Already the fans were screaming, "We want the Hawk," when Cholly Wieners, feathers preened, came out of the St. Joseph's locker room before the game and began doing jumping jacks to warm up. A priest came over to Cholly—everybody in Philadelphia says Cholly for Charlie—and gave him the clenched fist. This was a big game coming up, the finals of the Quaker City Tournament in the Palestra. "Do your stuff, Cholly," the priest exhorted. "Thank you, Father," Cholly said, and he went back to the jumping jacks. Cholly is a big man on campus at St. Joe's. He is vice-president of the student body, a member of the Jesuit Honor Society and he has his credentials listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.
But what makes Cholly Wieners is that Cholly is the Hawk, the St. Joseph's Hawk, feathered and sequined (left). He dresses with the team and travels with it, and right now, doing his jumping jacks, he was waiting for the team to join him in the combat of the night against undefeated Temple.
"We want the Hawk! We want the Hawk!" came the screams. The cheerleaders were distributing red and white streamers and helium balloons of all colors. "We can't buy just red and white balloons," one of them said sadly. "The only way they sell balloons is in all the colors." Cholly tensed. He can't see too well out of the beak of his costume, and he must run figure eights all over the court all night. He also must flap at all times. "If you don't flap all the time you have the suit on," Cholly said, flapping, "then you're just not a good Hawk."
The din grew, the Temple people doing a pretty good job of making noise themselves. Then the Owls came out on the court. A touch of bedlam acknowledged that. And then—first a false alarm, but finally for real—the door to the St. Joe's locker room opened, and Cholly started to move, and those drums got louder, and the yelling swelled. Yelling? This is the way Hollywood would do Armageddon. Here was Cholly, cutting the figure eights, flapping. And along came the other Hawks, the taller, leaner ones than Cholly. After them the deluge.
The streamers came down, the balloons went up and, oh, all those drums. And the chants, the songs. St. Joe's rooters are always in unison, their thunderous tattoo is homogeneous. The students stand through most of every game; they bring dates only to what they call "poverty games," which are against "Penn or someone like that."
Like its rooters, the St. Joe's team operates as a unit, and neither the team nor the fans were ever better than on this memorable evening. The Hawks had been almost cruel in handling Niagara and Minnesota on the way to the finals, but in beating their old downtown rival Temple 97-65 they played with such devastating precision and verve that their coach, Dr. Jack Ramsay, needed two doses of smelling salts before he could join in the presentation ceremonies after the game. Minutes later, in the intimacy of the locker room, where his deep emotions could no longer be fettered, Ramsay cried helplessly. Although he tried hard, he was hardly more composed when the press moved in.
Somehow Cholly Wieners, out of the heavy, clinging Hawk suit and down to his skivvies, ended up backed into the corner where Ramsay was being interviewed. Embarrassed, Cholly finally was able to break his way through the mob to go back for a while just to being vice-president of the student body. Outside, the rolling choruses of "Glory, glory, oh, the Hawk will never die" began to crash in over Ramsay's words. St. Joe's students mass outside the locker room after each game singing and shouting, until each of their heroes presses through them to receive his own salute.
This St. Joseph's fanaticism, even in the context of the general hysteria of the other Philadelphia Big Five schools, is an amazing thing. A La Salle alumnus, writing an article on St. Joe's in the Greater Philadelphia magazine, tried to explain it. "It is unquestionably the most self-consciously vibrant college in the area, and the pride its students take in it has so long been a part of the Philadelphia scene that it hardly needs elaboration. St. Joe's is, simply," the La Salle man wrote, giving up as everyone must, "a school with spirit."
While such admiration from opponents is universal, most rivals also maintain a saving smugness that hints a St. Joe's man is really rather like the amiable old town drunk. "Cheering is fine," says one athletic official of another Big Five school, who cannot be identified lest he be vilified by a series of the traditional banners in future games, "but most kids are too sophisticated now for the way they carry on."
St. Joe's men have learned to live with the community's evaluation of them as minor delinquents. On Christmas Eve, Al Guokas, an alumnus and the uncle of St. Joe's All-America Matt Guokas Jr., was serenaded at his home by carolers chanting, "The Hawk must die." His wife prevailed upon him to accept the visitors in the spirit of the season, so Al gamely invited the troupe inside, where they all managed a casual transition from "The Hawk must die" to The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Though St. Joe's has only 1,700 undergraduates, 20% of the doctors and dentists in Philadelphia are St. Joe's men, and so are 16% of the Philadelphia lawyers. "But," says William Whelan, the school's public-information head, "what we really turn out are great insurance salesmen. When you've got a gung-ho St. Joe's man selling insurance you've got a guy who won't let go." St. Joe's even gives one scholarship a year to a debater, but there are no figures to show whether scholarship winners have gone on to become insurance men or lawyers.
Since virtually the entire student body comes from Philadelphia, most of the kids know—indeed they eagerly anticipate—what they are getting into, and within a week the whole freshman class is an integrated part of the campus frenzy. But some of St. Joe's officials are beginning to have doubts about this. "We have a commitment to help educate young people," says the dean of admissions, Father James Moore, "and if we want to give them a good education, we must expose them to a greater diversity."
A good many people who read the box scores think the ball club also could profit from greater familiarity with diverse backgrounds. The Hawks have never been famous for their road successes, and this year, in their only significant tests away from the comforting insanity of the Palestra, they were upset by Brigham Young and Wyoming. Regrouping at home, Ramsay replaced Forward Marty Ford (who had shot 4 for 26 on the trip) with Chuck McKenna and prepared the team to defend its Quaker City title. BYU and St. Joe's were in different brackets, so the Hawks appeared to have a good chance for revenge in the finals, too.
La Salle, however, also has been known to win a few games at the Palestra and, though the Explorers had a 2-4 record and lots of sophomores, they buckled down and played a curious new disciplined offense to beat Brigham Young 71-69 in the opening round. La Salle Coach Joe Heyer, 27 and barely a month on the job, figured a control game was his only chance against the Cougars' height and shooting. The rare times when his charges picked up the faster BYU tempo, Heyer quickly signaled for a time-out and cooled the Explorers off. It was an excellent coaching victory for Heyer to throw at critics, who have said that he is too young to control a college team. Obviously, he can discipline his players as well as himself, for besides coaching the varsity, he also handles the freshmen, teaches high school and is studying (at St. Joe's) for his master's.
"This is the worst thing that could ever happen to you," Ken Loeffler, an old La Salle coach, bellowed at Heyer. "Now you'll stay in coaching for 50 years." Heyer, even more youthful-looking than his years in his tab collar and checked jacket, smiled and said he was already quite aware of the pitfalls of the profession. Before the BYU win he had lost three games by a total of four points—and two nights later La Salle lost to Temple in overtime.
(For numerologists who study the mysteries of comparative scores: Niagara was one of the teams that, earlier, had beaten La Salle by a point. La Salle edged BYU by two. BYU had beaten St. Joe's by 20. Ergo, Niagara should beat St. Joe's by 23. Final score: 95-72. Beautiful! Only it was St. Joe's that won by 23. Back to the charts.)
La Salle played slowdown against Temple too, but after a last-second shot by the Explorers fell short the bigger Owls finally wore down La Salle in overtime. Temple has two tough big men up front—Jim Williams and Ken Morgan—and this year there is a guard, Mike Kehoe, to get the ball in to them. Poor ball handling killed the Owls last year.
Temple Coach Harry Litwack has to scramble for his talent, hemmed in as he is by his school's rising academic standards and all those Catholic colleges. He recruits his boys over hamburgers at Mike's Broad-Tower, a fading green-and-off-white eatery that, says Mike, "replaced a big wall and some steps where the kids used to play cards." Now it, too, is ready to go, for Temple is in the midst of a massive campus-building program. It has just become a state-affiliated school, a fact that the St. Joe's banner-bearers could hardly wait to comment upon. No socialists, the Hawks first unfurled: 500 GREEN STAMPS = ONE YEAR'S TUITION AT TEMPLE. And then: YOU'LL NEED MORE THAN STATE AID TONIGHT.
The second slur, anyway, was true. As they had done the night before against Minnesota, the Hawks blew Temple out of the game almost before the St. Joe's students had time to rise from their seats. In both games Guard Billy Oakes's long jumpers broke things open right at the start, and then the other Hawks, one by one, got hot. Guokas, however, was invariably the leader. A truly smart ballplayer, he had 28 assists in the three games and picked up most of his own points by breaking open off screens to take simple passes from teammates for unobstructed layups.
Temple had a considerable height advantage, St. Joe's being the only school extant that has a president taller than its center. The Very Rev. William F. Maloney, S.J. is 6 feet 5, Cliff Anderson 6 feet 4. But Anderson can outjump Father Maloney, and most other people, too. Twisting and hanging, he managed 20 rebounds, and the Hawks actually outrebounded the taller Owls. Still there were times when St. Joe's—out of position and buffeted around—gave up as many as four shots in a row.
Shooting against the Hawks is never easy, however. The players not only are good defensively, but they make up that rare entity, a good defensive team. They back up each other beautifully, and that enables Guokas and Anderson, in particular, to dart all over, setting up a double-team or forcing a steal. Fifteen times in the first half Temple lost the ball in the forecourt before getting off a shot.
While St. Joe's played superb basketball, its victories were on its own turf and in a tournament that has never been won by any but a Philadelphia team. Quaker City Tournament visitors don't even get the famous option W. C. Fields suggested. They are dead and in Philadelphia. By the time the "welcoming" luncheon was held after the first round of play this year, four of the five guest teams already had been eliminated in one round. Nevertheless, Mayor James Tate was there to welcome the coaches to Philadelphia and to present them with little replicas of the Liberty Bell. Mayor Tate said he would be out to see the games the next night, but that he would be a little late because first he had to attend two wakes. Commiserating with the losers but taking cognizance of the fact that now they would have some time on their hands, the mayor suggested that the coaches get their boys together and go see the Liberty Bell "during this holiday season." He said they could do so without fear because "no matter what you may hear, Philadelphia has made its streets safe for our visitors."
But indoors, Mr. Mayor! Indoors, they are getting killed.