Celebrating the Olympics and Black History Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we pay tribute to both the Olympics and Black History Month by reposting our Q&A with Tommie Smith for his book Silent Gesture.

Q: Congratulations on your book. Why did you wait almost 40 years to tell your story?
A: My life wasn’t ready to be told in story until there was a closure with my athletic, teaching, and coaching career. The time I needed to devote to such an adventure was too great. You have to begin somewhere to be great. The race began in 1968 and now it is time to tell the journey of “how did I get to this race, and where did I go when it was over?”

Q: You say you “never regretted” your actions on the victory stand, “and never will”—that it was, as you write—”something I felt I had no choice in doing.” Did you think at the time that your protest would become one of the most famous protests in sports history?
A: I do not feel remorseful about the act on the victory stand as it was an act of “faith.” Because I believe in “hope” for our changing society, the evidence of non-equality had to be challenged. At the time, my “visual” on the victory stand was not thought of as a portrait to be classified as a picture of history, but as a cry for freedom.

Q: Do you think that such a protest could take place now?
A: Making the same gesture now is defeat; let us repeat the cry with sounds of understanding and deliverance.
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“This is a book about principle, commitment, belief; and consequences. And the consequences of consequences. Tommie Smith says his gesture was done in the name of human rights, and in these pages, he offers himself up, in the fullest-the complexity, the scars, the pain, and the affirmation of his own humanity. Should there ever be an appointed time, would that I might show half the commitment and courage. Bravissimo!”
Delroy Lindo

Q: Can you briefly describe the Olympic Project for Human Rights and discuss your participation in it?
A: The Olympic Project for Human Rights was a non-violent platform used in the athletic arena as a cry for freedom. It originated on the San Jose State University campus in 1967. I was one athlete who chose to involve myself for the human rights issues.

Q: You and your family received death threats and hate mail before and after Mexico City. Were you prepared for this? How did you handle living in fear?
A: My family received hate mail and death threats which altered our daily routine, but we had to continue to remain calm and socially aware. There are still some [people] who do not change and there are some who have made progress.

Q: You have been “forever linked” with John Carlos (Bronze medal winner at the 1968 Mexico City games) on and off since the Olympics. How has your relationship with him been over the years since your “silent gesture”?
A: I had not known John Carlos until my senior year in college, in 1967. Since then, my response to John has been a respectful acquaintance.

Q: You talk about how San Jose State welcomed you back and dedicated a statue to you and John Carlos. How have attitudes towards you—and your actions—changed over time?
A: When I returned to the San Jose State University for the statue dedication, attitudes were fresh, warm and respectful. The student body and administration was knowledgeable and unafraid in their quest to identify pioneers from the past and ideally, former students such as John Carlos and me.

Q: You have worked as a track & field coach and talk about your coaches in Silent Gesture. Do you have any particular mentors and coaches that influenced you?
A: There are two coaches in my past that I will forever remember because of their knowledge and their social attitude. They were positive “in the time of need.” Lloyd C. “Bud” Winter, my college coach and Bill Walsh, my professional football area coach with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Q: Silent Gesture dispels the rumors that you were a member of the Black Panthers. Your book also clears the record that the Mexico City Olympic Committee did not take for your medals back, or throw you out of the Olympic Village. Can you discuss these rumors?
A: Tommie Smith has never been a Black Panther. I am still in possession of my gold medal—I won the race fair and square, and so the medal is mine. I stayed in the Olympic Village until the race was over, and I returned the next day to get my belongings. As I was leaving, the press was everywhere, so kicking me out of the Olympic Village was a “helpful exit.”

Q: I understand at one point in time you were interested in selling your medals. Is that true? Why did you consider this?
A: I will answer a question with a question…Can you find a Humanitarian donor for $500,000?

Q: You are a hero to many for your actions—who were your heroes?
A: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who had a Dream of Freedom and Equality, and my father, Richard Smith, who taught me pain is obvious, but how you react is not.

Q:  What do you think yo ur legacy will be?
A: I want to leave a legacy that says, “Tommie Smith was a Man who also had a Dream and a Vision and his Standing was not in vain.”



Fly, E-A-G-L-E-S, Fly

This week in North Philly Notes, we continue the celebration of the Eagles and Ray Didinger, author of The New Eagles Encyclopedia.

Ray Didinger, longtime and beloved sportswriter, was remarkably composed when he visited Temple University Press’ offices in the week leading up to Super Bowl LII. But after the Eagles beat the Patriots in the big game, Didinger, who bleeds green, broke down on camera. Check out this video from NBC Sports’ Post Game Live, which shows Didinger getting emotional.

There is another video, “Philadelphia…This is your moment!” which also features Didinger.

The New Eagles Encyclopedia_smDidinger’s reaction to the Eagles win was also covered in this column by Rob Tornoe that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 5.


By Rob Tornoe

NFL Hall of Fame writer and analyst Ray Didinger is generally known for his calm and level-headed analysis of the Eagles on NBC Sports Philadelphia and SportsRadio 94.1 WIP (unless your name is Chip Kelly).

But early Monday morning, after the Eagles stunning 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the normally stoic Didinger got emotional when Eagles Postgame Livehost Michael Barkann introduced a guest on set — Didinger’s son, David.

David, who works for NFL Films, embraced his father live on air to celebrate the Eagles first Super Bowl win in an emotional moment that reflects the strong generational bond Birds fans have with their team.

“That scene is being repeated in Philadelphia thousands and thousands and thousands of times,” said former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.

“It’s [for] everybody that didn’t have a chance that see this. My grandparents, my mom’s parents, my Uncle Kevin,” David Didinger noted as his father fought back tears. “I’ve waited 44 year and I swear I’d never thought I’d see this day.

Of course, Ray Didinger has waited longer for this moment than his son. The Eagles last championship came in 1960, when Didinger was just 13 years old. As he attempted to dry his eyes, he pointed out that he’s lived in the same house for 30 years, and during that time he’s had pigeons, hawks and even cats climbing on the garage.

On Saturday, Didinger’s wife told him when she woke up, there was an eagle sitting on the garage.

“I don’t believe in mysticism… She said to me ‘That’s either got to be the spirit of your father or your mother.’ And I truly believe that,” an emotional Didinger said. “To be able to share this with my son is beyond special.”

Last week, Didinger reflected on his family’s love of the Eagles, and tried to sum up what it would feel like if the Birds managed to knock off the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

“My parents and my grandparents,” Didinger told Angelo Cataldi on the WIP Morning Show last week. “They’re all gone. But the last time they won this thing in 1960 we were all together in the east stands at Franklin Field watching it happen. If the confetti starts falling on Nick Foles on Sunday night, the first people I’m going to think about are my parents and grandparents. I think that’s true across the city.

“Family is so tied in to what people feel about this team, that everybody is going to feel exactly the same thing, ‘I wish grandpa was here. I was Uncle Bill was here. I wish they could all share in this,’ ” Didinger said. “Or, if they are still here, they’re all gonna share in it together.”


Honoring the E-A-G-L-E-S Encyclopedia author on the eve of the Super Bowl​

This week in North Philly Notes, we honor Ray Didinger, author of The New Eagles Encyclopedia, as the team gets ready to compete in Super Bowl LII.

Below is a photo gallery of Ray Didinger at Philadelphia’s City Hall where Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced a resolution honoring Ray, who was honored for his induction into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame and for his work covering all sports (not just the Eagles).



Council president Darrell L. Clarke holding up The New Eagles Encyclopedia. Photo by Maria Gallagher.

Ray and Councilman Jones

Ray Didinger (left) with Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., sponsor of the resolution honoring Ray. Photo by Maria Gallagher.

Ray at City Hall


Ray receiving his honor from Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.


Ray Didinger (left) with his book and his son David.


Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate

This week in North Philly Notes, Rich Westcott, author of Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate, honors the legacy of the Negro League star and Hall of Fame catcher.

One of best players ever to perform in Negro League baseball was James Raleigh (Biz) Mackey. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Mackey spent 27 years as a professional player, starring in Philadelphia as well as Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Newark.

In addition to his accomplishments on the field, Mackey was a successful Negro League manager. He was also Roy Campanella’s mentor, teaching the youngster how to be a catcher. And he played a major role in elevating the interest in baseball in Japan to its present level.

“As a player, as a manager, and as a personality, he was in a class by himself,” Hall of Famer Monte Irvin said.

Satchel Paige, Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Oscar Charleston, and Cool Papa Bell, all are among the greats of the Negro leagues. All of them played an important part in the history of black baseball and the ultimate acceptance of black players into major league baseball. Mackey is a major part of that group.

WestcottRevised080717SMIt is generally acknowledged that Mackey was the greatest all-around catcher in Negro League history. Gibson was a better hitter, but Mackey was an outstanding hitter, too, and he could run, field, throw, handle pitchers, and run a game better than any other catcher who ever played in the Negro leagues.

Even though he never played major league baseball, Mackey is considered one of the greatest catchers of all time, ranking at the top with Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, and Campanella. Biz’s skills behind the plate were as highly regarded as any of those all-time greats.

Mackey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, some 41 years after his death. Currently, he is one of only 18 catchers who have been inducted into the baseball shrine.

The son of sharecroppers, Mackey was born in 1897 and raised near San Antonio, Texas in the first African American settlement in that state.

Possessor of a friendly person who was liked by virtually all with whom he came into contact, Mackey played professionally from 1920 until making his last at-bat in 1947 at the age of 50. According to black baseball historians Larry Lester and Dick Clark, his lifetime batting average was .327.

Biz spent nine years playing in Philadelphia, including six with the Hilldale Daisies and three with the Philadelphia Stars. He led both teams to victories in the Negro League World Series—the Daisies in 1925 and the Stars in 1934. In those days, Philadelphia was one of the major cities in Negro league baseball and games, including some played at Baker Bowl and Shibe Park, were big attractions, not only to black fans but many times to white fans as well.

Mackey, who played in many different countries around the world during his career, was also a key member of the Indianapolis ABCs, the Baltimore Elite Giants, and the Newark Eagles. As manager, he led to the Giants in 1939 and the Eagles in 1946 to Negro League championships.

Overall, it was truly a glittering career for this all-time great Negro League player, manager, and innovator.

Temple University Press’s 2017 Best Sellers

This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase our most popular books of the past year: The Top 10 best sellers of 2017!

  1. Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden Cityby Joseph E. B. Elliott, Nathaniel Popkin, and Peter Woodall. Revealing the physical and cultural intricacies of Philadelphia, from the intimate to the monumental.
  2. The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhoodby Tommy J. Curry. Introduces the conceptual foundations for Black Male Studies, going beyond gender theories that cast the Black Male as a pathological aspiring patriarch.
  3. The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise, Third Editionby Allan G. Johnson. An updated exploration of sociology as a way of thinking.
  4.  Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, by Daniel R. Biddle and Murray Dubin. The life and times of the extraordinary Octavius Catto, and the first civil rights movement in America.
  5. The New Eagles Encyclopedia, Ray Didinger with Robert Lyons. The best-selling book on the Philadelphia Eagles, completely updated and expanded.
  6. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition, by George Lipsitz. A widely influential book—revised to reveal racial privilege at work in the 21st century.
  7. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, by Sam Wineburg, How do historians know what they know?
  8. We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change, by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, edited by Brenda Bell, John Gaventa, and John Peters. Two pioneers of education discuss their diverse experiences and ideas.
  9. Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the Nation,” by J. Mark Souther. Explores how civic and business leaders used image-making in an effort to reimagine and revive Cleveland in the decades after World War II.
  10. Phil Jasner “On the Case:” His Best Writing on the Sixers, the Dream Team, and Beyond, edited by Andy Jasner. Three decades of reporting by renowned Philadelphia Hall of Fame sportswriter Phil Jasner.


A son’s love letter to his father

This week in North Philly Notes, Andy Jasner, editor of Phil Jasner “On the Case” recalls his father’s work and work ethic.  
I always knew Phil Jasner worked hard.
I always knew he took great pride in outworking the competition.
Even I didn’t know he worked this hard.
What am I referencing?
Compiling Phil Jasner: On The Case, a labor of love which took several years, was no small task. I knew that from the beginning. When you’re in six — count ‘em, six – Halls of Fames, you’ve obviously put countless hours into perfecting your craft.
Phil Jasner On the Case_smGoing through thousands and thousands and even more thousands of articles over a four decade-plus career, I truly saw the work that Jasner, aka Dad, put in every single day.
When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t pay attention to what your parents are going through at work. You’re not supposed to worry about things like that. It’s about being a kid, playing basketball, baseball, or whatever sport it may be, going to school, hanging out with your friends, etc.
Reading through Dad’s volume of copy was a gargantuan task and an amazingly fulfilling one.
There was the day Dad tried to prove that Julius Erving could fly (check out the article in the book). That was just one of about six stories in the Philadelphia Daily News alone, totaling more than 12,000 words. One day! In the world of Twitter that we all now live in, that was so telling about the type of work ethic Dad embodied 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
Dad didn’t have a job. He never went to work.
Dad lived his dream every day. How many people can say that? Not many, I imagine.
Sure, there were tough days when flights were delayed, baggage was lost and even a story or two was deleted by accident.

Andy Jasner, left, with his father, Phil Jasner at the 1996 NBA Finals

But in the big picture, Dad simply lived a dream. Even though that dream was tragically cut short on Dec. 3, 2010 at the young age of 68, Dad’s readers were never shortchanged. His work shined through on the newspaper pages and on the Internet. The passion and pride was on display in every article.

You could feel Dad’s passion when reading through the articles. I felt that way when compiling the book, which was quite therapeutic and necessary to continue a legacy for years and years.
The hard work will be in print forever. It deserves to be. Dad will never be forgotten and neither will his hard work.
It sure will be etched in my memory forever. Readers of Phil Jasner“On The Case” will certainly feel the same way. How can they not?

Temple University Press’ Annual Holiday Sale

This week in North Philly Notes, we prepare for the holidays by promoting our annual Holiday Sale December 7-8 from 11am-2pm in the Diamond Club Lobby, (lower level of Mitten Hall at Temple University)


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