Chicago St. Phillip High School “Gaels”

St. Philip High School
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Credit: Lake County Discovery Museum/Curt Teich Postcard Archives

                                The History of Chicago St. Philip High School

Chicago (population 2.8 million) is in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, along with the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers are the main waterways in the city. Interstates 55, 57, 90, & 94 will all lead you to the “Windy City.” From what started as a small village in the early 1800’s along the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago has grown to the nation’s third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world, as the result of an ethnically diverse community that adopted the city.

St. Philip High School opened its doors to boys only in 1904 at the rear of Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery by Servite Fathers on Chicago’s West Side as a four-year academic school that also had a three-year commercial course. A preparatory program was also offered to 7th and 8th grade boys when the school opened, but it only lasted until 1916 at the school, which was also known as St. Philip Basilica High School after 1956 by a papal decree made by Pope Pius XII.

St. Philip Benizi was a Servite Cardinal that lived in Italy and joined the order in 1253 at the age of 20 after having practiced medicine. He was also considered to be a possible succesor to Pope Clement IV and was granted sainthood in 1671.

A new building was ready for occupancy in 1910, while a gym with pool, bowling alleys, basketball courts, locker room and meeting rooms were added in 1924. More classroom space was erected in 1938, and an all-concrete stadium was ready in 1944.

The school stayed open thru two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Baby Boom to educate young men in a parochial environment. St. Philip averaged about 1,000 students at its peak between the late-1950’s and early-1960’s, then started to taper off to a point that 602 students were enrolled in the school’s final year in 1970, which is when the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to close down St. Philip’s.

In his 1990 dissertation about Chicago Catholic high schools, our good friend George Fornero stated that some of the reasons why the school closed its doors were as follows: the decrease of teaching religious faculty within the Servite order; the number of students deciding to choose religious life as a vocation significantly decreased; mounting operational deficits (the New World reported “an annual operating deficit of over $70,000”); and, the racial makeup of the school’s neighborhood changed from Caucasian to African-American.

Prior to making the final decision, some of the other options that were considered for St. Philip students were to merge with Providence-St. Mel (nearby on the West Side), merging with all-girls’ Siena and Providence-St. Mel and establish a parish grade school in the St. Philip building, or to phase out St. Philip by graduating the sophomores and juniors that were currently there at the time.

The building that housed St. Philip was later turned into Our Lady of Sorrows Grade School, and still remains in use today as a charter school on Chicago’s West Side. Alumni still meet annually and can find out more at http://www.stphilipgaels.org/.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT CHICAGO ST. PHILIP HIGH SCHOOL

Year opened:                       1904

Year closed:                         1970

School nickname:               “Gaels”

School colors:                      Purple & Gold

Yearbook name:        “Phian” (for PHIlip and ANnual)

Newspaper name:     “The Philp Hi”

School song:                       “PURPLE & GOLD

Lyrics Provided by RICHARD WHITE, music courtesy of RICK IACCHINO from  http://www.stphilipgaels.org/

                                          Purple and gold, purple and gold,

                                          To a man we’re back of you,

                                          Not for a day, but when we’re away,

                                          Forgetting St. Philip School.

                                          Rah, Rah. Rah

                                          Loving her name, ever the same,

                                          With a love that will never grow old,

                                          Loving the purple, loving the gold,

                                          Purple, purple and gold!

Principal Jim O’Brien (last principal of school)
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin

History of principals at St. Philip:

1904-11 Very Rev. Hugh Crevier, OSM
1911-18 Rev. Bonaventure Maguire, OSM
1918-20 Rev. Ambrose Griffin, OSM
1920-23 Rev. Andrew Bauman, OSM
1923-32 Rev. Alfonse Cortney, OSM
1932-33 Very Rev. James Keane, OSM
1933-36 Rev. Maurice Wolf, OSM
1936-48 Rev. Terence Seery, OSM
1948-49 Very Rev. Philip Grimes, OSM
1949-51 Rev. Jerome Hurley, OSM
1951-58 Rev. Maurice Gilespie, OSM
1958-66 Rev. Mark Dennehy, OSM
1966-67 Rev. Brendan LaFave, OSM
1967-70 Mr. James J. O’Brien

ATHLETICS AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

St. Philip was a charter member of the Chicago Catholic League in 1913, competing in football, baseball, and softball while its doors were opened. Basketball, track and field, baseball, hockey, as well as boxing and bowling were also offered, but very little information is available.

Prior to joining the Catholic League, the school was a member of the Cook County League for one year and won a baseball title before the league broke up. If you know more about the Gaels’ athletic history, please contact us at the addresses at the bottom of this page.

What is a Gael, you ask? A person who is either Irish or whose heritage and/or ancestry dates back to Ireland or to the British Isles.

FOOTBALL

The Gaels were competitive in the Catholic League wars while posting some good records, according to information gathered by Tom Sikorski. The following is a list of those accomplishments:

1942 4-4-2                                                                     Coach Marv Adams

1943 4-4-2                                                                     Coach Tom O’Brien

1944 4-3-1                                                                     Coach Tom O’Brien

1945 7-1-1 3rd Place Chicago Catholic North

1946 7-2-1                                                                     Coach Vito Ananis

1948 6-3

1949 6-3                                                                        Coach Clem Naughton

1950 6-3-1 3-way tie for Cath. North title                   Coach Clem Naughton

Lost to Fenwick in Division title playoff game

1952 6-4

1954 6-3

1959 5-3                                                                         Coach Joe Petruzzi

1960 4-4-1                                                                      Coach Joe Petruzzi

1962 3-3-2                                                                      Coach Bob Rosmarino

1963 3-4-1                                                                      Coach Bob Rosmarino

1964 1-7-1                                                                      Coach Bob Rosmarino

1965                                                                               Coach Petucci

1966                                                                               Coach Petucci

1967                                                                               Coach Jack Marcoline

1968                                                                               Coach Jack Marcoline

1969            Fielded their last team                                Coach Dennis Harris

According to St. Philip alumnus Rick Iaccino, the stadium that the Gaels played in was fit right behind the school buildings. At the north and northeast ends, the building was roughly 12-18 inches outside the endline and sideline (which required netting to protect the windows in the building), and the east side stands ran from about the 25 or 30-yard line south towards the other end zone. The west side stands ran inside the 10-yard lines, and there was a 20-foot wall at the south end of the stadium.

St. Philip alums that played professional football:

Tony Paquesi — Two-way performer on the 1948-49 teams at linebacker and fullback that gathered all-state honors, later lettered three seasons at Notre Dame (1952-53-54) before being chosen by the Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals of the NFL. Paquesi played three seasons before a knee injury ended his playing career, He is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

Arunas Vasys — Like Paquesi, he was a linebacker that lettered three times at Notre Dame (1963-64-65) and was a 16th round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1966 NFL draft. He stayed with the organization from 1966-68 and appeared in 22 games.

Octavius Morgan — As one of the final players to wear a Gaels uniform, Morgan attended the University of Illinois. He was an All-Big 10 selection and named co-MVP of the Illini in his senior year (1973) before being drafted by the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.

Clanton King – played football and started at defensive tackle on Purdue University’s 1967 Rose Bowl team that featured NFL HOF quarterback Bob Griese. Our good friend Bill Menard tells us Clayton was a 6’1″ offensive guard that earned All-State honors in his senior season of 1964.

Arunas Vasys (class of 1961)
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin
Octavius Morgan (class of 1970) w/Coach Marcoline
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin
Clanton King (class of 1965)
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin
St. Philip Stadium (1944-1969)
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin
Clanton King at Purdue University
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Courtesy of Bill Menard

BASEBALL

As mentioned above, the Gaels did compete in the Cook County League as one of the few private schools to be associated with public school members such as Evanston, Oak Park, North Division, West DivisionSouth Division, Phillips, Crane, Englewood, and Lindblom.

St. Philip’s association with the CCL was only for one year from 1911-12 as it won the baseball title. In the previous year, the title was vacated due to the use of players that were also professionals. The Cook County League was broken up in 1913 when the Public League, Catholic League, and Suburban League were all formed.

Baseball did continue at St. Philip until the time the school closed, winning the junior division in 1914 (see photos of trophy below) and it captured the Catholic League title in 1969 under Coach Dan Rusk (see team photo below). Coaches’ name and win-loss records would be greatly appreciated by anyone who may these pieces of information.

1911 Gaels baseball team
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courtesy of Robert Pruter
St. Philip 1969 baseball–Catholic League Champs
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien and Lisa Goodwin
1914 St. Philip Jr. League Baseball Champs
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Trophy from Chicago Catholic League Jr. Division (courtesy of Thomas Patrice)
1914 St. Philip Catholic League Jr, Division Champ
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courtesy of Thomas Patrice

BASKETBALL

The Gaels had a competitive hoops program in Catholic League play during the latter part of the 1920’s and into the mid-1930’s, taking home three titles in lightweight and heavyweight play. The following information on the St. Philip High School basketball program comes to us from Thomas Geraci:

“The Catholic League consisted of two (2) teams from each school (in basketball). They were distinguished as “Lights” and “Heavies.” The Lights were for guys under 5′ 8″ tall and the Heavies for over 5′ 8″. The basketball program was in existence for quite some time. I do not know when the League started, but each Catholic high school was a member. I played for the Lights from 1960-1964.

(NOTE: Historian Robert Pruter tells us that basketball was divided into senior and junior classes based on height, not weight.)

In the 1960-61 season, we played St. Rita for the City Championship at De Paul University. St. Rita won by less than 5 points.”

1927-28    Chicago Catholic League Hwt. Champions

                   Chicago Catholic League Lwt. Champions

1933-34    Chicago Catholic League Hwt. Champions

1944-45    Chicago City Champions                                         Coach Clem Naughton

                   Catholic League Hwt. Champions

                   Catholic League North Lwt. Champions

Chicago St. Philips City Champs 1944-45
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courtesy of Marty Joyce (grandson on #56, Michael Joyce)
Chicago St Philips Basketball Action Photo
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Courtesy of Marty Joyce (grandson of #56, Michael Joyce)
Chicago St. Philips City Champs Newspaper Article
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Courtesy of Marty Joyce

1958-59    Catholic League Lwt. Division 2nd Place                   Coach Clem Naughton

1960-61    Catholic League Lwt. Division 2nd Place                   Coach William Doherty

1962-63    Heavyweights were 6-6                                              Coach Clem Naughton

1964-65    Heavyweight record was 12-8                                    Coach Clem Naughton

1965-66    Heavyweight record was 11-13                                  Coach Clem Naughton

1966-67                                                                                        Coach Joe Gubbins

1967-68                                                                                        Coach Joe Gubbins

1968-69    Catholic League North Hwt. Champions                Coach Otis Williams

1969-70    Last team                                                                    Coach Otis Williams

1968-69 Catholic League North Champs
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien and Lisa Goodwin
St. Philip Coach Clem Naughton
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin
1957-58 Gaels Lightweight Basketball team
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courtesy of Frank Pearson (son of #85, Johnny Pearson)
1960-61 St. Philip Swim Team
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courtesy of Jim O’Brien & Lisa Goodwin

SOFTBALL

In an experiment attempted by the Catholic League, St. Philip was one of seven schools that competed in the sport during the spring of 1943, along with St. GeorgeDePaul Academy, Mt. Carmel, St. Rita, De La Salle, and Loyola. The Gaels were host to tripleheaders with all league contests at their own stadium, but the inclement weather held down the number of games that each team played and as a result, the experiment was not continued beyond that spring.

BOXING

The Catholic League also sponsored boxing (briefly in the 1930’s). St. Philip won the league’s boxing title in 1933, winning nine out of ten final matches. The following year, St. Philip competed for the “state” boxing title against St. George and Peru St. Bede, but the results are unknown, although St. Philip was dominating the preliminary matches.

BOWLING

The Chicago Catholic League held an annual tournament to determine a conference title, and the Gaels won the championship during the 1958-59 school year, according to historian Robert Pruter. We have been able to find more information through yearbooks from 1960-70 that were shared by Lisa Goodwin and former principal Jim O’Brien.

1958-59          Catholic League Champs                      coach unknown

1960-61  4-1                                                                 Fr. Patrick Donovan

1961-62                                                                        Fr. Patrick Donovan

1962-63                                                                        Fr. Patrick Donovan

1963-64                                                                        Fr. Philip Scherer

1964-65                                                                        Fr. Philip Scherer

1965-66  3-1-2                                                              Fr. Philip Scherer

1966-67                                                                        Fr. Philip Scherer

1967-68                                                                        Fr. Philip Scherer

1968-69                                                                        Fr. Philip Scherer

1969-70                                                                        Fr. Philip Scherer

SWIMMING

The school also had a swim team (see photo above), started by Tony Paris and later coached by one of his athletes, Tom Kehoe as well as Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick. The latter also coached the school’s water polo team for the final three years of the school’ existence, and we certainly would like to know more about that program.

1960-61   Finished 4th of 11 schools at CCL Meet    Coach Tony Paris

1962-63                                                                      Coach Tom Kehoe

1963-64                                                                      Coach Tom Kehoe

1964-65                                                                      Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

1965-66                                                                      Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

1966-67                                                                      Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

1967-68                                                                      Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

1968-69                                                                      Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

1969-70                                                                      Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick

HOCKEY

The Gaels started a hockey program in the 1960s’ and had some success on the ice. From information that was gathered, the team was funded by the players themselves. Here’s a look at their history:

1962-63               First year                                        Fr. Patrick Donovan

1963-64  6-  7-2                                                          Fr. Patrick Donovan

1964-65  1-11-2                                                          Fr. Brendan LaFave

1965-66  3-  7-3                                                          Fr. Brendan LaFave

1966-67                                                                      Coach Bill Bright

1968-69                                                                      Fr. Tim Kremen

1969-70                                                                      Fr. Tim Kremen

MEMORIES

from Tony Salerno:

“My name is Tony Salerno and my Father, Joe Salerno, went to St. Philip’s 1944-48. He played football and basketball. He received a football scholarship to Xavier University. Dad tells me about the great football games against Fenwick and Johnny Lattner all the time.”

from Jack Hogan (class of 1948):

“I played on the heavyweight basketball team from 1944 to 1948. I’m surprised you didn’t know that the 1944-45 heavyweight team won the Chicago City Championship title (defeating Senn, the Public League champs at Chicago Stadium) and the lightweights won the Catholic League North Division Championship that same year.

“The heavyweight team probably would have won the state championship but could not compete because the Catholic League, at that time, did not comply with the state rule as to how many coaches a school could employ. That team was coached by Clem Naughton and had two great players named Ralph Hinger and Dick Kluck who both won scholarships to Notre Dame and played for The Fighting Irish. I may have some old photos and if I can find them I’ll send them to you.”

From George Lustrea:

“I remember the school very well. We lived on Lexington St. near Kedzie..I was a very good friend with Arthur Di Bouno..Me and him graduated Gregory grammar school in 1955…Being that I was not Catholic, I went to Austin and Arthur went to St.Philip’s..I remember him telling me what a great school St Philip’s was…..I still remember the sign “Home of the Fighting Gaels”….Thanks for letting me share this with you.”

From Dan Leo (class of 1948):

“This may be a bit of interesting history of the school.

“There was a concern in the early 40’s that there would be insufficient schools/classrooms available for children born of returning GIs. A program was initiated which selected students from various Catholic elementary schools to participate in an “experimental” program in which 6th grade students were placed as freshmen at St. Philip.

“We were segregated for the first year. The next year, we went into the general population. My class was 4CS. After four years, very few of us graduated. The experiment was not considered a success and was not repeated. I graduated just after my 15th birthday. I believe that I was the youngest graduate of the school.

“Those were good years and believe that I received an excellent education.

“I would absolutely advise against rapid promotions. In addition to social issues, I was “privileged” to work an additional three years.”

from Frank Adams:

“I recall Bill Minor as a pretty good basketball and football player in 1961. He went on to play football at Illinois and was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the eleventh round in 1965. I am not sure of his longevity as a pro player.”

from Anthony Coleman (class of 1968):

“I was a litte disappointed that some really great athletes were not included in the article. Greg Jackson was an all-state basketball player who played at the U of I for four years (he was in the class of 1967). Mike Mihalich (not sure of the spelling) was all-state center and linebacker 1962 & 1963 when most of our football players were playing on both sides of the ball. Thanks for your attending to this matter.”

from George Gfroerer IV (grandson of graduate):

“I have had this picture of my grandfather for some time now. His name was George Gfroerer and I believe he graduated from St. Philip’s in 1916. It might be 1917, but we believe 1916. He is the third from the left on the top row.

“For a long time, we thought it was his graduation picture from Northwestern Law. However, my mother though it was St. Philip’s, so I went to your website and picture at the top matches this picture perfectly with the columns and windows. I saw you were looking for pictures, so I scanned this in for you. I hope you enjoy.”

from Charles Pierce:

Ed Kelly and Bob Luksta were part of the ’45 city champs and a life of coaching (DePaul U., Loyola of New Orleans, etc).

from Tony Rende (dated December 2, 2019):

“I actually went to Weber High School, but my cousin went to St. Philip’s, and I got to wondering if it had suffered the same fate (closure) as my school, and most ot the other Catholic high schools in Chicago.

“I found the website and went on to read the other information, which I found very interesting. But when I got the part about the swim team, it stated that the swim team was started in 1960. I swam for Weber from 1955-59, and clearly remember swimming against St. Philip’s during that time. I think I may have even swum against Tom Kehoe, who is shown as a coach later. I have no knowledge of when the team started, but must have been before 1960.

“Also in that timeframe, St. Philip’s had a standout basketball player, who would shoot from the outside with a very unconventional two-handed shot, but was uncannily accurate. Sorry to say, I don’t remember his name, but he was well-known and one of the top player in the league at the time. If you have access to some old-timers, they would probably remember him.”

WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET!!!!

If you or someone you know has information regarding the history of St. Philip High School, whether if be expanding on our listing of details or submitting a photo of one of its teams, please let us know. To send us your information, please email us at dr.veeman@gmail.com, or send via USPS to:

IHSGD Website

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL 60631


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