The Philadelphia Story- A Philly Tale
by Charles Oliver aka Bloggo Schloggo
Soon we would find our way into another war on the Korean peninsula and the ratcheting up of the Cold War with the Soviet bloc was looming. Still the World Wars were behind us now. The U.S.A. was now a major power on the world stage.
America was thriving and the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were back home. We felt invincible. Everyone was finding spouses, marrying and starting families, soon to be big families. Work was plentiful and everyone was trying to attain the American dream. It was a time of hope and happiness.
My early years were spent in a walk up apartment I believe that was on the third floor. I remember as a toddler the winding stairs seemed endless. My mother must have dreaded having to carry me up all those stairs. Me in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other. Once I was old enough to climb them on my own with school bag filled with books I had a new-found appreciation for my mother’s struggles.
The second Girard Avenue Bridge, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, opened July 4, 1874.
I attended a catholic school those days that seemed so far away. My parents had a kid named Eddie Hamlin (everyone called him “Ham Bone”) walk me back and forth. I think he was an 8th grader. He and his friends were hard to keep up with because I had to take two strides for each of their one. We took a route by the train tracks. I remember by the time Eddie left me at my door I was out of breath. He was always in a rush to get home from school so most of the way was at a fast trot or dead run. When I opened our building door there stood the dreaded stairs. The last obstacle to overcome before reaching that great place the little apartment we called home.
We lived at 2948 West Cambridge Street a block off Girard Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets. The neighborhood was known as Brewery Town. We were near Fairmount Park, the Philadelphia Zoo and the Schuylkill River.
Years before the neighborhood had a lot of local beer breweries and they employed many of the local residents. Like many small industries the big guys came in and bought or drove out the small operations. They just couldn’t compete with the likes of Anheuser Busch and Miller Brewing Company. They had set up operations and warehouses across the river.
So like many city neighborhoods in those days it went into decline. Shuttered warehouses, stores, buildings and houses of those that had taken flight and moved on. After the war a few years down the line people were fleeing the urban neighborhoods for greener pastures in the suburbs. Especially across the Delaware River to southern New Jersey in search of the American dream.
Down the block from us was Ira Levin’s grocery store where mom would go to food shop from time to time. He was a survivor of the neighborhood’s down turn. There was a fire hydrant across the street from us and in the heat of summer someone would come along with a big wrench and open it up. All the neighborhood kids would come out into the street with bathing suits and shorts and play in the cool cascading waters. No one had air conditioners back then. Windows opened all the way and fans were the only way to deal with the heat. It wasn’t long before a police cruiser (they were painted red and white back in those days) would show up and shut the hydrant down and chase the kids away. Not long after the cops left someone would open the hydrant again. That scenario played out over and over again during the sweltering days of summer.
The Grand Stand entrance of the Philadelphia Shibe Park baseball stadium
It was then that I had my first memories of baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies. My dad used to listen to the games on a little tube radio in a wooden cabinet. I could see my dad listening intently and getting loud and animated when something would happen that caused cheers from fans to come through the little speaker. Seeing and hearing this I became innately interested. Having never seen a baseball game I really didn’t know what was going on but I knew it was something of import with the sounds of the fans, announcer and my father. It wasn’t until a few years later when my dad took me to my first game at Connie Mack stadium over at 21st & Lehigh to see the Philadelphia Phillies play the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Shibe Park aka Connie Mack Stadium
Dad and I sat in the stands with drinks (beer for dad and soda for me) and hot dogs in hands. He always got seats somewhere behind one of the dugouts usually on the 1st base side. We were about half way up probably in what they called the mezzanine level.
That day I got to see one player totally dominate that game. He was amazing! And he wasn’t a Phillie. He was a dark-skinned player and I could hear one guy in particular in the stands below really shouting loudly, “You look like a bag of potatoes, you nigger!” It was nigger this and nigger that the entire game. My dad in the minority of thinking back in those days would never utter that word. In fact he threw a guy out of our house that used the ugly word one time. Dad said to ignore the idiot that was shouting. So I did.
This player had four hits that day including a homer and triple. He had stolen two bases. One was a steal of third base. He ran the bases like an antelope my dad would say. He made two sliding catches in the outfield. He was like superman. I now had my first hero figure and favorite player. His name was Roberto Clemente from Puerto Rico. My first ball game I got to see one of the greatest players that ever played the game.
As it turns out later I came to know he wasn’t only a great player but an even greater human being.
The Phillies lost that day as that often did back then but, I got to see what I only knew from the radio, my dad and my imagination. I loved it! Soon after seeing that game my favorite Phillies players were Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn and of course Roberto Clemente from the “Buccos” as the Pirates were also referresd.to.
I now was an official fan of the game of baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies. My Dad bought me a Phillies pennant that day that I promptly tacked to my room wall.
Man I wanted to be a ball player just like my heroes.
Especially Richie Ashburn!
In 1954 at the age of six and having become a baseball fan the year before, the Philadelphia Athletics packed their bags at the end of the season and headed west to Kansas City.
More to come on this article in soon…
- Card Corner: 1971 Topps, Oscar Gamble (hardballtimes.com)
- Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Phillies Who Could Play Their Way onto the Trade Block (bleacherreport.com)
- Report: Yankees And Cardinals Have Interest In Roy Oswalt (tracking.si.com)
- Philadelphia Phillies: Ranking the 4 Most Blamable Phillies in This Series (bleacherreport.com)
- Philly’s Search for an Out Pro Athlete (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Philadelphia Phillies All-Fan Favorite Team (bleacherreport.com)
- Phillies Greatest Playoff Moments – And More Phillies Online Fun (mickeyknowsphilly.com)
- Which Philadelphia Neighborhood Are You? (mickeyknowsphilly.com)
- The Best Places to Live in Philadelphia (mickeyknowsphilly.com)
- The 5 Best Things About Citizens Bank Park (philadelphiatale.wordpress.com)