Listen UP! The Temple University Press Podcast

This week in North Philly Notes, we announce the new Temple University Press podcast, which features an interview with Ray Didinger about his memoir, Finished Business: My Fifty Years of Headlines, Heroes, and Heartaches.

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.


About this episode

For our inaugural podcast, we asked Temple University podcast host and producer Sam Cohn to interview Ray Didinger, a man who has become synonymous with Philadelphia sports. He recently published his memoir, Finished Business, which opens immediately following the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory. It is a moment that felt like the entire city of Philadelphia was hoisting the Lombardi trophy in unison. Ray’s writing poetically weaves through his life as a storyteller, capturing his enthusiasm for sports and his affection for Philadelphia fans.

Didinger began rooting for the Eagles as a kid, hanging out in his grandfather’s bar in Southwest Philadelphia. He spent his summers at the team’s training camp in Hershey, PA. It was there he met his idol, flanker Tommy McDonald. He would later write a play, Tommy and Me, about their friendship and his efforts to see McDonald enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Didinger has been covering the Eagles as a newspaper columnist or TV analyst since 1970, working for the Philadelphia Bulletin and the Daily News before transitioning to work at NFL Films, Comcast SportsNet, and WIP Sports Radio. With his memoir, he looks back on his career.


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shed Business is available through the Temple University Press website, and your favorite booksellers, both online and local.

Zingers and more from “unfiltered” sportswriter Stan Hochman’s posthumous book

This week in North Philly Notes, Gloria Hochman, editor of Stan Hochman Unfiltered, writes about compiling 100 of her late husband’s columns.

As I read through Stan’s 7,000 columns to come up with the 100 or so chosen for Stan Hochman Unfiltered: 50 Years of Wit and Wisdom from the Groundbreaking Sportswriter I smiled, then I cried. All the facets of Stan’s extraordinary life and interests  were reflected in his wit, his knowledge and his way with words. He was the quintessential Renaissance man who loved cool jazz and soulful singers, chilled Chardonnay and sizzling lamb ragout, Shakespeare in the round and theater with Mark Rylance. He was passionate about social justice and harmonious race relations, a society where drugs meant antibiotics, not heroin. His sometimes gruff exterior concealed a cushy niche for the well-being of children whom he believed thrived on praise and unconditional love.  His passionate love for his family-his daughter, his daughter-in-law, his granddaughter and for me—were no secret. Anyone who read his columns or heard his broadcasts knew what was in his expansive heart and on his brilliant mind.

The book features a Foreword from WIP sports host Angelo Cataldi and a message from Governor Edward G. Rendell. The chapters are arranged by sport: Baseball, Horse Racing, Boxing,  Football, Hockey,  and Basketball (pro and college), plus one entitled, “Stan’s World:  Outside the Lines,” which features popular columns on tennis and golf, restaurant reviews, helping kids with disabilities through sports and, even Elizabeth Taylor. Each section is introduced by a sports colleague—Garry Maddox, Larry Merchant, Ray Didinger, Bernie Parent, Dick Jerardi, Pat McLoone, Weatta Frazier Collins (Joe’s daughter) and Jim Lynam.

And throughout Stan Hochman Unfiltered are his many “zingers.” Here are a few of my favorites:

  • After Temple’s Jim Williams scored 30 points in a rousing win, Penn coach Jack McCloskey looked like a guy who had wrestled a case of TNT… and lost.
  • Doug Sanders swings a golf club like a man trying to kill a rattlesnake with a garden hoe.
  • George Foreman has a heart like a lion and a head like a cantaloupe.
  • Leonard Toes loves the heat in the kitchen.  Thrives on it.  Bring on the divorce attorneys. Bring on the tough-talking truck drivers.  Leonard Tose has a vocabulary that will melt their transmissions.
  • Louise’s banana cream pie is still the most fun you can have in Atlantic City with your clothes on.

In addition to his more than 50 years as a Daily News columnist, Hochman, was well-known for his stint on WIP radio as the Grand Imperial Poobah, where he would settle callers’ most pressing sports debates.

Stan Hochman Unfiltered_smStan lived with his family in Wynnewood, PA until his death in 2015. He appeared frequently on television, wrote three books, and was featured as a grumpy sportswriter in the movie Rocky V.  The book’s cover photo of Stan is taken from that film.

My favorite columns in a remarkable field: Jackie Robinson and his struggle to become the first black baseball player in the big leagues; the tragic 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, where thirteen Israelis were killed in a chilling blot on the world’s showcase for sports excellence; his graphic description of the fight of the century between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (and the reactions of the ‘guys and dolls’ who were privileged to see it).

There were hundreds of columns that didn’t make it into the book. They sit in a corner in my bedroom with a big label: heartbreakingly discarded. Maybe another book!

I’ve won 23 journalism awards and had a book on the New York Times bestseller list for three months. But this one is my labor of love—a tribute to the most remarkable wordsmith, husband, father, grandfather and mentor to countless friends and colleagues who continue to carry into the world what we learned from him.

A Q&A with author and political pundit Michael Smerconish

This week in North Philly Notes, Michael Smerconish talks about how he came to politics, his opinions, and his new book,  Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

How did you develop your role as a political commentator?
I was interested in Republican politics and benefitted from some unique experiences at an early age. I was an assistant GOP committeeman, elected alternate delegate to a national convention and state legislative candidate all before age 25. By the time I was 29, I was appointed to a sub-cabinet level position in the George H.W. Bush Administration. Those experiences put me on the radar of some Philadelphia local network television affiliates who then began to call upon me for election commentary.

How did your background in politics shape your opinions, and how did it influence your approach to writing about local and popular culture?
I’ve always enjoyed writing about both political and cultural topics. As I look at the breath of my work as a columnist, it is pretty evenly divided between the two. I’ve written about a variety of 9/11 related issues, war, political candidates, and the economy. I’ve also written about yard sales, holiday decorations, and family pets.

You are always looking for a “good story” to turn into a column. In this age of “click bait” journalism, what makes a “good story,” or motivates you to think critically and provide thoughtful analysis?
A good story to me has nothing to do with the Red State/Blue State divide. What I most enjoy are telling those stories that are Seinfeldian, a slice of life that may (or may not) highlight areas of different opinion but not along the partisan divide. The kind of issues we enjoy talking about and maybe laughing about without being at each other’s throats.

Clowns to the Left of Me_smCan you describe the criteria you used to whittle down the more than 1000 articles you published to the 100 in the book?
Like Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, “I knew it when I saw it.” By my count, I published 1,047 columns for the Daily News and Inquirer between 2001 and 2016, and although I was making some swaps until the final submission, for the most part I had an easy time picking what I wanted to re-visit. Some things I got right and wanted to crow about, some things I got wrong but wanted to own, and others just plain stood the test of time and were insightful.

What observations do you have about the Afterwords you wrote for each entry? In some cases, you apologize for things you wrote, and in others, you show how your thinking on a topic has evolved.
I think most of us evolve over time with regard to our thinking. What separates me from many is that my opinions are all chiseled in granite, er, newsprint. And so you can easily discern how I viewed literally more than 1,000 issues. As I re-read everything I have published, there were certainly areas where my views have changed and I wanted to explain why. But there were plenty of times when I looked at what I’ve written and concluded that the times have changed, not me.

You write about everyone from Fidel Castro to Bill Cosby. You write about paying more money for a Cat Stevens concert than you care to admit. Who impressed you the most—or the least?
While I have been immensely fortunate to interact with many household names, those aren’t often the encounters that created the most meaningful columns. Yes, I interviewed Barack Obama and wrote about him, and Bill Cosby, and had a funny encounter with Led Zeppelin and Pete Rose—but the columns I’m most proud of are those I wrote about an old college professor, a woman who worked for our family in a domestic capacity, and a guy I went to junior high school with who today is a tomato farmer. Real people with compelling stories.

Do you have a favorite column that you published?
I once wrote a Daily News column—with my thumbs on a Blackberry—while standing in a 2-hour viewing line as it snaked through South Philadelphia. I think the headline was “Requiem for an Era.” I’m very proud of that column.

You are donating your author proceeds for the book to the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. Can you explain why this charity is so important to you?
CCTC exists to serve children who are victims of trauma. If you hear a heartbreaking story about something that has happened to children, chances are, CCTC is involved. My wife is on the board and I wanted to highlight their good work.

About the author:
Michael A. Smerconish
is a SiriusXM radio host, CNN television host, and Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper columnist. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Lehigh University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, he is of counsel to the law firm of Kline & Specter. He resides in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he and his wife have raised four children.

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