Just a couple of weeks ago we featured a game for a Throwback Thursday post from the Philadelphia Eagles’ dismal 1968 season, the Thanksgiving Mud Bowl. On this week’s NFL schedule, the Eagles take on the Minnesota Vikings, and not to pick on that hapless ’68 Eagle team, but with these 2 franchises facing off we had to feature another Philadelphia game, from December of ’68, between these 2 teams that became infamous because Eagle fans, weary of watching their team lose all year, actually booed and assaulted Santa Claus. The game itself wasn’t very memorable. The Vikings, a far superior team that year, won 24-17. Viking quarterback Joe Kapp had a pretty good game, running for a touchdown and tossing TD passes to Bill Brown and Gene Washington.
Played on December 15th, and being the Eagles’ final home game of the season, a halftime Christmas pageant was planned, a yearly tradition at old Franklin Field for the home finale. There had been a snowstorm earlier in the morning, and the guy who was supposed to play Santa in the pageant decided not to show up, leaving the team’s staff in a predicament. Unlike the movie Miracle On 34th Street, the real Santa didn’t appear to save the day. Enter Frank Olivo, a former Atlantic City craps dealer and Eagle season ticket holder who always dressed up in a Santa suit each year for the last home game. Team officials spotted him in the crowd and asked him to step in for the missing regular Santa in the pageant. He reluctantly agreed, and at halftime, walked out onto the field along with the other members of the pageant, waving to the crowd as he was asked to do. The game itself was competitive at that point, tied at 7-7 at the half, so no one really knows what put the Philly faithful in such a foul mood, but the crowd began to boo the poor substitute Kris Kringle. Maybe it was because he was a little too skinny to be a believable Santa, maybe it was his tattered suit, maybe it was the fact that the Eagles were just plain lousy that year and the fans were fed up. But on top of the booing, some fans decided to start pelting Olivo with snowballs, and before long he was running for his own safety.
In an interview years later, Olivo said at one point as he was running for cover he spotted a fan in the first row and watched him grab some snow, pack it into a snowball and fire it at him. He ran up to the wall, pointed his finger at the offender and yelled, “You’re not getting anything for Christmas!” Olivo wound up becoming a legend in Philadelphia sports history, and if you want to get a glimpse of some of what he was facing in the Franklin Field stands that day, take a look at the picture of him below in his place in the stands. It almost looks like he was smack dab in the middle of the local Mafia section.
Frank Olivo, AKA Santa Claus, in the stands in Philadelphia