I wish everybody a healthy and Blessed 2016 Memorial Day. This is a special day for me since my father was a solider in Europe during World War II, my step-father in the Pacific Theater in World War II and an uncle fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Today, on a Patriotic holiday, is when I miss Philadelphia and walking through the historic districts like the Olde City and Village Forge and other notable places of interest.
For the past few Mondays, I have talked about the Meccas of basketball in Philadelphia: the historic Philly playgrounds, unique high school basketball gyms, McGonigle Hall and The Palestra.
Today, I want to talk about the sports department of the Philadelphia Bulletin that was unique and told a story about an era in Philly sports that was outstanding and will never be duplicated again. The people, places and events formed a narrative that gave a group of coaches and athletes exposure that was unique.
Herm Rogul: People in Sports – Gave exposure to all athletes and events in Philly that was ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Late at night when we were “Putting the Paper to Bed”,newspaper term for finishing the first edition. I would sit and talk with Herm and asked him why he wrote the column? He told me he wanted everybody who participated in sports to have their name in print and get a moment of glory. Very simple and very effective!
Frank Brady and Frank “Bivo” Bilovsky: The Big Five – These two basketball gurus gave the exposure to the best basketball teams in America. Some of their best stories were about Jack Kraft at Villanova, Harry Litwack at Temple, Paul Westhead at LaSalle, Jimmy O’Brien at St. Joseph’s and at Chuck Daily at Penn. The stories of the other coaches and players were too numerous to repeat. Funny stories abound!
Jack Freed on Boxing: He was the original Matt Ring and was around for some of the great fights of all time from the 1930s to the 1970s, including Ali-Frazer “Thrilla in Manilla”.
Bob Savett: High School Sports and Penn Athletics: He was my mentor when I arrived in Philly. He showed me the insides of covering Philly sports and was at my first assignment in covering Andre McCarter at the Markward Club.
Bob Wright: Brought life to high school sports in South Jersey communities in the form of inspiring columns.
Ted Silary: I gave a recommendation for this sports reporter to get a job at The Bulletin from a suburban paper in Montgomery County. He left The Bulletin for an outstanding career with the Daily News.
Julius J.E. Thompson: High School Sports: One of my all-time incredible stories was not basketball, but football.
Bok Tech, under Frank Guida, had not won a game that year and had not scored a single point. They were losing at West Philly and had been outscored, 379-0, nearing the end of the last game of the season.
With less than two minutes Bok was driving and got to the West Philly goal line with time running out. The running back slipped when he was about to cross the goal line as the buzzer sounded. They were within inches of scoring a touchdown.
They fought to the very end of the game and never gave up. That South Philly ‘Grit’ can be found in all athletes bred south of Market Street.
I asked Coach Guida, a good coach and even better man, could I ride the team bus back and get a feel for his team.
We were nearing the Schuylkill Expressway, when a Bok player asked the question:
“What was the score?”
Someone answered, “I can tell you our half… ‘nothing’.”
The bus ride was silent until we arrived at Bok Tech.
That’s Philly sports: Honest, heart felt and very, very real.
I wrote a column about that football team, and Coach Guida how he developed men with character. The title of the Column: “The Inner City Blues.”
His players learned that losing was a part of life and how you handled adversity showed more about your character and how you would handle tough situations that arise in your future.
Philly Sports is winning, losing and handling adversity. This was shown in the many columns of the magnificent seventies’ Philadelphia Bulletin sportswriters.