During the 248th Anniversary of Our Nation and 342nd Of Philadelphia, Here Are Four Athletes Who Defined Philadelphia Sport As We Know It.
Philadelphia has always been at the heart of American Sport from the beginning. This year is the 155th anniversary of the first US Intercollegiate Football Game — played in New Brunswick, N.J. — a mere seventy miles from Philadelphia.
The first NL Baseball Game was in Philadelphia in 1876 between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Caps at the Jefferson Street Grounds. Our city has the oldest, continuously-running baseball team in the Phillies, a name that was bestowed on them during an April 3, 1883 exhibition game by the Philadelphia Inquirer, partly to shorten the name to fit as a title for publication.
Our Ninety year-old golden-age Eagles are one of the top 10 oldest NFL Franchises ever, and the team that they replaced in Philadelphia (the Frankford Yellow Jackets) grew from the Frankford Athletic Association, which is one of the oldest Professional Football Athletic Associations in America having formed in 1899.
And if that isn’t enough evidence of Philadelphia’s role in the inception of American Sports, here are four area Athletes who helped to bring Philly sports to the forefront.
Benjamin Franklin — Sure, you’ve all heard the story by now of an adventurous seventeen year-old Benjamin Franklin who hitched a ride on a vessel bound for Philadelphia and arrived in the early pre-dawn hours of an October Sunday morning in the Market Street Wharf with the illumination of a northeast US sunrise revealing the City of Philadelphia in all of it’s brilliance.
If not, you have now.
Franklin was an avid swimmer. His early days of swimming included learning in the Schuylkill River and he would eventually propose that all Pennsylvania Commonwealth Schools should have swimming programs. He is even credited with inventing swim fins.
Wilt Chamberlain — Wilt was Philadelphia through and through. He was born in August 1936 in Philadelphia to Olivia Ruth Johnson and William Chamberlain.
Chamberlain was a student at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, and once there compiled a 56–3 record on the way to two City Championships. He was a member of both the Philadelphia Warriors and the 76ers, winning it all in 1967. He won three-straight MVP’s (1966, 1967, 1968.)
Joe Frazier — Smokin’ Joe arrived in Philadelphia at fifteen years old in 1959. Coming from a South Carolina farm, Frazier achieved the NYSAC heavyweight champion from 1968 to 1973. He was also the undisputed heavyweight champion from 1970 to 1973. In 1964 Summer Olympics, he would win a gold medal when he was an amateur.
Bernard Hopkins — Hopkins is one of the most successful boxers in the last 30 years. After serving over 50 months in prison he compiled a 55–8 boxing record and won world championships including the middleweight title that was undisputed from 2001-2005, and the lineal light heavyweight title 2011 and 2012.
With the help and influence of four area legendary athletes — Bernard Hopkins, Joe Frazier, Wilt Chamberlain, and Benjamin Franklin — Philadelphia Sport hasn’t only endured or survived, it thrives.
We aren’t saying that due to the contributions of these four athletes combined with a rich heritage from 1730–2016 that Philadelphia is the best place for sports in the county.
Actually, I am.