Tag Archives: Matt Veasey

Three decades as a Philly Cop come to a close

Recruit training, Philadelphia Police Academy, summer 1990

This past Friday, January 19, was my last official day on the payroll of the Philadelphia Police Department. After nearly three decades, I hung up my badge and gun, riding off into the sunset of retirement.

I come from a Philly Cop family. My brother, Mike, remains on the job as a Sergeant with the Central Detective Division. For a few years way back in the early 1990’s we were partners working a police wagon.

Our father, Matthew Veasey Jr (I’m the third), had been a Philly Cop himself for three decades from 1960 through 1989. He passed away back in August knowing that my retirement was coming up. If you combine his and my own service, the calendar year of 2019 will be the first in a half-century without a Matthew Veasey serving in uniform.

We also have a pair of cousins on the job. John Bernard is a Detective and Bob Veasey is a police officer. So even though I’m now out, the family influence remains within the Philly law enforcement ranks.

Trying to write about all of the experiences that I had, all of the people who made a difference, in one piece would be an exercise in futility. There were so many, I could write a book. Maybe some day I will do just that. I certainly understand how so many cops have written books and scripts in the past. There are that many amazing, wild, and touching stories.

But I will take a few paragraphs to glance back at my career as both a general reminder, and as a sample of where a career in the police profession can take you.

I started out by taking the written exam in December 1989. I had just turned 28 years old, and had been working in the banking profession for the previous decade since my graduation from high school.

This wasn’t my first time taking the police test. I took it previously way back in 1980 as an 18-year old. At that time, I passed the written test as well as all of the subsequent exams and checks.

Unfortunately, for one of the few times in history, not only was the PPD not hiring, they were actually laying off officers. I remained on a hiring list for two years while that layoff and city hiring slowdown continued. My list eventually expired, and by that point I was settled in to my job with First Pennsylvania Bank.

By the time that 1989 testing opportunity came around, I had moved over to Fidelity Bank. Though I was making better money in a more responsible position, I still wasn’t seeing much of an interesting future for myself in the banking profession.

In those days, the city actually gave you a booklet to study for the written test. I studied hard, and it paid off. When the results came out, I had finished high. By the end of January 1990, I was attending the orientation session at the old Academy facility on State Road.

Over the next few months there were numerous tests: psychological, psychiatric, lie detector. There was a background check in which neighbors and family members were contacted about my conduct and character.

I passed everything with flying colors, and entered the Philadelphia Police Academy as a member of Class 289 on April 23, 1990. The next five months were like being back in high school. Classroom work, homework, and studying. There was regular physical training that got me into the best shape of my life.

In mid-September of 1990 our class graduated. I was assigned to the 6th District, the same place as my brother, who had graduated the previous year. The 6th served an extremely diverse area in those days, stretching from Broad Street down to the Delaware River, and from South Street up to Poplar Street.

The Veasey Boys, 6th District wagon crew in the early 1990’s

While there are districts with far worse violent crime situations, few could rival the 6th District for the variety of assignments and citizen interactions. You went from a job in the drug-infested Richard Allen Homes projects on one call to the wealthy inhabitants of Society Hill for the next.

There was a thriving gay community, the burgeoning club scene along Delaware Avenue, and the boardwalk atmosphere of South Street. The entire downtown area was a hodgepodge of residents, visitors, workers, and transients. It was a great place to learn how to interact with people from all walks of life, and from all socio-economic backgrounds.

We had great cops in my squad, many of whom stayed together for much of the more than six years that I was in the district. One of those cops was my brother, Mike. He and I would spend much of the early 1990’s as partners working a patrol wagon together.

My brother passed the Sergeant test and moved on, and for a couple of years I worked mostly on a solo patrol car, though I still occasionally worked a wagon with other partners.

In late 1995, I took the exam for Detective, finishing at 103 out of hundreds on the list. In January of 1996 the department promoted 89 people to the rank, going through 96 names on our list to get them. This left me just seven slots away, but now I had to wait. That wait lasted most of the year.

That promotion to Detective finally came in November 1996 when I received the gold shield and began my investigative career with the East Detective Division. In more than four years at EDD it became obvious to me that cops who worked the “Badlands” of the 25th District saw more violent crime in a year than I had in six years at the 6th District.

It was so consistently violent in East Division that we had a phenomenon known as the “Nine O’clock Shooting” – there was a shooting nearly every night on the 4×12 shift somewhere around that time.

Headed out for first day as a Detective in November 1996

The Detectives, supervisors, and cops who I met during my time at East were some of the best that the profession has to offer. A number of the Detectives from our division would eventually move on to assignments at Homicide, basically the investigative elite.

Just after Christmas in 1999, I transferred to the Northeast Detective Division. This was mostly just a move to get a closer commute from my home, as my family had moved up to the Somerton section of Far Northeast Philly earlier that year.

Any thoughts that it might be quieter at NEDD than it had been at EDD went out the window on my very first night. Working a 4×12 shift, I got more jobs that night than I had in a typical night at East. And not only that, but I got a shooting that night. Yep, the old “Nine O’clock Shooting” followed me.

Just how bad the crime situation had gotten in the 15th District of Northeast Philly was a bit of an eye-opener. It would turn out that Northeast Division, while not as consistently violent as East, was every bit as busy from a policing and investigative perspective.

What I gradually found during the two and a half years that I worked at NEDD was that I was missing the streets. This was something that was a bit of a surprise to me. When I made Detective, became a member of the Gold Badge Club, and got to wear business clothes every day, I thought that I would never put on a uniform again.

But the cop bug began to bite again, and I took the test for Sergeant in the spring of 2002. I thought that I did well, but you never really know with those things until the results come out.

Final annual qualification at the shooting range, September 2017

In early August, my wife and I were preparing to go away on a vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The day before we left, my phone rang. It was my Sergeant at the time, Mark Burgmann, who said just one word: “Ten.

I knew his voice, but was in vacation mode and just wasn’t getting the context. “Ten what?” was my response. “You came out number ten on the Sergeant list.” I thought for sure that he was messing with me. I figured that I must have done well, but that he was bumping me up a bit. Turns out he wasn’t.

What that meant was, as long as the city actually hired off the list, I was getting promoted again. It was just a matter of time. Turns out, it was a lot of time.

There were no promotions off that list into 2003. Finally that spring, some seven months after the test results were announced, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Following the promotional ceremony at Temple University, all of the promotees went to a downstairs area. There we were to turn in our old badges, and receive our new ones, along with our new assignments.

As I waited in line for my turn to get my new badge and assignment, a friend of mine, Brian McBride, was in line in front of me. Brian was also making Sergeant. When he got close enough to see the list, he turned to me and said “18th.”

In my head I thought “18th?” Honestly, I couldn’t even have told you where the 18th District was at that time. All I knew was that it was somewhere out in West Philly, a section of the city where I had never worked, lived, or traveled.

The 18th District headquarters is located at 55th and Pine Streets. When I tell you that there is no easy or quick way to get there from my home at the far end of the 7th District in Northeast Philly, well, that is an understatement.

Visiting with granddaughter Elysia as an 8th District patrol Sergeant in 2006

During the year that I spent out in the 18th, there were two days where, coming home on daywork do to severe traffic problems, it took me two hours to make the drive – without ever leaving the city of Philadelphia.

The 18th turned out to be a great learning experience, including that I got to know a section of the city that was unfamiliar to me. Approximately one-third of the district was taken up by the University of Pennsylvania, which afforded a number of opportunities to work with and around some great events such as the Penn Relays and Big Five games at the Palestra.

Two of the best medical facilities in the country, the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are in the 18th. Working with their E/R staffs was a great experience as well.

But it was just too far to travel every day, and the first opportunity that I got, I put in a transfer looking to move somewhere closer to home again. It took about a year, but in March of 2004 that transfer came through sending me up to the 8th District in Northeast Philly.

The transfer to the 8th was a godsend as far as travel goes, but it came with a qualification. I had to accept a “Last Out” assignment for the first time in my career. While at East Detectives, the department had briefly switched to a schedule that saw us work “around the clock” shifts for about a year. But this would be the first time that I had to work the overnight “graveyard shift” on a daily  basis.

Graduating from St. Joseph’s University in May 2009

For nearly four years, the 8th District was my home. It was very close to my actual family home, about a 10 minute drive. And it turns out that I was able to adapt to working overnight fairly easily. I did switch to a “regular” squad schedule of daywork and 4×12 for a year, but found that I actually preferred overnights, and so switched back.

Then in the fall of 2007, almost on a whim, I put in a transfer request that would change my life. Ever since high school, I had always wanted to be a teacher. That desire had never left me, and that it had never happened became a regret as I moved through my banking and police years.

I had never attended college, not one class, when in the fall of 2003 while at the 18th District at age 41, I finally changed that situation. The PPD had a working arrangement with the Community College of Philadelphia which allowed officers a chance to take classes at the Police Academy in their spare time. I signed up for the program, and finally began to work towards a degree.

Taking classes year-round, which continued as I moved to the 8th District, I finally attained my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from CCP in May of 2006. I then moved immediately on to Saint Joseph’s University to begin work towards a Bachelor’s Degree, which I would receive in 2009.

The school experience reignited my overall interest in education, and so in the fall of 2007 came that life-altering transfer request to the PPD Training Bureau. The transfer came through, and November 1 of that year began a decade-long run as an educator.

Teaching at Philadelphia Police headquarters in October 2013

I was finally getting to do what I had really always wanted. It was a natural fit, standing in front of a classroom and presenting police professionals the information that would help them do a better job in serving the public while also staying safe.

That was where my journey ended this past Friday. It was a journey that allowed me front row and behind-the-scenes exposure to some of the great events in Philadelphia over these past three decades.

Like most Philly cops, I worked all of the big Philly events, including things like the “Welcome America!” celebration around July 4th, the Greek Picnic, the annual bike race through Manayunk, the Dad Vail Regatta, and multiple “Freedom Medal” ceremonies.
I worked the Mummers Parade at a number of spots over the years, including four that stand out. With my brother in the early 90’s, we were the “beer wagon”, holding and transporting any cases that were confiscated by officers. Needless to say, there were many.

I worked the “Two Street” parade night celebration just once, about five years ago. And in both 2016 and 2017 got to work really fun assignments as a supervisor out on Broad Street, including right at City Hall a year ago.

In recent years there were multi-day details for the visit by Pope Francis in 2015, and the NFL Draft a year ago. While I didn’t have to work the Democratic Convention in the summer of 2016 thanks to a scheduled vacation, another political gathering was a career highlight.

In summer 2000 while I was still at East Detectives, the Republican National Convention came to Philadelphia. I was detailed to work for two weeks at the Dignitary Protection Unit, and was paired with a Philly cop named Billy Stuski, who was also from South Philly.

Billy and I were teamed up with a pair of cops from the District of Columbia Police Department as the security detail for U.S. Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma for the duration of the convention. Nickles was the Senate Majority Whip, one of the key spokespersons of the GOP at that time.

My Dad, retired Philly PD Captain Matthew Veasey, visits my office at the new Training Bureau in June 2016

For two weeks we went everywhere that the Senator went. Sometimes we did “advance” work, scouting out the locations that he was to visit the day before his actual trip. Most of the time we accompanied him around the city.

This was both during formal convention-related events, usually in the evening, and also during social events, such as various dinners, lunches, concerts, and more. He was an avid golfer, which got me into a handful of prestigious locations such as Merion and Pine Hill, where he shot rounds during his stay.

When reading this, you’ll note that I didn’t “name names” very much, other than my family. There are just too many of them. Suffice it to say that nearly every person who I worked with and got to know thanks to this career was appreciated.

Also, I didn’t tell many specific stories. I’ll save those for future police-related pieces here. Or maybe for some future book or script. There are a million of them.

At my retirement party on Friday night, a nice crowd showed up from all across these last 28 years. I was honored with a plaque and some very nice words that summed up my career. And then I was handed the microphone, always a dangerous proposition when I’ve had a few beers.

I kept it fairly short. But one statement that I made summed it up. Of all things, it was a takeoff of a Priscilla Presley quote from “The Naked Gun” when she made the statement “I like cops!” because I do. Actually, I love cops. And I love teaching. For the last decade, I got to teach cops.

Short of managing the Phillies, I can’t think of a better job for myself. Also, it was the prototypical “square peg in a square hole” – a perfect job for my tastes and my talents.

Thank you to the Philadelphia Police Department for all of the various opportunities of the last three decades. And more importantly, thank you to all of the unforgettable people who wear the badges and carry the guns. The men and women who stand the wall and work hard to keep our city safe around the clock every single day.

For nearly three decades, I was honored to continue a family tradition. I was honored to stand as a member of the Thin Blue Line. After my promotion to Sergeant, I was told by a Detective that “once a member of the Gold Badge Club, you’re always a member.” Well, for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy to remain a member of the Blue Family.

Where Have You Gone, Matt Veasey?

A new responsibility has taken Matt Veasey to TBOH

For anyone who stops in here and thinks that I may have stopped writing – not so.

On December 1st, 2014, I accepted the role as Editor and lead writer with “Fansided”, an emerging sports and entertainment site.

I have been running their Philadelphia Phillies coverage ever since. That assignment takes up a lot of time, especially when added to my “real” working life, as well as family responsibilities.

So if you want to continue enjoying my writing, and you are a Fightin’ Phils fan, you can find me right here: http://thatballsouttahere.com/author/mattman3rd/

That is my personal link at the site. The main TBOH site is: http://thatballsouttahere.com/

There is also a ton of information available on Twitter: @FS_TBOH, and you can follow on Facebook as well right here: https://www.facebook.com/thatballsouttahere?ref=br_tf

So, I’m still writing. I’ll be keeping this “mattveasey.com” site alive, just in case that new venture disappears, or once in awhile I feel like coming back and commenting on something outside the baseball world.

Thanks for stopping by, and hope you’ll continue following for now at TBOH…..

Television & the presidency as a time machine

A face from my mirror’s past unexpectedly pops up on a TV documentary

I was sitting at home this past Saturday night, just flicking around the dial, when a newly produced special report on the Fox News Channel titled “Television & the Presidency” caught my eye.

Being a bit of a history buff, especially American history, it was right up my alley: a historical perspective on the role that television has played in Presidential politics.

As I settled in to watch, the program moved quickly through Jimmy Carter’s term in the late 1970’s. Those Carter years were fresh in my own experience, since I had turned 15-years-old right after his election.

Carter was basically the President of my high school years, and it wasn’t pretty. The man was supposed to be some kind of genius. At least that was how the press sold him. But he just couldn’t seem to solve any of the big problems that came along, from the gas crisis to unemployment, ballooning interest rates to the emergence of radical Islam.

Every time a problem raised it’s head, Carter talked and talked and got nothing done to solve it. At least that was my perspective as a teenager. But what did I know? And besides, it didn’t matter, I didn’t have a vote…yet.

In the fall of 1979, among the many other changes happening in my life, I turned 18 years of age and finally could register to vote. My family was historically a Democratic Party one, and the views seemed to easily fit the liberal ideals that most appropriately espoused my own philosophy at the time. So, I registered Democrat.

Carter continued to stumble and falter, and I looked to ‘Camelot’ for my own and my newly chosen Party’s salvation. I had been a Kennedy fan ever since learning in my youth that I shared my birthday with the late Senator Bobby Kennedy.

Having done a lot of reading during high school on JFK and Bobby, I was definitely among those convinced at the time that there must have been a conspiracy in Dallas, and that the Warren Commission was a sham.

In my first election, the Pennsylvania primary of May 1980, the presumed heir to the Kennedy crown stepped up to challenge President Carter. And so, I jumped on board the ‘Teddy Kennedy for President’ express.

That spring, Kennedy came to Philadelphia to accept the endorsement of Mayor Bill Green. I had just started working for First Pennsylvania Bank about eight months earlier, and Kennedy’s speech was going to be given right outside my work doors near 15th and Chestnut Streets.

I remember very clearly looking down from our 7th floor windows in the 1500 Chestnut building. You could see the ‘rooftop’ security activity, but no one was telling us to stay away from the windows in those days.

At some point during my lunch hour, I slipped out of work and made my way down to try and get a glimpse of my new political hero. Much to my amazement, I was able to get within just a few feet to the rear of a makeshift stand which had been erected, and from which Senator Kennedy would speak.

I remember it pretty clearly, but I am quite sure that in the haze of the ensuing 28 years, I have probably messed up a few details. But that’s how I recall that day. I also remember that I never actually got a chance to see Kennedy due to the thickness of the crowd, though I was probably no more than 20-30 feet from him.

At the rear of the stage, with security and dignitaries between myself and other onlookers, and with Kennedy speaking at the front, all I could do was stand and listen, which I did.

Oh, and a couple other things that I know. I had longer hair then, actually parted in the middle with the ‘wings’ that were still in style. I was wearing a white dress shirt with a wide collar, had left the top shirt button unbuttoned, had a grey tie loosened. I was wearing the vest from a grey 3-piece suit, without the suit jacket.

How do I know all that detail, you say?

Because as the Fox News television special progressed through to Kennedy’s challenge of Carter, they showed a snippet from that very speech given by Kennedy on that day in Philly.

Very quickly, but lasting maybe four full seconds, there was a closeup of an 18-year-old Matt Veasey standing in the back of the stage, eyes glazed over as he listened to Kennedy speaking.

It was crystal clear, a close-up, and they held the camera on me long enough for me to say “Holy crap!” as I sat in my living room that night, now almost three decades later.

Thankfully, modern day television experts have invented something called DVR, and I quickly rewound the program to watch again. There I was staring back in time at myself almost three decades ago, still a teenager, less than a year out of high school, my eldest daughter just a couple of months old.

It was eerie, partly because it was totally unexpected, partly because the shot was a good one, partly because I haven’t seen that face much in decades.

I don’t know of any video, family or otherwise, that exists of me from those days. I don’t actually even have many photos from that time, at least not in my possession. But there I was, live and in person, at least on tape, from spring of 1980.

I ran upstairs and got my wife Debbie, who didn’t even know that I existed in 1980, and asked her to come downstairs and watch the show for a minute.

I had it cued up to just before my appearance, and gave her the buildup describing what the show was about and where we were in the episode, and then asked her to watch close and see if anything catches her eye.

She watched and let the shot of me go by, and just as I flickered off the screen she looked at me wide-eyed and asked “was that you?” in an incredulous tone.

We watched it together a few more times and shared the amazement with a good laugh as I caught her up on some of the things that were happening in my life at that point.

So if you get a chance to see this “Television & the Presidency” special on Fox News Channel, stay tuned for the episode and section where they cover Jimmy Carter.

As that Fox documentary moves to the Kennedy 1980 primary challenge, they will show the Philly speech, and as Kennedy laments that we want “no more high taxes, no more hostages” or whatever his rant was, you will see a starry-eyed young liberal in the audience.

That young man was me once, a long time ago. It was good to see me again.

Making middle-aged academic progress

 

I received some nice news in the mail yesterday, notification that I was named to the Dean’s List at Saint Joseph’s University for the Spring 2008 term.

You get named to the list for being a senior and maintaining at least a 3.50 GPA. Right now in the summer term, I am attending a Sociology class that is my next-to-last class work.

In the fall term, will have one more Sociology that will be my final class. That will finally earn me my Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

My current GPA is over 3.90, with only three A- grades keeping me from that perfect 4.0 over the years.

About five years ago at this time someone finally got through to me regarding the importance of going after my formal education, even in my 40’s. I had been putting it off for over two decades.

I had been set to attend LaSalle University here in Philadelphia when I first graduated from high school back in 1979. However, my high school girlfriend and I got pregnant, and I went out to work instead.

I had two beautiful daughters and a career in banking that lasted over a decade. Neither that career or the marriage lasted.

After joining the Philadelphia Police Department in 1990, learning and enjoying the police career was my life. And then, I met my wonderful wife and got married in 1995.

School was something that always remained a regret in my mind. I actually got to the point where I put it down, publicly taking the position that it wasn’t really important for someone to succeed in life.

Again, someone finally got through to me. That someone was anonymous on a message board, which is something that I absolutely hate, anonymity in posting on the web. But whatever that person said, it got to me.

So, for the past five years I have gone to night school. First to the Community College of Philadelphia, and now for the past two years at St. Joe’s.

Making the Dean’s List and being set to graduate next spring has made all the time, money, and work feel very worthwhile.

So thanks to that anonymous poster. Thanks to CCP and St. Joe’s for the opportunities. Thanks to the PPD for their relationship with those educational institutions.

If any of you are friends or family members, or even other cops or adults outside of the law enforcement profession, and you have been putting this or some other opportunity off because you feel it simply has passed you by, don’t do that.

Don’t sell yourself short. Go for it. You can do whatever you really decide to set your mind to accomplish. The important thing is to get started, and don’t give up or take a break until you reach your goal.

For me, now I have an alma mater (almost), and a Philly Big Five college that I can point to at tournament time with pride and say “The Hawk Will Never Die!

It was twenty years ago today

The 1985 DVFL champion Brewers softball team

 

The date was August 5th, 1985, “8-5-85” as it would easily be remembered, and would become forever known in team lore.

It was a typically warm, sunny summer evening on the softball field at Archbishop Ryan High School in the Northeast section of Philadelphia.

On this night, the Brewers softball team was trying to nail down our first DVFL modified-pitch championship.

We led the best-of-three playoff final series by a two games to none margin over the dangerous FPS Snakes, a squad that had handed us a 16-5 defeat earlier in the season.

The Brewers were a huge part of my life as a young man, and our journey from a makeshift band of loveable losers to champions is unforgettable to me and the others who lived through it.

I had joined the core group of players that would become the Brewers just three years earlier. I was working for First Pennsylvania Bank in Philly, long since swallowed up in the numerous mergers that changed the face of the banking industry during the 1980’s and 90’s.

First Penn had an intra-mural softball league back then made up of about eight teams. After playing for another team as a 19-year old kid in the 1981 season, I was recruited by a guy named Ed Markowski to play for his Pennamco team in 1982.

Ed was the kind of guy that every successful sports entity needs at the helm. He was a baseball lifer, a guy who loved the game with a passion, and loved his team just as much. But he had come to the realization that his team was getting older, and if they were going to be able to compete in the coming years they needed an infusion of young blood.

So for that 1982 season, Ed made some additions. Pennamco brought in a large contingent of young guys in their 20’s, and yours truly joined as a 20-year old catcher.

Also joining the club for that 1982 season, specifically recruited for his leadership and managerial ability as well as his baseball talent, was a guy who worked with Ed by the name of Ken Grolsko.

On the diamond, Kenny seemed to be the antithesis of what you might expect from a third baseman. He was a lefty-hitting contact hitter at a position where most teams had a power-hitting right-hander.

Very much in the Tony Gwynn mold, it seemed like Kenny could sling a base hit into left field at will. The guy also played the shallowest hot corner that I have ever seen, with a glove that became known as “the vacuum cleaner”.

Kenny not only played 3rd base, he also helped Ed out with running the team, and eventually would take over as the full-time manager.

Pennamco was also bolstered by a speedy young outfielder named Greg Nigro. He was also from South Philly, and we went on to ride the buses and subways of SEPTA on many a day and night together getting back and forth to games and practices.

Greg had a great glove and an underrated line-drive swing. But Greg’s biggest weapon were his legs. He was pure speed, one of the flat out fastest guys with whom I ever played ball.

Ken, Greg, and I were joined by a handful of other young players in joining a veteran club that had traditionally been a playoff contender, but rarely a championship contender in recent years.

That first year of 1982 together as Pennamco was spent building chemistry. It was also spent building character, as we suffered through an incredible 0-12 season. You read that right, no wins. Zero. The character came in overcoming that record, which included dropping eleven of the dozen losses in frustrating nail-biters.

But the real story of that season was the chemistry, built off the field as much as on it. The young guys added a spirit to the team. We spent many a summer night out with one another after every game. More than a few pitchers of brew, and many late nights later, we were becoming a team.

For the following season of 1983 we came out with largely the same cast, adding a strong 31-year old veteran to the infield named Tom O’Connell. He had been a regular with Pennamco before, but had been unable to play at all during the 1982 debacle. Tom was back in 1983, and his maturity, hustle and talent at shortstop helped make a huge difference on the field.

The big change to the team, the long-lasting change, had come in the preseason. Pennamco had been a subsidiary of First Pennsylvania Bank, one for whom many former players had worked. But that was no longer the case, and we decided to seek an entirely new identity.

In seeking that new identity, the team voted to take on the name “Brewers” for a number of reasons. The Milwaukee Brewers in Major League Baseball had reached the World Series in the fall of 1982.

That group, nicknamed “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after their manager, Harvey Kuenn, was a throwback group of guys that looked like a bunch of beer league softball players. They perfectly fit the fun-loving, loose feeling that we wanted to create.

Also, the idea of the word “brew” in our name fit our style as a group of young beer-drinkers who liked to enjoy a good time after the games, almost as much as we enjoyed the games themselves. We chose an interlocking beer mugs image as our logo, and adopted team colors of black and gold because they seemed very “beer-like” to our way of thinking.

As you may be able to tell, a tall, cold, refreshing post-game brew was very important to this crew.

The 1983 season was almost a dream. The team came out with an incredible start, winning our first ten games. Each game was one spirited rally after another, one victory toast after another, and of course, one usually rowdy post-game party after another.

The highlight came towards the end of that opening 10-0 run. With two outs and two men on base in a game at Ryan High School, we trailed by two runs. Our best hitter, a slugging outfielder named Joe Ready, stepped to the plate. Joe created the biggest moment of that season, driving a pitch out over the fence for a three-run, walkoff, game-winning home run.

It was an incredible time to be one of the new Brewers, but it wouldn’t last.

We dropped our final two regular season games, sucking the air out of our overblown team balloon. We were then subsequently swept in an opening round playoff series by the Pirates and a stud outfielder named John Bullock, who proved a one-man wrecking crew.

That ’83 season left a great feeling with the team, despite the sour ending, as we prepared for a big step up in competition for the 1984 season. The old First Penn intramural league had dwindled to just six teams. Our league was then approached by the Delaware Valley Savings & Loan League (DVSL) for a merger.

The DVSL had previously been made up of many local financial institutions, but had itself dwindled to just four teams. It seemed a perfect marriage, and the two leagues merged to form the new Delaware Valley Financial League (DVFL) for the 1984 season.

Success that the Brewers had enjoyed in the First Penn league in 1983 did not repeat itself in the new DVFL in the summer of ’84. The “Brew Crew”, as the team had begun calling itself as a nickname, could not manage to win a single game against any of the DVSL clubs.

We did battle the old First Penn clubs to a 6-4 record. But the 0-8 mark against the new DVSL competition left the Brewers with a dreadful 6-12 overall mark. There were also a few internal struggles as our team battled with itself during that horribly disappointing campaign.

This was the buildup to the 1985 season. The old Pennamco team image died, then the First Penn league itself died. We were now the Brewers, one of a handful of old First Penn teams looking to find a way to contend in the new DVFL against a stiffer level of competition. As we began preparations for 1985, we vowed not to let the old DVSL clubs push us around on the field again.

One of the key differences between those DVSL teams and our fellow teams from the old First Penn league was one of player availability. We had been hindered by the issue of sponsorship money. The other clubs could draw players from any source. However, the First Penn teams were restricted by the bank to only using employees of the company and it’s subsidiaries in order to obtain full financial sponsorship.

The leadership of the Brewers, which I was beginning to take a role in during that off-season, made the key decision to decline the First Penn sponsorship for 1985. This meant we would have to try to find an outside sponsor and raise our own funds for the first time. But this would also allow us to add players from outside the bank, and we quickly set about both efforts.

An influx of new talent began with the addition of a big-hitting lefty outfielder named Frank Gleason, who moved over from a rival First Penn team. Getting Frank was a coup in itself. He perfectly fit our off-field, good time mold, and combined that with a booming on-field bat and all-around strong outfield play. Over the years, Frankie would take on the nickname “Pops”, and become the team captain. For 1985, he was the beginning of a big off-season for the Brew Crew.

We added a trio of pitchers with different styles as well. John Delagrange was a tough knuckleballer who had played with the team in the Pennamco days. John had left the bank, and thus was unable to play while we had still been accepting First Penn sponsorship money. Now that we were out from under that restriction, he was back. The other two new arms were the crafty Adrian Kosteleski and a fireballer named Ron Briggs.

A solid first baseman from South Philly named Lou Gentilucci, who was a good friend of Nigro, further solidified the team. The final addition would prove to be another new outfielder, the strong-willed and speedy Tom Loiacono.

With Loiacono and Gleason in the middle of the outfield, Nigro moved over to left, and former shortstop O’Connell moved out to right field. The group would go on to have a tremendous season offensively. But they would justifiably become most proud of their overall defensive play, giving themselves the nickname “The Flytrap”, because they swallowed up most every ball hit into the air.

Perhaps the biggest additions to the 1985 Brewers were in the middle of the infield. In the final few games of that disappointing ’84 campaign a young second baseman named George Sweeney had joined the club. George had shown that he had plenty of talent. Now he was ready for his first full season with the team, and he was joined by a new double play partner at shortstop.

That shortstop was an incredible left-hander named John Kelly. Not only was Kelly a devastating force at the plate, but he also fielded left-handed at shortstop.

John had played with us in a fun “beer game” after the 1984 season against a team that would become our biggest rival over the years, the Bad Loads. The Loads had gone unbeaten in the 1984 season, and were prepping for the championship series. With Sweeney and Kelly in the middle infield, we beat the Loads in that game.

As we prepared to open 1985, one of the Loads made the comment that “a lefty can’t play shortstop for a full year in this league”. He was proven wrong in one of the greatest athletic seasons that I ever personally witnessed out of one player. Kelly proved to be a one-man wrecking crew.

We knew that we were vastly improved as we entered that 1985 season, we just weren’t quite sure exactly how good we would be. We started the year by winning five of our first six games, with the only loss coming to the hard-hitting Wild Bunch, one of those still-nagging former DVSL clubs.

We began to think that we actually had not only a winning team, but perhaps a championship-caliber team as the early wins piled up. But then we ran into a club called the FPS Snakes. At 68th & Dicks in Southwest Philly, the Snakes destroyed us in a 16-5 debacle.

Two days later, still reeling from that loss, we dropped an upset squeaker at our home field of Archbishop Ryan to First Penn team, the Cardinals. Suddenly we were 5-3, and were no longer the swaggering Brew Crew. Not only that, but our next game would be a rematch with the Snakes, who looked to deliver a knockout punch to our once-great season.

As we started that regular season game at Ryan against the Snakes coming off back-to-back losses, we needed a hero. The Snakes bolted out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, and we had to answer right away or risk them riding the momentum to another win.

The first two batters, Nigro and Loiacono, reached base to lead off our half of the first inning, bringing Kelly to the plate. In one of the biggest moments in Brewers history, the shortstop drove a lightening bolt go-ahead home run that suddenly jolted us into a 3-2 lead. We went on to win that game, the first of eight straight wins to end a 13-3 regular season.

The winning streak gave the Brewers our first-ever regular season championship. Not only that, but we had gone 7-1 against the old DVSL teams who had our number the previous year.

In the first round of the playoffs, we were matched up against the Pirates, the same club that had swept us out of the 1983 playoffs. This time we did the sweeping, and we moved into our first-ever league championship series having already settled a number of old debts.

Standing between the Brew Crew and our first DVFL title were those same FPS Snakes who had battled us tough early in the season. The Snakes had gone on to finish in 2nd place during the regular season. But in this championship series, we would not be denied. After capturing the first two games, we took the field at Ryan with a chance to wrap it up.

I was behind the plate for this all-important game, catching the crafty Kosteleski who baffled the opposition with tremendous ball movement and pitch placement. The guy rarely walked anyone, so just as rarely beat himself.

Adrian mowed through the hard-hitting Snakes on this night, holding them down to a single run. At the plate, I had one of the better games of my playing career, going 4-4 and driving in a pair of runs during a big rally that ended the suspense early.

We jumped out to a huge early lead, and would ultimately coast home to an 11-1 win. When the Sweeney-Kelly keystone combo finished it off with a force out at 2nd we all mobbed one another in a huge celebration on the mound.

It was twenty years ago today, August 5th, 1985, and the Brewers were the champions of the DVFL for the first time.

We spent the night partying both at the Ryan field, where we drank champagne along with our usual brews. As much as we drank, we dumped just as much of that celebratory bubbly over each other’s heads.

We were young, we were good, and we were champs. We really thought it could go on that way for a long time, that it would be the first of many. It wouldn’t, at least not in the short term. It would be four long years before the Brewers won another title.

But on this night, a group of ballplayers and friends, some who were relative newcomers, some who had been working and playing together for years, had reached the top of their competition level.

The guys who had lived and played through that 0-12 season just three years earlier would party the heartiest: Ed Markowski, the architect of the team who became known as “The Godfather” of the Brewers. Strong starters Kenny Grolsko and Greg Nigro. And the group that helped form the best bench corps in the league: George Rayzis, George Torres, Charlie Penberth, Joe Gessner and myself. We all had been there in 1982. We were all still there in uniform to celebrate on that 8-5-85 night.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that twenty years have now passed. To celebrate, we are holding a reunion at tonight’s Phillies game at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Taking in the game will be several members of the championship club: Markowski, Grolsko, Loiacono, Nigro, Penberth, Gessner and myself. A couple of players from later championship versions of the Brewers (we also won titles in 1989, ’90, ’91, ’92 and ’94) will also join us.

The Phillies opponents for tonight’s August 5th, 2005 game at the beautiful new Citizens Bank Park? Why, the Milwaukee Brewers, of course. Could it have worked out any more perfectly?

It was twenty years ago today. We were young, we were good, and we were champions! Congratulations, and thanks for the memories to all the members of the great Black and Gold, the Brew Crew.