The Eagles and Dallas Cowboys have not made many trades over the years. Their long-standing rivalry probably has a lot to do with it. But in 1964, the teams agreed to a trade that ranks among the worst in Eagles history.
The Eagles traded flanker Tommy McDonald to Dallas for offensive guard Lynn Hoyem, defensive tackle John Meyers, and kicker Sam Baker. It was one in a series of moves made by the Eagles new coach-general manager Joe Kuharich that led to the "Joe Must Go" movement in Philadelphia.
McDonald was a five-time Pro Bowl selection who led the NFL in receiving yardage (1,144) and touchdowns (13) in 1961. He held the franchise record for career touchdown catches (66). He was a fan favorite going back to his rookie year of 1957, but Kuharich wanted to build his own team so he traded both McDonald and quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, who went to Washington in exchange for Norm Snead.
Kuharich didn't even bother to tell McDonald that he was traded. McDonald learned about the deal from Ben Callaway, a sports writer with the Philadelphia Daily News. McDonald played in a charity basketball game that night with his Eagles teammates. After the game, he returned to his King of Prussia, Pennsylvania home and Callaway called to get a comment on the trade.
"What trade?" McDonald asked.
"You were traded to the Cowboys," Callaway said. "You didn't know?"
At first, McDonald thought it was a joke. Callaway assured him it was not.
"I felt like an old shoe that was thrown away," McDonald said. "It broke my heart. I didn't want to leave Philadelphia. I loved it here. I loved the fans. I loved playing with Sonny. We were like brothers. We were drafted together, we roomed together, we even had our own TV show (Jurgensen to McDonald, Sunday nights on Channel 6). We thought we'd play our whole careers together. But Joe had other ideas."
The trade didn't really work out for either side. Hoyem and Meyers played four uninspiring seasons with the Eagles and Baker was on the downside of his career as a punter and placekicker. He lasted six seasons before he was released.
McDonald spent one unhappy season in Dallas. He caught just 46 passes for 612 yards and two touchdowns playing for the 5-8-1 Cowboys. After the season, he went to coach Tom Landry and requested a trade. Landry shipped him to Los Angeles where he had a big year playing with quarterback Roman Gabriel. McDonald had 67 catches for 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns, earning his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl.
"I never fit in with Dallas," McDonald said. "Landry wanted to run the ball and he had a good back in (Don) Perkins but it wasn't my kind of offense. We had good receivers like Frank Clarke and Buddy Dial, but it was like we were second-string or something. I got frustrated. It was not a fun year, let's put it that way."
For McDonald, the highlight of the season was December 6 when the Cowboys came to Philadelphia to play the Eagles. It was a meaningless game between two teams going nowhere but 60,671 fans filled Franklin Field to welcome McDonald back to Philadelphia.
"I remember walking into Franklin Field that morning, looking up at those wooden bleachers," McDonald said. "It was like coming home. I had so many great memories there especially the (1960) championship game against Green Bay, catching the touchdown pass from (quarterback Norm) Van Brocklin. I had tears in my eyes just walking in there.
"The fans were calling my name, saying 'Welcome home, we miss you,' stuff like that. I wanted to have a good game. Not to show up Kuharich or anything like that. I just wanted to do it for the fans and to have that feeling one more time."
As usual, McDonald delivered, pulling in a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Don Meredith. The play was just a footnote in a 24-14 Eagles victory but it got the biggest cheer of the day.
"Meredith looked at me in the huddle and said, 'I know you want this one, Tommy,'" McDonald said. "It was a great feeling to make the catch and hear the cheers knowing they were for me. I loved playing at Franklin Field. The fans were right on top of you."
One final note about that day. McDonald asked Landry's permission to bring his dog on the team charter. His wife and kids spent that season in King of Prussia and McDonald was homesick in Dallas, so he thought having his poodle might help. Landry agreed assuming it was a miniature poodle. However, Calhoun (that was the dog's name) was a standard poodle, so it was the size of a Labrador retriever.
As McDonald was boarding the plane, an airport worker asked for an autograph. McDonald dropped the leash to sign the autograph and when he did, Calhoun took off running across the airport runway. It took airport security and all the Cowboys personnel to chase him down and get him on the plane. Landry watched the whole thing from his window seat. He was not amused.
"Dad said he wasn't sorry to leave Dallas," McDonald's son Chris said, "and I'm pretty sure Landry wasn't sorry to see Calhoun leave either."
An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He has also won six Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and producer at NFL Films. The five-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year is a writer and analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the year for PhiladelphiaEagles.com. You can read all of hisEagles History columns here.He is also the author ofThe Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition which is in bookstores now.