By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s easy to assume from the outside looking in, as you see the polished desk and generous office space, that it all came so easy for Marc Rayfield, CBS Radio Philadelphia’s Senior Vice President and Marketing Manager.
It wasn’t. None of it came easy.
Actually, nothing was ever handed to one of the pillars of the radio community that helped build WIP into a national brand. It’s why Monday night marked a special moment for Rayfield, who was part of the nine distinguished individuals who were inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Adolph and Rose Levis Museum at the Gershman Y.
Rayfield joined Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown, Ellen Barkann, Bob Brooks, Fred Cohen, Josh Cohen, Ron Cohen and Bonnie Kay as inductees.
For Rayfield, it’s been a light-year journey for the only son of a single mother who once had to rely on food stamps and live in a small apartment with a roll-out bed in the living room.
“I was absolutely surprised by this honor, in fact, when I first learned of it, I thought someone was playing a practical joke on me,” Rayfield said. “Anyone who knows me knew I was at best an average athlete. Then it dawned on me I’m the general manager of WIP. But you’re first instincts is that you’re being honored for your athletic exploits. I was the guy sitting at the end of the bench.”
Rayfield moved with his mother, Joan, from Northeastern Philadelphia, starting as a freshman at Washington High School. His mother wanted something better for her only child—and the two moved to Lower Merion, where they lived in a one-bedroom apartment.
“All my success is because of my mother, and my mother was on food stamps at one point, and I slept on a sofa bed in the living room throughout high school,” recalled Rayfield, a Harriton High grad who went to Temple for his undergrad degree and then Penn for graduate school. “People see the end result. But no, I didn’t have silver spoons in my mouth and limos picking me up for school. I put myself through school.”
His mother was his inspiration. He saw the endless commitment she made toward him. He also wanted to see that it wasn’t wasted. Rayfield grew up with a chronically bad back, but it stirred the roots of an amazing drive that propelled him to lofty heights of the radio industry.
“I didn’t want to wind up mediocre, and I think it’s why I was a successful salesperson,” said Rayfield, a highly accomplished salesman at Power 99 FM from 1985 to 1990, before getting the offer to make a risky move to the fledgling all-sports talk station, 610 WIP, from Tom Brookshier in 1990. “My friends thought I was nuts for leaving Power 99 to join WIP. At that time, no one knew who Angelo Cataldi was. Tom was the one who actually hired me. I still stay in close contact with Tom’s wife Barbara to this day. I actually owe a lot to many people, and believe me, it’s a great, great honor to be inducted with people like Larry Brown and Ellen Barkann.”
Brown is a Hall of Fame coach who remains the only coach in basketball history to have won an NCAA basketball title and NBA championship.
“Larry was old-school and that’s what made him so successful,” said WIP’s own Howard Eskin. “It’s hard to get your point across, especially with today’s players, but he got his point across with Allen Iverson and that’s why they got to the finals. Larry Brown is a great teacher, a great communicator. There is only one time in his career where they’ve always gotten better.
“He’s the second-greatest coach the Sixers have ever had, behind Billy Cunningham. He never stopped loving and wanting to coach. Larry Brown and Billy Cunningham played basketball together, and Larry coached Billy in the ABA, which is kind of fascinating. Every honor Larry gets is deserved. He was never just given a team with Hall of Fame players on it, like Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson never built a team from scratch. Larry’s done it throughout his career.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.