HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — A play, inspired in Hershey more than 50 years ago, is coming to the Hershey Theatre stage. “Tommy and Me” is about a football star and a sportswriter who idolized him as a kid; Then, he helped him get into the Football Hall of Fame.
Tommy McDonald was a star wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. McDonald had his first interaction with a special fan, who was on vacation from the Philadelphia suburbs, while at a training camp in Hershey.
“This was the dorm. This was where players stayed, it wasn’t air conditioned. He tended to sit by the fountain, and he and I would sit there and just talk for an hour or more,” said Ray Didinger, now reminiscing about his time spent with McDonald more than half a century ago.
McDonald was just five-foot nine-inches, but larger than life to Didinger who cheered him on from the stands on football Sundays in Philadelphia.
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“I would walk across the street from Cocoa Inn and sit down with Tommy and we would sit and talk. What kind of kid anywhere has that opportunity? Even as a kid I knew how lucky I was,” Didinger added.
McDonald finished with an impressive NFL career, and Didinger started his own path as a sports writer covering the NFL. Didinger also lobbied to get McDonald into the Football Hall of Fame for years.
“I could never understand why it took so long,” said Didinger.
Then finally, it happened. McDonald got into the Hall of Fame and the boy he befriended helped him get there; A story made for Hollywood.
Didinger wrote the book “Tommy and Me” about the journey. Now, it’s a play set around football, but it is not a football story.
“It’s really a love story. It’s about two things: it’s about relationships and it’s about dreams coming true,” said Didinger.
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The play’s director also spoke on the heartfelt nature of the play’s story. “It’s about loyalty, it’s about friendship, it’s about having a dream, about having your friend helping you get our dream. It’s about a lot of things other than sports,” said Joe Canuso, “Tommy and Me” director.
Putting “Tommy and Me” on the Hershey Theatre stage has been one of Didinger’s dreams. “This is the special one. This is the special one to come to Hershey, to bring the story back to where it truly originated. In this theatre that’s just steps away from where he and I actually met for the first time,” said Didinger.
“I’ve seen this show every night for six years and I cry every night when I watch it,” added Canuso.
The show is running from August 18 through the 20. There’s also a Q&A with Ray Didinger after every show. abc27’s Dennis Owens will moderate on Friday, August 19.