Fred Allen once remarked on his television program that he had a friend who took a sleeping pill every morning so people would think he was from Philadelphia. For that addition to Philadelphia jokes the Philadelphia Public Relations Association presented Allen with its Scrapple Award—25 pounds of scrapple—given annually to the public figure who comes up with the best addition to those old cracks about the city: e.g., I went to Philadelphia last weekend, but it was closed; or, I spent a month in Philadelphia last weekend; or, first prize, one week in Philadelphia, second prize, two weeks in Philadelphia.
"Ah, Philadelphia," said W.C. Fields, who began his career there. "If a woman dropped her glove, she might be hauled before a judge for stripteasing." Fields made jokes about the city throughout his life, which lasted from 1879 to 1946, and nobody enjoyed them more than Philadelphians. This year Philadelphia's Shackamaxon Society held a party on his birthday (Jan. 29) with a W. C. Fields impersonation contest, a martini-oliving contest, a dog-kicking contest (with a stuffed dog) and a child-insulting contest (with a live child). Long before Fields, and for that matter long before Fred Allen's drowsy friend, and before innerspring mattresses and water beds, Philadelphia had a reputation for excessive sobriety and somnolence. It was known as a nice place to live, but you wouldn't want to visit there. If you did so expecting a lively weekend, you would find the pinnacle of night life consisted of dropping a quarter into one of those vibrating-bed gizmos.
Philadelphians do not mind if you amble down their streets. They do the same. As for traffic, first-time visitors are in for a shock. They must soon realize that Philadelphia is not a city; it is one huge Stop sign. On the other hand, taxi drivers are not horn-happy, they take corners on four wheels instead of two and, having delivered you to your destination, they alight from the front seat, open the back door and thank you for your fare. A survey of deaths from coronaries among middle-aged men in 163 cities revealed that Philadelphia ranked 34th, well behind Savannah; Norfolk, Va.; New York; Los Angeles and Dallas. The Relaxation Club of America once gave its most-relaxed-city award to Philadelphia, for one reason among several: "Drivers swear less than in other cities."
The most conspicuous kind of civic action in Philadelphia appears when inhabitants are at last aroused to defend the town's name or to get rid of some local evil. Then the action is one suggesting "a committee be appointed to study the situation." Philadelphia leads the world in committees. The city has been mired in indecision for so long that these committees invariably begin with an ominous snort, sputter out quickly and fade from the scene with a furious shrug of the shoulders. Much the same pattern has been observed in boxers who come from Philadelphia. They sparkle through gym workouts like so many Sugar Ray Robinsons and then step into the ring for real and wind up like Canvasback McGoon. There is a name for them in boxing, no matter where they come from: Philadelphia fighters.
December 4, 1972
Fortunately for Philadelphia, a good-natured attitude toward disagreements is deeply ingrained in its traditions. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787 Benjamin Franklin, according to one historian, "contributed to the success of the sessions by the spirit of conciliation that he induced. Without Franklin's humorous anecdotes at moments of heated argument, the Convention might have exploded into controversy and bitterness." Franklin came to Philadelphia as a long-haired teen-ager. He was a wrestler of some skill, a fine swimmer and, at 46, he experimented with kite-flying in a thunderstorm; he also provided the city with its first paved streets, first fire company, its street-cleaning service and regular police force, established the subscription library, the first hospital and fire insurance company, organized militia forces and built a fort on the Delaware River to protect the city's eastern flank. But his greatest achievement came in his 80s when he calmed the embattled delegates at the Convention. Franklin accomplished this, said a biographer, because "he knew well that learning to laugh at one's self was an impregnable refuge of tranquillity and sanity."
Being able to laugh at one's self—and at one's home teams—has been a trait of Philadelphians for a long time. To be sure, sports fans in the city are noted for their booing; in fact, they are renowned as the booingest in the major leagues. Philadelphians boo performances outside of sports, too. "They have Easter egg hunts," said Bob Uecker, a former catcher with the Phillies, "and if the kids don't find the eggs, they get booed."
"I remember a crowd booing Santa Claus at a football game," said Sandy Grady, a columnist with the Bulletin. He is a transplanted North Carolinian, once a sportswriter, who has made a profound study of Philadelphia booing psychology. "When Sonny Jurgensen quarterbacked the Eagles," Grady went on, "he had a neighbor who had never been to a pro game. So Sonny gave him a ticket. It was one of those days when he kept throwing interceptions, and he got booed badly. After the game Sonny asked his neighbor if he had heard the boos. 'Yeah,' said the neighbor. 'It's fun. You ought to try it yourself.' "
Grady believes that having terrible teams has a purifying effect on Philadelphians, such as Aristotle ascribed to tragedy: pity and terror effecting a catharsis. "By booing the teams," Grady said, "they don't have to take out all their anger on politicians." Speaking of terrible teams, the baseball Phillies have very likely lost more games than any team in history—6,221 since 1900. While Phillie fans are generally castigated for their booing and intolerance, they are actually the longest suffering rooters in any city, a fact dramatically substantiated in 1964. That was the year the team led by 6½ games with just 12 to go, then folded up faster than a $2 tent when they lost 10 successive games and blew the pennant. But neither fans nor press berated the Phillies, the overriding feeling being that the club had attained maximum success with minimum talent.
The best assessment of Philadelphia fans was made by Harry Walker, who was with the Phillies for a couple of years. "This is a lunch-pail town," he said. Walker's thesis was that in a workingman's town the fans expect an athlete to put in a full day's work for a full day's pay. Like fans everywhere, they boo umpires and errors, but in Philadelphia nothing sets them off as much as players who refuse to give their all. Toward the end of the 1969 season, when Richie Allen was still a Phillie, he pawed the ground around first base, writing messages with his spikes: "Hi, Mom," or numerals reminding one and all how many games he had to play before he mercifully would be traded. This sparked some of the most venomous boos ever heard, even in the City of Brotherly Love. Now, three years later (and three teams removed from Philadelphia) he wants to be known as Dick Allen rather than Richie Allen. Why? "Richie reminds me too much of Philadelphia," he says.
Outfielder Del Ennis bore up better under the fusillade of boos aimed at him during his career. Looking back on the period when those discouraging waves of melancholy sound poured from the stands in his direction, he sometimes speculates that the fans hassled him so much because he grew up in North Philadelphia. Ennis said he should have understood. Eventually, he learned not to let boos bother him. But it took some doing. "One guy was on me all one game," he said, "so after it was over I went into the stands and challenged him. He didn't want to fight, and it was only then I realized that people came to the park to let off steam, and they didn't mean any harm." Ennis began to go along with their gags. "At times the whole park would stand and cheer me," he said. "Other days they threw things at me." One of the items hurled at Ennis was a bag in which a fan, in a calmer moment, had placed the sandwich he planned to eat during the game. "I ate the sandwich," Ennis said, "to show I could enjoy a gag."
Philadelphians love the sculling races on the Schuylkill River (pronounce it "Skookul" and people will think you grew up in the city). There is a small waterfall below the course, equally hazardous to winners and losers. "If the boats don't go over the falls," said Bob Uecker, "they are booed!" Sandy Grady recalled a Phillie outfielder who broke his arm trying (and failing) to make a catch. "They booed him as he was being carried off the field on a stretcher," Grady said. At the splendid new Veterans Stadium the 1972 Opening Day ceremonies included an act by Kiteman Richard Johnson, who wore enormous makeshift wings and skis and stood atop a wooden ramp 140 feet long and eight feet wide at the upper rim of the stadium. He was to ski down the ramp, become airborne, fly to the mound and deliver the first ball to the waiting catcher. Gusty winds delayed his takeoff. Anxious to get on with this most unusual of first-ball routines, the fans began booing. Reluctant to take off but pricked by the catcalls, Johnson zoomed away. Down the chute he sped, fighting gusts. Near the end of the ramp a crosswind bucked him off and sent him sprawling at top speed into the seats. Miraculously, Johnson survived without any broken bones. He did break five chairs and an iron railing, however, and as he lay in a tangle of debris the crowd, which numbered more than 38,000 that day, rose as one to pay tribute—yes, with thundering boos.
Not that Philadelphia booing is limited to baseball, sculling, Easter egg hunts or Santa Claus. Some of the most devastating assaults in Philadelphia sports history were the prolonged and vitriolic torrents, ominous as foghorns at sea, directed against Joe Kuharich, former coach and general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles (pronounced "Iggles"). Accustomed as local fans are to continuous defeat, there was something about Kuharich's discussions of them that left the citizens appalled. Even his remarks about the odd victories left them unsure. Talking about a game in which the Eagles made a second-half comeback, he said, "That was a horse of a different fire department." Another time, defending his choice of the Eagle backfield, he said, "Keeping three quarterbacks is rare, but not unusual." When the Eagles lost a game 56-7, the fans did not like it when Kuharich played down the defeat by saying, "A missed block here, a missed assignment there—it all adds up."
As he traded away players like Sonny Jurgensen, Maxie Baughan, Irv Cross, Timmy Brown, Lee Roy Caffey, Mike Clark and Tommy McDonald, the fans' uneasiness increased. At one game a ramshackle outhouse was placed near the field, bearing a label: "Joe's Home." Then, one Sunday afternoon, a plane appeared above Franklin Field trailing a banner that read GOODBYE JOE BABY. The plane was rented by the Get Rid of Joe Kuharich Club, which claimed to have 500 card-carrying members. But Kuharich, though fired in 1969, has the last laugh. He still draws a $49,000 annual salary from the Eagles on a 15-year contract that does not expire until 1979.
A team is known by its nickname and by the locality it inhabits. In these days of franchise transfers, teams often lose their personal identities—e.g., the baseball Dodgers, who were as much Brooklyn as they were Dodgers, are now the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they might as readily be the Dodgers of some other city or the Bank of America Dodgers. Not all teams have been so smothered. Particularly in Philadelphia the clubs seem to cling to the shreds of their heritage. To understand the local sports panorama it is vital to understand how this is part of the life of the town, its history and its mores.
Philadelphians simply do not fret about being the biggest, the tallest, the richest, the swingingest. Perhaps the reason there is no Superman in Philadelphia is that there is no tall building to leap over with a single bound. It is an unwritten law that no building shall rise above the hat on the head of the statue of Billy Penn atop City Hall, a height of 548 feet. Thus it is that there are more than 100 taller buildings in the U.S., including one or more in such places as Albany, N.Y. and Columbus, Ohio.
But there is more to Philadelphia than that. Much more. There is the Museum of Art, aglow in tawny brilliance under evening spotlights, The Franklin Institute of science, the splendid Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. And there is Fairmount Park, extending for five miles along both banks of the Schuylkill River and up Wissahickon Creek for five miles more, 4,109.6 acres in all. Fairmount Park is the largest municipally run park anywhere, with miles of trails for riding bicycles and horses, acres of playing fields and grassy knolls—a paradise for those with energy to expend or thoughts to contemplate.
There is the Germantown Cricket Club, whose Bill Tilden was seven times U.S. singles tennis champion, the Merion Cricket Club, whose Diehl Mateer dominated squash racquets for years, the Philadelphia Country Club, whose Glenna Collett Vare was six times U.S. amateur golf titlist. It was at Merion that Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Amateur. The first archery club in the U.S. was the United Bowmen of Philadelphia, formed in 1828. Bowling on the green was a prominent sport from colonial times onward, and Philadelphia cricket teams were almost invincible around the turn of the century against clubs from other U.S. cities and Canada, and competed respectably against visiting teams from Britain and on tours of England. Fox hunting was one of the passions of wealthy Philadelphians. It is said there was once another obscure sport among the upper crust—cat hunting. It seems one John Sergeant Price was annoyed by the howls of his neighbors' cats and organized a cat-shooting expedition. It was so successful that it became an annual event, and was evidently a social as well as a sporting occasion, since there is a record of a debutante in the 1930s describing the difficulties of hunting cats by moonlight in a ball gown.
No American city has so conscientiously preserved the record of its past as has Philadelphia. To be sure, there are artifacts in parks and museums besides the Liberty Bell or the relics in Independence Hall: the jawbone of Grover Cleveland, a statue of Leif Ericson's brother-in-law, the wallet carried that day by Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Given a chance the city can prove it was the home of innumerable firsts in the U.S.—lager beer, the ice-cream soda, the merry-go-round and the revolving door. But principally the history of Philadelphia for 300 years is one in which it could have been first, and was often found wanting.
William Penn founded the city in 1682 (after obtaining the land from King Charles II in payment for favors owed his father) as "a holy experiment," and in colonial days Philadelphia was the largest, wealthiest and most cultured community in the New World. When the first U.S. census was taken in 1790 the city was second to New York. By 1830 it had been shoved into third place by Baltimore. Twenty years later it was pushed out of third by Boston. By taking in the entire county, Philadelphia regained second place in 1860, only to be passed by Chicago, remaining third until the rise of Los Angeles reduced it to fourth in 1960.
Herbert Lipson, who publishes Philadelphia Magazine, said, "I think Philadelphians love to be third or fourth in all things. Being first makes you stand out, and they don't want that. If you're second, people think that you want to be first, and it's too bad you didn't make it. That's uncomfortable. But third or fourth, those are comfortable niches."
Philadelphia might have had the historic Tea Party instead of Boston, but failed. In 1773, when Great Britain tried to impose tea and taxes, the ship Polly, with one Captain Ayres at the helm, was en route to Philadelphia with a cargo of tea, news of which reached the city in ample time for preparations. On Oct. 18, 1773, weeks before the Bostonians had readied their Tea Party plans, the Philadelphians held a meeting. The Committee for Tarring and Feathering was appointed—Philadelphia obviously was already in trouble. True to the civic pattern, the committee got off to a dynamic start and penned this warning to Captain Ayres: "What think you, Captain, of a halter around your neck, 10 gallons of tar decanted on your pate, with the feathers of a dozen wild geese laid over that to enliven your appearance? Only think seriously of this and fly to the place from whence you came. Fly without hesitation, without the formality of a protest, and above all, dear Captain Ayres, let us advise you to fly without the wild goose feathers."
Captain Ayres refused to turn back. He arrived in Philadelphia on Dec. 26, 1773 and was confronted by the largest gathering in the history of the city, 8,000 angry, booing Philadelphians. The tar and feathering committee then took over. When the committee finished its deliberations Captain Ayres was allowed to depart without a drop of tar or a single feather. In short, they blew the whole affair.
Grandiose planning and mild execution have been hallmarks of Philadelphia ever since. The city was the capital during the Revolutionary War, only to be shunted aside for New York. It then appeared that Philadelphia would regain the honor, being a more centrally located site. It was chosen once more, but only until a new capital could be built on the Potomac. At least it can be said that for seven years, while he was President, George Washington slept in Philadelphia. But then, what else could he do?
Baseball had an early but uninspired start in the city. In 1860 the local team lost to the mighty Excelsiors of New York 15-4, and Philadelphia sports fans were reported to be delighted because the team had not lost by a larger score. Three years later the city acquired the first professional baseball player, Al Reach, who signed with the Athletics with the understanding that he be allowed to commute between Philadelphia and New York, where he worked as a silversmith.
In 1869 three different Philadelphia teams lost to the Cincinnati Reds—the Olympias 22-11, the Athletics 27-18, the Keystones 45-30—and the local rooters were quite enthused about "the splendid showing of the home teams." Still, there were glorious moments. In 1871 the Philadelphia Athletics won the first pennant in the earliest known pro league, the National Association. (Because of assorted irregularities the National Association has been ruled not to have been a major league.) Two years later Philadelphia became the first city to have two teams in a league when the Quakers joined the Athletics in representing the town. The Quakers wore gray shirts and pants, white stockings and low-crowned hats, and fans in other towns greeted them with remarks like, "Didst thee score a run in thee's last game?"
The National League, the modern organization, commenced play on April 22, 1876, with all games weathered out except the one in Philadelphia, where Boston beat the Athletics 6-5. It is not exactly clear when the original Athletics were replaced by a new team called the Phillies, but it may have been in 1883. Thirty-two years passed before they won a National League pennant. But they did have some fine individual players. Billy Hamilton twice stole an alltime high of 111 bases. On July 13,1896 Ed Delahanty put on one of baseball's most prodigious hitting exhibitions by slugging home runs to left, right and center, over a fence 35 feet high, and adding an inside-the-park home run. As a reward Delahanty was given four sticks of chewing gum. There were, however, some awkward moments. One came in 1898 when Tommy Corcoran of the Cincinnati Reds was coaching at third base during a game in Philadelphia. While scuffing around in the dirt Corcoran's spikes caught on what he thought was a vine. He tugged on it, and found it to be wire. He kept tugging on it and followed its path until it led him across the field into the Phillie clubhouse. There he found Morgan Murphy, a Phil-lie catcher, with a pair of opera glasses and a telegraph buzzer, devices he used to steal and relay signs to the Phillie coach at third base.
The new Philadelphia Athletics were charter members of the American League, but when Connie Mack arrived as manager in 1901 he had no players, no ball park and no encouragement. John McGraw called the Athletics "a white elephant," a symbol the Athletics wore on their uniforms for years. But Mack got Ben Shibe to put up money for a park and raided National League teams, plucking such standouts as Nap Lajoie and Lave Cross. Managing the team from the first American League season through 1950, Mack ran the gamut from eighth place to world championships.
But in their first World Series in 1905 the Athletics faced none other than McGraw's Giants. With Christy Mathewson pitching three shutouts and Joe McGinnity a fourth, the A's lost, but with no loss of esteem in Philadelphia. They had their revenge when they defeated the Giants in both the 1911 and 1913 World Series, the latter marking the fourth time the Athletics had won the pennant. But the local resistance to being first was at work, and with hard times Mack had no choice but to sell a number of his stars. The remains of the 1913 World Champions wound up in eighth place in 1915, the first of seven consecutive Such finishes.
Until the Mets in 1962—and a longer schedule—the Athletics of 1916 lost more games in one season than any club in this century: 117. They did this with the help of 314 errors, 78 of them by Shortstop Whitey Witt. "You never saw a club like that one," said Tom Sheehan, a pitcher whose record was 1-16 for the Athletics that season. But Jack Nabors outdid Sheehan with a 1-19 record, all his losses coming in a row to establish a mark that still stands.
Joe Bush (15-22 that year) has a tale to tell about that 1916 team. "We had lost 20 straight, tying the league record," he said. "Then I beat Detroit. When I came into the clubhouse, instead of congratulating me, the team was furious and gave me hell because I'd ruined its chance of setting a record."
Amazingly, Mack rebuilt his club and won pennants in 1929-30-31 behind the slugging of Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons and Mickey Cochrane plus the pitching of Rube Walberg, Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw. Then, though he had promised after 1915 that he would never do it again, Mack had to break up his team because of a whopping payroll, declining attendance and the Depression. First to go in the white-elephant sale this time were Mule Haas, Jimmy Dykes and Al Simmons. Simmons had had some extraordinary seasons, hitting .351, .365, .381, .386, .390 and .392. But no matter, he and the two others went to the White Sox for $150,000. Cochrane was sold to the Tigers for $100,000. Then Grove, Walberg and Max Bishop were shipped to the Red Sox for $125,000. Last of all, Mack peddled Foxx for $150,000. From 1934 until the team was transferred to Kansas City in 1954 the Athletics were in the first division only twice.
Meanwhile the Phillies had somehow absorbed so much of the tranquil Philadelphia atmosphere that their very name was held to be a cause of their lackluster play. Horace Fogel, a former sportswriter, became president of the club after the 1909 season, and his first act was to change the name. The word Phillies, he said, "has come to mean a comfortable lackadaisicalness." His new name was the Live Wires. Fogel went so far as to order thousands of watch fobs decorated with a replica of an eagle clutching wires that threw off sparks. Within three years, however, Fogel himself had thrown off enough sparks to be found guilty of impugning the integrity of the game, and in the first scandal in the club since the telegraph wire affair of 1898, was officially "barred forever from the councils of the National League."
In 1910 the Phillies acquired Grover Cleveland Alexander for $750, and for the next seven years, with Alex winning at least 20 games each season (and a total of 191), the team only twice dropped out of the first division, winning the pennant in 1915. But when Alexander got his preliminary draft notice in 1917, Owner Bill Baker thought it would be a shrewd move to unload him and let another club fret about getting him back from the war in one piece. So he traded him to the Cub and Alexander went on to win another 183 games in his career.
After the hapless Phillies had finished no higher than seventh for a decade the National League took over the club, and in February 1943 finally found a buyer-William D. Cox. When the team assembled for spring training, there were only 16 men on hand to play for the Blue Jays, as Cox wanted to rename his squad. Cox even worked out as a pitcher. Some time later the owner was persuaded by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to resign from the club presidency because of alleged gambling.
It was not until 1950 that the Phillies won their second pennant, this one on a final-game homer by Dick Sisler. In the meantime, however, the Eagles won the first official pro football championship for the city. (Connie Mack claimed the pro football championship of the U.S. in 1902 when his team, with Rube Waddell playing, beat Pittsburgh, with Christy Mathewson.) Three years in a row. starting in 1947, the Eagles made it to the championship game, first losing to the Cardinals 28-21, then beating them 7-0 in a blizzard in Philadelphia and retaining the title by bumping off the Rams 14-0.
Such achievements scarcely changed the Philadelphia fans' habits of booing. Or their paradoxical response to defeat. After the Phillies won the pennant in 1950 the miraculous Whiz Kids turned almost overnight into the Whiff Kids. Under Manager Eddie Sawyer the Phillies finished last in 1959. When they lost their first game in 1960 by 9-4, Sawyer quit. "I'm 49 years old," he explained, "and I'd like to live to be 50."
Gene Mauch, who managed the Phillies throughout most of the '60s, became famous for his spectacular temper tantrums. Once Mauch smashed in his office door with a fungo bat. Another lime he ripped a phone off the clubhouse wall. After one particularly galling ninth-inning defeat he hurled spareribs, chicken, potato salad, watermelon and cantaloupe around the locker room. Nowadays, looking back on the past, Mauch says reflectively, "Those days I lived in hope—in the hope that the other teams would get worse." They didn't. But even Mauch could be startled by the unpredictable reactions of Philadelphia fans. In 1961, having set a modern record by losing 23 games in a row. the Phillies re—turned home to be greeted by a wildly enthusiastic crowd. "I thought everybody loved a winner," Mauch said, "but I guess they love a loser more."
And what about 1972? Things got so bad for the Phillies this summer that after losing 18 of 19 games a Turn It Around Night was held. Everything was turned around: stadium employees wore ID badges on their backs, the lineup was announced in reverse order, the scoreboard began with the ninth inning and worked back to the first, TV showed players running backward and, before the game started, the organist played Goodnight, Sweet heart. It was to no avail; the Phillies lost 4-3.
The Phillies finished the season in last place, the Eagles will probably do likewise and the 76ers seem capable of living up to their name—in the loss column, which would be quite a feat in an 82-game season. In early November four Eagle rooters filed a class-action suit against the team on behalf of 60.000 fans, demanding a refund for the final four home games on the grounds that the Eagles were "inept, amateurish, lacking in effort and far below the level of pro football performances expected of an NFL team." That was even more of a slap in the face than the remark by Cornell All-America Ed Marinaro last winter when he was asked about his football plans and said, "I'd like to play for the Eagles for a year and then go on to the pros."
The only hope for a winning team appears to rest with the Flyers of the National Hockey League, who could earn a playoff berth. There remains, though, the traumatic recollection of last winter, when the Flyers needed only a tie in their final game to make it to the playoffs. The score was 2-2—until their opponents knocked in a goal from the blue line to win with four seconds left in the season. Despite dire predictions that they wouldn't draw, the fixers have done exceptionally well, and this season are virtually sold out. As for the Blazers of the World Hockey Association, it didn't take them long to fit into the local sports scene; their first home game was postponed because the ice was cracking.
Gone are Philadelphia's days of sporting excellence, which peaked in the '40s and '50s when the Eagles had Steve Van Buren, Pete Pihos and Chuck Bednarik, and when Big Five college basketball was the best to be found in any U.S. city as Temple came up with All-Americas Bill Mlkvy and Guy Rodgers, Penn had Ernie-Beck, Villanova had Paul Arizin and La Salle took the 1954 NCAA championship with Tom Gola. Those were the days when the Warriors (predecessors of the 76ers) had Arizin, Neil Johnston and, in later seasons, Wilt Chamberlain. (Lest anyone forget, it was Philadelphia and Wilt who ended the Boston Celtics' domination of the NBA in 1967.) As good as he was, Chamberlain, a hometown boy, achieved his most lasting fame elsewhere—as a collegian at Kansas and now as a Los Angeles Laker. Even his most memorable feat came out of town, when in 1962 he scored an NBA-record 100 points in a game for the Warriors in Hershey, Pa.
Getting out of town has been the secret of success for many Philadelphians, including hordes of entertainers who grew up in South Philly. "The home of the prideful poor," as the area is known, produced Mario Lanza, Joey Bishop, Eddie Fisher and Chubby Checker. Sonny Liston may have put it better than anyone after he moved West. Said Liston: "I'd rather be a lamppost in Denver than mayor of Philadelphia."
Unlike many other American cities, Philadelphia is pleasantly livable. At the same time, there is something about the town that bogs people down, slows their productivity, curbs their initiative. Philadelphians themselves admit this, and enjoy citing the case of the committee that several years ago tried to lure industry and tourists. After many meetings it approved a slogan to be put on billboards and in advertisements: Philadelphia Is Not as Bad as Philadelphians Say It Is.
Los Angeles has its Hollywood and Vine, New Orleans its Bourbon Street, New York its Times Square, Atlanta its Peachtree Street. Philadelphia streets are paved with anonymity. Other cities have been sung about in catchy tunes such as Galveston, Moon Over Miami and Chicago. Nobody sings about Philly. Manhattan has its cocktail. St. Louis its blues. New Orleans its jazz. Philadelphia? Well, what other city has a brand of cream cheese named after it?
The negativism of Philadelphia is compounded of a long record of defeats, mixed with a dash of stoic pride, a hope that perhaps a little suffering will be good for the soul and an ability to laugh at oneself. When the Astrodome was opened in Houston the prevailing local opinion was that it ranked among the wonders of the world, but when Veterans Stadium was unveiled in Philadelphia, with its $3 million scoreboard, its animated cartoons, dancing waters and usherettes in hot pants, the comment most frequently heard was, "Gee, this place is a lot better than I thought it would be." When the Federal Government announced last May that the 1976 Bicentennial International Exposition would not be awarded to Philadelphia, the reaction of people that day throughout the city was, "I knew it. I knew it." Sometimes there was an added comment, such as, "I knew they'd find a way to bungle it." Some 15 years ago the city leaders realized that 1976 was approaching, and that they had better get started. They began by appointing a committee. Over the years they appointed more committees. Losing the exposition cost the city at least $240 million in federal funds as well as the celebration itself. But it was no surprise to Philadelphians. They knew it would be lost. In Philadelphia they know.