mobituaries

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Interesting guy, this Mo Rocca, with a rich and varied set of experiences.  A Harvard grad, Rocca began his career in television as a writer and producer of children’s shows.  Prior to that he spent four seasons as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and four seasons as a correspondent on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.   After a stint on a cooking show, he became a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning in 2011, and now hosts a CBS Saturday morning series for which he earned a a Daytime Emmy Award.  I knew nothing of his podcast work, and only recently discovered him through his book by the same name – Mobituaries, subtitled Great Lives Worth Reliving.

Looking for some light reading in my pile, I found Mo’s book again.  It was was published in November 2019, when times were much less complicated.  His chapter on Death of a Sports Team seems eerily prescient by title, but was written at a more innocent time about the natural dissolution of sports teams and franchises.  One unusual team that Rocca highlights, which exists no Mo, is The Philadelphia Sphas.

SPHAS-Team-Portrait-c.-1940-e1499833315595

Here is Mo’s entry on the Sphas:  “The letters stand for South Philadelphia Hebrew Association.  Founded by Eddie ‘the Mogul’ Gottlieb in 1918, the Sphas dominated basketball back when it was referred to as ‘the Jewish Game’ because it required, in the words of one New York Post writer, ‘an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness’.  The Sphas dominated the American Basketball League in the 1930s and ’40s, winning seven titles in thirteen years.  Stars included household names such as Harry Litwack, Cy Kasselman, Moe Goldman, Irv Torgoff, Red Wolfe, Max Posnack, and perennial MVP candidate Shikey Gotthoffer.  But the demographics of basketball – always an urban game at heart – were already changing.  The Great Migration was bringing millions of African Americans to the cities of the North, while Jews were moving their families to the suburbs.  Gottlieb sold the Sphas to Red Klotz, a former player, who refashioned them into the Washington Generals, a traveling opponent for Abe Saperstein’s Harlem Globetrotters.  For the next forty-four years they served as stooges for the world’s most famous exhibition club.  Gottlieb, meanwhile, founded the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA, signed a kid named Wilt Chamberlain, and never looked back.”

Wilt the Globetrotter

The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia has a more detailed entry on the Sphas, as does BroadStreetReview.com,  the latter pointing out that Eddie Gottlieb nearly became general manager and part owner of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Lastly, I think you’ll enjoy this touching YouTube tribute to the legacy of Red Klotz.

 

 

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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3 Responses to mobituaries

  1. doctuhdon says:

    This is a marvelous post; a veritable Len Press classic. The Red Klotz video clip is a beauty !

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