After 65 years, St. Anthony High School, located near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in a gritty urban New Jersey setting, is closing its doors.
Basketball journalist Adrian Wojnarowski’s 2005 book “The Miracle of St. Anthony” went beyond the hoops success forged by Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr. to detail the academic and life-saving exploits of a scrappy institution run by Felician nuns in Jersey City.
While the most famous graduates of St. Anthony are Hurley’s sons—Bobby, the NCAA championship-winning point guard at Duke in the early 1990s and current head coach at Arizona State and Danny, the head coach at Rhode Island—the school turned out many young graduates who never starred in any sports.
News, Views and Reviews About Sports Books, History and Culture
Also In This Issue: Christy Mathewson and World War I; Short-Order Cubs Zen; A German Soccer Museum; The Twilight of Golf Writers; Remembering Roy Sievers, Wayne Duke and Steve Tilford
Instead, they were delivered from some seriously mean streets and given a shot at staying off them for good by the Archdiocese of Newark. But after many years of financial troubles, the Archdiocese leadership announced this week there wasn’t a way to continue. Gov. Chris Christie called on major league sports for philanthropic support, but there doesn’t appear to be any on the horizon.
On the court, the St. Anthony Friars won 28 New Jersey state championships and four mythical national championships, earning the elder Hurley national acclaim and induction in Springfield.
As the school’s current president, however, he couldn’t offset millions of dollars of debt and an enrollment that had fallen below a couple hundred students, developments that had been in the works for years.
As Joe Nocera noted at Bloomberg, what’s happened at St. Anthony is the latest story in a long, downward trend. Only half the Catholic K-12 schools that operated in 1965 remain open today, and the costs for educating students have skyrocketed.
St. Anthony serves a poor student body, with 85 percent from minority groups. There’s not the financial support that affluent parents provide at Catholic schools that are thriving in the suburbs.
While Hurley’s basketball legacy is unquestioned, those thoughts were far from his mind as he speculated on the fate of the last students, and not just the last basketball players, to attend St. Anthony:
“This doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work for a lot of reasons. Whether it’s school choice or vouchers, there’s countless issues about why 140, 160 kids who were thriving, will now go into another pool. And what happens with them?”
A Few Good Reads
- A hundred years ago this week, the U.S. officially entered World War I. From the archives of the Baseball in Wartime blog, a post on Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb and Branch Rickey, all assigned to the Chemical Warfare Service that actively recruited athletes. Sadly, the mustard gas Mathewson was exposed to during a training incident contributed to his early death from tuberculosis. As an avid student of The Great War I’ve been deeply impressed this week by national commemorations and media coverage of a war that has been overshadowed in the States by World War II, but whose legacy has been just as profound on our history;
- Are today’s major league stars the victims of bad marketing by the sport, and their teams? ESPN’s Jayson Stark thinks baseball has some challenges reaching youth that NBA and NFL players don’t have;
- For the first time in 67 years, Vin Scully had the day off on Opening Day, and he spent part of it running errands, paying bills and going to the car wash;
- Minor league baseball teams that no longer exist continue to make money as licensed merchandise lines;
- A reader passed along this link about a site and publication unfamiliar to both of us, but it looks worth digging into: Zisk Online, an product of the 1990s “zine” fan culture and which bills itself as the “baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines.” The site hasn’t been updated in nearly a year, but it’s off the wall enough to stoke my curiosity, and there are some book reviews in there too. Here’s a 2013 interview with co-founder Steve Reynolds, who God bless him is a Mets fan;
- The Masters concludes today, and world No. 1 player Dustin Johnson, injured in a freak accident this week, had to pull out. Also absent from the proceedings are a growing number of golf journalists, whose numbers have plunged in the media fallout of the last decade. A sign of the times: wire service veteran Doug Ferguson was asked by a young PGA pro, Daniel Berger, to describe his employer, the Associated Press. “So what’s that like, Bleacher Report?”
- A new city-based Twenty20 cricket competition planned by the England & Wales Cricket Board is slated to launch in 2020, and it has raised concerns it might be sowing the seeds of the demise of the quintessential English game;
- Do seas and oceans make us sick? Surfers may have the answer;
- The German Football Museum that opened in Dortmund a year and a half ago drives home the sporting dominance of “fussball” in that nation, and especially post-World War II West Germany. A life-size portrait of Fritz Walter, a Wehrmacht veteran and Soviet prisoner of war who guided the Die Mannschaft’s upset of Hungary in the 1954 World Cup final, greets visitors. As the museum designer noted, “football is not just sport, but cultural, social and political history;”
- Former German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is the latest aging European soccer star to wind down his club career in Major League Soccer, but the newly-signed member of the Chicago Fire insists it’s not a retirement league;
- Not long after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball, Bill Garrett became the first black player to suit up for the Indiana University basketball team. Playing for the legendary Branch McCracken, he became an All-American. This weekend, Garrett is being honored with a state historical marker to be unveiled near the former Hoosiers’ gym site in Bloomington;
- Scott Raab wants to take back many of the nasty things he wrote about LeBron James in his book “The Whore of Akron,” but his “relationship” with the Cleveland Cavaliers star, such as it is, remains a complicated one;
- She just won her first national collegiate basketball championship for the University of South Carolina, and Dawn Staley was feted by Philadelphia sports royalty this week on a trip back to her hometown;
- From Paste, an eclectic staff compilation of favorite sports documentaries on Netflix that may prompt me to break my resistance and subscribe.
Baseball Book News, Continued
- Tom Hoffarth’s annual undertaking of new baseball book reviews continues all this month. His 30 baseball books for April ‘17 reviews are posted on Farther Off the Wall, his sports media blog;
- The New York Times has trotted out mini-reviews of 14 new baseball books, going heavy on biography;
- Here’s how Tom Verducci finished his book on the 2017 Cubs, “The Cubs Way,” in two months after the World Series;
- This summer’s SABR convention in New York City is featuring panels about Jim Bouton and Yogi Berra, with authors including Mr. Ball Four, Mark Armour, Harvey Araton and George Vecsey.
- Thomas Boswell remembers Roy Sievers, 90, the American League batting champion in 1957 for the Washington Senators and a solid player on an historically bad team;
- Wayne Duke, 89, had tremendous influence on the growth and professionalization of college athletics as the longtime commissioner of the the Big Ten Conference;
- American cyclocross champion Steve Tilford, 57, killed in a highway accident while riding in Colorado, was known the world over for his mastery of a form of cycling that earned him induction in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
The Sports Biblio Digest is an e-mail newsletter delivered each Sunday. It contains commentary and links about sports books and history. You can subscribe here and search the archives. This is Digest issue No. 78, published April 9, 2017. The Digest is a companion to the Sports Biblio website.
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