Sunday, October 23, 2011

Johnny Sample

During our career as journalists and photographers (a hobby that didn't cost us too much), we were fortunate to interview the great football player, Johnny Sample. We had been assigned to write a feature article about Emlin Tunnel, Radnor High School's claim to professional football history. After serving in WWII, Tunnel played for the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers as a defensive player and a punt returner. He went with Lombardi to Green Bay after Lombardi left the Giants and played in the fabled 1960 championship game which the Philadelphia Eagles won. This was the only championship game that Lombardi ever lost.

We asked both former Eagle players, Tommy McDonald and Tom Brookshire about Tunnel and they both raved about his marvelous defensive skills. Johnny Sample played on that very same Green Bay Packers team and he told us great stories.

Sample met Tunnel at a Horn and Hardarts at 52nd and Market Streets and convinced Tunnel that a defensive player has a longer expected career than an offensive player. Tunnel listened to him and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Tunnel passed away at age 50 from a heart attack.

Sample also told us about his experiences with the Baltimore Colts under the ownership of Carol Rosenbloom. Before the joining of the NFL and the AFL, the Colts flew to Dallas to play and exhibition game. The team showed up at the hotel and the staff behind the desk stuttered and stumbled over words. Finally, the clerks said that some of the team could stay there, but, since no blacks were allowed, the rest of the team would have to find accommodations elsewhere and a seedy hotel, several blocks away, was suggested. The coach called Rosenbloom who told the team not to check in, return to the airport, and await his phone call.

Not more than a couple of hours later, Rosenbloom called the team and said that it was OK for the entire team to check into the hotel now. "How did you manage that? What did you say?" they asked him. His reply - "I bought the hotel, fired the staff, hired new people, and told them that my integrated team was coming."

Sample had a full career after he retired from football.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sonny Jurgensen and Me

I commuted to Penn every day from September 1957 until I graduated in June 1961 and then got my MA in 1962. I parked in the lot at 33rd and Walnut. The Philadelphia Eagles practiced at Franklin Field and also parked in the same parking lot. I crossed paths with the football players only once.

The parking lot attendant, a Penn employee, was small, wiry, pleasant, and very protective of me - for some reason. One late afternoon, as I headed to my 1954 blue and white Oldsmobile, he hurried over to me. "The Eagles football players are leaving now. You be careful. Especially be careful of Sonny Jurgensen." I said sure, and didn't have any idea what he was talking about. I later learned that Sonny Jurgensen had a reputation as a womanizer. What did I know? I was a senior at Penn and had my head in the books, my research, and my plans for graduate school.

Then, the attendant who had decided that I needed protection, pointed out the tall red-headed man that was walking with a group of other great big men. "That's him," he said. And then, this little man strutted over to the group of great big professional football players, stood right in Jurgenson's space, pointed to me, and told him, in no uncertain terms, to leave me alone. I got in my car and went home but I did take a quick glance behind me and saw the tall redhead shaking his head in wonderment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Church and State

A passage in the Haggadah, read during the Passover Seder, tells us to think of the Exodus from Egypt as if we ourselves were personally rescued from slavery. I feel as if I was personally saved from the Holocaust.

I hever had to wear any identifying mark - a yellow star of David, a large J, a number tattooed on my arm - never.

I hever had to raise my hand when asked by a person in authority "who is Jewish?" No matter what the motivation. A person in whom I have 100% confidence told me about a situation that I have been unable to confirm. I will reveal the matter, but eliminate all possible identifications. If it is true, it is horrifying. If it is not true, it could be and cries out for vigilance in all aspects of life. A teacher asked the students who are Jewish to raise their hands. They did. After all, a teacher is a person in authority. Then, the teacher seated them so that there would be a Jewish student and a non-Jewish student side by side. Separation of church and state? Hardly.

The people who wrote the Constitution of the United States appreciated the hardships endured by religious persecution and wanted to make our country a safe haven for all peace-loving people - with no hint of a divine right to rule.

If you pay attention to the TV evening news, you will notice that gratuitous references to religion are usually omitted. This was not always the case. One day, I heard "he is Jewish" or, "the son of Jewish parents" or, well known "Jewish family" and I wrote a letter - in the days before email - to the network headquarters. that accused them of being racist. That, unless the person's religion was a pertinent factor in the story, it should not be mentioned - or - mention the religion of everybody. Within days, religious affiliations, unless a contributing factor that moved the story along, were omitted.

Success came with sports radio talk shows too. When the football draft yielded players for the Eagles that did not meet the standards of the talk show hosts, they offered "the best Mormon available," instead of the traditional "best player available." (A reference to the religion of the Eagles' head coach Andy Reid.) This time I used email to accuse them of being racist and you seldom hear, religious talk references. Andy Reid's Mormonism has almost disappeared.

However, look at the slate of candidates that the Republicans are fielding. We all know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon (accused of being a cult by Perry's religious leader). But what are the religious affiliatiions of the other potential candidates and are their religious beliefs important to anyone but them? There is always hope that reasonable minds prevail. After all, JFK was not ruled by the Vatican. American voters had confidence in the separation of church and state.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Edgar, the Button Man, and the New York Post

A long, long time ago, just after Edgar graduated from college, 1949, he was walking along Arch Street in Philadelphia, looking in the windows while searching for a job. The shop owner came out of the store and asked Edgar if he wanted a job to sell buttons, trimmings, and zippers to Philadelphia manufacturers. At that time, Philadelphia was a major center of the garment industry.

And so, he started the job - going to a list of customers, took the orders, and returned to the shop. The owner filled the orders plus a little more. If the buyer wanted 12 dozen items, the owner would send 13 dozen. "They'll either pay for the 13dozen, return the extra dozen, or keep it and not pay." Much to Edgar's surprise, almost all of them paid.

This marketing strategy came home to us recently - more than 60 years later.

We had stumbled into an inexpensive subscription to the New York Post - $2.00 a week, 7 days, delivered to our door. Never mind their politics. The headline writers are creative and their sports coverage is extensive.

We charged the $100.00 on our credit card for one year - at the end of that year we renewed again for another hundred dollars. Toward the end of the second year, we received a fraud alert phone call from the credit card company for a questionable $250.00 charge.

"Do not pay it," we said. "This is an unauthorized charge." Not a problem the credit card company cancelled the charges, cancelled that card, and said they would send us a new credit card.

A complaint email to a contact at the New York Post resulted in a snide response - That is the charge. And that is what you owe.

We're not paying. We don't need the extra dozen buttons.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Remember the song, "Mama, don't let your kids grow up to be cowboys?" Well, I'm changing the words to: "Don't let your kids grow up to be ignoramuses."

I was listening to WIP, sports radio talk show this morning with Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti, Ricky Botalico, and Rhea Hughes. A caller, a Phillies season ticket holder who is knowledgeable about the USA space program, mentioned Sputnik in the conversation. Not one of those four, highly paid, intelligent? show hosts knew what Sputnik was. One said, what a good name for a dog. Another one commented that Sputnik would be a good name for a potato dish.

The caller had to explain that October 4, 1957 was a turning point in space travel. That was the day that the Soviet Union (remember them?) launched the first man made satellite into space. This tremendous scientific breakthrough caught the United States by complete surprise. Our rocket scientists were working on a satellite that could circle the earth but they had not mastered the concept of multiple powerful rockets as launchers.

Our landing on the moon, and John F. Kennedy's interest and financial investment in NASA, gained impetus from the Sputnik launch. The USA took over the space race and "won" it with our landing on the moon.

The demonstrable lack of knowledge by people who rule the airwaves needs to be recognized as an indictment of our educational system. We cannot expect everyone to know everything. But we can expect everyone to know about the important events in the development of humanity, especially in breakthrough events of historic importance.