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RIP Frank Olivo (Santa Claus)

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From http://now.snopes.com/2015/05/02/santa-claus-booed/:

The infamous “booing Santa Claus” episode took place at old Franklin Field (then the home field of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles franchise) on 15 December 1968, as the Eagles squared off against the Minnesota Vikings in their final game of the season. The Eagles’ record stood at a dismal 2-11 going into the game (they’d end the season 2-12 after losing to the Vikings that day); even worse, Philadelphia had begun the year with a pathetic eleven straight losses, and two meaningless late season victories had served no purpose other than to take the Eagles out of the running for the #1 pick in the upcoming NFL/AFL common draft. (The 1-12-1 Buffalo Bills garnered the first pick and used it to select a USC running back named O.J. Simpson; the Eagles went third and chose forgettable running back Leroy Keyes from Purdue.)


Adding to the disenchanting game environment that Sunday afternoon was the weather: It had been snowing in Philadelphia since the night before, and by game time the temperature was in the low 20s, with a wind chill factor abetted by wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour. Arriving fans reportedly had to clear their seats of an accumulated three inches of slush and snow before sitting down. Still, as noted in The Great Philadelphia Fan Book, the fact that over 54,000 people showed up to watch a miserable team play in miserable weather is a testament to the loyalty of Philadelphia fans.

The Eagles claimed an early 7-0 lead until, just before the end of the half, the Vikings capitalized on an interception and quickly tied the game with a 57-yard touchdown pass. But even if the football on the field was less than scintillating that day, at least fans in attendance were supposed to be treated to a decent Christmas Pageant at halftime: While the Eaglette cheerleaders (dressed up as elves) romped on the field accompanied by a 50-piece brass band playing Christmas tunes, Santa was to make his entrance riding around the field on a huge Christmas float featuring an “ornate sleigh dragged by eight life-sized fiberglass reindeer.”


Even before it had barely begun, however, the halftime show started to go as awry as the Eagles’ season. A day’s worth of snow and the pounding cleats of large football players had turned much of the field to muck, and the float quickly got stuck in the mud, meaning Santa would have to abandon his traditional means of conveyance and parade around on foot instead. But Santa was nowhere to be found, the person hired to portray him (depending upon which report one believes) having been prevented from making it to Franklin Field due to either an excess of inclement weather or an excess of alcoholic refreshments. In a panic, the Eagles’ entertainment director, Bill Mullen, approached a fan sitting in the stands, 20-year-old Frank Olivo, to fill in for the absent Santa Claus. Olivo, who had worn a red corduroy Santa suit and a fake beard to the game, was given a large sack and tapped to weave down the field between two columns of Eaglettes, waving to the crowd as the brass band played “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Years later, Olivo recalled what happened next:

“That’s when the booing started. At first, I was scared because it was so loud. But then I figured, hey, it was just good-natured teasing. I’m a Philadelphia fan, I knew what was what. I thought it was funny.”

When Olivo finished his run down Santa Claus Lane, he got into range. A fan in the upper deck threw the first snowball. As Santa hit the south end zone, one turned into ten, then into 100.

“When I hit the end zone, and the snowballs started, I was waving my finger at the crowd, saying ‘You’re not getting anything for Christmas,'” Olivo recalled.

“Oh, I got pelted,” Olivo says. He remembers being hit by several dozen snowballs, which suggests that many of the upper-deck denizens were more accurate passers than [the Eagles’ quarterback]. “I didn’t mind,” he says. “I started kibitzing with some of the people throwing the snowballs.”

Still, he had his limits. “When I finished, Mr. Mullen asked if I wanted to do it again the next year,” Olivo says. “I told him, ‘No way. If it doesn’t snow, they’ll probably throw beer bottles.”


What prompted the Philadelphia fans to treat Santa Claus so inhospitably that day remains a subject of contention. Some, such as Jim Gallagher, the Eagles’ public relations director at the time, claimed the bad behavior was prompted by Santa’s pathetic physical appearance, recalling: “He was the worst-looking Santa I’d ever seen. Bad suit, scraggly beard. I’m not sure whether he was drunk, but he appeared to be.” For his part, Olivo maintains that he was “a terrific Santa” (if slightly undersize for the part at 5’6″ and 170 lbs.), that his suit was actually of quite good quality, that he wasn’t drunk, and that “a lot of [people who claim otherwise] weren’t even here.”


Others opine that Santa was just a stand-in for the real (and out-of-reach) targets of the Philadelphia fans’ frustration, the ownership and coaching that had transformed a championship football franchise into one of the league’s worst teams (and that the booing was initially directed at the Eagles players as they headed for the locker room at halftime)""



It's probably a mixture of both - frustration with the team and how bad the halftime show went off. They were talking about it on the radio this weekend. That day, one fan raced across the field to try to get at the coach/GM, Joe Kuharich. Bob Brown, their monster HoF RT at the time, took the guy out with a forearm shiver. There was an effigy of Kuharich hanging from the stands through the whole game. That team was a shambles.

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Cripes. I wasn't around back then, but look at who the Eagles could have drafted next:


Joe Greene




 JEEBUS>>>>>imagine Mean Joe Greene being a Eagle....WOW....that would have been AWESOME, it would have re-wrote Eagles history. Man, that really was ONE MEAN S.O.B...

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The Eagles could have had Joe Greene, went with Leroy Keyes instead.   Could have had Warren Sapp, selected Mike Mamula instead. Could have had Troy Polamalu, picked Jerome McDougal instead.  Should have chosen Earl Thomas, but grabbed Brandon Graham (this might work out, but the early results are unfavorable.)


This is not a good trend by the Eagles. 


Others of note:

1971 John Riggins went right after Eagles nabbed Richard Harris (DE, All rookie)

1983 Michael Haddix (holds the record for the fewest average yards per carry (3.0) for a player with more than 500 carries) before Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews.


What the hell happened in the mid '70s?!  The Eagles didn't pick until the 3rd round in 1974, 7th round in 1975, 4th round in 1976,  the 5th round in 1977, the 3rd in 1978.  Wiki was less than helpful, citing only one trade with the Rams in '73.  Must have been a hell of a trade!

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The Eagles could have had Joe Greene, went with Leroy Keyes instead


Leroy Keyes was 2nd in the Heisman voting that year, behind OJ Simpson. It's not as if they picked some stiff out of Nowheresville U.


The Eagles were just a crappy team with crappy coaching and crappy ownership in the late '60s and early '70s. If they had drafted Greene it wouldn't have made a difference. It wasn't until Vermeil arrived that things changed.

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What the hell happened in the mid '70s?! The Eagles didn't pick until the 3rd round in 1974, 7th round in 1975, 4th round in 1976, the 5th round in 1977, the 3rd in 1978. Wiki was less than helpful, citing only one trade with the Rams in '73. Must have been a hell of a trade!

Well, I know Bill Bergey cost them a couple of #1s and maybe a later round pick, so that was a good deal...I think the rest is just the result of the horrible trades and personnel management that were the club's hallmark for most of the late 60s early 70s

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Mean Joe Greene went to North Texas State University. The school nickname is Mean Green! Joe becme




HA....did not know that, thanks for the info!!

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