It was a sentimental and tender enshrinement ceremony yesterday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, from when the first inductee, Lance Alworth, cried until the last, Larry Wilson, saw his son Jed carried from the scene in a wheelchair.
Wally Henry scored the clinching touchdown on a 72-yard punt return with 10 minutes left to give the Philadelphia Eagles a 17-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the opening NFL exhibition held in conjunction with the installation ceremony.
There were understandable excesses during ceremonies before the game. Weeb Ewbank said "The only thing better than enshrinment will be for me - and you - to reach heaven."
Ray Nitschke, once nicknamed "Wild Man," was forthrightly ebullient. "Wow!" he said when he reached the microphone, pausing for effect.
Tuffy Leemans was not so tough. He sobbed as he thanked "my family for helping me along." He also produced an enlightening bit of sports trivia. Ernie Nevers, a previous Hall of Famer, and Leemans both came from the small town of Allouez, Wis.
Jack Curtice, Wilson's coach at the University of Utah, disclosed that fans of St. Louis had raised $80,000 to put up a statue of the former Cardinal free safety outside Busch Stadium, similar to that of baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial.
"Larry wouldn't let them," Curtice said as he presented Wilson.
"He made them add two rooms to the crippled children's hospital. How many of you wouldn't have wanted to try on the statue?"
Wilson's son, now 17, has suffered from a congenital spinal defect and has undergone nearly 20 operations.
Wide receiver Alworth of the San Diego Chargers was the first former American Football League player to be inducted. One of his remarkable statistics is that he caught passes in 96 straight games.
"I thank my dad and mom for pushing me," he said, then chocked up. He thanked his wife, Marilyn, and broke down again. "I thank God," he concluded.
Artie Donovan former Baltimore Colts defensive tackle who made the Hall 10 years ago, presented Ewbank because Paul Brown, Ewbank's head coach at Cleveland, is mourning the death of a son.
Donovan had a tough act to follow, after Alworth, but he boomed out his lusty tones, informing the thousands listening, "Weeb inherited maybe the worst team in the league. Some other Colts called and asked to say he took us from the worst to the best. They said, 'Thank him a hundred million times.'"
Ewbank won championships in 1958 and 1959 with the Colts and the Super Bowl with the New York Jets in the American League by upsetting the NFL Colts. He also developed Johnny Unitas at Baltimore and Joe Namath with the Jets.
Leemans, the former Giant runner, passer, kicker punt returner and defensive back, became the first player to make the Hall from George Washington University.
"I want to thank the Touchdown Club members who came out here from Washington," he said." I've never allowed anyone to call me Alphonse before. Today, you can all call me Alphonse."
Phil Bengston, former defensive coordinator of the Green Packers under Vince Lombardi and later head coach, cited Nitschke's memorable play in the 1965 NFL championship victory over the Cleveland Browns when the middle linebacker ran about 40 yards step-for-step with speedy fullback Jim Brown and finally knocked away quarterback Frank Ryan's pass in the end
Nitschke, who was raised by his brother after his father died when he was 3 years old and his mother when he was 13, said, "I need values and to be motivated. I was, by Vince Lombardi. And Bengston helped me to become the player I was."