Scheuer, Philly sports media denizen for decades, dies at 88

October 16, 2020 GMT
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Long-time Associated Press correspondent Jack Scheuer sits courtside watching Penn take on Princeton in an NCAA college basketball game at The Palestra on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Philadelphia. S...
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Long-time Associated Press correspondent Jack Scheuer sits courtside watching Penn take on Princeton in an NCAA college basketball game at The Palestra on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Philadelphia. S...

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jack Scheuer, the go-to guy at courtside, on the field and in the press box, who covered Philadelphia sports from the days of Wilt Chamberlain to Bryce Harper for The Associated Press and other outlets, died Friday. He was 88.

Son Bob said his father died in hospice care from kidney and cancer complications.

“A Philly legend,” two-time champion Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright tweeted this week.

“Philly’s finest! A true gentleman,” former Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli posted.

Scheuer worked as a freelance sports stringer for the AP for 46 years after starting out with the Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper. During a retirement tribute at Citizens Bank Park on the final day of the 2019 season, it was estimated he had covered 3,500 Phillies games and 3,600 basketball games.

While Scheuer worked at Connie Mack Stadium, the Spectrum, Veterans Stadium and more — greeting everyone with a smile, a tip and a trivia question — his second home for decades seemed to be the Palestra.

The jewel of a basketball arena opened in 1927 on Penn’s campus, and he played for his high school team in a city championship game on that court in 1949. Scheuer was later elected to the Big 5 Hall of Fame, following Penn, Temple, Villanova, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s while always in search of “good hoops,” as he liked to say.

“Jack Scheuer — Palestra — Saturday — soft pretzel — another game tonight — The perfect day,” Martelli tweeted in January.

But Scheuer did more than record the baskets. He shot them, too.

For nearly 40 years, Scheuer ran a weekly media game on the Palestra court, with the likes of NBA star and coach Doug Collins, then-Phillies manager Terry Francona and former Sixers general manager John Nash sometimes taking part.

Known for a spot-on, two-handed set shot, Scheuer more than held his own playing pickup ball until he was 85. After all those years of four-on-four, half-court games up to seven or nine, he jokingly referred to himself as “the all-time leading scorer in Palestra history.”

“He was just ageless,” decorated Philadelphia sports writer and broadcaster Ray Didinger said Friday. “Looking at him, it was hard to place how old he was. He was eternal.”

The 5-foot-8 Scheuer, a former Drexel assistant and high school coach, had his own key to the Palestra and commanded the court on Wednesday afternoons from October to April. While coaching at Penn, Fran Dunphy gladly delayed Quakers practices there until his pal’s games were finished.

Scheuer often said his favorite college hoops player was 1950s Temple guard Guy Rodgers, a four-time NBA All-Star. Scheuer once started in the backcourt with Rodgers in a summer league game and liked to tell how they combined for 54 points.

“I got four,” Scheuer would say, a familiar twinkle in his eye, “he got the rest.”

In the mid-1970s, Scheuer was the marketing director for the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League. It was a family affair of sorts — sons Bob and Ken tended the hot dogs in the press box and daughter Gail was a cheerleader.

As a teen, Scheuer got a walk-on tryout with the Phillies as an infielder. He recalled standing at shortstop as Philadelphia regulars socked line drives all around him.

“One of the pitchers, Ken Heintzelman, kind of took me to the outfield, said it was too dangerous standing in there,” Scheuer remembered.

Scheuer played shortstop for years — with Didinger at third base — for the Bulletin softball team.

“He was a really, really good player, and really smart,” Didinger said. “It showed when he would do postgame interviews on the job. Managers and coaches could tell he knew what he was talking about. He had their utmost respect.

“People would go to him,” he said. “He always came across as someone who had no agenda.”

Scheuer served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He returned to Philadelphia and was a salesman and a company rep for several firms before picking up more and more jobs in sports, becoming one of the most beloved media members in town.

For years, his phone’s answering machine featured the voice of celebrated Phillies announcer Harry Kalas doing his home run call, saying Jack Scheuer “is outta here!”

“In my 21 years as a sports writer for the AP, I’ve never met anyone else who no one had a bad thing to say about. It’s tough in this industry, in this city. And he was universally loved,” said AP sports writer Rob Maaddi, who covered nearly 1,000 games with Scheuer.

Scheuer is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jean; sons Bob and Ken; daughters Gail and Nancy; and eight grandchildren.

A funeral was scheduled for Nov. 5.