In the late 1960s, the Eagles would end each regular season with a halftime holiday show that featured Santa. But on Dec. 15, 1968, the regular Santa was snowbound in New Jersey. An Eagles staffer spotted Mr. Olivo, wearing a Santa suit and a fake beard, with relatives at the 40-yard line, and asked him to fill in. He was told to wave to the fans as walked the field.
The Eagles were ending a dismal 2-12 season. It was cold, and the 54,535 fans who had showed up in a snowstorm were not happy. “You hear the booing,” Mr. Olivo said in an ESPN video a few years ago. “You hear it. I said, ‘Well, you know, I understand what’s going on here. They’re not booing me. They’re not just booing Santa Claus; they’re booing everything.'” He saw snowballs being hurled.
“Then I started getting hit with them,” he said in the video. “I remember watching a fellow make a snowball and throw it at me. I just walked up to him at the bottom of the wall, and I said, ‘You’re not getting anything for Christmas!’ ”
Rendell said Mr. Olivo had denied being a scruffy Santa, but added: “I was there. He was a scruffy Santa.”
Olivo passed away on Thursday. His legacy is ours. No matter how hard we try to shake the reputation, thanks to the misinformed and quip-laden memories of sportswriters, we’ll always be the city that threw snowballs at Santa. It may not define us anymore, but one day in 1968 it was who we were. To some, it’s all we will ever be. Ed Rendell called Olivo “a good sport and a great Eagles fan.” And to return the favor, the Eagles should honor the man. Maybe a moment of silence before a game. Or something we can all throw snowballs at. Frank Olivo was 66.