"No. I don't have any financial trouble. Not from gambling. Not from the [NFL players] strike. Honest to God."
Six months later, on July 12, onlookers in a packed courthouse in the Philadelphia suburb of Media, Pa. were jolted to learn that the Eagles in fact had $33 million in liabilities and that Tose was personally in hock for another $9.1 million. He had been trying to sell the club for some time and on June 17 had finally signed an agreement to do so. The July 12 hearing was necessitated by the fact that on July 1 the prospective buyers had gone to court, claiming that Tose and his daughter, Susan Fletcher, 42, the Eagles' vice-president and legal counsel, had reneged on the deal and were using the buyers' offer to get a higher price elsewhere. The court had slapped a restraining order on Tose and Fletcher, prohibiting them from making any financial deals affecting the Eagles. As a result of the revelations of the 12th, an injunction was handed down the next day that in effect forced Tose and Fletcher to negotiate with the parties to the sale agreement and no one else until Sept. 15. The next court hearing is Sept. 19.
The day of the injunction Tose said he hadn't known what he was signing on June 17. He said that he couldn't read the agreement, that it was illegibly written on a yellow legal pad. He had already filed a countersuit, claiming the prospective buyers had a silent partner who was a convicted felon. Tose eventually dropped that suit. The felon, Jacques Zinman, turned out to be a friend of Fletcher's and his involvement in the prospective purchase of the Eagles was limited. "A finder," Fletcher called him, "a person who helped set up the deal."
In early August Tose was hauled into court and cited for contempt for trying to use the Eagles as collateral on a loan, a violation of the injunction. He said he hadn't read the loan agreement he'd signed. After a midsummer hearing at NFL headquarters in New York, Commissioner Pete Rozelle told Tose he had to make good on the salary of one of the fired executives, Assistant Ticket Manager Bob Ellis. The club had claimed that Ellis had quit. The Eagles, until recently one of the classiest teams in the league, now were caught up in a steady stream of lies and double-dealing.
Back in mid-March it had also become apparent that the Eagles had more than financial difficulties. At that point Murray had not been seen around the club offices for a while. Soon Business Manager Jim Borden and Director of Sales and Marketing Sam Procopio began to be missed also. The locks had been changed on their doors. The staff was in a jumpy mood. Ellis had been let go on March 7. When Gertrude Kelly, an Eagles secretary and a former longtime employee of Tose Trucking, found a new woman at her desk one morning, she went to a back office and collapsed in tears. Any questions about Murray and the other two missing executives were referred to Fletcher.
"Jimmy will always be a big part of the team," Tose had told the Philadelphia Inquirer in January. But where was he? On March 14 Fletcher went on TV to answer the Murray question. "I think he will be back as general manager," she said. "I think Jimmy Murray is very happy with the situation here. I think it's been a very tough couple of years for Jimmy. We told him to take some well-deserved time off and relax and get himself physically in much better shape, because he's had a very trying year."
The only trouble was that Murray had been fired on March 1, 13 days before Fletcher's TV interview. Her statement served to get the press off her back for a while, and the story of his firing didn't surface until the end of May. The media were stunned. You would have to go back to Ben Franklin to find a more popular Philadelphian than Murray, who had come to the Eagles when Tose bought the club in 1969.
"For 14 years, Jim Murray was the link between the Eagles and the neighborhoods," Ray Didinger wrote in the Daily News. "He knew Philly; he felt its pulse. As GM, he set the tone for the classiest, most civic-minded front office in this or any other city."
Even when the Eagles had been lousy on the field, as they had in Tose's first nine years of ownership, no one could stay mad at them for very long. If they weren't busy raising $2 million for the Fly for Leukemia campaign, they were donating $79,000 to keep the city's high school sports programs alive or promoting the Ronald McDonald houses, which provide homes near hospitals for families with children undergoing treatment.
"Leonard Tose got most of the applause for that, but Jim Murray was the man who did the legwork," Didinger wrote. "Murray gave a heart to a tin woodsman of a franchise and he proved, even in the worst of times, there were other ways to win."