwing eggs at my vehicle a bit later this morning, at least my first encounter with them this weekend was informative.

(The image above is from a currently active auction for the Redskins Review program from that game. I am in no way affiliated with that auction, but include the link for those of you who are.)

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5 Responses

  1. Ok so always like i’ve been doing about this time. First of JZ what can I say I liked the pick from day one and knew ya had it in ya! I love what you’ve done with the talent on this team and how you have it gel’n like Dr Scholl’s at the moment! Fabulous job coach! And I especially what you have done with the young QB who would have become a symbol of anarchy had you not arrived when you did. Takes a QB teach field vision properly and the patience is showing. And JC what can I say I was calling for ya head after week 1 bro and I can honestly say I was starting to worry! I always knew you had it in ya but I was wondering if your window was going to close through no fault of your own due to stability issues. But you are pulling threw it week in and week out like the leader you are now proving to be! and all I can say is keep up the good work and let’s start turning those 3’s into 6’s let’s keep moving the ball like wave been doing! I mean can a brother get a naked bootleg every once in a while? I love the running game right now Clinto0n is on point! I just still feel like Cooly could be doing more in this offense along with Fred Davis and Devin Thomas on some deep and intermediate stuff I mean I don’t know what the kid shows in practice but from what I can tell he is a gamer and should be playing a bigger role not 8 catches or anything like that but 7-8 balls should be go in his direction a game and I’m sure it would open up some other stuff for Santana and randle el downfield if Devin can become more of a threat in the offense. I mean the style of football we play once we start converging third downs it’s over because we slow the game up so much and play keep away very well. So overall here are my keys to this matchup with eagles. First of we cannot settle for more than 2 or 3 field goals in this game! We need four to five touchdowns to win this even if they don’t score two we need to be powerful and convincing in this victory. We should be taking seriously in this division and the NFL! I am sick of seeing the likes of Tony Romo Eli Manning Marion Barber when I should be seeing Jason Campbell and Clinton Portis on sports center every night! We need to pressure that O-line to have another big day so that we can get Clinton over 150 yards! How about that! We get there and we run away with the game if we can generate 450 yards or more of total offense we are in the hat. Now on the other side of the ball my man Carlos Rodgers it’s probably going to be your duty to cover and be the shadow to Desean Jacksons Perter Pan! we shut him down we shut them down vertically and if we shut down the injured westbroke then all tats left is Donovan and if he can’t throw to nobody and if nobody can run then what does that equal? A REDSKINS W!

    Hail to the Redskins!

  2. the comment is longer than the post

  3. Great post Matt. I’d never heard that one before.

  4. Great story! Thanks for taking the time to look this up and sharing with us. Which begs the question – did you get hit with eggs?

  5. The cupcakes there are terrible, but hopefully you had some ice cream :)

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