By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS)— Franz Lidz’s improbable journey went from profiling a town drunk in Maine, to a $60-a-week gig in Baltimore, to working as the editor of the Johns Hopkins magazine, to becoming a feature writer for Sports Illustrated, the world’s most renowned sports publication, for 27 years, never having read the magazine before arriving at its New York offices the day of his job interview.
Do you want to know how good Franz Lidz is? The only sports clip he had in his portfolio was on a pigeon race in Shapleigh, Maine when he first sat down with SI editorial icon Gil Rogin.
Now the 63-year-old will make another phase in his special journey Thursday night, when he’s inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Lidz will be joining a distinguished group that includes the late Norm Constantine, Joel Fish, Marty Gilbert, Ben Goldman, Sam Jacobs, and sports agent extraordinaire Arn Tellem.
The reception will at 5:30p.m. at the Gershman Y (401 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147).
Lidz possesses a unique gift of finding the hidden compelling angle no one else can glean.
But it was Lidz association for long-time friend, and fellow inductee, Tellem that led to probably the biggest story of his career—the May 6, 2013, SI cover story on former NBA player Jason Collins revealing he was gay.
It was groundbreaking. No active professional athlete before Collins had ever came out and admitted they were gay.
“That was the story that received the most attention, and it still has the most hits of any story in the history of Sports Illustrated when Jason came out, but there are a lot of other stories I look back on fondly,” said the esteemed Lidz from his six-acre Chester County farm filled with exotic animals, including one very excitable cackling rooster in the background.
“I loved to do short stories when I started at Sports Illustrated, because it was like writing a haiku. I would read stories and I wouldn’t believe the portraits in which these guys were being mythologized. It just didn’t seem to be honest to me. It’s actually what I fought against before I started atSports Illustrated.
“The funny thing is, I never read Sports Illustrated before working for them. When I was a kid living in New York, someone had come around selling subscriptions and I remember my family buying a year’s subscription to Sports Illustrated—and it never arrived,” recalled Lidz, laughing. “I think the kid just kept the money. That was the closest I ever came to reading Sports Illustrated.”
Tellem, a Harriton High graduate who attended Haverford College (1976) and then Michigan Law School (1979), represents Chase Utley, not to mention a who’s-who of NBA players that includes Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
“This is a great honor,” Lidz said. “What makes it more special to me is going in with my friend Arn.”