Temple honors 60-year sports information staffer Al Shrier

Al Shrier, along with his wife, Ruth, is honored for his 60 years of service with Temple's sports information department during halftime of Wednesday's game at the Liacouras Center. A banner, right, notes that Shrier is still on job.
Al Shrier, along with his wife, Ruth, is honored for his 60 years of service with Temple's sports information department during halftime of Wednesday's game at the Liacouras Center. A banner, right, notes that Shrier is still on job. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 24, 2013

The best time to reach Al Shrier in his office in Temple's athletic department is between 8 and 9 in the morning, while the rest of the city is just getting going.

"HA-lo."

The usual Shrier greeting, the inflection authoritative and street-smart, slightly world-weary but friendly and ready to do business. The what do you want? implied, rarely spoken.

You want to sit on press row, you go through Shrier. That has not changed in six decades.

"We'll look for you tomorrow," he'll say. "You know the parking deal."

Temple had the smart idea to do it up right, with a halftime ceremony during Wednesday night's Big Five game with Penn, honoring a Big Five Hall of Famer (inducted 29 years ago) who first started working at Temple before there was a Big Five.

Shrier, now 82, retired 17 years ago and showed up for work the following Monday. He is no longer in charge of the sports information department. He has the title of special assistant to Temple's athletic director. His desk didn't move. His office extension still is 2222, a Shrier touch - he knew the lady in charge of the phones.

"It used to be 6666," he said. "Some people didn't like that, so I got it changed."

He does the seating charts on press row, gets the parking list out to the gates, orders the pizza or cheesesteaks served in the Al Shrier press room, which is adorned with a mural of Shrier photos from over the years wrapping around the room.

At halftime, they had a ceremony in his honor. Shrier walked out with his usual gait, each step its own entity. A tribute video played. The lights dimmed and a banner fell from the rafters closest to Broad Street: "Al Shrier . . . Athletics . . . 1953- . . ."

"Wow," Shrier said, shaking his head, his chin maybe quivering a bit. "Wow. Unbelievable."

In the middle of the banner was the replica of a briefcase. Shrier is never without his brown briefcase. Shrier always had fun with the bag and its contents.

"You've got to keep them guessing," Shrier once told me of its contents. "I had one guy a few years ago who had to have a hot dog. And I produced two hot dogs out of it. He almost fainted."

He always figured out how to make the job work. He stopped flying in 1969. He used to get seriously claustrophobic on planes, so he cut that out. But he can remember missing only one home football game, when it fell on Yom Kippur, and one home basketball game, when his father died.

That's in 60 years. He had started at Temple four years before that, a West Philadelphia High graduate.

"I met him in '49 - Al was the cub reporter for the Temple News when I played football for Temple," said former Temple athletic director Gavin White.

"He coached football and track - he actually brought [Bill] Cosby here," Shrier said of his former boss.

Before the game, Temple had a reception for Shrier. Athletic director Bill Bradshaw read proclamations from U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, the mayor, and the governor.

Asked why he stays, Shrier told the full room: "I don't know. It's amazing how time flies. I just keep meeting more people.''

His favorite year of the 60, Shrier said, was 1969. The Owls won the NIT back when it meant something, and he married his wife, Ruth. They met when they lived in the same apartment house on Conshohocken Avenue in Wynnefield Heights.

Ruth is at all the games, too. Maybe seven years ago she found her own job, answering phones on press row at the men's and women's games. Asked what Temple means to her husband, she said, "It's his entire life."

Shrier knew he was being honored, but he hadn't known about the banner, or the great mural in the Al Shrier media room.

"The sign said, 'Conference inside,' so I stayed out," Shrier said. "They did a good job of fooling me.''

That can happen, every six decades or so.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com.

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