SPORTS!

We get down on ourselves and our teams a lot here in Philly, but if the city kept a trophy case for all time championships in all major sports, we’d have more hardware than you might think.

Yes, some of those teams have left the city, and yeah, some leagues in which we won championships are no longer leagues or have been absorbed into other leagues, but the players who wore those uniforms and won those games fought for the pride of their organizations and the city they represented.  Past generations of Philadelphians were filled up with unbelievable joy and frustration over these teams. I don’t think we or the ’08 Phillies would ever want their victory to be forgotten by Philadelphians for any reason. And we can’t. So add these to your list of reasons to be proud to be a Philly sports fan:

Point of Order:  Conference championships count for something in my book. Division wins are points of pride but not the same.

To start, the ones you know.

The Philadelphia Flyers, the most decorated and youngest of the big four sports teams in Philly, have won sixteen division championships, eight conference chips, and yet somehow have only landed two teams on Lord Stanley‘s Cup.

Our Phillies have won the Eastern Division title of the National League eleven times, with seven National League Championship titles and two World Series victories.

Next, here they come…the 10-9-8-76ers. Aside from boasting Wilt, the Sixers have to their name five division titles, nine conference championships, and three NBA Championship titles, for a slightly better win percentage in championships than the Flyers or Phillies.

Finally the Birds. The Eagles have won eleven division titles, two NFC Championships, but no Superbowls. However, before the Superbowl existed, the Philadelphia Eagles did win one Eastern Conference Championship and three NFL championships, the first two being won before the advent of eastern and western conferences.  I don’t know how to score that so lets say the Sixers are the champion-est.

Now for the fun stuff, the teams some Philadelphians have never heard of, but you’ll all be better sports fans for reading this.

First, lets keep going with football. Remember when the Eagles yellow and blue throwback jerseys from a few years ago?
They were actually not Eagles jerseys, but the jersey of the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who represented the city of Philly from 1924 to 1931, and won one NFL championship for the city in 1926. After the team collapsed in the 1931 season, it was bought and turned into the new Philadelphia Eagles.

We’re closing in on the end…

More basketball! You know how the Oakland A’s packed up and left Philadelphia for (eventually) Oakland, CA? Well the Philadelphia Warriors did that too, and took the city’s beloved young star Wilt Chamberlain with them. Luckily, when the Syracuse Nationals left New York in 1963 and became the Philadelphia 76ers, they were able to bring Wilt back to his hometown. Thank god for that one. Anyway, the Philadelphia Warriors won three conference titles while here, and were champions two times.

Oh and this was their logo:

Okay, here’s the end of our history lesson. The Oakland A’s. Let’s not forget that our city has nine American League Championships. Of those, five led to World Series titles. They were straight up dominant. One hundred years ago they were lighting up baseball and playing for Philadelphia fans that had come to expect championships.

So feel the pride of fifty-six championships, and if anyone tries to tell you that Philadelphians threw snowballs at Santa Claus, tell them this.

West Philadelphia: Neighboring Schools Feature Vast Differences

Reposted from PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com

[vimeo 44868367]

The Penn Alexander School in West Philly, supported by the University of Pennsylvania

Though located along the same street and just five blocks separate them, Penn Alexander and Henry C. Lea elementary schools in West Philadelphia couldn’t be more different.

Penn Alexander opened in 2001 and its boundaries were carved out of Lea and Wilson schools to help ease the overcrowding.

Now, the crowding is formed around Penn Alexander as parents line around the block in an attempt to enroll their children into the school which is ranked top in the Philadelphia School District, according to the 2010 School Performance Index.

Unfortunately, not everyone makes it in as the school has a capped limit on how many students they enroll every year.

“There are parents at Penn Alexander now who might have had to send their child to Lea for kindergarten or first grade until the space opened up,” said Amara Rockar, board president of the West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools. “They returned when space opened up because that was their neighborhood school [and] the school they moved into the neighborhood for.”

Amy Neukrug, a resident of the 200 block of St. Marks Square, had her daughter attend the first kindergarten class at Penn Alexander and has seen the influx of children to the neighborhood that flood the school.

“This little block alone, which has 25 houses, went from five kids on the block to now 37 kids,” Neukrug said. “Families are moving in.”

Rockar said of the parents she met who have could not enroll, she never sensed anger of having to send their child instead to Lea.

James Lytle, a practice professor at the University of Pennsylvania, worked with Penn Alexander.

But not all parents feel this way.

Mathew Himmelein, a resident of Cedar Park, lives in the boundary of Lea and has a 2-year-old son who will soon be attending school.

Himmelein, who went through the Philadelphia public school system himself, wants his child to go to public school as well – just not Lea.

“Penn Alexander [and] what they strive for – their excellence,” Himmelein said. “They have a good system. Their program seems to work. Children are graduating from there, score higher grades [and] get higher test scores.”

It is true students at Penn Alexander score much higher on the PSSAs than at Lea. In all the proficiency ratings in math and reading, Lea scored either below average or in the bottom 25 percent of schools, whereas Penn Alexander scored in the top 25 percent in the same categories, according to the annual reports.

“There are science laboratories and a strong science program and there’s a very strong extracurricular or co-curricular program,” said James Lytle, a practice professor at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. “They have both smaller classes and more course offerings than probably any other K-8 school in the city, so it makes it very attractive.”

Penn Alexander opened in a partnership with the school district, the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The university has provided subsidies to Penn Alexander over the years, and today, it is roughly $900,000, said Lytle.

Parents of students attending or who will be attending Lea want the university to expand and help schools other than Penn Alexander.

“There are a group of parents who would like Lea to be a school they are comfortable sending their kids to,” Lytle said. “The question the parents keep asking the university is, ‘Aren’t you willing to do to Lea what you’ve done for Penn Alexander?’ So far the university has said no.”

Until the university changes its mind, families will have to try and find houses within Penn Alexander’s catchment area, which is easier said than done.

Homes within Penn Alexander’s boundary have a higher price tag than those outside of it.

West Philadelphia resident Mathew Himmelein has a copy of the catchment area, envisioning a way to get his child into Penn Alexander.

“If I had to put a dollar value on the difference, it’s really hard to do,” said Kevin McGillicuddy, a realtor with Prudential Fox & Roach who sells homes in the area. “I would approximate it at maybe $50,000 on average for that difference of being on the dividing line.”

But some parents who live outside of Penn Alexander’s boundary are trying to find a way to get their children in.

“I bring this map of the catchment area down because it has literally been on our minds for years now,” Himmelein said. “We only have about another year and a half until we actually have to enroll him, so I look at this every couple of weeks.”

Because of the high standards and test scores at Penn Alexander, some parents feel like moving on to West Philadelphia High School, which has PSSA proficiency levels in the bottom 25 percent, would be taking a step back and are enrolling their children to special admission schools instead.

“Not speaking for my organization, but from what I understand, over the last few years in the district, there has been a movement away from the neighborhood high schools,” Rockar said. “I have heard people high up say they feel that there won’t be many, if any, neighborhood high schools going forward.”

[vimeo 44849427]
 -Candice Monhollan, Audra Neff Williams, and Mike Polinsky

West Philadelphia: Community Through Civic Involvement Along Baltimore Avenue

Reposted from PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com

Algernong Allen is owner of Elena’s Soul Lounge and Cafe on Baltimore Avenue.

Against a backdrop of gentrification, one community in West Philadelphia is doing its best to maintain control of its neighborhood.  Through a number of very well-organized neighborhood groups, from neighborhood-wide civic groups to organized blocks to town watch groups, the residents of Cedar Park have been able to have a say in how development proceeds in their backyard.

The Baltimore Avenue corridor stretches for 1.5 miles between 39th and 52nd streets, in the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philadelphia. During the past, the area has been woodland, private estates, and posh streetcar suburbs, but from the mid-20th century on, the neighborhood would be in decline, suffering from poverty and institutionalized racism. Homes were redlined, jobs dried up.

Then in the late 1980’s, the decline slowed and things began to get better, according to local resident and longtime business owner Vincent Whittacre. He would know: as co-owner of the Gold Standard Café, located at 4800 Baltimore Avenue, he has been living and working in Cedar Park for close to forty years.

Vincent Whittacre has co-owned the Gold Standard Cafe since the 1970s.

Just like many other neighborhoods across the city and world, as the Baltimore avenue corridor recovers from its troubled past, residents are concerned about losing their community to gentrification. A recent battle over a Subway sandwich shop opening at 46th and Baltimore streets ended with many residents furious and a major national chain store on Baltimore Avenue, of which it is the only one besides the gas stations.

Few business owners seem wary of losing Baltimore Avenue to major chains and ultra-exclusive   boutiques.

Dorothy Berlind, secretary for the Cedar Park Neighbors, expressed that when residents and business owners all live and work in the same neighborhood, they are all the more likely to take responsibility for it and to want to ensure that the business that is done in the neighborhood reflects the sense of community that draws so many people there.Of course, there are always loners and holdouts, people who would rather not work with the larger business community.

“There’s some people that don’t want to be active and we’re pulling them in,” said Whittacre.

Pastor John D. Pritchard is head of the congregation at United Methodist Calvary Church.

Algernong Allen, one of those very highly involved residents, lives in the neighborhood, owns a local hot-spot called Elena’s Soul Café, and is a member of both the Cedar Park Neighbors and the Baltimore Avenue Business Association.  He and his family moved to Cedar Park from Fairmount, in large part because they wanted to raise a family in a beautiful, diverse, friendly, and safe community.

“There’s a very close sense of community for those that participate,” said Allen, adding, “The diversity level here, the energy here, the culture, the counter-culture, you get all kinds of diversity which is what draws me to this area.”

The most amazing thing about the residents and groups working in Cedar Park is that this is a group of neighbors with a vision and a path to shaping their community so that it is the ideal place they would want to live.  As long as the community around Baltimore Avenue continues to produce a unique atmosphere of hard work, acceptance, and responsibility to one another, the neighborhood should continue to grow and strengthen.