Ted Silary’s byline was more important than the headline.
He didn’t feel that way. In fact, you’d have a fight on your hands if you said that to him.
But ask any player, coach, coworker, editor or high school sports fan, and they’ll tell you anything that came after “by Ted Silary,” you just had to read.
Silary was the longtime high school sportswriter at the Philadelphia Daily News. For more than 30 years, he told stories of young athletes. And he did it so well, that once he wrote a story on a player, you felt you knew him.
It didn’t really matter if you knew the player beforehand, it didn’t matter if the kid went to a school you support or if you had any connection to it, if Silary wrote a story, you were going to enjoy it. That’s why he was the best sportswriter at the Daily News, a paper that at the time had one of the best rosters in the country.
“I worked with so many legendary sports writers over my 30-plus years at the Daily News, Ted was the all-time legend,” said longtime Daily News and Inquirer editor Joe Berkery, who also worked on Silary’s statcrew, where guys would go to games and keep track of every stat for Silary’s records. “I never met anyone who did his job with such skill and care. Ted taught me two big lessons for journalism and life: Be accurate and have fun.
“He could have taken any big sports beat he wanted. He chose to stick with high school sports because he had such passion for it. Ted knew that it meant the world to a kid when he provided a little bit of glory with a mention in the Daily News. He would always interview the kids before talking to the coaches. He knew it was their chance for a little recognition.”
Last week, Silary passed away at 72 after battling health problems for a few years.
Silary was best known for what he did as a writer, covering the Public League, the Catholic League and the Inter-Ac League.
He took his job incredibly seriously, and he demanded perfection. But even before the job he loved so much, Silary loved his family more than anything.
“I would love for people to know how much he truly loved his job, the city of Philadelphia and kids,” said Kristen Rodriguez, Silary’s daughter. ”All kids. He never cared about where they were from or where they were going, but about their accomplishments on the field and getting them recognized for that brief moment in time. It meant a tremendous amount that each kid had a say in their story. He was detail obsessed and made sure each name was correct as well as all addresses and phone numbers.
“Growing up, all of my friends loved my dad. He was patient and funny and loved taking my friends and I to do things no other parent really wanted to do. When I was in middle school, my two friends and I won tickets to see a concert at Six Flags and my dad took us on a hot summer day and sat in the stands alone while we were holding our signs near the stage.”
He was a great father, and then graduated into becoming an even better grandfather.
“After welcoming my daughter in 2018, he and Anne (my stepmom) became dutiful babysitters to my daughter,” Rodriguez said. “My dad never knew much about babies and put her diaper on backwards for months. I finally had the guts to bring it up to him, but it was hard because I never wanted to crush his spirits about it. Remembering them in their roles as ‘Popeye and Pie,’ as my daughter calls them, was a very special memory.”
Silary’s wife Anne was his rock, his best friend, in reality, his everything. She passed away from cancer in December.
Affectionately known as “the wife,” Silary met his future bride at a dance in South Jersey after covering a night football game. Little did she know when he asked her to dance, she would soon become a legendary name on his very popular high school sports website, tedsilary.com.
“Although my dad was extremely private, his relationship with Anne was more important than anything,” Rodriguez said. “After she passed from cancer in December 2022, he was not the same. She was his best friend and never complained about sports stories or laughing at stupid jokes. No one could ever replace her.”
Anne loved Ted, however she never wrapped her head around the sports thing. But she supported him, and her love allowed him to do what he did best.
Silary loved telling stories about others, and he made sure to put the work in to give the kids he wrote about a story to be proud of.
That’s one of the many reasons Tom Coyle respects him so much.
Silary not only covered Coyle’s teams when he was coaching at Father Judge, but when he took over the program at Silary’s alma mater, Penn Charter.
“He impacted so many people at Penn Charter,” Coyle said. “He’s the ultimate unselfish person. He spent his life promoting others, he wouldn’t be celebrated by any schools.
“His alma mater reached out, other schools did, too, but his job was sacrificing time for his family, weekends traveling from site to site. He’s a Philadelphia historian. Athletically, he could tell you what happened through 40 or 50 years of high school athletics. There are people who have done similar work, but nobody has done what he did.”
Other legendary coaches feel the same way.
Silary covered Mark Heimerdinger’s teams both at Cardinal Dougherty and later at Samuel Fels. During his time as the coach of the Cardinals, Heimerdinger coached some of the biggest games in Catholic League history. He knew when Silary entered the gym with his trusty camera, an important game became that much bigger.
“Too many people in today’s world think they’re bigger than the sports themselves,” Heimerdinger said. “That wasn’t Ted. It was always about the athletes and reporting the games accurately. It was about the kids and what was going on with basketball programs.
“When you walked into a gym and Ted Silary was there, the game became more important and bigger than it already was. And the thing was, he was always there. The amount of times he spent just getting places. He was always there an hour or two before the games themselves. He wasn’t there 15 minutes before. He was so professional and he cared.”
If you saw Silary running up and down the sidelines of a Public League game with a plastic bag to keep his stats dry and a pencil in his teeth between plays or saw him sitting on the stage at a basketball game snapping pictures of the players while also keeping flawless stats, you knew half of the story.
The rest happened in the Daily News newsroom, where Silary and other Daily News reporters and editors would hammer out the box scores, write all the stories and make sure the next day’s paper had everything readers would want.
One of his guys was Kerith Gabriel, who is now a sports editor at the Inquirer. Just as many greats got their start being on Silary’s crew, Gabriel’s start at the Daily News was working with the great one.
“Teddy cared so much,” Gabriel said. “He was fair, firm, and he came in with a level of professionalism that he expected. He would help but he wouldn’t do work for you. He taught me how to do things the right way. I was Ted’s guy on Fridays and Saturdays and I learned as much from him as I did anyone else.
“He demanded you do things right because he cared that much. He wanted things to be great. And he was a good person.”
During his days as executive sports editor of the paper, Pat McLoone had an incredible staff of hall of fame writers, but he met his best writer long before he was assigning stories. He was a freshman at La Salle High School when he met his future top writer.
“I met him when I was hitchhiking, and he picked me up because he saw the La Salle jacket,” said McLoone, who grew up in Olney. “He said, ‘I’m a sportswriter’ and I said the only sports writer I know is Ted Sil-r-ee.”
That was the first meeting, but the relationship grew. No matter what role McLoone had, working for Silary, working with Silary or being his boss, the two worked wonders together.
“I saw it first hand as someone who he covered, as someone who was a clerk, someone who edited his copy and then his boss,” McLoone said. “Ted was all about wanting the people he covered to be successful. If a kid from Mastbaum went on to be a doctor, or a La Salle guy went on to be an actor, he was so proud of them. When Ted wrote, he was writing about the kids, trying to be positive and every kid had a story to tell.”
That doesn’t mean Silary was all good news.
He was the gatekeeper of Philadelphia high school sports, and the guy who made sure the kids playing in these leagues were well taken care of. If he saw injustice, he would write about it.
And that’s how you know Silary was well respected. If Ted ripped something, he was doing it because he truly cared. And because of his watchdog reporting, the kids got what they deserved.
But those stories were few and far between.
The great bulk of Silary’s work was telling the great things about the athletes. And as great as his words were in the Daily News, his website was the destination for every high school athlete, both past and present.
“His site, that’s the reference for all high school sports,” Coyle said. “When people want to go back, he has the archives. You can compare athletes from different generations, you go to his site. You look back and see what these kids did when they were 16 or 17. He made people feel really good about themselves, and he always took a minute to highlight what they did inside the classroom and what they were going to do beyond high school.
“If you had a kid with some level of success, he had to chase these stories down. It wasn’t just send someone an email, you had to do a lot of work. He spent hours on his way to games on his way at games, taking in all the events in the city. And he did it with class and grace. He ranked teams in the city, and he did it carefully. It took a lot of effort.”
And made kids want to get involved.
Ryan Nase, who played for Coyle at Judge, is now the football coach at Northeast. He was a mainstay on Silary’s website, and went on to intern for him by keeping scores at games. The first game he ever kept stats at was a high school game at Northeast.
“The same school I’m the football coach of, I was doing stats for him,” said Nase, who added Silary had a way to make students go viral before the internet was a thing. “Ted Silary was important not just because he was a fixture in high school sports but he was truly a pioneer. He figured something out way before Mark Zuckerberg. He gave kids an opportunity to interact with one another in playful banter before the social media age was even a thought.
“Not only was that innovative but it brought an atmosphere of electricity to games and made high school sports relevant in a town consumed by professional sports.
“The part that many people don’t know about is how many people got their starts writing for or interning for him that made it a career. Without a doubt part of the reason I’m involved in coaching high school sports is because of the impact my high school career and relationships had on more and Ted Silary was a huge part of that.”
It was a job he truly enjoyed doing. And it was appreciated by his readers.
It didn’t matter if it was a quick hit, a game story, his weekly column, a long-form feature story, a game report on his website or a “Tedbit,” if he wrote it, people read it.
Silary’s work is legendary. But his personality is what made him loved.
“Ted was as genuine as they come,” said Ed “Huck” Palmer, who was one of Silary’s main stat guys. “He was unique and simply the best at what he did. It was always about the kids. He’s touched thousands of lives and his contributions to many are immeasurable.
“Personally, I was honored that he thought of me as a friend. Our time spent together has made a lasting impact on my life. I’ll miss him tremendously.”
He’s not alone.
Silary will always be remembered for being a legendary writer, but that’s a small reason for while he’ll be missed. He’ll be missed more for being a great father, grandfather and friend to so many.
“It’s customary to say nice things about people when they pass,” Berkery said. “But I thought Ted was the greatest long before this sad moment.”