A bit of our history …
Excerpts from two stories written by long-time PSWA treasurer Bob Kenney, and published in the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s hard-cover banquet program from our 100th anniversary on January 26, 2004:
“If the often-maligned Philly press corps has accomplished anything over the past century, it is the ability to throw a party. With a list of guests and honorees that reads like a ‘Who’s Who in American Sports,’ the annual banquet has become nationally known for its large dais honoring many athletes from both the colleges and professional teams.”
“It all began back on May 12, 1904 when a group of 43 writers got together in the Majestic Hotel, reportedly to talk about improving working conditions at the area sporting events. At some point in the session, one of the members raised a half-filled stein and suggested the writers hold a party to honor the top sports performers from the previous season.
“‘I’ll drink to that,’ a colleague shouted, and before long the idea developed into a plan. The sports writers of the Philadelphia area and their ‘most loyal fans in the country’ have been drinking together ever since.”
After the first PSWA dinner, in 1904, “A headline in the Public Ledger the next morning read: ‘The Sporting Writers Entertained and Their Guests Are Filled With Hot Air and Other Things.”
“This was a big event in the era of the horse and buggy, unpaved roads and just 45 states. It was two years before the invention of the radio tube and almost a half century before television. Newspapers were king.”
“When the writers’ association began in 1904, baseball was king, boxing was second best. Football was struggling to prove it wasn’t a ‘game for fools’ and basketball wasn’t even in the picture.
“there were 10 daily newspapers in Philadelphia in 1903, selling for a penny a copy. Competition was stiff.”
Over the years, some of our illustrious honorees included:
- Connie Mack, Rube Waddell, Mickey Cochrane, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Lefty Grove, Chuck Klein, Joe Louis and Jimmie Fox.
- Knute Rockne, Jesse Owens, Eddie Arcaro, Joe DiMaggio, Robert “Tiny” Maxwell and John Heisman.
- Babe Ruth.
- ‘Babe’ Didrikson Zaharias, Billie Jean King, Cathy Rush and Theresa Shenk Grentz.
- Bobby Clarke, John Cappelletti, Howard Cosell, Jersey Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, and Bernard Hopkins.
- Bob Hope.
- Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler, Ford Frick, Branch Rickey and Pete Rose.
Joe Paterno, Greasy Neale, Sid Gillman, Buck Shaw, Steve Van Buren, Jimmy Brown, Johnny Unitas, Norm Van Brocklin and Chuck Bednarik.
- Jim Thorpe, OJ Simpson, Hershel Walker, and Otto Graham.
- Wilt Chamberlain, Tom Gola, Bill Russell, Paul Arizin, Red Auerbach, Larry Brown, Lou Carnesecca, John Chanely, Chuck Daly, Julius Erving, Hal Greer, Harry Litwack, Jack Ramsay, Dolph Schayes and Bill Walton.
- Marty Liquori, Carl Lewis, Bobby Clarke, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Julie Kronse, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tug McGraw, Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn.
- Mickey Mantle, Dizzy Dean, Monte Stratton, Pete Gray, Jim Piersall, and Jim Abbott.