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Yesterday: Looking back at the Philly-New York rivalry

The recent Sixers-Knicks playoff series was one of the better ones I have watched in years.

The series had developed into one of the more intriguing ones in recent years. The Sixers began to see how Joel Embiid could easily be indoctrinated into the franchise’s elite “big man” club.

The series proved to be another in the showdowns between Philadelphia and New York teams through the years. It was a physical, intense matchup, and it was great to see the large contingent of active Knicks’ fans that made the trip to Philly.

I am not a regular NBA watcher, but this series kept me locked in.

In this week’s version of my Yesterday column - reminiscing about sports and pop culture in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and sometimes before and beyond - I’ll look back at some facets of the Philadelphia-New York rivalry.

Also, have you ever played skeeball? Do you remember Don May, Ted McClain, and Johnny Rodz? What was the acronym for the song “TSOP?” And did you watch the Syracuse Nationals?

Those Were the Days ... I’m not old enough to remember, but I’m sure there are some out there that recall the Syracuse Nationals that became the Sixers in 1963. The first meeting between the Nationals and Knicks was Nov. 13, 1949 in which the then Nationals won. New York won its first game in the series on Nov. 11, 1950.

Before Thursday’s game, the Sixers led the all-time series, 264-208. In the postseason, the Sixers had won 23 of the first 38 games. This playoff round is only the fifth one between the teams, as the Nationals and Knicks began in 1950.

Before this victory, the last Knicks’ win over Philly was in 1989 when they had a three-game sweep. The Knicks’ Charles Oakley enraged fans when he grabbed a broom and began sweeping the Spectrum floor.

Oakley, who averaged 10 points and 13.7 rebounds, was joined by Gerald Wilkins, Patrick Ewing and Mark Jackson, while the Sixers featured Charles Barkley, Mike Gminski and Maurice Cheeks. Who was the Sixers’ second-leading scorer behind Barkley - who averaged 27 points and 11.7 rebounds? Remember Ron Anderson, who averaged 20.7 points?

Some memorable Sixers’ showdowns involved sweeps, one in 1967-68 when they swept the Knicks behind the crew of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Wali Jones, Luke Jackson and Billy Cunningham. Incredibly, Chamberlain averaged 25.5 points and 24.2 rebounds in the series, and Greer had a 25.3 mark.

People forget how great a player Greer was, as he is the club’s all-time leading scorer. I always liked Wali Jones for his hustle and shot, as well as his “beat by your own drum” approach.

In the 1977-78 season, the Sixers swept the Knicks with most of their lineup from the NBA final against Portland the previous year.

Dr. J, Doug Collins, World B. Free, George McGinnis, Caldwell Jones and Joe Bryant were among those back. Who was the fourth guard? Do your remember Ted McClain?

The Knicks were led by Ray Williams, Bob McAdoo, Spencer Haywood, Lonnie Shelton and an aging Earl Monroe. And do you remember Notre Dame alum forward Toby Knight?

In 1983, another Sixers sweep was led by Moses Malone and his famous mantra “Fo, Fo, Fo,” that saw the Sixers march their way to an NBA championship.

Brooklyn and the Bronx ... We all know about the 1950 Phillies-Yankees World Series where the “Whiz Kids’ nickname certainly made its mark. The upstart Phillies couldn’t manage to stay with the veteran Yankees’ squad, as they were swept in four straight.

But do you recall how the Phillies needed to get past the Brooklyn Dodgers on the final day of the 1950 season when Robin Roberts won a pitching duel over Don Newcombe. The 1951 Phillies faltered to fifth place, but they managed to play a spoiler role beating them on the final day of the season. The Dodgers were forced into a three-game playoff against the Giants, and Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Around the World” ended their season.

Did They or Didn’t They? ... Beginning in 1962, the Mets and the Phillies began what was often perceived as one of the game’s more heated rivalries. Before this season, the Phillies had a 548-519 advantage over the Mets overall.

The two teams rarely had simultaneous successful seasons. There were some heated series back in the 1980, 90s and 2000s.

Probably the most interesting fact between the two clubs is that they never have met in a playoff series.

Readers Write ... Livin’ Lansford Large

Hey Jeff,

I noticed that you mentioned Big John Stud in your column this week. Do you know that he wrestled in Lansford at Panther Valley High School? This is a picture of me with the lineup card circa 1983.

Paul McArdle

Wrestling Wrap ... Periodically, I’ll look back at a WWF (or WWE) wrestler from the 1960s, 70s and 80s who we may remember from our past.

Do you remember Pedro Morales? He was billed as being from Philadelphia. Morales has the distinction of being a “triple-crown winner,” as he held the WWF (WWE later) title, the Intercontinental crown, and also was a tag-team champion.

Morales also held the WWE title for 1,025 days before he was beaten by Stan “The Man” Stasiak at the Spectrum in 1973.

As an added bonus this week, do your remember “The Unpredictable” Johnny Rodz? He was from New York City and also a longtime villain in the WWF/WWE.

The Sounds ... If you look at songs from days gone by, you can trace back to “TSOP,” a 1973 Disco instrumental by MFSB. There also was the popular “Philadelphia Freedom,” released by Elton John in 1977.

Officially, there are 161 songs with New York in its title. The ones we tend to remember are “New York, New York,” by Frank Sinatra - initially song by him at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 1978 - and Billy Joel’s “New York state of Mind,” that hit the charts in 1976.

Caitlin’s Card ... Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark’s first professional card, part of the Panini’s 2024 Instant WNBA 1/1 Draft Series, netted a sale of $10,000. It ranked as the sixth-most expensive card sale.

You can buy one of Clark’s prior or other cards on Etsy, Amazon, and eBay varying in price from $3 to $3,000.

Speaking of basketball cards, do any of you have those rectangular ones from the late 60s through the 70s? They were truly classics.

Another Classic Game ... How many of us played “Skeeball” at a local arcade or at the Jersey Shore for hours?

The game’s history can be traced back to 1908, and Popular Mechanics called the game a “new and unique handball game that seems destined to great popularity.” The magazine also stated that the “ball jumped into the pockets as the same manner as a skee-jumper” - note the spelling, and it was copyrighted.

You always waited for the tickets to pop out of the slot below the coin slot. Then you would see what kind of cheesy prize you could win.

However, it was still fun and could get pretty competitive.

Memory Lane ... Each week, I‘ll look back at a former player, coach, manager, or media personality from our yesterday.

Do you remember Don May? The small forward was one of 56 players who toiled for both the Sixers and the Knicks.

May was a 1968 third-round pick of the Knicks and was a member of the 1969-70 championship team, averaging 3.5 points per game.

He was a member of the Sixers’ dreaded 9-73 team in 1972-73 and averaged 11.9 points. The following season, May averaged 7.0 points in 56 games.

Overall, May also played for Buffalo, Atlanta and finished with Kansas-City Omaha in 1974-75. He averaged 8.8 points per game over eight seasons.

Feedback ... Your thoughts, ideas, and comments are always welcomed at tnsports@tnonline.com

A young Paul McArdle from 1983 holds a sign dispalying a wrestling event to take place at Panther Valley High School. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO