WHILE Bednarik's bone-crushing hit on Gifford in 1960 remains the most memorable moment of his Hall of Fame career with Philadelphia, it ranks a notch below his favorite play: the title-game-saving tackle he made that same year. Bednarik trapped Packers fullback Jim Taylor on the 10-yard line of Philly's Franklin Field with just seconds to go. Says Concrete Charlie, now 82 and retired from the cement mixing business, "If he scores that touchdown, the Eagles might still be waiting for [another] championship!"
Bednarik's body might be too old to replicate some of the chilling blows that defined his career, but his mouth is still capable of delivering a shot or two. He is a spirited critic of the NFL pension plan—which he believes shortchanges the players of his era—and he's just as sour on today's athletes. "I hate to say it, but I don't have any respect for them," says Bednarik, who missed just three games in 14 seasons. "They're altogether different from my generation." He pines for the days when fellow Hall of Famers like Taylor, Cleveland's Otto Graham and Van Buren roamed the gridiron.
"I grew up on the streets a mean s.o.b.," he says, "and I carried it on right through my entire career. Once I got out there on the field, I just figured, I'd kill those guys." As a player he lived by a single credo: Be mean and clean. "That was the way I wanted to play football," he says. "I wanted to knock the 's' out of 'em."
The Bethlehem native certainly knocked Gifford out in '60. Bednarik has signed thousands of copies of that classic photograph and thinks that the location of the game had everything to do with the play's lasting fame. "Anything big happens in New York, right?" says Bednarik. "If that shot I made against Frank happened in any other place, it'd be just another tackle."
Still living in Coopersburg with Emma, his wife of 59 years, Bednarik attends mass daily at 8 a.m. He doesn't play golf nearly as much as he used to; the former four handicapper hits the links only about four times a year.