If you are a son or daughter of Philadelphia, a fan of theater, or a follower of basketball, college sports or anything to do with statistics your heart should be a little heavier tonight, as we lost our “Superstat” on Tuesday night. Harvey Pollack, the last fulltime employee of the NBA, creator of all things stats, overseer of every pressbox in and around Philadelphia, theater critic, overlord and mentor to legions of interns passed away at 93 after a longtime battle back from a car accident at the beginning of this year. His collection of teeshirts, his cigars, and most importantly the impact he made on so many lives, mine included during my family’s time in Philadelphia and afterwards on my many trips back, will never be forgotten.
An American original Harvey was, always with an opinion, a pencil, and most importantly a story to tell. In this day and age where communications is all about getting things done, we sometimes forget about communicating and storytelling. Harvey was a storyteller with the best of them, and most of those stories were even true (especially the ones about Wilt Chamberlain). He is now home with his beloved wife Bea, and our prayers are with his immediate family, and all our friends in sport whose lives will be a little less colorful without him around. We should all live the life he lived, and he will be missed.
Below is the piece we put in our book, Sports Publicity, about Harvey and the lessons we all learned then, and will continue to learn. Thanks “Superstat,” you certainly made my career better, and I will miss seeing you next time I’m down the Turnpike.
Let’s hope the Sixers hold a “Harvey Tee-shirt night” next season. He would love the story.
The “Super Stat” as he was dubbed by Philadelphia Bulletin writer Bert Kiseda has been involved with the NBA, and sports in Philadelphia…well…since there has been an NBA in Philadelphia. One of only three employees to have worked for the league every day since it began operations, Pollack continues to go strong. The author of an annual NBA statistical guide, and now a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame as well as 11 others is in a league by himself. He started as the assistant publicity director of the old Philadelphia Warriors (now Golden State) in 1946-47 and midway through he 1952-53 season, he because head of media relations for the Warriors. He maintained that post until the spring of 1962, when the franchise was sold to San Francisco. During the 1962-63 season, when here was no team in Philadelphia, neutral court games were played here and he did the publicity to maintain his NBA connection. Then in 1963-64, the Syracuse franchise was shifted to Philadelphia wand the franchise was renamed the “76ers.” He served as the media relations director for the 76ers until the 1987-88 season, when he assumed the duties of Director of Statistical Information for the team, a position he still holds. Long before the league adopted the following categories, he kept them for Philadelphia home games: minutes played blocked shots, offensive and defensive rebounds, steals, and turnovers. At the same time, he began tabulating categories the league didn’t do and the esoteric items and tables eventually became part of his widely read stat guide. In addition to his NBA duties, he also heads basketball stat crews at six major colleges in the Philadelphia area, and heads the crew at the Major Indoor Lacrosse League games of the Wings, and the Soul in the Arena Football League. His past includes 15 years as the head of the Baltimore Colts NFL stat crew and in football also in Philadelphia led the crew for the Philadelphia Stars, Bell and Bulldogs. He currently has been Temple University’s football statistician since 1945. He’s en route to The Guinness Book of Records by wearing a different t-shirt every day since June 29, 2003.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HARVEY POLLACK: Sports publicity remains a statistics driven business for the most part. By being able to create compelling stories via all the stats and figures that go into the games, and then being able to pitch those stats effectively, we can find new angles that have not been explored, even for the simplest of efforts.