Eagles’ parade brings back memories of another Philly celebration


Watching the Eagles’ memorable Super Bowl parade took me back to the first Philadelphia parade I covered.

On a warm, sunny May 1974 afternoon at the Spectrum, the underdog Flyers, in just their seventh National Hockey League season, defeated Boston, 1-0. The imposing Bruins were led by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Nevertheless, the Flyers won on a goal by Rick MacLeish, Bernie Parent’s sensational goaltending and stellar defense.

Later, I learned that throughout the city’s neighborhoods of row homes, the streets were empty because so many were in their homes watching television or listening on the radio to the sixth and final game of the Stanley Cup Finals on the radio.

The next day Philly held a parade for the Flyers, all Canadians, who had given the city such a feel-good emotional lift. (The ’74 and ’75 Flyers were the last all-Canadian teams to win Stanley Cups. Here we pause for a chorus of “Oh, Canada”).

I was the Flyers beat writer for the Daily News (my long-running joke is, I covered the Flyers only two Stanley Cup championships, in ’74 and ’75. They haven’t won a Cup since, so I’m taking a little credit for the 1974 and ’75 titles). I rode in the media bus, enjoying the sight of joyous, smiling fans cheering for the Flyers. Philly needed such a lift at the time and an estimated two million people turned out for the parade.

If I recall correctly, the father of Flyers’ defensemen Joe and Jimmy Watson, a burly, bearded man, had consumed a few beers, so at one point he hopped off the bus, ran up some steps, knocked on a stranger’s door and asked if he could use their bathroom. As Mr. Watson was leaving the house, the resident handed him another beer for the road.

When I returned to the Daily News newsroom, on North Broad Street in mid-afternoon, Stan Hochman, then the sports editor, walked over to my desk. I expected him to ask “How was the parade?” and then ask what I was writing for the next day’s paper. Instead, he looked rather sheepish and finally said, “The paper wants a three-part series on how the Flyers built a Stanley Cup winner in such a short time.” I replied, “Fine; when does the series start?” Stan replied, “Tomorrow.” OMG! Talk about deadline pressure. If I didn’t say it I certainly thought “Are these editors bleepin’ crazy?”

This was long before the Internet, cell phones, texting, etc. As I gathered my thoughts I called my wife Barbara and said, “I won’t be home for dinner.” Somehow, after a few phone calls, I managed to write the first part of the series for the next day’s paper. I completed the next two parts. Some day I’ll wade through my Flyers files and see if the series was decent.

One of the best Flyers parade stories was told by Gene Hart, the team’s longtime television and radio voice.

According to Gene, as the parade passed the Bellevue Stratford Hotel on South Broad Street, an out-of-town guest heard the commotion, looked out the window from his room on the fifth floor and saw the crowds lining the city’s main north-south street. The puzzled guest called the hotel’s front desk and asked what was going on. The clerk replied, “Haven’t you ever been in Philly on a Monday morning?” Ba da bing!

A few words about Gene Hart. He was a terrific hockey announcer: very knowledgeable and passionate about the game. For several years Gene also taught at Lenape High School, in Medford, N.J., when my wife also was a teacher there for a few years.

Several times during the NHL season he would bring a student with him to Flyers games at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum. What memorable experiences these trips must have been for the students.


Why Eagles Super Bowl victory is special


An estimated two million green-attired Eagles fans are expected Thursday for a Super Bowl-clinching parade in Philadelphia. People around the United States will see the parade on news and sports television highlights and perhaps wonder “What’s the big deal? There are Super Bowl parades every year.”

Ah, but not in Philadelphia. Until the Eagles outlasted the New England Patriots, 41-33, they had never won a Super Bowl. The Eagles’ last championship was in 1960 when they beat the Green Bay Packers, handing Vince Lombardi his only defeat in a title game. The Eagles had only been in an NFL championship game twice since 1960, losing to Oakland in 1980 and the Patriots in 2004.

Despite these rare appearances, Eagles fans have remained loyal, cheering and groaning through the franchise’s highs and lows. That’s one reason the Super Bowl victory and parade are special.

The other is, no one in Philly saw this season happening.

In Doug Pederson’s first season as head coach the Eagles compiled a 7-9 record with a rookie quarterback showing signs of great promise. Carson Wentz’s remarkable development this season, combined with talented receivers, an efficient running game and a stout defense sent the Eagles surging to the top of the NFC East.

Then, when Wentz sustained a season-ending knee injury, the hearts of Eagles fans sank like a full beer keg toppling into the Schuylkill River. Stepping in for Wentz was Nick Foles, a former Eagles starting QB. After the Eagles traded Foles he evolved
into a back-up NFL quarterback and almost retired.

Not exactly a confidence-builder for Eagles fans.
Faithful followers were concerned about how Foles would play. Well, all Foles did was lead the Eagles to three consecutive playoff victories, all as underdogs (including two games in Philly). Foles has established himself as a Philly sports legend: he’ll never have to pay for cheesesteaks or soft pretzels again.

Against the Patriots, Foles became the first QB to throw and catch touchdown passes in a Super Bowl. Where Foles will play next season is a big question in Philly: his playoff run has enhanced his appeal to other teams. Perhaps another NFL team will want him as a starter. However, since Wentz isn’t expected to return until early in the 2018 regular season, the Eagles still need Foles.

When Pederson was named the Eagles head coach, I told friends “Let’s hope he’s a better NFL head coach than he was an NFL quarterback.”

With the coaching job he and his staff did this season, Pederson proved he’s an excellent NFL head coach. His play calling is imaginative, and some times borderline crazy, but he makes watching the Eagles compelling.

The Eagles’ Super Bowl victory has lifted the spirits of a region where the other major pro teams have been, to be kind, below par. After winning the World Series in 2008, the Phillies sank to the bottom of the National League and are in rebuilding mode.

The Sixers also were basement occupants for several agonizing years, as they went through The Process of rebuilding. Now, led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers are NBA playoff contenders. The Sixers’ last NBA championship was in 1983.

The Flyers, in their 43rd season since winning their last Stanley Cup, are inconsistent middle-of- the-pack playoff hopefuls.
On the plus side, Villanova’s men’s basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the nation.
With balance and depth, the Wildcats are a serious NCAA tournament threat.
Here’s hoping parade day in Philly is an enjoyable occasion. And let’s hope the dopes who trashed stores and cars the night of the Eagles Super Bowl victory aren’t prominent.

As Philly Mayor Jim Kenney said, the knuckleheads should stay home.

Welcome to my blog!

This is the post excerpt.


Welcome me to the 21st century.
Among other subjects this blog will focus on are my memories of covering the Philadelphia Flyers at the beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News (talk about living in the past…) I covered the Flyers when they won their only Stanley Cups, in 1974 and ’75. They haven’t won since, so I’m saying I had something to do with those championships (…smile…)
I’ll also offer thoughts on auto racing, which I started covering for the Daily News in the early 1970s, plus other subjects.
I was a sports writer/desk editor/assistant sports editor with the Daily News from 1969 until 2005. From ’06 until the end of 2016 I was a correspondent for the newspaper. My prior newspaper stops were the Burlington County (N.J.) Times and the News Journal in Delaware.
After graduating from Germantown High in Philadelphia, I attended Gettysburg College where I wrote for the student newspaper and hosted, on the college radio station a radio show, called “Bullet Bill’s Bandstand” (the nickname for Gettysburg’s athletic teams is Bullets). I majored in English, minored in history. I met my wife Barbara in Modern Poetry class at Gettysburg (this is not fake news!)
While working at the Daily News I also taught, as an adjunct, in the University of Delaware journalism program for 28 years. At UD I worked with many outstanding students, faculty and staff members. One of the UD graduates I’m in touch with is Michael Lewis, the force behind setting up this blog. Ask him some time how he did with page design in my class (…another smile…) You can read his excellent blog at Michael Lewis’s Wide World of Stuff.
My sports writing led to co-authoring two books: with Sonny Schwartz, “Bernie, Bernie”, the auto biography of Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent, and, with Al Pearce, several editions of “The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide.”
I have served as president of two organizations: the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. I have a plaque from the PSWA proclaiming I am a Good Guy (it’s an award the Philly Writers frequently give to members but I still tell people I can produce a plaque certifying I am a Good Guy).
For the past few years I have been involved with the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame (we live near Wilmington). As the historian, I handle the public nomination meetings for the Hall of Fame and write the bios of nominees.

I would like this blog to be a conversation as well; if you have any stories, anecdotes or memories about being a Flyers fan through the years, or a NASCAR fan as well, please let me know either in the comments section below, or email me directly at fleiscb@phillynews.com

Thanks so much for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you!