Eagles

Eagles

It was Dec. 18, 1988, and the Eagles had just beaten the Cowboys, 23-7, at Texas Stadium in Tom Landry’s final game as a head coach.
 
That season-ending win got them to 10-6 but they still needed the Jets to upset the Giants to win the NFC East and get a first-round bye.
 
The Giants went into that game 10-5 and the Jets were 7-7-1, but the Jets played tough and late in the fourth quarter they were within a point and driving.
 
This was pre-internet, so Eagles PR guy Rich Burg gathered the team around a telephone on the sideline and long-time team employee Jim Gallagher, who was then the Eagles’ traveling secretary, was up in the press box watching the end of the Jets-Giants game on TV.
 
Rich, who now does PR for Temple football, told Jimmy, “Tell me everything that happens on TV.”
 
So as Ken O’Brien drove the Jets down the field toward a possible score that would give the Eagles their first division title since 1980, Jimmy Gal provided play-by-play into a phone and Rich shouted the updates to Reggie, Clyde, Seth, Wes, Andre and the other Eagles, still in their uniforms, gathered around him on the visiting sideline at an empty Texas Stadium.
 
Jimmy, being one of the funniest people who ever lived, took his assignment literally. 
 
If he wanted everything he heard on TV, he was going to give him everything he heard on TV.
 
“I was just yelling out everything Jimmy Gal said, and he was repeating everything he heard on TV,” Burg told me when I was writing The 50 Greatest Plays in Eagles History. “I vividly remember yelling, ‘First down, Jets,’ and then yelling, ‘Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet,’ because Jim was singing a Chevy commercial during a timeout.”
 
That was classic Jimmy.
 
Here is this historic moment in Eagles history — the Jets did wind up beating the Giants, clinching the Eagles’ first NFC East title since 1980 — and Jimmy Gal was approaching it with his typical humor.
 
Gallagher never played a snap for the Eagles, but he is without question an Eagles legend.
 
He joined the Eagles in 1949 and was along for the ride when they won the NFC Championship later that year, and he remained with the franchise in a variety of roles — personnel director, public relations director, traveling secretary — for 46 years until he retired in 1995.
 
Even after retirement, he was still an integral part of the franchise. He served the last 20 years as kind of an unofficial team historian and a conduit between the oldest surviving Eagles from the 1940s and 1950s and the current team.
 
If you were working on a project that involved the Eagles from the early days, you called Jimmy. He would regale you with these remarkably detailed stories about Van Buren and Bosh Pritchard and Pete Pihos and Bednarik for 45 minutes and then … “Now, what was the question again?”
 
He was a living, walking Eagles encyclopedia.
 
My favorite Jim Gallagher moment happened in the final minutes of some meaningless preseason game against at the Metrodome in Minneapolis probably in the late 1980s or early 1990s when some long-forgotten running back named Adam Smith got a carry for Minnesota.
 
The announcer barked out, “Two-yard gain for Adam Smith,” in the nearly empty press box, and Jimmy Gal, sitting behind me, muttered to nobody in particular: “Ol’ Smitty.”
 
I can’t explain why it was so funny, but it left me and Phil Sheridan in tears. That was Jimmy Gal. He had a joke for every situation. Even if he didn't realize anybody was listening.
 
Jimmy Gal was so proud when he was inducted into the Eagles' Hall of Fame alongside so many of the legendary players who were his closest friends. Nobody ever deserved it more.
 
Think about this: Jimmy Gallagher was with the franchise when Steve van Buren was an Eagle, and he was with the franchise when Randall Cunningham was with the franchise.
 
Jim graduated from Northeast Catholic High School and served in the Army in Korea.
 
He spent nearly half a century with the Eagles and even longer — 59 years — with his beloved wife Betty. They had six kids and 16 grandchildren.
 
Jimmy Gal died Friday. He was 88.
 
It's such a tremendous loss to the entire Eagles community. Nobody has ever represented the franchise with more class.
 
I'll remember Jimmy as one of the kindest, warmest, funniest people I've ever been around. He knew everybody's name, made everybody feel like his best friend. After you chatted with Jim, you inevitably had a smile on your face and felt like your day was going just a little bit better.
 
Even in retirement, Jim still came to all the Eagles' home games, sharing stories and memories with everybody.
 
I think it's safe to say nobody has ever loved the Eagles more than Jimmy Gal.