A Pennsport athletic association marked a milestone anniversary with a celebratory weekend.
As coaches and competitors, those who gathered at the Edward O’Malley (EOM) Athletic Association, 144 Moore St., Friday evening devoted hundreds of years to pursuing trophies.
Uniting to celebrate the Pennsport site’s 50th anniversary, they cared only about contesting to see who had the best memories.
The reflective figures bonded to laud the past and to anticipate occasions to mold the athletic and social skills of the city’s children. Though age may have sapped their own physical prowess, it gave their recollections added potency.
“Tonight is a big night for reminiscing,” Bill Yurkow said as the crowd began to fill the banquet area with laughter.
The Front-and-Jackson-streets resident played on EOM’s first team, the Club EOM midget football squad, and guided youths as a coach, too.
“When I was a child, EOM was a powerhouse organization,” he said of the descendant of the 56-year-old EOM men’s club, which ran activities from its basement at Fourth and Ritner streets.
The club derives its name from Edward O’Malley, a neighborhood humanitarian who sought to increase youngsters’ socialization opportunities.
“He also had the first couple months’ rent,” Ed McBride quipped as members of the masculine-dominant throng perused pictures in the gymnasium.
McBride, of the 300 block of Fitzgerald Street, won the presidency in EOM’s 1970 inaugural election of officers and is enjoying his fifth decade as the top leader. Two years after his elevation, EOM incorporated and adopted its current name. The Pennsport Civic Association, 1837 S. Second St., and myriad Mummers organizations helped him and his allies to raise funds for their own facility. The staged completion allowed baseball, bowling, boxing, hockey and track to join basketball and football as options, with bowling serving as the catalyst for gender integration.
Yurkow tabbed EOM as “neighborhood-centric,” but the description does not prevent it from receiving commitments from contenders citywide.
“We draw heavily from Pennsport and Whitman, but we also have participants from Fairmount, Society Hill and Southwest Philadelphia,” McBride, who also serves as the vice president of the Millay Club, the alumni organization for Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., said.
Yurkow, who put his three children through EOM, recalled the prosperous 1970s, each year of which included far more than 1,000 eager bodies. The numbers resulted in the creation of biddy programs for 3- to 7-year-olds. The basketball, hockey, soccer and T-ball offerings continue to thrive under John Murawski, Neumann-Goretti’s president and a 28-year EOM veteran.
All activities occur through the auspices of whatever funders Murawski and McBride can secure. State Rep. Bill Keller, an EOM product and former coach whose local office, 1531 S. Second St., has appropriated assistance to sustain proceedings and mingled with old teammates and permanent friends. Former money sources include grade school dances and The Tag Day Parade, a Mummers celebration that lasted from ’73 to ’83 and experienced a revival from 2007-’09. The final year of the first set of parades bore a great occasion and a somber one. The opening of a new gymnasium brought in more giddy children, yet a fire destroyed the complex’s club area. The rebuilding thinned out the numbers, but EOM reclaimed its full status as a community resource at the end of the decade.
It fields 14 basketball units, 10 baseball and softball squads and four football teams that compete at Murphy Rec Center, Fourth and Shunk streets. It oversees pre-school activities, an afterschool program and a summer camp; offers its space to the Mummers for drills; hosts the Pennsport Civic Association’s monthly meetings; and acts as the home facility for the Catholic Youth Organization programs out of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, 2329 S. Third St., and Sacred Heart of Jesus School, 1329 E. Moyamensing Ave.
“We’re the focal point for so much that goes on in the community,” McBride said.
He estimates EOM has assisted 35,000 youths since its inception and touted an impressive statistic.
“Seventy-five percent of neighboring households have come through EOM,” he said. “We stress quality over quantity but feel humbled to have attracted so many.”
Francis Kelly III, of the 1700 block of South Front Street, has enjoyed carrying on his family’s involvement through baseball, basketball, football and hockey.
His self-confessed lack of will power has enabled Ed McBride to enrich local children’s lives for 47 years. As the lone president in the 51-year history of the Edward O’Malley Athletic Association, 144 Moore St., the resident of the 300 block of Fitzgerald Street has stressed allegiance to strengthening one’s physical and emotional makeup, with other ventures transforming him into a local version of the Energizer Bunny.
Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., is using “We can get you there” as this school year’s slogan. Nobody seems more fit to lead the mission than third-year President John Murawski, who has nurtured a 19-year relationship with the East Passyunk Crossing location.
One usually associates saints with cleanliness, but dirt appealed to figures from Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., Nov. 1. With afternoon sunshine to accentuate their smiles, president John Murawski and nearly 100 alumni, colleagues and students celebrated the groundbreaking for the Saints Field House.
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