Pops Martelli, My Ol’ Head

I’ve been blessed with some wonderful Ol’ Heads throughout my 5 plus decades on this planet. Yesterday… I learned that one of them is no longer with us…

Immediately, I thought of a day maybe 2 or 3 years ago… I got to Hagan Arena early for an evening St. Joseph’s game… Grabbed a pretzel and a coke and headed for the “friends and family” section directly behind the St. Joe’s bench… Figured I’d just chill for a while, maybe make a few calls…

Sitting there, as usual, was Pops Martelli… This was at least an hour or so before the game… He was there by himself. I always enjoyed talking St. Joe’s hoops with Pops, so I  sat down right beside him…he smiled and held out his hand…

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Pops Martelli

“What up Pops?”

Usually, our discussions centered on the current St. Joe’s team… Unabashed SJU homers, we frequently bounced thoughts and ideas off one another… What could this kid do to improve? What do the next few games look like? Can we win tonight?

This time, however, I mentioned to Pops that I was working on a Philadelphia Black Basketball Hall of Fame project. His eyes lit up… For the next hour or so, he talked in depth about almost EVERY great player that came through Philadelphia’s scholastic and collegiate ranks… Ernie Beck, Tom Gola, John Chaney, Guy Rodgers, Ray Scott, Tee Parham, Hal Lear, Cliff Anderson and scores of others.

My Ol’ Head was very well-versed in Philly Hoops…

Pops shared how he used to go to the Palestra and “figure out” a way to gain entrance. Pops said he HAD to see the greats play. He saw Cousy, he saw Oscar, he saw Jerry, he saw Russell, he saw Wilt hundreds of times. He saw them all. Pops watched the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and the 10’s.

For the last thirty years his view was right over the shoulder of his son… Pops watched Mark Bass chase an NIT in the Garden… He was right there when Rashid Bey led SJU into a Sweet 16 battle with Kentucky… Pops saw Jameer and Delonte beat EVERYONE… Highest of the highs and lowest of the lows…

Pops Marteli was there…

My Ol’ Head saw EVERY one of the greats. A TRUE Philly hoop head in the purest sense. Our basketball community is worse off today.

Gonna miss watching and talking Hoops with Pops…

The Hawk Will Never Die

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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