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March 22, 2013
SPHAS to Get a Historical Marker
The Philadelphia SPHAS, the mostly Jewish basketball team from a bygone era, will be getting their own plaque from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
The achievements of the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association’s basketball team will be noted in an April 14 ceremony at 11 a.m., at the corner of Broad and Wood streets. Now a parking lot, the spot was once the site of the Broadwood Hotel, where the SPHAS played in the 1930s and ’40s — the apex of the team’s history.
The ceremony will take place just a few hours before the Philadelphia 76ers’ Jewish Heritage Night. The Sixers will face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, on its squad. Casspi has seen limited playing time this year and recently had an appendectomy.
The South Philadelphia Hebrew Association fielded a basketball team from 1918 to 1959, first as an amateur squad and later as a professional club. The team is regarded as having played an important role in both the history of Philadelphia Jewry and the development of pro-basketball.
Most of the team’s players were Jews. They were managed by Eddie Gottlieb, a seminal figure in American basketball.
Douglas Stark, author of The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball's Greatest Jewish Team, submitted the application for a marker. Stark has no connection to Philadelphia, but he grew interested in the SPHAS while working for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (He currently directs the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.)
Stark will be one of the featured speakers at the dedication.
Also expected to speak are: Richard Sand, a local attorney and member of the museum commission; Lou Schienfeld, a former president of the 76ers; City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson; and Lynn Sherr, daughter of former player Lou “Reds” Sherr.