Phillies, Temple teeming with pride at Wanamaker Award ceremony

Photos: CLEM MURRAY / Staff photographer
Photos: CLEM MURRAY / Staff photographer
Posted: July 09, 2009

THEY CAME to the elegant Crystal Tea Room for one final reminiscence. With a three-piece jazz band playing gently in the lobby and a carving station offering turkey and prime rib, the Philadelphia Sports Congress handed out its annual John Wanamaker Award at the Macy's building in the shadow of William Penn's perch atop City Hall.

Though the debris from last Halloween's Phillies' championship parade has long been swept away, the emotions remain vibrant. An impressive video montage preceded remarks from Phillies closer Brad Lidge. He and David Montgomery accepted the award, which was given to the entire Phillies organization.

"People kept telling me after the World Series, 'You have no idea what this means to me; no idea what this means to the city,' " Lidge said. "When I got on that float and came down Broad Street, I got it. There's 2 million people, or whatever it was, as far as the eye can see . . . it just seemed like it went on forever. Every big-league player should have goals, and winning a World Series should be at the top of that list. But now, in 2009, staying at the top is the new goal and having another parade."

For the Phillies franchise, it was the third consecutive Wanamaker Award, which is given to "the athlete, team or organization that has done the most to reflect credit upon Philadelphia and to the team or sport in which they excel." Ryan Howard won the award in 2007. Jimmy Rollins grabbed it last year. The first award was handed out to arguably the greatest Philadelphia Eagles player of all time and followed that team's last championship season.

"I look back and see that [Chuck] Bednarik won this award in 1961 and that was the team I followed - the '60 Eagles," said Montgomery, the Phillies' president. "Every name on this list brought back a memory for me."

The Temple University football team won the Sports Congress' award for exemplary community service. Among the Owls' initiatives was a bone-marrow donor drive that signed up a national record 630 potential donors.

In addition to various programs run in direct support of their North Philadelphia community, the Owls also are huge supporters of the Ronald McDonald House and other charitable causes.

"The Susan G. Komen for the Cure is close to our hearts," said Owls coach Al Golden, whose own wife Kelly is a survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma and mother-in-law Carol Hanna a survivor of breast cancer. "We want to make a difference."

Golden beamed when asked what gave him the most pride.

"Just to see our kids make a great impact on so many young people that may be at a stage in their life where they could go either way," he said. "There's a lot of people who are less fortunate, which is why we got involved in the food banks and hospice [programs] in North Philadelphia."

Temple is the 14th community-service winner, which yesterday was renamed in honor of PSC chairman Bob Levy. Of the 44 winners of the primary Wanamaker Award, 10 have come from the Phillies organization, including seven individual players. The PSC did not present the award from 1986 to '90.

"It's wonderful for our individual players to win it," Montgomery said. "But as you and I know, it's so much better when the team wins it because that means we reached a pinnacle that we are all seeking."

Now, as Lidge said, it's all about 2009.

Word out of Toronto that staff ace Roy Halladay is on the market has raised eyebrows around here. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could not directly address anything involving Halladay, who is under contract to the Blue Jays, after all.

But Crystal Tea Room bartender and Port Richmond resident Niki Bertotto summed up a popular notion felt around the Delaware Valley. If Amaro were able to get Halladay, the Phils' chances of repeating as world champion would be enhanced; as would the insanity that gripped the region last fall.

"I'd burn my own house down if we won back-to-back World Series," Bertotto quipped as he poured a Coke. *

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