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"My Very Own Vince Papale Story" (first wife story

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  • "My Very Own Vince Papale Story" (first wife story ... 230823.htm


    Editor's note: On Aug. 25, "Invincible," a movie starring Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale, who made the Eagles in 1976 without any college football experience, opens nationwide.

    ON JULY 23, 1976, my sister and I made plans to go out.

    She wanted me to try a new club on City Line called Fran 0'Brien's. I was reluctant, but I went. While waiting in line, a large bouncer came out and told us our table was ready. I gave my sister a very confused look, but she gave me a push, and in we went.

    The bouncer turned out to be Dennis Franks of the Philadelphia Eagles. With him was an older man and a handsome 30-year-old by the name of Vince Papale. I later found out that Vince had spotted us in line and wanted to meet me.

    We were all sitting around a table and I was busy talking to Dennis, when Vince asked me to dance. Later, when we were all invited to attend a party at newscaster Jack Jones' house, Vince asked if he could drive me, and I agreed. We talked all night and really hit it off. He asked if he could call, and I gave him my number.

    When we arrived home that evening my sister told my mom and dad that I had met this very handsome 30-year-old who was going to try out for the Eagles. My dad just laughed and said it was unlikely he'd have a chance.

    Vince called, and our first date was a trip to the beach where we'd be able to change at his aunt's house. Because I was so nervous and didn't know him at all, I bought a one-piece bathing suit that my mother could've worn. I never lived that down. Vince would always say, "Sandy wore a turtleneck to the beach on our first date."

    I guess it wasn't so bad since from that day, we were together. Two weeks after meeting Vince, he had to leave for training camp. Since it was Dick Vermeil's first, it lasted about 10 weeks. Not a day went by that Vince didn't get a card or letter from me. It became a joke to all the guys, and, of course, Vince was teased a lot. I just wanted to support him in any way that I could without being there for him physically.

    We also spoke every day,

    and he would fill me in on how he was progressing, how sore he was and if any of his friends were released, and how sad he felt.

    I was his sounding board, his cheerleader, his best friend. My son Skip and I would visit whenever we were allowed to. Even if I could only see him for a half hour, I was at West Chester.

    The day he was told by Vermeil, "Congratulations, Old Man, you made the team" was the best and happiest day for Vince.

    Vermeil told him he was such a great cheerleader for the team that he just couldn't let him go.

    He cried so much and so hard. I couldn't wait to see him and hold him. Of course, my dad and I were following the daily cuts, and when it got down to the end, we were so excited and so proud - and Skip was ecstatic.

    The next year, we were married at Curtis Arboretum in Elkins Park. Skip was the ring bearer, and he was unbelievably happy. It was a very emotional day for all. Dennis Franks sang, and Dick Vermeil made a toast.

    Bill Bergey, Harold Carmichael, Stan Walters, Jerry Sizemore, Keith Krepfle, Bill Bradley and many others joined us on our wedding day. I still have all the pictures and will keep them forever.

    I had been working for Strawbridge & Clothier for years and was up for a promotion when Vince asked me to give it up to raise my son and attend games and appearances with him. Of course there was no question.

    During the next nine years, there were so many wonderful times.

    Vince's dad, Kingy, Skip and I attended every home game, rain, snow or sunshine, and all the away games within driving distance. We were Vince's support group. We were all so very proud of Vince and loved him so much.

    Because of Vince's many appearances for the Eagles charity Fly for Leukemia, we were able to arrange to buy a new home at cost from the builder, who had a daughter diagnosed with the disease.

    With all this going on, we were beyond cloud nine - but just three months after moving in, Vince was released.

    We were all devastated, and Vince was a mess. He knew he could still play and was determined to be ready if he was called back. He did everything to stay in shape, just in case.

    That day did come, and he was called back. Again, extreme happiness. Vince was finally released after he separated his shoulder, three games shy of earning his pension. The Eagles decided to give it to him anyway.

    I could go on and on about the ups and downs that come with being married to a man who played a pro sport, but during Vince's time with the Eagles, one game really stands out.

    On Nov. 19, 1978, we were planning on having a get-together back at our apartment in Ramblewood after the Eagles played the Giants in New Jersey.

    The game seemed lost. I left my seat feeling a little down, knowing that I would have all these disappointed people at home later on. In the ladies room, I heard the crowd scream and Skip came running in yelling that we had won.

    It was, of course, "The Miracle at the Meadowlands" - and what a party we had!

    Another slightly less happy moment was the time when Ron Jaworski was throwing the football to Vince and hit him in his privates, which proceeded to blow up like grapefruits. I nursed him then as I did every day when he came home sore from practice or a game. I was always there for him.

    At this point, you may be asking, why I'm retelling the story of this part of my life? It's because I feel sick inside and my heart is heavy now that the movie is coming out.

    HOW CAN A movie be made, a "true story" about Vince's climb against all odds to becoming an Eagle, without his family even being acknowledged? His family! I believe Vince even considered adopting Skip.

    Vince's entire Eagles career was interwoven with my family. It pains my son and myself that even though we were his family and totally a part of this story, we weren't even thought of when it came to making the movie.

    Vince's story is as much our story as it is his. And without us, it's not a true story.

    We were told that there would be a supportive "love interest" in the movie who happens to have a son. We can't imagine anyone not thinking of Skip or me when watching this.

    No, the marriage did not last, and we have both moved on. No matter what, you can't change the past, and we are certainly Vince's past.

    I remember Vince's agent was trying to get a movie made when I was with him, and they said they wanted to put more "t&a" in the movie to make it more salable, and I refused.

    That was not the truth then, and this movie version is certainly not the whole truth now.
    Sandy J. Bianchini lives in Horsham. E-mail her at [email protected].

  • #2
    Thanks for the link. There is no doubt that this movie is only going to be loosely based on the true story.

    Sorry Sandy, but more often than not, the truth is boring.


    • #3
      Damn, did The Rookie get this much crap when it came out?

      Must be a Philly thing.


      • #4
        Another slightly less happy moment was the time when Ron Jaworski was throwing the football to Vince and hit him in his privates, which proceeded to blow up like grapefruits. I nursed him then as I did every day when he came home sore from practice or a game. I was always there for him.
        Wow, and i thought MY WIFE was attentive!


        • #5
          Sandy used to live on my street back in the day before she was married to Papale.
          She was considered the Babe Of The Block.
          (i'm thinking here...)


          • #6
            Saw Vince on NFL Network the other day. IT was like watching John Madden at the HOF. The guy was lit up and said he is so overwhelmed by the movie. He chatted with Vermiel, which always provides a heartfelt story.

            Reggie being inducted and Invincible coming out and us recovering from such a strange season...............this HAS TO BE OUR YEAR! And Baskett will get to catch the winning pass in the Superbowl, so he can be the new feel good story for the City of Philly.

            And maybe we can even watch the Phillies buy two great pitchers and a great thridbaseman, to give us back-to -back great teams? Yeah right!