Delco re:View Winter 2018 - 29

www.DelcoBar.org

Bringing the Best Positive
Attention to Delaware County!
Daily Times Sports Figure
of the Year Jim Vankoski
poses next to Morton native
Mike Scioscia's jersey at the
Mickey Vernon collection
of the Sports Legends of
Delaware County Museum.
Delaware County is the
only county in the nation
with its own dedicated sports
museum.
January, 2019. Jim
Vankoski, the founder of the
Sports Legends of Delaware
County Museum, has been named Delaware County's Sports
Figure of the Year. The honor has been awarded by the Daily
Times for more than two decades to the individual or group that
brings the best positive attention to Delaware County.
Based on the end-of-the-year Sports Illustrated model, the
honor has gone since 1996 to an individual or group that best
brought positive attention to Delaware County. It has been won
by Olympians and Super Bowl winners, a soccer team and a golf
course, runners and jumpers and coaches; all were deserving.
None provided more passion toward the literal purpose of the
award than Vankoski; none has been more determined to bring
positive attention to Delaware County.
The former college pitcher for West Chester and longtime
geography teacher at Nether Providence and Strath Haven
High Schools, Vankoski knows that what he and his many
board members, all volunteers, have accumulated is as rare as
it is valuable. But mostly, he knows that it is a story that had
to be told. Never mind that there is no known such sports-only
museum for any other county, nearby or far away. Delaware
County has one. And it will have one for as long as statues can
stand. Indeed, the Sports Legends of Delaware County just this
year erected a statue outside the Municipal Building of Emlen
Tunnell, a 1942 Radnor High grad who became a war hero and
was the first African-American to enter the Pro Football Hall of
Fame.
"Phil Damiani was the chairperson as far as the Emlen
Tunnell statue," Vankoski said, of the Sports Legends of
Delaware County longtime executive. "It would not have
happened without Phil. He was the tip of the spear. We were able
to raise $85,000. Nobody knew who Emlen Tunnell was. He is on
the Mt. Rushmore of athletes, as far as we are concerned, in the
United States."

Damiani has been a Sports Legends of Delaware County
vice president, and a heavy contributor to its growth from what
was originally planned as a temporary exhibit in 2001. That is
when the Delaware County Historical Society planned to open a
museum at Fourth and the Avenue of the States in Chester. For
some early sizzle, the museum asked Joe Cirilli of the Delco
Athletes Hall of Fame to help with a sports display. Cirilli agreed
and asked Vankoski for help. Others got involved, and the exhibit
proved popular. Eventually, various sports figures with Delaware
County connections were invited to speak, with Vankoski asking
them to bring along an item to be displayed. The collection grew
to the point where it needed a home of its own. For a while, it
would be on display in Chadds Ford, and later at the Granite Run
Mall. When the mall was demolished, Radnor township manager
Bob Zienkowski helped arrange for space in the municipal
building.
Vankoski's passion for Delaware County sports is expansive.
From 2000 through 2006 he was the president of baseball's
Delco League, guiding it into its 100th anniversary. In 2004, he
was inducted into the Delco Athletes Hall of Fame, and in 2006
became a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame,
Delaware County chapter.
In 1965, Vankoski began pitching for Fizzano Brothers in the
Delco League, which he remembered following when he was 8
years old. He remains active in the league, as an assistant coach
for Wayne.
A lifelong Delco resident, he was in the Class of 1964 at
Chester High, lived briefly in Ridley Township and long has
made his home in Aston. Retired, he said he would continue to
direct the museum for as long as possible.
"This," he said, "is my golf." It's his golf and soccer,
basketball and baseball, boxing and lacrosse and football. It's
his track. It's his field. And that's him, so often available in the
municipal building, ready to spread the legend of Delco sports. *
Winter 2019

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Delco re:View Winter 2018

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