While looking at a black-and-white photo from his playing days, Joe Blasenstein's eyes were distant and his face somber — a stark contrast to the imposing and determined figure charging ahead in the photo. A linebacker and offensive guard for Pennsylvania State University in the early 1960s, Blasenstein terrorized opposing players with bone-crushing hits. Seeing the photo at 66 years old, he insisted that he's "not the same person."
"I was a killer, and I didn't like myself very well," said Blasenstein, who played in three straight college bowl games, and was once named to the Associated Press All-East second team.
While the other seven athletes inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame seemed lighthearted at a May 14 event, Blasenstein was noticeably serious in his formal remarks.
"Our purpose was, essentially, to beat the hell out of them — into submission — and win the game," he said. "I did it with relish, but it's really not something that's very socially acceptable."
Blasenstein admitted that after ending his career with the Nittany Lions, he wasn't focused on anything but football. He credits his late wife, Bobbie, for pushing him into teaching, which he has been doing for 44 years.
"She made a human being out of me," he said.
Addressing the crowd of more than 200 at the Gershman Y in Center City, the former football star emphasized that sports needs to be kept in its place.
"In reality, sports is just a means to an end, a stepping stone to the future," he stated.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame inductions; the ceremony was hosted by Comcast SportsNet anchor Michael Barkann, who added a touch of comedy to the proceedings.
What's That, You Say?
Unlike many athletes who begin mastering their sport as young children, Carol Schultz Greenberg fell into lacrosse almost by happenstance.
"The upperclassmen were just grabbing people in the hallway, 'Hey do you want to come play lacrosse?' " said Greenberg of the upstart team at Abington Friends School in Jenkintown. "I didn't even know what it was!"
After learning the basics, she excelled and went on to Temple University, where she once scored seven goals in a single game, and helped the team win the NCAA tournament in 1984.
"It's nice to be around all these Jewish people because my whole life playing sports, I was usually the only Jewish person," said Greenberg, who was the only woman inducted this year.
The 2007 Pillar of Achievement award went to Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman, who saw a void in the local sports scene after the Philadelphia Warriors basketball team moved to San Francisco. The two South Philly natives bought the Syracuse Nationals back in 1963, and then renamed them the 76ers after moving the team here.
Accepting the award, David Richman described life after his father brought Wilt Chamberlain to the team in 1965.
"Wilt had to live in our house," said Richman, who was joined on stage by Kosloff's son, Ted. "I had to move out of my room and into the guest room."
The pair of owners oversaw a championship in 1967, and the team was eventualy sold to Fitz Dixon in 1976.
Other athletes inducted into the hall of fame were: handball star Jack Emas; high school and college basketball player Larry Friedman; tennis player and instructor Julian Krinsky; weightlifter Dave Mayor; basketball star Cecil Mosenson; and football, basketball and baseball player Richie Richman.