Gabe DeSimone, Hugh MacDonough, and Tom Woodruff do not know one another.

But all three men rose early in the morning on Dec. 26, 1960, grabbed their tickets, and made their way to Franklin Field for the NFL championship game between their beloved Eagles and the Green Bay Packers.

With the Eagles and Packers set to play Sunday for just the third time in the NFL playoffs, the men this week recalled that first playoff matchup that featured Norm Van Brocklin, Tommy McDonald, and Chuck Bednarik; and Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, and Max McGee.

"My mom, dad, and I took the train in from Mount Airy because my dad would not drive in that traffic," said Woodruff, 76. "Plus, he worked for the railroad and got to ride for free."

DeSimone, 63, said he and his father and a neighbor and his neighbor's son drove up from Sigel Street in South Philadelphia. "My dad took off from work," DeSimone said. "We had season tickets. They were bad seats, but they only cost us $8 each."

MacDonough, 66, and his father drove in from Wynnewood. His father was a doctor, so he finagled his schedule to get the day off.

"I've been a season-ticket holder for 35 years, and that was still the best game I've ever seen," MacDonough said. "We were on the lower level, and Bednarik tackled [Jim] Taylor right in front of us. We looked up at the clock and watched the time run out.

"We were on cloud nine all the way home."

The 17-13 victory by the Eagles was punctuated at the end by Bednarik, who tackled Taylor, Green Bay's running back, at the Eagles' 8-yard line. Then Concrete Charlie, as the linebacker was known, sat on Taylor until time expired.

"I could see Bednarik looking at the clock to make sure the game was over," MacDonough said.

Woodruff watched Bednarik from his seat in the end zone, while DeSimone was in the south stands near the goal line at the other end of the field. They, too, sat frozen with anticipation as the clock ticked down to all zeros.

"That brought the stadium to a roar," Woodruff said. "That play will stay in my memory forever."

That entire season was memorable for MacDonough. A 16-year-old who followed Van Brocklin closely, MacDonough watched as the Birds won the Western Conference title in dramatic fashion.

"The season was surreal," said MacDonough, who lives in Lafayette Hill now and coached football at Olney High School for a time. "They came from behind to win in practically every game. And they did it in that game, too. I can still see Tommy McDonald running out of that snow bank after he caught the touchdown pass from Van Brocklin."

MacDonough's love of Van Brocklin is so well known that his friends gave him a replica No. 11 jersey when he retired three years ago. "And I've worn it to every home game since," he said.

For Woodruff, who lives in Oreland, that game capped his first year as a season-ticket holder. He was 26 and remembers that the field had to be cleared of snow and that a burly Van Brocklin fan sat behind him and his parents in the stands.

"We kept saying we were worried about the game," Woodruff said, "but this big Polish fella sitting behind us kept saying, 'Don't worry, kid. The Dutchman will get us there.' "

Van Brocklin's nickname was the Dutchman.

"And every time he said that, he'd slap me on the back," Woodruff said. "And he said it three or four times."

DeSimone, 13 when he attended the game, spent that season sneaking out of the stands to pose with the players before games while his father took pictures. Nowadays he lives in Mays Landing, N.J., and tucked neatly into the frame of his favorite photo with Van Brocklin is his ticket stub from the Dutchman's final NFL game.

Dec. 26, 1960. Section SA. Row 23. Seat 9.

"That game was really something," DeSimone said. "That ticket is one of my favorite things. I show it to everybody who comes into my house."

Contact staff writer Gary Miles
at 215-854-4487 or gmiles@phillynews.com.