Thinking of an old friend on Phanatic’s birthday

A host of things make me think of John Watson, my friend and newspaper colleague who died way too soon a few years ago.
The Gramercy Restaurant. John and owner and chef Mike Augello were best of friends.
March Madness. John Watson was a big basketball fan and a heck of a player.
Supertramp. Not sure if this was John’s favorite band but I remember him liking them at a time when I did not know who they were.
The Presidential Inaugural Address. John always bought a New York Times the following morning because they ran the address in its entirety. John would read every word.
The Dupont Little League Stadium. I knew John Watson before I knew his dad, who would become a second father to me. I coached in the Pittston Little League when John was a player. He hit a game-winning home run in an all star game in Dupont. Two weeks later, I was the new sports editor for his dad’s newspaper. Ten years later, John and I co-wrote a story on Agent Orange.
And, most recently, the Phillie Phanatic’s birthday on April 25.
John, a diehard Phillies fan, and I were working together when the Phanatic exploded on the seen in 1977. San Diego already had its famous Chicken mascot and the Phanatic was Philadelphia’s answer. What an answer.
It seemed we couldn’t stop talking about him. Especially when we heard the guy in the green suit was David Raymond, son of Tubby Raymond, at the time coach of the University of Delaware football team. Former Pittston Area high quarterback Jimmy Castellino was recruited by and played for Raymond at Delaware.
I remember John reading aloud a quote from Tubby Raymond in the Philly Daily News: “I used to be known as the coach of the Blue Hens. Now I’m the Phillie Phanatic’s father.”
Funny the things that stick with a person. I hear on the news Tuesday morning it’s the Phanatics’ birthday and think about John Watson all week long.

Ed Ackerman