He smiled too much. He didn’t run enough. He played the air guitar. He threw up at the Super Bowl. He was passive aggressive. He didn’t lead enough 4th quarter comebacks. He told your boss not to give you that promotion. He convinced Napoleon to attack Russia in the winter.
If you ever needed anyone to blame for anything for 11 years, McNabb was a handy target. Part of that had to do with how tough it is to be QB in Philly, part of it has to do with a pricklish personality that never allowed him to “get” Philadelphia, and part of it (“he smiles too much”) was sheer nonsense.
But even if I concede everything that drives people crazy about McNabb, there is still simply no debate that “Five” is the greatest QB in Philadelphia Eagles history. And it’s not close. He has the record for Most completions, most yards, and most TDs. He played in 6 more games than the beloved Ron Jaworski and threw 41 more TDs and 51 less INTs. He had a winning percentage of 65.2%, while Jaws was just over 50%. He threw 66 more TDs and 5 less INTs than Randall, whose winning % was around 59%.
What makes these numbers even more impressive is the fact that, with one single notable exception, McNabb was playing with receivers who never approached the level of skill of Mike Quick, Harold Carmichael, or even Keith Jackson. Due to the Eagles insistence that “the system” was more important than anything else, McNabb spent season after season passing to James Thrash and Todd Pinkston. Just how good was McNabb? The mindblowingly bad Thrash played with the Redskins for nine seasons and caught for 1620 yards. In just three years with McNabb, he caught for 2026 yards. Coincidence, or an example of a great quarterback making a terrible player better? (As for Pinkston, once the Eagles let him go, not a single team showed interest.) In the one single season during his prime that McNabb had an unequivocally great wide receiver, he had the greatest season any QB in Philly has ever had, throwing for 3,875 yards, 31 TDs and a mere 8 INTs, while leading the Eagles to a 13-2 record in games he started, best in team history.
McNabb then threw for 357 yards in the Super Bowl (the most anyone not named Kurt Warner has ever thrown in a Super Bowl) against a Patriots team that was cheating so hard they made the Black Sox look like choir boys,but it was allegations of McNabb (maybe?) throwing up in the end that became the story of the 2004 season. Despite all the yards, and despite the fact that he shredded a Pats defense had completely shut down Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning in the two games previous, McNabb’s Super Bowl, and season, were seen as a failure.
In addition to his questionable attitude, the other thing working against McNabb was the fact that he came along at roughly the same time as Brady and Manning. McNabb was not as good as the other two QBs that came along at the same time, and so, by some sort of twisted logic, he sucked. It was absurd and irrational, but Eagles’ fans pride themselves on their passion, not their rationality. McNabb never understood that (as opposed to local icon Brian Dawkins, who understood it implicitly), and his lack of understanding of their rather diminished his accomplishments in the eyes of many Eagles fans.
Now that time has passed, it is time to re-evaluate McNabb’s value as an Eagle. His stats (and his close-but-no-cigar career) compare favorably with the undeniably great Jim Kelly. Kelly played 11 seasons with the Bills, McNabb played 11 for the Eagles. Kelly played in 160 games, McNabb in 148. McNabb passed for 2 more yards per game, Kelly threw slightly more TDs per game (1.48 to 1.46), and McNabb threw 75 less interceptions than Kelly despite playing in 12 fewer games. (And don’t forget that Kelly was throwing to Andre Reed and James Lofton, not Pinkston and Thrash.) McNabb also ran for 3249 yards for the Birds, while Kelly ran for 1,049 for the Bills. Kelly went 9-8 in the playoffs. McNabb went 9-7. Jim Kelly is a God in Buffalo. And yet, here in Philly…Until more people in Philadelphia can separate McNabb’s incredible career from their own personal feelings for him, he will remain one of the most underrated athletes in Philadelphia history.
I had so much fun with the 1911 A’s that I thought I’d do something similar for Wilt’s 100 point game. So I went to the library and looked at the Inquirer and Bulletin from the days immediately before and after Wilt’s 100 point game. The NBA was so bush league back then that there was no preview of the game in the paper on March 2nd, which was focused on the Phils spring training and a potential Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight (They would fight in September, an easy win for Liston). The next day, once he had scored 100, there was more notice, but nothing like you’d see today. A couple of columns in the Inky and Bulletin. By the 4th, there was no mention of it in the paper. Everything you read below was taken from those two papers in the days surrounding the games (including that AMAZING political headline from the Bulletin below) and from an incredible piece in Sportsweek this week, an oral history by the people who were there. I added a bit of my own style, but all quotes and facts are real. Enjoy!
Technically, Wilt scored 104 points last night. That’s what his teasing roommates told him in the joyous locker room after last night’s superlative performance against the Knicks. After all he had gotten called for goaltending twice. But it will go down in the scorebooks as 100, crushing his previous record by 22. And when you consider that young Wilt is only 25 years old and just now entering his prime, you have to wonder what he will do to top this!
“I just hope nobody asks me when I’m going to score 120…because I never will,” said a jovial Chamberlain after the game.
Perhaps not, but when you consider the type of season he’s having this year, it seems like anything is possible. Chamberlain is obliterating the rest of the league, averaging over 50 points a game. In fact, there are some who are calling for the baskets to rise to offset the dominance of big men like Chamberlain.
Remarkably, a few hours before Wilt’s 100 point game, a young reporter named Bill Conlin reported in the Bulletin that Temple’s coach Harry Litwack (left) is predicting higher goals in the next few years.”It is my personal feeling that the baskets will be raised…in the next 2 or 3 years,” Litwack said. “The average college player of 6’3″ or 6’4″ can stuff the ball with little trouble.” In fact, Penn coach Jack McCloskey had his team practice on 11 1/2 foot rims on Tuesday, saying that the practice was “enlightening, but inconclusive…The biggest need in the game today,” said McCloskey, “is to take away the advantage the unskillfull big man has over the skilled smaller player.”
Needless to say, McCloskey was not referring to Wilt, who is as skilled as anyone in the sport. Of course, his height didn’t hurt him on this night, when Knicks were playing without starting center Phil Jordan, who was out with the flu*. Neither did his free throw shooting.
“I wasn’t thinking of hitting 100,” said Chamberlain, “But after putting in nine straight free throws I was thinking about a foul shooting record.”
Well, he set a couple of those too, making 28 out of 32, both records that I suspect will still be held many years from now.**
His shooting from the field was good but not great (he finished 36 for 63). Needless to say, once his teammates and the crowd realized that 100 was a possibility, he touched the ball almost every time down the court. The Knicks, desperate to not give up 100, tried to freeze the clock by dribbling in circles. Warriors coach Frank McGuire countered that by having his players foul the Knicks. As the great Paul Arizin of the Warriors said after the game, “If anyone walked into the arena (then), they would think they were winning and we were losing.”
Indeed, the Warriors kept frantically feeding Wilt, and he kept hitting short layins over poor 6’8″ Cleveland Buckner, who was left to guard him after Darrell Imhoff, who was filling in for Jordan, fouled out. Wilt hit a couple of impressive fadeaways while in the 90s, then with 98 points and less than a minute remaining, he gathered in a short pass from Joe Ruklick (below, with Wilt), spun and dropped a short shot softly into the basket. He had 100! The crowd, which had been chanting “Pass to Wilt, Pass to Wilt!” throughout the 4th quarter, rushed the court. Eventually it was cleared, and the game resumed, with Wilt standing off to the side. He attempted no more shots, but it was no surprise that he stayed in the game. After all, he’s only missed 8 minutes all season, and is averaging more than 48 minutes per game!
After the game, Wilt was visibly excited about the new record. “It’s really something. I sure do feel different. Triple figures. Wow!” His teammates were ecstatic as well. Arizin said, “I never thought I would see it happen when I broke into this league, but when Wilt came along I knew he’d do it someday. It’s a fantastic thing. I’m very happy for him.”
In the Inquirer today, there was a story about Ted Williams being asked if anyone would ever hit .400 again, considered the benchmark in all of baseball. “Sure, there are going to be more .400 hitters,” said Williams. That remains to be seen, but it is worth noting that the 100 point game will almost certainly become a similar benchmark in basketball, and one has to wonder which record will be broken first, the .400 season or the 100 point game. Asked if anyone would break his record after last night’s game, Wilt slyly answered, “I’d hate to try to break it myself.”
IN OTHER SPORTS NEWS: -The All Catholic League Team and All Public League teams released their All-Stars today. Among the All Catholics was Matt Goukas of St. Joe’s, and the All Public League included All Stars Earl “The Pearl” Monroe of Bartram and Fred Carter of Franklin.
-Robin Roberts has begun training camp for the first time in his career with a new team…the New York Yankees. Roberts, the greatest pitcher in Phils history, struggled to a 1-10 season last year with a 5.85 ERA, and was in need of a fresh start. “It’s great to be…a Yankee,” said Roberts. “This is a new world.”***
-The 1964 election is still two years away, but there is a name quickly gaining traction in Republican circles. That is George Romney, who after a successful stint as head of the American Motors Corporation has decided to run for governor of Michigan. Remarkable that a man with no political experience is already considered a frontrunner for the 1964 nomination.****
-Four Philadelphia police sergeants are being trained to use a new device called the “Breathalyzer”, which can be used to determine the amount of alcohol a driver has had.
And before we go, a word from our sponsors, the Trocadero Burlesk Theatre. Without their support, none of this would be possible.The tantalizing tassel twirler Stormy is performing tonight. Don’t think I want to miss that one! I’ll see ya at the 9:55 show!
*Imhoff revealed in that Sportsweek piece that Jordan actually missed the game with a hangover, not the flu. How incredible is that? If Phil Jordan doesn’t get wasted the night before the game, the Knick have their starting center, and it’s almost certain that Wilt doesn’t score 100.
**Adrian Dantley would tie Wilt’s record with 28 made in a game in 1984. Dwight Howard currently has the record for most free throws attempted with 39, which he set in January (He made 21).
***Roberts would never pitch a game for the Yankees before being traded to the Orioles in May. He would indeed find new life in Baltimore, going 10-9 with a 2.78 ERA that season and winning 42 games total with the O’s before ending his career in Houston.
****His son Willard Mitt turned 15 ten days after Wilt’s 100 point game.
Dr. Dunkenstein turns 55 today. Great piece above on him shattering the two backboards. True story: a few years ago when he played on the Sixers, Kyle Korver played quizzo with some friends at the Black Sheep. His team name? Vanilla Thunder. No kidding. Pretty great.
Nickname Week at Philly Sports History is coming to a close, but not before we look back at Darryl Dawkins. “Chocolate Thunder” is the king of pseudonyms. Truly before his time in terms of marketing himself, he personified the term athlete-entertainer. You think Shaq and his nicknames were original? Not even a little. “Double D” was coining nicknames for himself and his dunks while Shaq was still in diapers.
And there’s no doubting that “Sir Slam’s” dunks were deserving of nicknames; the power with which he threw down borders on terrifying. Take a look at the video below:
Here are several of the most memorable nicknames “Dr. Dunkenstein” came up with for his dunks:
- “Your Mama” When the “Master of Disaster” first broke into the league and was practicing with guys like Dr. J., Jellybean Bryant, World B. Free and Doug Collins, he wanted to show everyone he was a player. After his first powerful dunk, he turned to the guy who attempted to play defense and said “Your Mama.” When the rest of the players asked him what the hell he was talking about, he said “That’s my ‘Your Mama’ dunk.”
- “The Heart-Stopper” At 6’11” and 250 lbs., “King Kong” was an imposing presence to say the least. So when he froze defenders in the lane with powerful drives to the hoop, he would call those dunks “Heart-Stoppers” because it looked like they made the defender’s heart stop.
- “The Greyhound Bus” Greyhound Bus described when he would go coast to coast and finish with a dunk.
- “Left-Handed, Spine-Chiller Supreme” Although “Charming Chocolate” was right-handed, he often dunked lefty.
- “Turbo Sexophonic Delight” Makes sense when you consider he was an alien from the planet Lovetron who spent the offseason practicing interplanetary funkmanship.
- “Chocolate Thunder Flyin’, Glass Flyin’, Robizine Cryin’, Parents Cryin’, Babies Cryin’, Glass Still Flyin’, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Thank You Wham Ma’am I Am’ Jam” His first backboard shattering slam. (right)
- “The Chocolate Thunder Ain’t Playin’, Get Out The Wayin’, Backboard Swayin’, Game Delayin’, Super Spike” And his second backboard shattering slam, after which the NBA forever changed to collapsible rims.
Honorable Mention Dunks: “Dunk You Very Much,” “The Rim-Wrecker,” “The Gorilla, “The In Your Face Disgrace,” “If You Ain’t Groovin’ You Best Get Movin’ Dunk.”
Nickname Week rolls on here at Philly Sports History. So far, we’ve taken care of the Eagles and the Flyers. Today we take a look at the best nicknames in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers. There are way too many nicknames in team history to remember them all, but here are 10 of the best in no particular order. As always, let us know if you can think of any others that should have cracked the Top Ten.
- “World” Lloyd Bernand Free – Lloyd was given the nickname “World” in high school for his all-world talent, so he did the reasonable thing and officially changed his name to World B. Free.
- “The Boston Strangler” Andrew Toney – The origin of this nickname is pretty obvious. He dominated the Celtics in the playoffs, most memorably with a 34 point night in Game Seven of the ’83 Eastern Conference Finals.
- “The Round Mound of Rebound” Charles Barkley – As a stocky 6’5″ forward who took home the rebounding title in ’86-’87, it’s not surprising Sir Charles was given this moniker.
- “Chocolate Thunder” Darryl Dawkins – Dawkins’ nickname came from an unlikely source: Stevie Wonder. In an interview with Dime Magazine, Dawkins told the story: “Stevie Wonder used to come the ball games and they would have a guy sitting with him. And the guy would be holding on to his arm, telling him what’s going on, and he would say, ‘Hey, the big chocolate guy just put down a thunder dunk. The chocolate guy with another monster dunk.’ And Stevie Wonder actually gave me the nickname Chocolate Thunder. So a guy who never saw me can give me that name. I think I can wear that well. I don’t even know if he remembers, it’s been so long, but I’ll keep that.”
- “Dr. J.” Julius Erving – Julius Erving had a buddy in high school, Leon Saunders, who “could outtalk anybody to the point where would lecture whoever else was around.” Because of this, Erving called him the “Professor.” Saunders figured they both should have professional sounding nicknames, so he started calling Erving the “Doctor” and it stuck. It was later shortened to “Dr. J” when he started playing pro basketball.
- “The Answer” Allen Iverson – Although his nickname growing up in Hampton, VA was “Bubba Chuck,” once he was drafted by the Sixers he became “The Answer” for the struggling franchise.
- “Pooh” Johnny Dawkins – Dawkins was nicknamed “Pooh” by his family when he was a child and it lasted.
- “Jellybean” Joe Bryant – A high school teammate gave Bryant the nickname “Jellybean” because he had all the moves of the guard, even though he was a 6’9″ power forward.
- “The Kangaroo Kid” Billy Cunningham – Cunningham was called “The Kangaroo Kid” because of his insane leaping ability.
- “The Big Dipper” Wilt Chamberlain – Wilt had many nicknames, but preferred “The Big Dipper,” which was coined by friends at Overbrook H.S. because he had to dip his head to get through doorways.
Well eventually we were going to come across a person who didn’t grow up here (besides myself). So today we present to you Brandyn Campbell, better known to her fans as the Philly Sports Muse. If you went to Penn State, you may actually enjoy her memory, as it has to do with a loss by one of your chief rivals. And strangely, numerous members of the 1992 Ohio State team she talks about have Philly connections.
My strongest and most vivid memory has to do with a team and a sport that may surprise you.
If you’ve ever met me or stumbled upon my blog, Philly Sports Muse, you know that I am a football fan. Yet my early days of sports fanaticism were devoted to another sport.
My junior high and high school years were spent in Michigan. I rooted primarily for the Detroit Pistons. It was the era of Isaiah Thomas before the sexual harassment allegations and Dennis Rodman before he lost his mind.
The only thing I loved more than the Pistons was Ohio State’s basketball team (sorry, Penn Staters). The team at the time included some names that may be familiar to you as Philadelphia sports fans.
My beloved OSU team was coached by Randy Ayers, who followed my inspired lead and made his way to Philadelphia as assistant coach of the 76ers for 6 years beginning in 1997, then was head coach for the team from 2003-2004.
Jim Jackson (right), OSU’s star who in his younger days went by Jimmy, was my hands down favorite member of the team and overall favorite college athlete. He also made his way to Philly for one year, along with a a whopping eleven other stops in the NBA.
Lawrence Funderburke was on the team, a player who sadly had a short and lackluster career in the NBA. Chris Jent, my second favorite player on the squad experienced a similar fate in pro ball as Funderburke. But as luck would have it, Jent too made his way to Philadelphia in 2003 as an assistant coach for the Sixers.
Back in Columbus, Ohio State was the #1 regional seed two years in a row during the NCAA Championship, in 1991 and 1992. Both years they failed to make the most of the opportunity.
I don’t remember much about what happened in 1991. However, the tragedy of what occurred in ’92 sticks with me.
OSU was in the Elite Eight. The last minutes of their game against Michigan’s Fab Five were gut-wrenching, as they always are in college basketball. Ohio State was sure to win. They held a 4 point lead with a few minutes left. But Michigan came back to tie the game, and a last second shot by the Buckeyes rimmed out.
The game went to overtime, which Michigan dominated, talking trash the whole time. The Fab Five, with a 75-71 win (here’s an article about that game written by Mike Missanelli), were headed to the Final Four. Ohio State was headed home.
It felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I couldn’t believe that the run was over.
Somehow after those last minutes I wound up on the floor of my house. And there I sat for a half hour, uttering a word to no one.
Though the teams and sports I root for now are different, I will never forget that moment. Why?
Because it’s my clearest and earliest memory of displaying everything I believe about being a sports fan. If my full body, heart, mind and soul aren’t committed to a game, then there is no point in watching. Why bother to root for a team if you’re not going to pour everything you have into it?
This story actually makes me smile because, in hindsight, this early heartbreak was perfect preparation for becoming a Philadelphia sports fan.
Larry Mendte needs no introduction. I doubt there is a Philadelphian who doesn’t know his name. He has a house swimming in Emmys for his terrific television work (including two earlier this year). And though his career at KYW ended in scandal in 2008, he has since recovered nicely, writing for Philly Mag, doing commentary for WPIX in New York, and becoming an advocate for the 9/11 First Responders. And this isn’t the first time he’s been gracious enough to respond to an inquiry from me. In 2006, he talked to me about ghosts. Well, here he talks about the ghosts of 1972, when Philly sports hit rock bottom, and how surviving during the lean years has made the recent success of Philly sports all the sweeter.
The present is the best of times for Philadelphia sports fans. The Phillies are the best team in baseball. The Eagles will be the Super Bowl favorites in football. The Flyers made moves that put them in the mix for a Stanley Cup run. Even the Philadelphia 76ers are showing signs of something better than mediocre thanks to the return of my favorite Sixers’ player, now my favorite Sixers’ coach, Doug Collins.
And that takes us back to the worst of times. For to truly be able to bask in what is, you need to have suffered through what was. In 1972 I was 15 years old and a sophomore at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, Delaware County. It was an age and a year when you were fully invested in your sports teams for better or worse. But in Philadelphia there was no column A – everything was worse, record setting worse.
The Philadelphia 76ers started out the year losing their first 15 games and the season went downhill from there. In the middle of the year they suffered a then record setting 20 game losing streak. And yet I can remember the names of every player on that team as I used to go to the Spectrum, buy a nose bleed seat and by the 3rd quarter I was courtside. The team was so bad I had the urge to yell “next.” When the team ended the season 9-73, the worst record in NBA history, it was depressing.
But the 76ers were not alone, every team was pitiful. I challenge anyone to come up with a worse year in Philadelphia sports than 1972 bleeding over to the beginning of ’73. I contend it stands as the worst year in Philadelphia professional sports history.
The Philadelphia Phillies were 59 – 97 that year and finished last in the National League East. Cy Young award winner Steve Carlton won 27 of those games. Without Carlton the Phillies could have easily contended for the title of worst team in Major League Baseball History. One shudders to think how many games the team would have lost without Lefty.
The other team to play at The Vet was even worse. The Philadelphia Eagles were 2-11-1 in 1972 and finished last in the NFC East. They beat the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Oilers both by one point, so they were just two points away from a winless season. The team scored just 12 touchdowns in a 14 game season.
The Philadelphia Flyers finished with a 26-38-14 record in 1972. In a city of last place teams, the Flyers fourth place finish in the NHL West made them a giant among midgets. But there was more than that, a new coach named Fred Shero seemed to have a vision. And Bobby Clarke in his third season had the making of a superstar.
The four teams I mentioned had a combined record of 96-219-15. 1972 may not only be the worst year in Philadelphia sports history, but the worst year that any city with at least four major league franchises has ever suffered.
Philadelphia was dubbed The City of Losers. It was depressing for a 15 year old kid in Lansdowne who felt a deep connection with the teams. It was no wonder that Big 5 basketball and Penn State football was so big in the early 70’s. The college teams gave Philadelphia our only taste of winning.
But that would quickly change, for Fred Shero did have a vision. The very next year, the Philadelphia Flyers would shed their reputation for mediocrity; emulating the swagger of a city that had something to prove and nothing to lose. I watched all six games of that Stanley Cup series from the kitchens and living rooms of friends and family. It was on everywhere.
Famously, before game six against the great Boston Bruins, Shero posted a note in the locker room. “Win today and we walk together forever.” They won game six and the Stanley Cup series 1-0 thanks to the brilliance of goalie Bernie Parent.
That night I remember celebrating with my friends and a few hundred other people in the middle of street in Yeadon, Delaware County. The crowd chanted “1,2,3,4. Who the F—is Bobby Orr.” There was sheer elation. Philadelphia became a hockey town that year. The team known as the Broad Street Bullies defiantly ripped the label “City of Losers” from all of our chests.
Philadelphia became a hockey town that year. Suddenly kids, who used to play stick ball, pick-up basketball and touch football, were playing street hockey. And Fred Shero’s prophecy came true, as Clarke, Shultz, Barber, Parent, DuPont, Dorhoefer and Saleski were overnight household names. They were walking together forever into Philadelphia Sports immortality.
Everything seemed to change after the cup came to town. The Flyers would win again and the Phillies, 76ers and Eagles all seemed to drink from it. The City of Loser was now the City of Winners. Clarke and Parent were joined by Schmidt, Dr J and Vermeil. Within the next ten years the City would have a World Series win, an NBA Championship and a Super Bowl appearance. I was there when Tug McGraw lifted the trophy over his head at JFK stadium and I chanted “Fo, Fo, Fo” as Moses moved down Broad Street in a victory parade. But my favorite sports moment in Philadelphia happened at the intersection of Church and Whitby when I shared in shared in a loud and emotional mass transformation of Philadelphia sports fans from what we were, repressed and resigned, to what we are today, proud and passionate.
The suffering of 1972 made 1974, 1980, 1981 and 1983 more meaningful. It makes those of us who remember 1972, the worst of times, treasure today, the best of times.
This is Part 4 of our series on Philly sports memories. Here are the previous entries.
Part 1, with Nick Staskin of Phillies Nation.
Part 2, with John Finger of CSN Philly.
Part 3, with Maxx of Black Landlord.
The Sporting News recently ranked the Top 10 NBA teams of all time, and the 1982-83 Sixers were ranked 7th, while the ’66-’67 Sixers team was ranked 6th. We may have to match these two teams up in the future to determine who was better.
On July 6th, 1929, the Cardinals defeated the Phillies 28-6. June Green would pitch the last 4.2 innings of that game, giving up 12 hits and 11 runs. He would never play in the majors again. Claude “Flunky” Willoughby (seriously, that was his nickname) was the losing pitcher for the Phils. The funny thing is, it was the 2nd game of a doubleheader. The Phils won the first game 10-6. Here is the box score of the 28-6 game.
The Phils demolished the Marlins last night, 14-2, with Cole Hamels on the hill. Two years ago today, they demolished the Reds, 22-1, with Cole Hamels on the hill. They don’t seem to hit for Hamels very often. But when they do, look out.
Ok, so it’s not local, but it’s too good to pass up. A few weeks ago, Lalli told you about Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus getting shot by a crazed fan. It’s not the only time a ballplayer has been shot by a madwoman. On this date in 1932, a showgirl shot Cubs shortstop Bill Jurges twice. He recovered, however, and went on to help lead the Cubs to the World Series that year.