The Philadelphia Atoms

The team was born at the Super Bowl. Philly construction tycoon Tom McCloskey was in LA for the 1973 Super Bowl with 8 friends, but couldn’t find a ticket. Kansas City Chief owner Lamar Hunt heard about McCloskey’s dilemma and scrounged him up 9 tickets. Hunt, an NASL owner as well as NFL owner, then persuaded McCloskey to buy an North American Soccer League team and put it in Philly.

Other than the Flyers,Philadelphia’s pro franchises at that point were a joke. The 1972-73 Sixers were wrapping up a 9-73 season, the worst in NBA history. The Phillies were coming off that famous 1972 season, where Steve Carlton recorded 27 of their 59 wins. Over the previous 5 seasons, the Eagles had gone a combined 17-49-5. So Philadelphians were excited by the prospect of a potential winner, and a league record 21,700 attended the team’s home opener. The team would finish the season averaging over 11,000 fans per contest, by far the best in the league. The fans delighted in the scrappy play of the squad, particularly the 5’5″ sparkplug Andy “The Flea” Provan and stingy rookie goalkeeper Bob Rigby. Coach Al Miller led a fast moving offense that was fun to watch, and the Atoms went 9-2-8 on the season, good enough for 2nd in the league after the Dallas Tornadoes.


The Atoms knocked off the Toronto Metros 3-0 in the playoff semifinals, then took on Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Tornadoes in the championship game. Bill Straub, a Philly native who was pressed into action after not playing for the team all season, scored a goal, Dallas kicked another one into their own net, and Billrigby Rigby shut down the powerful Dallas offense. Philadelphia was NASL champion in their first season of existence, and Rigby became the first soccer player to ever be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You can watch highlights of that game here.

It was a rapid rise to the top, and an equally quick fall. They would never make the playoffs again, and after a promising start, the team folded in 1976. A new NASL team, the Philadelphia Fury, would begin play in 1978.

RELATED: You can check out all of Shibe’s NASL shirts here.

This Week on PhilaPhilia

Our friends over at Philaphilia are blowing up right now, and with good reason. They’ve got one of the best local sites I’ve started following in some time. Here are some highlights on the site now.

The Old Ass Building of the Week. A building you probably don’t even notice as you’re staring up at at the Divine Lorraine across the street.

The Butt Fugly Building of the Week. The Wills Eye Hospital, home to some of the ugliest public art in Philly History.

The Lost Building of the Week. Pretty damn funny post about a Mason Lodge that stood for a mere 8 years before it burned down.

The Empty Lot of the Week. It’s actually a building this week. An ugly 1954 building that was abandoned in 1989 and has just been sitting around collecting weeds for 20+ years.

This Week on PhilaPhilia

You Philly history and architecture geeks are in for a treat again this week. Some great stuff on the PhilaPhilia site.

OLD ASS BUILDING OF THE WEEKThe Witherspoon Building on South Juniper Street has been around since Big Ed Delahanty was roaming the Philadelphia outfield, and it’s just as impressive now as it was then.

BUTT FUGLY BUILDING OF THE WEEK: The One Parkway Building, with its obnoxious stainless steel facade. As the author says, it’s a “tower of dogsh*t.”

LOST BUILDING OF THE WEEK: If you are a big fan of Philadelphia history, this is a MUST READ. The Schenck Building is beyond awesome, and its story is really cool too.

EMPTY LOTS OF THE WEEK: 13th and Juniper and 13th and Locust. Incredibly, these have both been empty lots for 80 years.

Right Now on PhilaPhilia

You’re on this site because you not only love sports, but because you love Philly and you love it’s history. In that case, you’re gonna love philaphilia.

  • The U.S. Customs house is one badass building. As Philaphilia puts it, “This is one of those cool-ass buildings that could never be built in today’s shitty day and age because the materials cost would be astronomical.”

PSH Starts Collaboration with PhilaPhilia

It’s no secret that we here at PSH are stadium geeks as well as history geeks, who love the architecture of the greatest stadiums in Philly history (early Shibe, Franklin Field, the Palestra), and are pretty honest about the lamest places the home teams have played. (The Vet was an absolute disgrace, essentially a parking lot painted green with a bowl around it.) Well, there is one place that has combined our love of history, our love of local architecture, and our love of no-holds-barred wiseass Philly attitude into one of the best new blogs in Philadelphia. If you haven’t stumbled across Philaphilia yet, you are in for a treat. It glorifies the spectacular beauty of some of our greatest buildings, and heaps white hot scorn upon the idiots who have torn down great buildings to put up parking lots. It’s sort of Inga Saffron meets Bill Hicks. Here’s a sample of some of its finest.

  • What happens when the Father of Post-Modernism designs a Quaker retirement home? A goddamn atrocity.

The Philly Phenom Who Won the US Open and Lost His Sanity

Only one player has ever won the US Open as a teenager. It wasn’t Jack Nicklaus. Nor Arnold Palmer. Nor Tiger Woods. The only teenager to ever win the US Open was Johnny McDermott, a teen from West Philadelphia who rocketed to the top of the golf world at age 18, but crashed to earth at age 23 and never recovered.

As a teenager, McDermott was a golf junkie. His sister Alice said that “He would be on the practice field as soon as it was light, about 5 a.m., and hit shots until 8 a.m. when he opened the pro shop. After his day’s teaching, he would go out and play. Often, he told us, he finished in twilight with somebody holding a lantern.”

His feverish intensity paid off. McDermott provided a glimpse of his potential at the 1910 US Open, in which he lost in a playoff to Scotsman Alex Smith. By 1911, he was confident of a victory, telling his caddie a few days before competition, “You’re carrying the clubs of the next Open champion.” He backed up his boast, winning the 1911 US Open in a tiebreaker in Chicago. He wasn’t done. In 1912, at age 20, he won the US Open again, this time in Buffalo. By this point, McDermott had become the first big golf star in America, endorsing balls and clubs, teaching lessons to teh wealthy, and being paid handsomely to play in numerous exhibitions. But McDermott had a bit of Philly in him, and in the world of golf, that wasn’t considered a good thing.

After losing in a playoff to Alex Smith in 1910, McDermott said to Smith, “I’ll get you next year, you big tramp.” But it was three years later that his smart mouth really got him in trouble, and hastened his downfall.

At a tune up for the US Open in Shawnee in 1913, McDermott smoked two British stars, then mocked them afterwards. “We hope our foreign visitors had a good time, but we don’t think they did, and we are sure they won’t win the National Open.” He was lambasted in the press for his arrogance, and almost kicked out of that years US Open. It also gave the first hint as to his fragile mental state. “I am brokenhearted at the affair,” he told a reporter. “I am worried greatly…near a breakdown.” McDermott was allowed to play at the US Open, but clearly shaken, he finished 8th.

He had made numerous investments with the money he won from the two US Open wins and his lucrative coaching gigs, but in the winter of 1914, his investments all went south. He travelled to England to take part in the 1914 British Open, but missed a train after arriving in England and was unable to play. On his return trip to the US, his ship was in a collision. No-one was hurt, but it didn’t help his delicate mindstate. “Everything had hit within a year,” said his sister Gertrude. “First the stock failure, then the awful results of the Shawnee tournament, then the Open and finally that wreck.”

He finished 9th in the 1914 US Open, and then disappeared from golf for good. He blacked out at a pro shop in Atlantic City and was taken to a mental institution. He was described as being “paranoid, delusional, catatonic, hallucinatory, incoherent, apathetic, silent, retarded, passive, preoccupied, seclusive.” He was diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic, and after bouncing around a few institutions, he would be put up at the State Hospital for the Insane in Norristown in 1916. He was allowed to design and build a golf course on the Hospital grounds, and continued to play for regularly for fun. But he never overcame schizophrenia, a mental disorder not well understood at the time, and despite numerous trips off of the Hospital grounds to play golf at the Atlantic City course or to stay with one of his devoted sisters, he lived there for the rest of his life.

In 1971, the US Open came to nearby Merion, and Johnny decided to attend. McDermott, dressed in strange clothes from an era long since passed, was asked to leave the pro shop. On his way out, he was recognized by Arnold Palmer, who asked him how he was and let it be known that he was welcome in the clubhouse. Two months later, the Philly Phenom who put golf on the map in the United States would die at age 79.

Thanks to reader Mario for pointing this story out to me. If you know any great local sports stories, please don’t hesitate to contact us on facebook and let us know.

The Fast Rise and Tragic Fall of Tyrone “The Mean Machine” Everett

I first came across the name Tyrone Everett in a list of Philly’s Best Ever Fighters compiled by Bernard Hopkins in The Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists. Everett’s entry was a mere two sentences long, but the 2nd sentence more than piqued my interest.

He was robbed in his 1976 Spectrum title fight against Alfredo Escalara and was tragically shot to death just 6 months later.

An athlete dying young and a potentially fixed fight? It was worth looking into. I would soon discover that Tyrone’s story was more than a tragedy. It was pulp non-fiction, a story that included the Mob, transvestites, drugs, snakes, and a mysterious murder.

Tyrone Everett  was born in April of 1953 in South Philadelphia and started boxing at a young age. It was quickly recognized that the lefty had some serious talent, and his fame grew in South Philly, where young girls would jump rope while chanting “Ty, Ty, Butterfly.” The superfeatherweight was a regular attraction at the Spectrum’s Monday Night Fights in 1973 and ’74, and he won every bout. Along the way he earned the USBA superfeatherweight title. In June of 1975, “The Mean Machine” as he was known, finally travelled off his home turf to fight in Honolulu. The exotic locale didn’t affect his fury. He won by KO in the first round. By 1976, he was undefeated and a national contender for the WBC World Title. On November 30, 1976, he got his chance.

Now with a record of 34-0, Everett was given a shot at title holder Alfredo Escalara. Escalara was a flashy showman, known for his love of salsa music and for entering the ring with a snake around his neck when he fought in his native Puerto Rico. Though he was the challenger, Everett got to host the fight in his backyard, the Philadelphia Spectrum. There were three judges; a Puerto Rican judge, the referee, and a Philadelphia judge named Lou Tress.

If the fight was close, most people expected Tress to side with Everett, the Puerto Rican judge to stay loyal to Escalara, and that the fight would be determined by the referee. The fight was not close. From the opening bell Everett was the superior fighter, and he ran circles around the Puerto Rican, dominating the 15 round bout. The AP scored it 146-139, Everett. The UPI had it 146-141. Every ringside observer had Everett winning at least 10 rounds. The South Philly southpaw was going to be crowned World Champion. The future was his. And then it was stolen.

Daily News writer Tom Cushman wrote the next day,

“Tyrone Everett won the junior lightweight championship of the world last night. Won it with a whirling, artistic, courageous performance that brushed against the edges of brilliance. Tyrone was standing tall, proud, bleeding in his corner after the 15 rounds, waiting for the championship belt to be draped around his waist, when they snatched it from him. Picked him so clean it’s a wonder they didn’t take his shoes and trunks along with everything else.”

Years later Cushman wrote a book called Muhammad Ali and the Greatest Heavyweight Generation. And though Tyrone was far from a heavyweight, Cushman decided to include a chapter about Everett. In it, he wrote that Everett’s promoter, J Russell Peltz happened to run into renowned Philly fixer (and Frank Sinatra buddy) Blinky Palermo a few days after the fight. Peltz asked him if he thought that the fight might have been fixed. Palermo responded, “You can buy Lou Tress for a cup of coffee.”

Everett handled the screw job well, bouncing back to win his next two fights and setting up a rematch with Escalara that was to take place in Puerto Rico. The fight never happened. 10 days after his last fight, Tyrone Everett was killed, shot through the head in South Philly.

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The 10 Worst Philadelphia Sports Quotes

Rashard Mendenhall is the latest in a long line of athletes who’ve caught flack for saying some really stupid things.  After the killing of Osama (or Usama, depending on which side of the aisle you’re on) bin Laden, Mendhenhall stirred controversy by posting tweets that criticized those celebrating the death and questioned bin Laden’s role in the 9/11 attacks.  He’s since deleted and tried to clarify the tweets, but nonetheless has suffered a P.R. beating and may lose endorsement deals.  UPDATE- 5/6/11: Champion ended its business relationship with Mendenhall in light of the tweets and cancelled their endorsement deal with him.

In today’s social-media-technology-fueled-instant-news-culture, more and more athletes and sports figures are finding themselves in trouble for tweets that aren’t necessarily run through the player’s representatives before showing up on the feeds of thousands and thousands of people, and then shortly thereafter, traditional news outlets.  With twitter, fans get to read an athlete’s first impressions on things.  And more often than not, instant reactions aren’t well thought out.  While it might be easier for the public to catch an athlete making an ill-timed or just plain dumb remark today, sports figures and dumb quotes have gone hand in hand together for years.

Here’s a list of the 10 worst quotes from the mouths of Philadelphia athletes/coaches:

10. The problem with Philadelphia fans is that they want you to play every game like it’s your last one.

That’s our favorite selection from the 1993 NBA draft, Shawn Bradley.  Pretty clear why this makes the list: A second-overall draft pick wondering why a fan base would expect him to work hard during games is ridiculous…especially in a town that has always placed work ethic above talent.

9. Half this game is 90% mental.

Daniel Orzechowski, better known as Danny Ozark coached the Phillies from ’73 to ’79 and stumped everyone with this quote.

8. I have to do a better job of putting guys in position to make plays.

The bread and butter of Andy Reid press conferences since 2000.  With Reid spitting out this meaningless quote in each and every post game presser, it’s only a matter of time until Les Bowen’s head explodes.

7. When you get that nice celebration coming into the dugout and you’re getting your ass hammered by guys; there’s no better feeling than to have that done.

Lovable Matt Stairs after his moon shot game-winning home run against the Dodgers in the 2008 playoffs.  There’s nothing like a good ass-hammering.  Word choice is obviously not Matt’s strong suit.

6. I don’t give a crap whether he ever plays again or if I ever see him again.  All he ever did was cause aggravation to our team.

That’s crotchety old Bobby Clarke on Eric Lindros after the Flyers traded him to the Rangers in 2001.  Apparently, Bobby doesn’t like dominant players who suffer concussions, or their parents.

5. There will never be another player like me.  I’m the ninth wonder of the world.

There’s not another Philadelphia athlete who could have gotten away with saying this at any point in his career, especially as a rookie; Sir Charles is one of a kind.

4. All he does is catch touchdowns.

Buddy Ryan’s explanation on the release of Chris Carter sounded ridiculous at the time.  But as we learned over the years, Ryan couldn’t tell everyone that the real reason Carter was being waived was due to three failed drug tests.

3. I’m a special player.  I’d like to thank my hands for being so great.

Freddie Mitchell was a special player, but much more for his Hall of Fame caliber lack of self-awareness than for his play.  He was a first- round selection that gave us 4th and 26th, but not much else.  This dandy came after a game against the Vikings when he was in the right place at the right time for a TD when LJ Smith coughed up the ball at the goal-line.

2. For who?  For what?

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky.  In the post game press conference after a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he blatantly alligator-armed a ball over the middle, Watters signed his own death certificate in Philadelphia.

1.  I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re sitting here talking about practice.  I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice.  Not a game, not a game, not a game…we talking about practice.

There’s little debating that this quote belongs #1.  Allen Iverson mesmerized audiences with one the best news conferences in sports history after Larry Brown criticized him for not showing up for practice. Did we miss any? If so, please post them in the comments.

Looking for the Hammer and Hot Ballgirls?

Many of you are arriving today from Thrillist. Welcome to the site! The Thrillist piece mentioned a few articles on here but didn’t link to them, so here they are, along with a few more Greatest Hits I think you might enjoy. And if you’re a fan of local sports history, be sure to follow us on twitter, where we post a lot of interesting “On This Date” tweets. And if you seen anything interesting online about Philly sports history, please let us know ( We will absolutely attribute it to you.


History at the Penn Relays

Jesse Owens at the Penn Relays

The Penn Relays are taking place now through Saturday at Franklin Field. Officially the Penn Relay Carnival, the Relays are the longest running uninterrupted collegiate meet in the United States. The first meet was held in 1895 (a year before the first modern Olympics) and is considered the birthplace of the modern relay. The event has long drawn the top high school, collegiate and Olympic level athletes from around the country and beyond.

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