PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “Tommy and Me” is a new play written by KYW Newsradio football analyst and Hall of Fame sportswriter Ray Didinger. It’s about his lifelong relationship with former Eagles player Tommy McDonald.

“When I started out as a ten-year-old kid going to Eagles training camp with my parents, my favorite player was this one player named Tommy McDonald,” Didinger tells KYW. “He was my hero.”

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He says things were different then:

“Back in the ’50s, at training camps, there was no security. If you were a little kid, you could just walk right up to your hero and get his autograph, have a conversation with him, or, in my case, carry his helmet.”

Didinger went on to become a sportswriter and says he interviewed McDonald many times:

“In the course of the interviews, the one thing that came out was, even though he had this great career and had won a championship with the Eagles, the one thing he kind of regretted was that he had not been elected to the Hall of Fame. He felt like he deserved it, and he did.”

So Didinger decided to help him:

“Our relationship started with me as a ten-year-old kid carrying his helmet to me leading the campaign and the effort to get him in the Hall of Fame, and then he asked me to be his presenter, and there we are in 1998 standing side by side on the steps of the Hall of Fame in Canton.”

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It wasn’t until that moment that Didinger told him he was the ten-year-old kid who carried his helmet.

Didinger said the play attempts to capture the back and forth he has felt over the years as both a fan and a reporter.

 

“I wrote a character in who was the younger me. One of the actors is a little boy who plays the ten-year-old me. There’s a running dialogue throughout the play where the adult me and the younger me are on the stage at the same time. The little boy keeps reminding the reporter that, yeah, you’ve got the stats, and yeah, you’ve got the numbers and all that kind of stuff, but that isn’t what got you to the game. It’s what you felt in here. It’s what was in your heart. You can’t ever lose that. Tommy becomes the thread that connects the two.”

The play is being produced by Theater Exile and begins this week at Fringe Arts through August 14.

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And for this week, that’s “Positively Philadelphia!”

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Talk Radio 1210 WPHT’S Chris Stigall contributed to this report.