Harvey Pollack Hall of Fame - Q&A

Q: How did you find out that you were being awarded the John Bunn Award for lifetime achievement?
A: I was called by the Hall of Fame and they told me that I had been inducted. It’s going to be a four-day affair. I have also been informed that they’re going to put an exhibit up at the Hall of Fame, like the Harvey Pollack exhibit. They want some of my memorabilia including my typewriter because I have one of the last manual typewriters. And they want a copy of my book.

Q Who did you call first when you found out?
A: The first one I called was (Sixers Executive Vice President) Dave Coskey because I know he was really instrumental. He was really fighting for me to achieve this honor. Then the next one I called was Ronnie, my son, and I called my daughter; they were the first three I called.

Q: What does it mean to you to receive this award?
A: Well this climaxes (my career) because I have hit the big Hall of Fame. This is the sixth Hall of Fame I have been inducted into or will be inducted into. I am in the Simon Gratz High School Hall of Fame; the Temple University Hall of Fame; the Big 5 Hall of Fame; the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame and the Jewish Hall of Fame. But this supersedes all of the other ones.

Q: What is your fondest memory in the NBA?
A: I am the only one who has all four championship rings. I have a ring from the 1946-47 season (the first year of the NBA Warriors championship); then the 1955-56 Warriors championship ring; I have the 1966-67-championship ring with the Sixers; and the 1982-83 (also with the Sixers). A lot of times when I go out to speak, I’ll put all four rings on. My rings tell me how the NBA has grown. The first one was a gold ring with a diamond in it, which you would need a magnifying glass to identify. The second one was not much bigger. It wasn’t until the 1966-67 ring that has a ruby and a big diamond and inscriptions on the side. And the 1982-83 was something similar to that.

I would say out of all the things it would be winning the 1966-67 championship. Winning the one out in San Francisco because that team to me (and was voted by many polls) was the greatest team in the history of the NBA. Winning that title was my biggest thing.

Q: You have been greatly involved with career of Wilt Chamberlain; do you ever think his record of scoring 100 points in a game will be broken?
A: That’s one record that I think someday somebody could break. But I don’t think it will be broken because I don’t think the other team will allow it to be broken, to be the victims of it. There are other records I don’t think will ever be broken either. I don’t think anyone will ever get 55 rebounds in a game, which he did. And the man he did it against was Bill Russell who was considered his equal at center. I don’t think anyone is ever going to get a triple-double-double. That’s 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 20 assists in a single game. Nobody has even approached that one.

Q: How and when did you start your statistical yearbook?
A: Actually the first Sixers Media Guide, was in the middle of the 1966-67 season when the General Manager of the team, Jack Ramsey, swung a deal with Schmitz beer, and they authorized the printing of a 24-page media guide. On every page of the book there was a Schmitz beer ad. That was the first one. The next year it went up to 36 or 40 pages, again with Schmitz beer. In 1968-69, the then owner of the team said we’re going to do it on our own now (without Schmitz). The next book was about 72 pages. But now it’s risen from 72 to 208 (last year) to probably 216 this year. The Sixers Media Guide became a combination of Sixers and NBA material and over the years the Sixers material increased and the NBA material increased. By 1994, it was getting unyielding. They had trouble binding it. They decided instead of having one book, they would have two books. One book on the Sixers, and one on the NBA. I welcomed that.

Q: Your NBA Statistical Yearbook is highly regarded around the league…. tell us about some of the phone calls or visits you have received from teams, reporters or players.
A: My most interesting caller was Wilt Chamberlain. He constantly called me from California and kept me on the phone, many times for a couple of hours. Fortunately, he was paying for it, not the Sixers. One of the most memorable ones that I did was when he said that Michael Jordan’s shooting percentage from 13 feet back was under 40 percent. He didn’t think that Michael Jordan took many shots between 13 feet and 5 feet. So I took 20 games of Jordan’s from that year and in those 20 games, Jordan only shot 38 percent. So, I did 20 more and came up with the same result. So then I said, if I did 40, I might as well do 82. Wilt’s appraisal was perfect. From 13 feet back (Jordan) was 37.8 percent. Also, he proved that Jordan took very few shots inside 7 feet. In other words, when he got to 7 feet and had the ball, he either passed the ball to a teammate, or drove to the basket for a lay-up.

In the book, Pat Riley gave me one. He said the NBA doesn’t keep field goal percentage right. They should separate the (two-point shots) from the (three-point shots). They separate the three’s, but overall they don’t separate the two’s. So one of the categories I keep is field goal percentage for two’s. Charles Barkley was the leader in the two-point category for years.

Rick Carlisle came to me and asked if we have a stat that shows who wins the opening tap of the overtime (which we do). He wanted to know who wins the game versus who wins the overtime tap. When I did it for him that year, it came out exactly even 40-40. So I said to Rick, how about if I figure out the team that scores first in overtime. Then it became different 55-25 for the team that wins the overtime tap.

Q: It's reported that you predate the formation of the NBA. When did you get started?
A: When I went to Temple University, I was the manager of the basketball team. The manager of the team traveled with the team and had to keep score to make sure that the home team scorer was honest. It was so easy. All I had to keep was the scorebook, which was field goals, foul shots and personals. I went to the Coach and said, “Do you mind if I keep other statistics when I’m keeping the books?” So I started to keep other statistics (field goals attempted, field goal percentage, free throws, rebounds, assists, etc.). That was the best thing I did because it led me to my career.

I was sports editor of the Temple News for two years. I’m known as the one who brought women’s sports out of oblivion. When I was the sports editor, I gave the women’s basketball team, the women’s field hockey team and the women’s swimming team the same amount of space I gave the Temple football and basketball team.

I graduated Temple in 1943 and went right into the (military) service. Within a week after I came back, I became a sports writer for the Bulletin. Within another week, I was the byline sportswriter for the Bulletin. I was making the magnificent sum of $28 per week. I learned right then and there that I’d have to moonlight. In 1945, I started doing Temple football stats, and I’m still doing it today. That was my first entry into the stat field with a paying job.

I started doing basketball stats at Convention Hall. The next year the NBA was formed. They had to get a stat crew. They found out that I was part of a stat crew and also wrote for the Bulletin. So, that’s how I started doing stats for the NBA, and I have not left that job since. Along the way, I also became the publicity director of the Warriors from 1946 to 1952. Midway through the 1952-53 season I became head of public relations for the Warriors. During the 1962-63 season, since there was no Philadelphia franchise, the NBA played neutral court games, so I continued to do publicity. Then in 1963, the Syracuse franchise moved and became the 76ers. I was the media relations director until the 1987-88 season when I became the Director of Statistical Information.

Q: What is the story of the orchid shoes?
A: I am a shoe fiend. My shoe rack contains shoes of every conceivable color. The team got good, particularly when Julius (Erving) came in 1976. So I said, “maybe these shoes could bring some luck if I wore them in the winter.” But I only wear them in crucial games. Unfortunately, during that 1976-77 season, we were in Portland when we lost that sixth game. I didn’t take them with me. I didn’t realize we were going to lose the game out there. I was saving them for when we came back to Philadelphia for the seventh game. But thereafter, I took them whenever I thought there was a crucial game…I took them with me whether I wore them or not. If we were playing two games in a row (on the road), maybe the first game wasn’t crucial, but the second game was.

I was undefeated until the 1982-83 season. We were playing New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs in a five game series. We were tied 2-2 and the fifth game was here. Something told me that I shouldn’t wear those shoes. So I brought the shoes in the car with me to the Spectrum. I walked into the dressing room and Moses Malone sees me and says, “Hey Harv, where are the shoes?”

I said, “Moses, we’re the first place team, and Jersey is the fourth place team; we’re playing at home; we’re the defending champion; I don’t think you guys need these shoes.” There’s only so many wins in these shoes, and I don’t think I ought to use them for the first round of the playoffs.”

And he said, “Hey Harv, if you don’t wear those shoes and we lose this game, you’re going to be blamed.”

So what was I to do? I went out to my car, got the shoes, ran back in, wore them for the game, and guess what happened…we lost! So that’s the first time I lost with those shoes. And I blame that on Moses.

Q: Part of your stat crew includes members of your family…when did they start and what are their duties?
A: We have three generations there. My son, Ron, is the main inputer in the computer. Actually, he’s recognized by the NBA as the best inputer in the league. They twice sent him to Japan to do the stats for an NBA game that didn’t even involve the Sixers. He was the one that ran the copier at Wilt’s 100-point game when he was 16-years-old. He’s been involved with the NBA for 40 years.

Also on the crew is my grandson, Ronnie’s son, Brian. He’s about 28. His main job is normally to sit behind the announcer, Matt Cord, and tell him the substitutes and personal fouls. And sometimes when there is someone missing from the main stat crew, he is the No. 1 replacement. He is also the one that records tattoos of every player in the league. He checks out everyone that comes into the game. He also goes to the trainer at halftime to check on players that have not played yet who may never take off their warm-up suits.

Ronnie and Brian also work on the crews for college games.

Q: What is your main job during Sixers games?
A: Before computers came along, I was the main statistician of the Warriors and the Sixers. Since we’ve had computers, I am the main caller, so I never take my eyes off the game. I have to call the main three things that I am responsible for: shots, rebounds and assists. Other members of the stat crew are responsible for turnovers, steals, substitutions and blocked shots.

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