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Inductees Join Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
Sixty years ago, there was a center on the Overbrook High School basketball team wowing the crowds and breaking Philadelphia scoring records with his dominating play inside.
No, it wasn't Wilt Chamberlin, the 7-foot, 1-inch monster who would become one of the greatest players in the National Basketball Association. He came later.
A few years earlier, in 1947, one of the most exciting prospects in Philadelphia basketball was Barry Love, a 6-foot, 5-inch Jewish kid who was the first player in the Philadelphia area to score more than 50 points in a single game, when he put up 54 -- and that was long before there was a 3-point line.
"At intermission, the guys on the team said, 'Why don't we feed the ball to Barry so he can go for the record?' " said Love, who had just four points in the first quarter, but rallied to score 50 in the next three.
Love, 78, relayed his story to a crowd of roughly 200 people gathered at the Gershman Y in Center City, who'd gathered to honor him and six others as the newest class of inductees into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Now in its 11th year, the Hall of Fame has inducted 92 local Jewish athletes, owners, journalists and organizers who have succeeded in every sport from football to boxing to table tennis. This year's event, held May 12 and hosted by Comcast SportsNet anchor Neil Hartman, also recognized several members of Philadelphia's recent JCC Maccabi teams.
"My senior year, the starting five were all Jewish, and all five starters went on to play in college," said Love, who also played for four years at Lafayette College.
For Chad Levitt, who was a running back at Cornell University, then for three National Football League teams, the induction ceremony took on an emotional significance -- his father passed away just two weeks prior to the event. The youngest of all honorees at just 32 years old, Levitt recalled how honored he felt to provide so much excitement for his dad throughout his playing days.
"My dad was at every game in college and most games I played in the pros, and one of his greatest enjoyments was watching me succeed in football games," said Levitt.
Levitt also challenged the audience to encourage Jewish kids to play contact sports, an area where Jews are underrepresented, he said.
"In too many Jewish households, sports are undervalued," said Levitt, who spent time in the pros with the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears. "It's important that we have a pool of worthy young prospects" for the Hall of Fame in the future.
Another inductee -- trainer and exercise expert Roger Schwab -- explained to the audience his philosophy of safe but effective workouts.
A trainer of several Olympic athletes, Schwab has been a longtime proponent of getting into shape without spending endless hours at the gym doing workouts that could potentially harm the body.
"The beauty of such a program is that it allows you to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine," said the former judge at Mr. and Ms. Olympia contests, and owner of Main Line Health and Fitness in Bryn Mawr. "It can enhance the quality of life that you have earned and that you deserve."
Unlike the other honorees, swimmer Joan Bernhang Waldbaum is still competing in her sport of choice -- at 76 years old.
"I still plan on going to meets until my children take my car keys away," quipped Waldbaum, who swam for Temple University in 1949, and then did not swim competitively again for nearly 50 years when she began winning meets in the Pennsylvania Senior Games and then the National Senior Games.
Waldbaum was also the oldest swimmer at both the Maccabiah Games in Australia and in Argentina, where she took home several gold medals.
"I don't have the best shape," said Waldbaum, "but when I dive into the water, I feel tall and thin."
Other honorees included Samuel Goldstein, a member of the U.S. Paralympic team in both swimming and table tennis in the 1960s; Alan Kline, a track star at Central High School and the University of Pennsylvania in the 1950s; and Joe Goldenberg, a basketball player at Temple University who went on to coach at his alma mater, West Philadelphia High School from 1969-1990, ending up with a record of 410 wins and just 84 losses.