By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Sometimes it takes the death of a Hall-of-Fame worthy candidate to gain the attention of the Hall’s board of selectors. It happened this year with Ken Stabler, and it should happen next year with Al Wistert.
The former Philadelphia Eagles’ lineman died earlier this month at 95 without ever gaining entry to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that’s more than a shame.
It’s a disgrace.
It’s not just that he had the credentials for Canton. It’s that he had the credentials for Canton 50 years ago. But for some reason he slipped through the cracks … never to be remembered again … and here’s hoping his passing awakens voters to what they missed.
Let’s start with those credentials.
He was an All Pro in eight of his nine NFL seasons, and think about that for that a minute. In all but one year of his career he was judged as the best at his position, and tell me another NFL star who can make that statement.
A tackle who played offense and defense for 60 minutes, Wistert was the captain of the Eagles’ 1948-49 championship teams and named to their Hall of Fame in 2009. A star at the University of Michigan, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame, too. And, oh, yeah, he was also named to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
Michigan retired his jersey number. So did the Eagles, and, by now, you should be getting the picture: Al Wistert was more than a very good football player. He was a great one.
He was a ferocious tackler who was the leader of a defense that posted consecutive shutout wins in its 1948 defeat of the Chicago Cardinals (7-0) and 14-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams a year later. But why stop there? In the 1948 championship game that was played in a raging snowstorm Hall-of-Famer Steve Van Buren scored the only touchdown on a short run keyed by the block of his right tackle.
That tackle? Uh-huh, Al Wistert, whose blocking helped Van Buren win four rushing titles.
Hall-of-Fame coach George Allen had such enormous regard for Wistert that in his book, Pro Football’s 100 Greatest Players, he named Wistert as one of the top 10 tackles to play the game. The other nine are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“He was best against the run,” Allen wrote, “but he was among the good early pass rushers. He was as fine a blocker as you could want. He didn’t have the size to overpower people, but he was a master of every kind of block. He was skilled, consistent, determined and resourceful. He was very much a high-quality player.”
High-quality? Al Wistert was more than that.
“Al was the greatest offensive tackle I’ve seen or played with,” said former teammate Bosh Pritchard.
So why isn’t he in Canton? Don’t ask me. Talk to the Hall’s senior committee. It put Stabler on the fast track after he died last summer, and it should do it again with Al Wistert to correct an oversight that never should have been committed.