By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — He loves to agitate. There’s no denying that. He’s been dialed into every sports team in Philadelphia and pulse of the city for nearly four decades and has broken more big stories than anyone.
Most grown men with children of their own have been listening to him since they first started watching sports. Will Smith and Bradley Cooper approach him—to say they loved listening to him talk sports when they were kids.
Howard Eskin is controversial, topical, annoying, informative and congenial (to everyone who meets him in person, except for maybe Jonathan Papelbon), but no one will dispute that he’s a Philadelphia sportscasting legend.
Tonight, Eskin will be honored by the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame’s 17th Annual Induction Class, in a ceremony beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Gershman Y (401 S. Broad Street).
Eskin heads a very distinguished group that includes Steven Chadwin, Jules Love, Bobbie Rose, Michael Rose, Sara Schiffman, Steve Smoger, Leonard Tose, and former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, recognized as a Pillar of Achievement honoree.
Eskin will be entering his third Hall of Fame, along with the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame and the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
Eskin is one of the forefathers of sports-talk radio, a decade ahead of the sports-talk radio explosion of the 1980s. It’s something he made sure he wanted to thank the late Jim O’Brien and George Michael for helping him achieve.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without either of them,” Eskin said. “They gave me my chance. Without Jim O’Brien, I wouldn’t be in television, because he pushed me when I didn’t think I was ready. He guided me along the way. He was a mentor, as well as George Michael was.
“This means remembering them and what they did for me. It’s why this [induction] is very special, how can receive an honor like this and not feel really honored. To me, you do a job and you work hard, you work hard because you do the best job that you possibly can and do it the hardest way possible. By doing that, you hope people respect what you do. Whether they agree with me or not, I’m doing it to help.”
People see a different version of the on-air Eskin, as opposed to the one they actually meet in person. In fact, it’s very rare someone walks away with a negative word after talking to Eskin in person.
“I think I am a nice guy, but I’m a person with a lot of opinions and some people who don’t get to meet me and don’t know me perceive [what I say] as being a bad guy,” Eskin said. “Listen, I have an edge, because I have an opinion. That’s what sports is about. I try to do the best job possible.”
Eskin finds it ironic that he’ll be inducted tonight with former Eagles owner Leonard Tose. In 1982, Eskin broke the biggest story of his career when he uncovered the possibility that Tose was thinking of selling the Eagles [because of mounting gambling debts] and moving the team out of Philadelphia. Later that year, Eskin found out the Phillies were going to trade Phillie-favorite Larry Bowa to the Chicago Cubs.
Prior to that, it was Eskin that first reported the Sixers were going to obtain Julius Erving from the then-New York Nets.
“I’m proud of everything that I’ve done, but I think proud is the wrong word for that, whether it’s a story that I broke or not,” Eskin said. “I think satisfaction is a better word. I’m satisfied when I know I’m doing a good job. I’m proud of my kids. That’s what I would apply ‘proud’ to. My kids all turned out right, and I’m going to tell you right now, they’re all smarter than I am. I don’t think I had anything to do with that. They were all self-motivated and they’re all far more intelligent than me. They did everything on their own. They’re making their own direction and I’m proud of them all.
“This is a great honor tonight, but I would never, ever call myself a legend. I heard people say that. That’s not up to me to determine.”
So we’ll say it.
Steven Chadwin, of Lansdale, Pennsylvania: A highly honored basketball coach who has won 598 games, 70% of games played, in his 35 years as head basketball coach at Abington Friends School. He has also won championships: 16 Friends Schools League Championships including eight straight league titles. Sixty of his athletes have played at the college level, several former players have played professionally overseas and several former student athletes are head coaches at the high school or college level. “Sticks” was a feisty guard with a wicked jump shot at Germantown High School and played freshman ball at East Tennessee State University in 1964.
Jules “Babe” Love, currently residing in New York City: Has led a life committing sports to the service of Judaism and Israel. His single goal has been to show students that integrity, respect and high academic standards are more valuable than gold medals. This star on Bartram High School’s basketball team also scored the first basket for Brandeis University. He led the school to its longest winning streak in history with 18 games, a record that stands to this day. In 1966, he coached with Roy Rubin for the gold medal-winning Pan American team in the Maccabiah games in Brazil. Founder of the Jerusalem International Basketball Sports Center which provides afterschool programs to keep kids off the streets, he is also currently raising funds to build a soccer field in Gedera for Ethiopian children.
Louise “Bobbie” Rose, of Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania: At the tender age of 98, Rose is one of the most active and celebrated women athletes in the history of Philadelphia. Proficient in a wide variety of sports, golf is her main focus. She is still active, pounding the ball on the driving range as many mornings as possible. When she became a nonagenarian in 2006, she scored in the 80’s five times and won the prestigious De Robey Tournament at Merion, partnering with her daughter, Bonnie George. That year, she was presented with the GAP’s highest honor, their Lifetime Achievement Award. In the summer of 1947, she won Ashbourne Country Club’s Class D Club Championship and in 1948, with a handicap now in the single digits, won the Women’s Club Championship. . . and did so for the next 13 consecutive years! She is being inducted with her son, Michael Rose, this year.
Michael Rose, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania: Growing up, Michael excelled in baseball, football, basketball and tennis, but as he entered junior high, it was golf that consumed his sporting life. The recipient of invaluable lessons in the short game and course management from his Hall of Fame mother, Bobbie, he soon began winning junior tournaments after becoming Abington High School’s number one player. Shortly after, he qualified for the PIAA Championships. He won his first big event in 1977 by winning the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s coveted Silver Cross. In 1981 and 1985, he participated in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, winning gold medals and playing with U.S. Open champ Corey Pavin. Locally, he has won over 60 tournaments, including the 1995 Mid Am, the 2003 Senior Am and the Senior Player of the Year Award. In 2012 he was named the Super Senior Player of the Year. One achievement that may never be duplicated is his six consecutive wins from 1980-1985 in the Tournament of Club Champions. He has also won a dozen Club Championships, one at Ashbourne and 11 at Philmont Country Clubs. He writes monthly editorials for his magazine, Great Golf, now in its 19th year and broadcasts on 97.5 the Fanatic, where he is in his 25th year as the voice of golf in the Delaware Valley.
Sara Schiffman now of New York: A native Philadelphian and graduate of Lower Merion High School, Schiffman has enjoyed an outstanding career in the world of tennis both as a player and a coach. Undefeated in four years as the number one singles position in high school, she led Lower Merion to the finals of the PIAA Championship in 2000 and 2001 and was victorious in the Pennsylvania District I championship in both seasons. She was named first team All-Main Line in all four of her years playing for the Aces and was a member of the All-State team four times as well. She won the Central League Singles Championship in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and was honored as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Girls High School Tennis Player of the Year in two of those seasons. She was a four-year letter winner and two-time team captain at the University of Pennsylvania. She had a sensational sophomore season with an impressive 20-7 mark and during her college career, the Quakers made two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Steve Smoger of Ventnor, New Jersey: As a professional boxing referee, Smoger has long ranked at the pinnacle of his profession. He has refereed 185 World Title fights all over the globe and has officiated in more states and countries than any other professional boxing referee in the history of the “sweet science.” Honored several times as “Referee of the Year” by boxing’s bible, Ring Magazine, as well as Boxing Scene Magazine, he won “Best Referee in the World” in a poll conducted by Boxing Illustrated. He has the distinction of being inducted into both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Boxing Halls of Fame. Out of the ring, Smoger, a graduate of Atlantic City High School and Pennsylvania State University, was awarded his Juris Doctor from George Washington University.
Leonard Tose, posthumous: Tose was a colorful, Runyonesque character who owned the Philadelphia Eagles for 16 seasons including his team’s memorable Super Bowl season of 1980. Perhaps his greatest legacy, however, was his role as the driving force in establishing the Ronald McDonald houses nationwide. He attended Notre Dame, played end on their freshman football team and developed a love of football that never waned. In 1969, he became the principal owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, selling his trucking company so that he could devote himself entirely to his team. He supported countless charities and it was because of his efforts that The Eagles Fly for Leukemia charity and the Ronald McDonald House began. Accepting for Tose will be his granddaughter, Marnie Schneider, of Calabasas, California.
Pillar of Achievement honoree Ed Rendell, of Philadelphia: A two-term Mayor of Philadelphia and two-term Governor of Pennsylvania, is known as much for his outspoken sports commentaries as his political opinions. Philadelphia’s renaissance, which The New York Times called “the most stunning turnaround in recent urban history,” is largely attributed to his determination, inspiration, and energy. He brings the fans’ perspective as a columnist in the Philadelphia Daily News, and as a postgame analyst of Philadelphia Eagles’ games on Comcast SportsNet. His unrelenting support for Philadelphia’s professional sports teams is matched by his enthusiasm for his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. He currently sits on several boards, is a Brookings Fellow and teaches government and politics courses at the University of Pennsylvania. He recently penned his first book, A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great. In the book, he chronicles his storied political career with his trademark candor while making a strong statement about the state of American leadership.
Tickets may be purchased for the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for $185 via credit card by calling (215) 900-7999.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.