Need a Philadelphia Eagles ticket? Don't call Leo anymore
Sep. 18, 2015
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For more than five decades, Leo Carlin was the most popular guy in town whenever the Dallas Cowboys came to Philadelphia.
This week, he should be able to rest.
Carlin was the Eagles' ticket man for 55 years until he retired in April. His phone always rang off the hook during the week Dallas came to town. Whether it was real friends or friends of friends, players, coaches or people he never met, Carlin was their go-to guy.
"A big game like this, demand would be gigantic," Carlin said Thursday.
Carlin hasn't faded off into retirement. He was back at the team's practice facility one day after his 78th birthday and three days before Sunday's home opener against Dallas.
The ticket requests haven't stopped coming.
"They still think I can pull the magic trigger, but I refer them all to the ticket office," Carlin said. "It's painful because I made so many friends over the years. But now I have to say no."
Carlin's first game was the 1960 NFL championship. He was fresh out of the Marines and took a part-time gig selling tickets for the title game at Franklin Field. He still remembers the horseshoe-shaped stands held 60,658 fans. Another 7,000 seats were added for the game, which was moved from Sunday to Monday because the league didn't want to play on Christmas Day.
"It was difficult in those days with no technology," Carlin said. "We had to place all those tickets in a cabinet with racks. They were actual tickets, not electronic. People paid cash and had to pick them up in person."
The Eagles beat Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers 17-13 for their third league championship. They haven't won another one. Carlin laughed at the suggestion he was a jinx.
"It was quite a thrill," Carlin said. "Winning the game was phenomenal and the season ticket demand built and built after it."
Carlin's biggest challenge was accommodating fans when the team moved into a new stadium. From Franklin Field to Veterans Stadium to Lincoln Financial Field and its seat licenses, each change presented a different set of issues.
Carlin recalled the Vet wasn't ready to open on time so he had to switch all the season ticketholders' seats on short notice. They received handwritten letters and hard tickets, making it quite a task.
"I was very sympathetic to the requests from the fans and it was very, very complicated," Carlin said. "People say to me, to this day, 'Thank you very much Leo, for what you did.' That is what this job has always been about. My job was to make people happy."
Carlin has a ton of stories. One of his favorites is when he chased two thieves who robbed tickets from the team's downtown office in the 1970s. He nearly ran them down, but stopped when they pulled a gun.
The Eagles were struggling that season and had two defensive backs who were slow and gave up plenty of touchdowns. One of the assistant coaches joked that the two players must have stolen the tickets, because they were the only people slow enough to be nearly caught by Carlin
"I was a little feisty back then," Carlin said.
Carlin helped the Eagles become the first team to merge ticketing with computer data processing in the 70s and pioneered a system that was used throughout the league. The Eagles inducted him into the team's Hall of Fame in 2012 and he's been a frequent nominee for the Pro Football Hall.
"What makes Leo truly special is an incredible loyalty to every fan that ever passed through the gates," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. "It takes an effort and a dedication that's just well over and above the job description, and that's what Leo has been all about."
Carlin said he never watched a home game during his career because he was too busy crunching numbers or "counting down the house' as he calls it, walking around the stadium, visiting with fans and making sure everyone in the stands was happy.
He no longer has any responsibilities on game day, so he just might get to enjoy watching DeMarco Murray play against his former team.
"I may visit 10 or 12 people but I will actually watch some plays," Carlin said.
Then, he can go home and spend more time with his wife of 56 years, Kay, and his seven children and 22 grandkids because he doesn't have to be in the office Monday morning.
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