The Home Team An Offbeat Look At Philly Sports History

Posted: May 25, 1999

You don't have to know arcane statistics like Wilt Chamberlain's career field goal percentage or how many hitters Steve Carlton struck out to be a sports fan.

Meaningless statistics are not what sports is all about. They are about human beings overcoming odds to reach an extraordinary level of excellence - usually a little round ball just happens to be involved.

Throughout this century, many athletes have stirred emotions in people who don't usually keep track of sports. As hard as it is for some sports fanatics to believe, there's more to life than first downs and power-play goals.

In this vein, we here at Yo! would like to present an offbeat and sometimes irreverent look at the last 100 years in Philadelphia sports. Keep in mind, these lists are rather subjective and not meant to be all-encompassing.

So let's begin with five Philadelphia athletes/teams that made us all - sports fans and not - stand up and take notice:

Dave Schultz. Mention the Broad Street Bullies, and images of bench-clearing brawls and a playing surface littered with sticks and gloves immediately pop into mind. Schultz was usually right in the middle, leading the charge with a fiery scowl and a pair of clenched fists. No group was ever more popular than the Flyers' Cup-winning teams (2 million people turned out for their victory parade in 1974) and no Flyer embodied that team more than the "Hammer."

Dawn Staley. If you've ever seen Staley steal a pass, dribble through three defenders and thread a nifty pass to a cutting teammate, you know why she's on this list. Hard to believe there have been many more point guards regardless of gender who are more graceful and creative than Staley.

1993 Phillies. After finishing dead last the year before, the '93 Phillies swept the Astros to start the season and held the region's attention for six months. They were probably the most unkempt group ever to win a pennant, which made beating the pretty-boy Braves for the National League championship that much sweeter.

Rocky Balboa. Arguably the most beloved athlete ever to come from the creative minds of Hollywood, Rocky was Philadelphia personified. The ultimate underdog who took on, and whipped, all comers.

Charles Barkley. Love him or loathe him, Sir Charles never held anything back. What won him respect was not only his one-liners, but also his indefatigable work ethic.

THE BUILDINGS

Five best seats in the house(s)

1. Right behind Temple's bench at the Apollo. Any chance to get close to John Chaney during a basketball game is a treat.

2. Anywhere but the 700 level for Eagles games.

3. Anywhere in Roman Catholic's minuscule, third-floor basketball auditorium.

4. Left-field seats at the Vet when the St. Louis Cardinals are in town. Mr. McGwire is very generous at giving out souvenirs.

5. Anywhere in the Palestra.

Old facilities we miss

1. John F. Kennedy (Municipal) Stadium: From the pageantry of the Army-Navy games to the excitement of the old "Thrill Shows," JFK was a grand old building.

2. Shibe Park (Connie Mack Stadium): One of Lou Gehrig's favorite parks. He hit four homers in a game there in 1932.

3. Baker Bowl: The Phillies played their first World Series there in 1915 against the Boston Red Sox.

4. Convention Hall/Civic Center: The arena that housed the Warriors, Sixers and La Salle Explorers for so many years isn't used much for athletic events anymore.

5. Spectrum: We realize it's still being used, but since moving out of the cozy Spectrum, the Flyers are a dismal 7-8 in home playoff games at the First Union Center. The First Union Center is nice, but hardly intimidating to opponents.

Five reasons to watch a game at the Palestra

1. Most historical gym in all college basketball. The fifth-oldest gym in the country opened in 1927 and has hosted more games, more visiting teams and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility.

2. Worst seat in the house is better than best seats in most arenas.

3. Listed capacity is 8,700, but it's actually a little higher.

4. Noise. The acoustics would make Glenn Miller proud.

5. Fans sit so close, they sometimes help opposing coaches diagram plays.

VOICES FROM THE PAST

As a city, we've been blessed with great sports announcers. Two, Sixers/Warriors public address announcer Dave Zinkoff and Phillies color analyst Rich "Whitey" Ashburn, stand out for their unique styles and close to 80 years behind the mike. Here's a list of some of their most memorable calls.

Zinkisms

1. "Julius Errrrrrrrrrving." This call greeted the Doctor during team introductions and was heard after an Erving basket. The bigger the basket, the longer the call.

2. "Gola Goal." Made after each basket by Tom Gola when he played for the Warriors.

3. "Wali, by golly." Two points for Wali Jones.

4. "Dipper Dunk." Following a slam by Wilt "Big Dipper" Chamberlain.

5. "Tonight's attendance, 15,922. The Sixers would like to thank you . . . and you . . . and you . . . and you . . . and especially YOU!"

Whiteyisms

1. "He looks runnerish." Referring to a baserunner who looked as though he might try to steal a base.

2. "Oh, brother." His way of saying the play that just unfolded wasn't textbook.

3. "Hard to believe, Harry." Telling partner Harry Kalas that the previous play was unusual. That or covering up the fact that he wasn't really paying attention.

4. "Happy 80th birthday to Ruth Smith of Drexel Hill." A birthday wish never slipped past him.

5. Not a saying, but one of our favorite Whitey stories. Broadcast partner Tim McCarver talked on the air about a piece of ash pitcher Larry Christenson had brought back from recently erupted Mount St. Helen's. McCarver was commenting on the smoothness of one side of the piece of ash and the coarseness of the other side. After a long pause, Ashburn responded as only he could. "Well, Timmy, I always said, If you've seen one piece of ash, you've seen them all."

Potpourri

Calls that will stick in our minds, made by other Philly announcers.

1. "The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup. The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup. The Flyers have won the Stanley Cup." Flyers announcer Gene Hart after the team captured their first championship on May 19, 1974.

2. "That ball's outtahere. Home run, Michael Jack Schmidt." Personalized home run call by Kalas.

3. "He made it. He made it. He made it. A Dipper dunk. He made it. The fans are all over the court. One hundred points for Wilt Chamberlain. They've stopped the game. People are crowding all over. The news photographers are all over him. Forty-six seconds left to play. He got it. One hundred points." WCAU radio announcer Bill Campbell on March 2, 1962.

4. "He skates right on in, he shoots. Oh, no, he hit the f------ post." Flyers analyst Don Earle during a Flyers broadcast.

5. "In again, out again, Finnegan." Big 5 announcer Les Keiter.

Black eyes

and red faces

Most embarrassing moments

1. Pelting Santa Claus with snowballs during halftime show of Eagles game at Franklin Field in 1968.

2. Booing Donovan McNabb last month in Madison Square Garden when the Eagles made him the No. 2 pick in the draft, three picks ahead of fan-favorite Ricky Williams.

3. More snowballs rained down on Dec. 10, 1989. This time at Veterans Stadium and the target was the Dallas Cowboys.

4. During a "Monday Night Football" game against the 49ers in November 1997, a fan shot a flare gun across the field and into the stands.

5. A Veterans Stadium railing collapsed during the 1998 Army-Navy game. A nationwide television audience watched as the Cadets tumbled out of the bleachers; one Army student sustained a broken vertebra in his neck.

The people

Philadelphia players we loved to boo

1. Dick Allen, Phillies

2. Mike Schmidt, Phillies

3. Mitch Williams, Phillies

4. Von Hayes, Phillies

5. Shawn Bradley, Sixers

Opposing players we loved to boo

1. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics

2. Billy Smith, New York Islanders

3. Burt Hooton, Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Anyone wearing a Dallas Cowboys uniform

5. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Lady killers

1. Eric Lindros, Flyers

2. Darren Daulton, Phillies

3. Rodney Peete, Eagles

4. Ruben Amaro Jr., Phillies

5. Eric Allen, Eagles

Teams we miss (and why)

1. A's baseball (More home games against American League teams)

2. Stars football (Two USFL championships)

3. Temple football (Sorry, Owls fans, it was too easy)

4. Rage basketball (Dawn Staley)

5. Warriors basketball (The NBA's first-ever champions)

Celluloid heroes

Philadelphia sports figures whose lives we'd love to see portrayed in a movie (actor/actress we'd like to see play the lead in parentheses):

1. Sonny Hill (Wesley Snipes)

2. John Chaney (Morgan Freeman)

3. Bobby Clarke (Kevin Bacon - he's from Philly, after all)

4. Mike Schmidt (Kevin Costner)

5. Chuck Bednarik (Jack Palance)

Celebrities who enjoy(ed) Philly sports

1. Kate Smith

2. Bill Cosby

3. Ed Rendell

4. Grover Washington Jr.

5. Will Smith

Philadelphia athletes who passed away in their primes

1. Hank Gathers, Loyola-Marymount/Murrell Dobbins

2. Pelle Lindbergh, Flyers

3. Jerome Brown, Eagles

4. Barry Ashbee, Flyers

5. Yanick Dupre, Flyers

Unforgettable

moments

Best photos

1. Mike Schmidt leaping on his teammates following World Series-clinching win in 1980.

2. Chuck Bednarik standing over Frank Gifford after knocking him out in 1960 game at Yankee Stadium.

3. Julius Erving and Larry Bird fight.

4. Mitch Williams' famous leap after closing out the 1993 National League Championship Series.

5. Wilt holding the sign letting everyone know just how many points he scored against the Knicks on March 2, 1962.

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