By AARON BRACY
Hey Pal, how are you? That’s how Jack Scheuer greeted me via email, our phone calls, or the many, many games we sat side by side.
We were pals. He was twice my age, but we could relate. Outside of my family, I have talked on the phone with Jack in the last few years more than anyone else I know.
We were pals, yes. But he was so much more than that for me and so many others.
Hearing of Jack’s passing on Friday was heartbreaking, a punch in the gut, and the feeling of losing a family member. It hurt.
Jack was a role model and someone very important to me. He taught me a lot about sports and journalism. More than that, though, he showed me how to be a good person, a good husband and a good father.
I first met Jack as an undergraduate at Saint Joseph’s in the late ’90’s when I began covering Philadelphia sports for the Associated Press. Our relationship really grew in the last decade when we covered many, many Phillies games together for the AP with Jack providing helpful notes and knowledge and postgame quotes from one of the teams. More than that, he was great company.
In Mike Jensen’s wonderful remembrance about Jack in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mike talks about how lucky someone was who got to sit next to Jack in the press box. He’s right, and I had that lucky seat in the neighborhood of 500 times
So, what was it like to sit next to Jack?
It was an education, first of all. Jack would provide analysis of the game at hand and also connect it to the past. Had a question about the Phillies, 76ers or Big 5 and Jack probably knew it – and definitely knew where to find the answer if he didn’t. Jack, of course, was famous for his trivia. My favorite questions were ones where Jack would say of the answer, “One of them is in the ballpark.” That was a free hint. I usually needed at least one or two more hints to get Jack’s answer. “You cheated again,” he would joke.
My batting average on Jack’s trivia had to be in the .089 ballpark – and I’m probably being nice to myself. The thing about those trivia questions is Jack didn’t Google any of them. He researched them in media guides, newspapers, game notes and other print resources. Jack epitomized greatness in many ways but definitely not when it came to technology. In fact, I probably owe my freelance job with the AP to Jack’s disdain for computers. If he had embraced filing with a computer, the AP probably wouldn’t have needed me. Quite frequently, one of my duties during coverage of Phillies games would be to help Jack delete a text message or a voice mail. “Thanks AB,” he would say.
So, how did Jack write stories without a computer before the AP required stringers to use them you may wonder? By hand. Every word. Imagine that. He’d have everything written and ready for the game story that needed to be filed after the final out and would dictate it to an AP writer on the phone and that writer would type Jack’s story. Jack then would get quotes from players and coaches in the locker room. To my knowledge, Jack didn’t own a tape recorder. He would write everything down. Imagine how good of a listener you need to be to do what Jack did all of those years. In those days, he’d then make the one-hour drive home to his Bucks County home and compose the next edition story in his head on the ride. Once home, he’d rewrite a new story with quotes and call it in for dictation. Day after day, game after game, he did this.
I don’t remember his exact streak of games, but there was a long stretch where he covered every home Phillies game for many seasons in a row. Talk about dedication.
And, yet, he did all of this without getting a byline. The AP didn’t give contributors, or stringers as they call us, bylines until within the last 10 years. A byline is very important to a writer. Just ask any of them. I never actually asked Jack if it upset him that he never got a byline, but I can’t imagine that it did. (Fittingly, the well-written AP story remembering Jack didn’t have a byline.) The man was so humble. He didn’t like to call attention to himself. That was just one of the things that made him great, and one of the many lessons I learned from him.
Jack was a family man. He was married to Jean for nearly as long as he was alive. It was touching to hear him call her nightly to check in from the Phillies game; Jean, who also had a love of baseball, usually was home watching. He spoke proudly about his four children and often shared with me stories about his grandson, Tyler, who is a highly sought after halftime act at college and professional games for his amazing balancing ability.
Jack was a kind man. He always looked for good things to say about people. He greeted people warmly and with a smile. He always was willing to help however he could. I don’t think there’s anyone in the Philly sports media circles who would have a bad word to say about him. And that’s because of the way he treated everyone — from the unpaid intern all the way to the national bigwigs — with the same kindness and decency. Jack, quite simply, treated you the way you wanted to be treated.
Jack was dedicated. His commitment to his work, based on his longevity, speaks for itself. He always wanted to do a good job and get the story right. In the last few years before his retirement in 2019, he was having physical problems that made it difficult for him to work. He had to leave a few games early because of his health situation, but that didn’t stop his dedication. I just looked at an email from September of 2019, one of the last Phillies games we covered together. He left early that night but emailed me when he got home to let me know what the radio broadcast had said about Scott Kingery’s injury. Then, when the game went to extra innings, he emailed a follow-up with one word: “Sorry.”
Extra-inning games could be arduous, especially for people like me who had to wake up early the next morning for another job. But being with Jack made it fun. Same for rain delays. He had this encyclopedic knowledge of ’40’s and ’50’s baseball players. Sometimes during those delays I’d go through Baseball-Reference.com and give him the first names of players from that era and he’d have to guess the last name. Usually, he’d get it – and then he’d tell me something interesting about the player.
Jack loved baseball all his life. He told me about his days growing up and his love for the game when baseball was all boys his age talked about. He told me about playing on base overseas while serving our country during the Korean War. He told me about his tryout with the Phillies. Jack was a really good player, but he’ll tell you the tryout was because his father cut the hair of the Phillies owner. That’s how he was. Not one to pat himself on the back.
Jack told me a lot and I listened a lot. I told him things too, and he counseled me on situations at work and at home. He always seemed to be able to put me at ease. It seemed like all the world’s cares went away when I was sitting next to Jack at a Phillies game.
There were some things Jack didn’t like. For instance, he despised pitch counts and the five-inning starter. He’d regularly count the number of pitchers on the DL, point it out to me and then wonder how pitch counts are helping starters. In fact, he thought, pitch counts limited pitchers’ ability to build up arm strength and endurance like the great pitchers of his day. Jack was old-school. It’s not that he couldn’t get with the times; he certainly could. But he just didn’t think the analytic age of baseball was better than the game he fell in love with as a kid.
It’s not surprising that the best hitters (Williams, Musial, Aaron, Mays, Mantle) and pitchers (Koufax, Gibson, Feller, Carlton, Seaver/Roberts) he ever saw were from another era.
And the same can be said for basketball. He liked the way the game was played, not the way it has evolved into an individualistic pursuit. He always said basketball was a simple game. By that, I assume he meant make a pass, set a screen, find the open man for the shot.
Jack was a point guard. He played with some of Philly’s greats and covered them all. He knew the game and knew what a point guard should do.
A point guard is supposed to be a passer first. Point guards who shoot? That’s BH – or Bad Hoops. Point guards who shoot on two straight trips down the court? That would be VBH – Very Bad Hoops. There also were lots of GH – Good Hoops – for Jack. Most of those games were at the Palestra, Jack’s home away from home. I remember one game we sat next to each other there, a triple-overtime game between Saint Joe’s and Temple in the early 2000’s. It was a “corners” game. I’m guessing Jack would’ve liked that game to go to 30 overtimes.
You’ve heard the stories about Jack and the Palestra, how he ran the weekly media lunchtime game and holds the unofficial record for most points scored in Palestra history. (Those games, by the way, were very competitive.) One of the funniest stories about those games is the time Fran Dunphy, then coaching at Penn, brought his team onto the court for practice while the game was still going on. Jack looked at him, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yo Dunph!” Dunphy apologized and took his team off the court so the media game could finish. Talk about respect.
And it goes both ways with those two. Jack had so much respect for Dunphy and admired him as a person and coach. If you listen to the way Dunphy speaks, you’ll notice Jack’s influence on Dunphy. At least I have.
Influence. Yes, that’s where I’d like to end. We are all lucky to have certain people in our lives who have a positive, lasting impact on us. Jack is most certainly one of those people for me. If I can just live a little better each day and be more like him, I think I’ll be doing pretty well. If I can treat my kids and my wife the way he did, I think I’ll be doing pretty well. If I can treat people the way he did, I think I’ll be doing pretty well.
If I could talk to Jack and ask him how I’m doing, that would be even better.
For now, I can just tell him something:
Miss you and love you, pal.