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Displaying items by tag: sports

Thursday, 14 January 2021 18:51

Tommy LaSorda

Last week, we heard the sad news that Norristown’s own Tommy LaSorda has passed away at the age of 93. LaSorda was born in Norristown in 1927 to Sabbatino and Carmella LaSorda. Sabbatino was an Italian immigrant, who, at the time of the 1940 census, was a truck driver. The family lived on Walnut Street, and Tommy attended Norristown Public Schools.

According to his entry in the Norristown Area High School Hall of Fame, LaSorda graduated from NHS in 1945 (his Wikipedia page says 1944, but this appears to be incorrect). His picture doesn’t actually appear in the 1945 issue of Spice, Norristown High Schoo’s yearbook, but he is mentioned as a pitcher on the baseball team. He is not listed in the team picture.

The prior year, 1944, he is in the team picture. You can see him in the first row, the second from the right.

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Here’s a close-up.

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You can also spot him in the photo part of the junior class.

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According to his entry in the NHS Hall of Fame, baseball was his only school activity.

Right out of NHS, LaSorda was signed to the Phillies and began a minor league career. In one 15 inning game pitching for the Schenectedy Blue Jays (a farm team for the Phillies) he struck out 25 batters. He bounced around the minor leagues for several years. He played three seasons in the major leagues, two with the Brooklyn Dodgers and one with Kansas City. In 1960 he retired due to injury.

He soon began his career in management, first as a scout, then as a minor league manager in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was named Minor League Manager of the Year in 1970. After working as a coach for the LA Dodgers for several years, he became manager in 1976 and stayed in that position for twenty years. He managed for 3040 games, winning 1599. The Dodgers won two World Series under his leadership. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Published in Found in Collection
Wednesday, 23 September 2020 17:16

A Local Olympian

As is the case with many large events this year, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have been delayed until next year. This came to mind when I received a phone call from someone looking for additional information about local Norristown Olympian, Joshua Culbreath.

He participated in the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the games were held from November 22 to December 8. On opening night, Culbreath was interviewed. See his statement in the Times Herald below.

 opening night quote

Times Herald, November 23, 1956

Culbreath's sport was the 400 meter hurdle. At only five foot seven inches tall, few people expected him to win the bronze medal. In addition to winning the bronze medal, Culbreath was also the first U.S. Marine serving in active duty to participate in an Olympic games.

 bronze

Times Herald, November 24, 1956

Culbreath grew up in Norristown and his first track coach was Rittenhouse Junior High School history teacher, Vince Farina. While at Norristown Area High School, Culbreath won the 400 meter hurdles in the PIAA state championship. He also won the Penn Relays three times. In addition to track, Culbreath played other sports while at Norristown Area High School, including football and basketball.

JV Football

Culbreath (top left) on the JV Football team, Spice Yearbook 1949, HSMC Collection

Culbreath's success in track earned him a scholarship to Morgan State University. He was the U.S. outdoor champion three years in a row from 1953 to 1955. He ran as the anchor on the relay team with Herman Wade, Otis "Jet" Johnson, and Dr. James Rodgers. They were dubbed "The Flying Four." Culbreath set world records at competitions in Bendigo, Australia and Oslo, Norway. He also won the Pan American Games twice, in 1955 and 1959.

JV Basketball

Culbreath (bottom right) on the JV Basketball team, Spice Yearbook 1949, HSMC Collection

After serving in the Marines, Culbreath coached at Rittenhouse Middle School and later earned his Master of Arts degree from Temple Univeristy in 1988. He became the track and field coach at Central State Univeristy in Ohio, where his team won 10 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships. Four of Culbreath's athletes competed in the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, one of whom was Deon Hemmings the gold medal winner in the 400 hurdles.

Lastly, here's a cool side note. Five Saints Distilling, located in the former Humane Fire Engine Co. #1 building in Norristown, created a drink named after Culbreath! It's a gin drink known as the Culbreath Smash.

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Source:

"Olympic Medalist and orristown Native Joshua Culbreath Reflects on Live on Eve of MontCo. Hall of fame Induction." Times Herald. November 24, 2013.https://www.timesherald.com/sports/olympic-medalist-and-norristown-native-joshua-culbreath-reflects-on-life-on-eve-of-montco-hall/article_130c4c87-3882-520c-8709-81b5bde80dbd.html

Published in Found in Collection