Thursday, March 5, 2009
1943 - 1951
95 Games Played
8 Time All Pro
Albert Alexander Wistert was drafted in the fifth round by the Philadelphia/ Pittsburgh Steagles in 1943, the 32nd player chosen overall. The Steagles were a team that was comprised of Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers into one team because of World War II.
Al had played college football at the University of Michigan. He was a legendary two way player there. He had two brothers, Alvin and Francis, also play for the Wolverines. They all played the same position, Tackle on both sides of the ball, and wore the same number 11 jersey. Francis was the first, Albert was the second, then Alvin was last. Their number 11 jersey has been retired by Michigan University, and is one of only seven to have achieved that honor. Albert played on Wolverine teams that lost only 5 games in his three years there. He was an All American and was named the MVP of the team in 1942. One famous moment in Michigan University football history came against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Going in the locker room trailing at halftime, the Notre Dame fans told Michigan to go home because it was over. Wistert would have none of that and inspired his team mates with a pep talk that had the Wolverines fired up. Michigan rattled off 21 straight unanswered points in the third quarter and dominated Notre Dame to a 32 - 20 victory. After playing in the 1943 East West Shrine Game, Al was team captain of the College All Stars who played against the NFL World Champion Washington Redskins. Al's team stomped the Redskins, led by Hall Of Fame Quarterback Sammy Baugh, 27 - 7. Al Wistert is a member of the Michigan University Hall Of Honor, and a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame, as are both of his brothers.
Al went to his first Steagles practice knowing no one. He saw Hall Of Fame Defensive End Bill Hewitt sitting on some rocks smoking a cigarette. Al approached Hewitt to introduce himself to the fellow Wolverine Alumni who had played alongside his brother Francis in college. Hewitt had just come out of a three year retirement to play for $4,000. It was the most Hewitt had ever made in the NFL. Al had just signed with the Steagles for $4,500. Al extended his hand and introduced himself, but Hewitt did not say a word or offer his hand. Al then decided to run laps around the field by himself. Pretty soon, the entire Steagles team was following Al and running around the field. The Steagles disbanded the following season, and the Steelers and Eagles went back to being separate teams. Wistert stayed in Philadelphia. Al would make his first All Pro Team that year in 1944, and would garner this achievement for every year of the rest of his NFL career. In 1946, he was named team captain. An honor he served until 1950. The Eagles went to their first championship game in 1947, but lost to the Chicago Cardinals 28 - 21. The 1948 season saw the Eagles win their very first championship in a blizzard in a rematch against the Chicago Cardinals 7 - 0. The Eagles then went back to the NFL Championship the next year and beat the Los Angeles Rams 14 - 0 in heavy rain. The Eagles are the only team in NFL history to win back to back championships and not allow their opponents to score. Al announced he would retire after the 1951 season. The Eagles held an AL WISTERT DAY in the fourth from last home game that year. The team gave Al a brand new car, and many other gifts. One gift was a hand crafted dining room table that Al still uses this day to eat his meals off of. The Eagles then retired his #70 jersey in 1952, the first Eagle to ever have had this done. Al Wistert is a member of the NFL 1940's All Decade Team.
I find it utterly amazing that Al Wistert has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame! This man truly embodies what Canton is supposed to represent. Not only was he an eight time All Pro in his nine year career, but he was a very important member of an Eagles team that dominated the NFL in the late 1940's. He introduced the NFL to the stand up style of blocking you all see today, instead of the rolling type of blocks that were employed then, which allowed Wistert to use his speed and agility to keep on blocking more defenders downfield and making him better than all the rest. Al was a true leader on and off the field. He captained a powerhouse squad full of Hall Of Fame players like Steve Van Buren, Pete Pihos, Alex Wojciechowicz, and Chuck Bednarik. His coach was Hall Of Famer Earle "Greasy" Neale. Al also gave back to the community by coaching a high school team in New Jersey over 50 miles away, even though he did not own a car. Neale liked and respected Wistert so much that he would lend his personal car daily to Wistert so Al could go teach kids how to play football. This says alot, because Neale was a noted task master. One game, Al came to the sideline to tell the coach he thought he had just broken his leg. Neale replied, " Well, get back in there until you are sure that it is." Al never missed a game in his career. He started every game of his career except the first five of his rookie season. He would soon supplant veteran Ted Doyle after the fifth game. The only other time he missed a start was in 1950 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Wistert had a severely sprained ankle and could hardly walk, but he ended up playing most of the game anyways. A 60 minute man, he never left the field at any time. Whether it was opening up holes for runners on offense or closing them on defense, Wistert was an amazing athlete durable, strong, and cerebral. Al was the smallest Tackle in the NFL, weighing 214 pounds, but he was a master technician who would out think, outwit, out gut, and dominate his opponents on both sides of the ball for every minute of every game. Al said, "I never gave then the same thing twice. I always confounded them with a new plan of attack." His team mates dubbed him "Ox", because he was incredibly strong and dependable.
The game was much different then. A rougher and more violent game with less rules and padding for self preservation. They played games in all sorts of poor weather, unlike the climate controlled stadiums so many players enjoy today. They would spend days travelling to cities by train, instead of a few hours on an airplane like today. Just to get a taste of these times, the Eagles took a train from Philadelphia to Los Angeles after beating the Giants. Despite only having a few days in L.A., they shut out the Rams in monsoon like conditions. To say these men were tough is an understatement. They did this for the love of the game, not the love for the money. Many great football players eschewed the NFL in those days because they could earn more money outside of sports, and in other sports. Francis Wistert was given $100 by Cardinals owner Charles Bidwell just to sign a contract, even though he had no intention of ever playing in the NFL. Francis chose to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds in Major League Baseball instead of playing football. Albert Wistert decided to play professional football and was great at it. He was a 60 minute man who stayed on the field at all times. After he retired, he became successful in the life insurance business and made million dollar deals. But he chose to play football first, and he is one of the path pavers who made the NFL the multi-billion dollar empire what it is today. The fact the Eagles retired his number first, and only one year after his retirement, shows how special a football player he was. Al Wistert is also a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall Of Fame.
As the years go on, the more we tend to forget great gridiron stars like Al Wistert. The veterans committee for the Pro Football Hall Of Fame MUST be blamed for not doing the jobs they were given to do. It is plainly evident to see, with all of the accolades, that a grave injustice has been perpetrated in regards to Al. It was not lost on his fellow players. After he retired, over 23 players and NFL'ers have written to the Hall Of Fame asking that Wistert be put in. Greats ranging from Chuck Bednarik to even former Eagles owner Norm Braman. Why the voters have chosen to ignore such a rich, diverse cast of NFL Alumni requests is bewildering. There is NO QUESTION that Albert Wistert belongs in Canton.
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Notable Players Drafted In 1943
( No Player From This Draft Has Yet Been Inducted Into Canton)
1. Frank Sinkwitch, QB, Detroit
3. Glenn Dobbs, RB, Chicago Cardinals
8. Dick Wildung, T, Green Bay
20. Fred Naumetz, C, Los Angeles Rams
40. Bob Dove, DE, Washington
42. Bruno Banducci, G, Philadelphia
62. Bruce Alford, E, Philadelphia
124. Buster Ramsey, G, Chicago Cardinals
132. Russ Craft, DB, Philadelphia
182. Chet Mutryn, RB, Philadelphia
224. Weldon Humble, G, Chicago Cardinals