Ralph Goldston broke color barrier for the Eagles
LIKE MANY rookies entering their first training camp, Ralph Goldston was worried only about earning a roster spot with the 1952 Eagles. It was not until later on that the halfback from Youngstown State found out he was the first black player ever to wear a Philadelphia football uniform.
After back-to-back poor seasons, the Eagles selected two halfbacks to provide a security blanket for their aging, future Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren. After selecting Goldston in the 11th round, the Eagles selected another black halfback, Don Stevens, in the 30th round.
"I didn't know about any color line," Goldston said in a 2005 interview with CSNPhilly.com. "I didn't find out that I was the first [black player] until I was there for a while. It wasn't a big deal. Don and I were treated the same as the other rookies."
After drafting African-American halfback Johnny Bright with their first pick in 1952, it was Goldston who became the first African-American Eagle after Bright went to the CFL instead of the NFL. While Bright was afraid of the pressure and spotlight associated with being the first black player in Philadelphia franchise history, Goldston did not know the history and never thought his race would be a problem.
At the time, many black players already had success in the NFL, and Goldston was no different. The rookie halfback led the Eagles with three rushing touchdowns as a starter and occasionally played defense, as well.
The only trouble Goldston and Stevens faced as Eagles involved traveling. Both players were forced to stay in a different hotel, but Goldston later said the arrangement had its advantages, such as the lack of a curfew.
After suffering a broken leg in a 1953, Goldston returned the next season and switched to defense before signing with Hamilton in the CFL in 1956. After retiring from the CFL, he spent 30 years as a coach with Harvard and Colorado before becoming a scout with the Seattle Seahawks.
Goldston and Stevens combined for four touchdowns during their time with Philadelphia. On July 9, 2011, Goldston died at age 82 in Columbus, Ohio, less than 10 years after Stevens died in Philadelphia at age 72
- John Murrow