Thursday, July 7, 2022

Al Wistert, Ox Emerson Snubbed

 By Clark Judge 
Al Wistert
The Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday announced its senior semifinalists for the Class of 2023, and it’s not the 25 who made it that caught my attention. It’s two who didn’t.
Linemen Al Wistert and Ox Emerson.

Maybe you heard of them. Maybe you haven’t. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that they belonged on this list and were excluded. The reason? Ask the 12 members of the Hall’s Seniors Committee. They’re the ones who voted them off the island.

Wistert and Emerson each played on dominant NFL teams. Both won NFL championships. Wistert was an eight-time All-Pro; Emerson was named six times. And both were all-decade choices. 
So what’s missing? You tell me. I’m still looking.

An offensive and defensive tackle, Wistert was a captain on a Philadelphia Eagles team that won back-to-back NFL championships (1948-49), was the top blocker for the NFL’s record-setting runner, Hall-of-Famer Steve Van Buren, and an All-Pro eight of his nine NFL seasons. He also started on a unit that five times led the league in rushing defense. 
Ox Emerson
A guard and defensive lineman, Emerson was the top blocker on a 1936 Detroit Lions team that set an NFL rushing record of 2,885 yards in one season (of 12 games, no less), a mark that wasn’t broken until 1972 by the unbeaten Miami Dolphins. He was also a top defender on a 1934 Lions’ club that allowed the third-fewest points in NFL history.

Oh, yeah, both were among 20 finalists for the Centennial Class of 2020, too.

So they checked all the boxes needed for entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, if their resumes were in front of modern-era selectors today, one or both might be first-ballot choices.
Yet neither made the first cut for the Class of 2023.

That’s as appalling as it is shocking. With three senior finalists in line for each of the Hall’s next three classes, I thought one or both a virtual certainty to be among the next nine nominated. Now I know they have no chance, and not because they’re not qualified.

But because they’re as forgotten as they are gone. 

Look at the list. Of the 25 semifinalists, only two – the Packers’ Lavvie Dilweg (1926-34) and Cecil Isbell (1938-42) played prior to 1958. Now push that a step farther. Of the 25 semifinalists, all but seven (Dilweg, Isbell, safety Eddie Meador, linebackers Chuck Howley, Maxie Baughan and Tommy Nobis and defensive end Jim Marshall) played the bulk of their careers after 1970.

So it’s a modern-era senior class. Pre-‘60s’ candidates need not apply.

When Wistert and Emerson were excluded from the Centennial Class of 2020, historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal considered their omissions a gross oversight. However, he held out hope that these two “super seniors,” as he called them, would gain another shot.

“They deserve nothing less,” he wrote.

He’s right. They do. But Thursday’s returns speak volumes. They won’t get it.


  1. I can't believe Del Shofner wasn't a semi-finalist.

  2. From Brian wolf ...

    You hit it on the head, Clark. No respect for super-seniors or the AFL. Subjectivity aside, players with All-Pro credentials are still being ignored ... Lewellen, Emerson, Wistert, Brito, Patton, Matheson, Shofner, Howton, are you kidding me ?

    I am happy for the 25 semifinalists that get a chance but its definitely skewed toward players after 1970. With Lewellen not making the cut, hopefully Dilweg will get his chance to finally be inducted but voters could go with Sharpe or Isbell instead. I like Isbell but felt five years in pro ball wasnt enough.

    Billy Johnson is the major special teams standout and has a chance but disappointed Abe Woodson and Timmy Brown were left out. Otis Taylor is the only representative of the AFL and played most of his career after the merger.

    If hopefully, three seniors make the Class Of 2023, my choices would be ... Dilweg, Howley and Gradisher.

  3. Thank you for helping to keep these guys spotlighted. Had the Hall of Fame opened much earlier than 1963, I think both of these guys would have been voted in already. Both of these guys should have been in a long time ago. Thankfully, the Eagles honored Wistert and retired his number. The Lions haven't done as much to honor Emerson - although he apparently made their All-Time Team a few years ago.

  4. a significant issue is the qualifications of the selectors....I have it on good authority that at least one recognized football historian was rejected as a voter....unless one has a significant understanding of the history of the game, how can they pass judgment?....a 35 year old beat-writer knows who Bob Kuechenberg or Eddie Meador are? Lavern Dilweg, gimme a break?....on another tack, Big Daddy Lipscomb's absence from the list is....I can't think of a word that describes.....he's the most prominent legend NOT in the HoF

  5. Given that most of the semi finalists are 70s and beyond, I don’t see the point of expanding the senior nominations to 3 if pre-70s seniors are ignored.

    Hopefully one of the 3 spots goes to a pre 70s player.