A few parameters before we kick this thing off. First of all, these are 15 athletes we think are underrated by fans of Philadelphia. Not nationally. There are a couple who might even be overrated nationally, but locally don’t get the love they deserve. As far as how we scored it…we took each person who is a part of the site: myself, Lalli, and our host, Art from Foobooz, to list their 12 most underrated Philly athletes of all time. We then gave them each a point total (#1 got 12 points, #2 got 11, and so on) and added up the points. In case of a tie, I pulled an executive decision. We begin today, with #15. There were a number of guys who one of had listed, but who didn’t get enough points. The honorable mentions are:
Eddie Collins (5 points)
Jim Eisenreich (5 points)
Todd Pinkston (5 points)
Bernard Hopkins (4 points)
Rick MacLeish (3 points)
Mark Howe (2 points)
Sami Kapanen (1 point)
Manny Trillo (1 point)
Now let’s start with our list. We certainly are looking for feedback on this…through twitter, on facebook and in the comments. Please, please feel free to argue and make a case for guys you think should be on this list. This is a discussion, not something we want to cram down your throats. Let the countdown begin!
We’re gonna be working on a new project over the next couple of weeks, and we’re going to need your help. We want to come up with a list of the 20 most underrated athletes in Philadelphia sports history…athletes who are underrated by Philadelphians. In other words, not players that people slept on nationally, but guys who should be a lot better known right here in Philly, where they played. (We’ve already written about a few guys who will probably make the list, like Del Ennis and Joe Frazier.) They can be Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, Warriors, A’s, boxers, college athletes, tennis players, bocce sensations, etc. So please post in the comments or on our facebook page or by sending us a note on twitter. Thanks! We’ll start posting the list on Wednesday after we hear your suggestions and discuss amongst ourselves.
An interesting article in this month’s Philly Mag about former Philly boxing standout Matthew Saad Muhammad (aka Matthew Franklin), and his fall from greatness. We here at PSH are no strangers to tragic boxing tales, as a few months ago we brought you the story of Tyrone Everett, who was gunned down in the prime of his career under mysterious circumstances. But Muhammad’s story is a different type of tragedy. It’s about a man who had it all and now has next to nothing, bouncing in and out of homeless shelters, with his brain scrambled by so many hits to the head.
It’s taken months to get this interview with Saad, one of the all-time-great Philadelphia fighters, a warrior of the ring who plied his trade in the ’70s and early ’80s, back when the city had great fighters in gyms and the boxing game still had a modicum of respect. Saad was part of the sport’s golden TV age, when purses of $300,000 or more per bout were de rigueur for top fighters. He earned around four million bucks during his 18-year career, maybe more—no one kept close count.
I’m not looking to talk to Matthew because of all the money he earned, though, or all the fame he achieved, but because of what he lost, which is everything—all of it, every last cent.
A real life boxer in Philadelphia is finally getting a statue. Joey Giardello, an Italian fighter from South Philly who was middleweight champion of the world in the mid-1960s, will be honored with a statue at 13th and Mifflin, the unveiling of which will be Saturday at 1 p.m. Giardello was a middleweight who fought out of Philly starting in the late 1940s, and it took until 1960 for him to finally get a title shot. He fought the champion, Gene Fullmer, to a draw. In 1963 he upset Sugar Ray Robinson and became the #1 contender for the title. He won the title in a win over Dick Tiger, and held it for two years, successfully defending the title four times. One of those defenses is his most famous fight, the one against Ruben Carter that was falsely portrayed in the movie Hurricane. In the movie, Carter loses to Giardello because he’s black. In reality, he lost to Giardello because Giardello outboxed him. It was a unanimous decision, almost all writers present agreed with the decision, and Carter never protested the outcome. Tiger won the belt back from Giardello in 1965, and the South Philly fighter only fought 4 more fights before retiring.
After his retirement, Giardello spent countless hours helping with the Special Olympics. He had a son with Down’s Syndrome. As for the statue, Bernard Fernandez recently wrote an excellent piece about it in the Daily News.
PSH’s Take: Absolutely no offense to Giardello, but Philly finally gets a statue to a real boxer and it’s not Smoking Joe? No doubt that Giardello deserves a statue and I’m glad he got one, but giving him one before giving one to Frazier doesn’t seem right. It would be like making a statue of Mo Cheeks before making one for Dr. J. It’s nothing against Mo Cheeks, who we love, but…At the end of the DN article, John DiSanto, the tireless boxing fan who runs the excellent phillyboxinghistory.com and who helped make the Giardello statue happen, says, “There’s been a lot of talk about a Joe Frazier statue. A Frazier statue in Philadelphia is going to happen. It has to happen. I would hope that the Giardello statue would help get the Frazier statue done. If our motley crew can do something like this, anybody can.” Bernard Hopkins has told the Metro that he would pay for a Frazier statue if they can find a place to put it. So, uh, what’s the city waiting for?