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"I got a new Philadelphia joke," said Senior Editor Jack Olsen on his return from his visit with the Phillies (see page 10). "I come from there, and I thought I knew all the Philadelphia jokes, but I never heard this one before. You want to hear it?"
We said sure.
"Well, it sounds like an old one," Olsen said, "but it's different. A man won second prize in a contest, and he was given a two-week, all-expenses-paid visit to Philadelphia. His friend said, 'Hey, that's pretty good. What was first prize?' The man said, 'Fifty cents.'
Olsen broke up laughing. When he regained his breath and wiped the tears from his eyes, he was asked where he had heard the story.
"A fellow in Philadelphia told it to me," he said.
We thought so—no one tells more stories knocking Philadelphia than a Philadelphian. But if a writer from Port Washington, N.Y., say, makes a disparaging remark about the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia throws off its oldtime lassitude and its peaceful Quaker tradition and rises in anger—as, more than once, we have found out. Some years ago we ran what we thought was a funny story about a handful of ultracheerful baseball players on an inferior Philly team. Nobody in Philadelphia thought it was funny. We did a story on the Eagles; in praising their gallant but futile stand against an obviously superior Giant team, we called them boys sent to do a man's job. That supposedly light touch landed like lead in Rittenhouse Square, and again our mail was loaded with passionate letters—the passion to destroy. We have done other stories on Philadelphia, and we often seem to touch an exposed nerve.
All this is to caution Philadelphia readers about the story on the Phillies in this issue. We like the Phillies. We admire them. We are secretly rooting for them. To be sure that our story on them would be a masterpiece of writing, reporting and affection we sent Jack Olsen to do it. Olsen's background is rich in Philadelphia baseball. His father managed semipro baseball teams in Philadelphia years ago at the first night-baseball park in the city. "There were always ballplayers around our house when I was a kid," Olsen says. "Men like Howard Ehmke, George Earnshaw and Herb Pennock. Most of them were from the Athletics. In those days there weren't many Phillies that you'd want around the house. When the A's players retired, they'd usually have enough energy left to play a few games for one of my old man's teams. But when the Phillies' players were through, they were through. They'd slink back home and never be heard from again."
Olsen is not only from Philadelphia, he is from Upper Darby, which to us sounds about as Philadelphian as you can get. If, despite all precautions, something in the story knocks something sacred to supersensitive Philadelphians, please don't blame us. Blame Upper Darby.