Joseph C. McCloskey
1920 – 1990
Joseph C. “Goople” McCloskey was born on Barton Street in Tacony in 1920. He attended St. Leo School, graduating in 1933. Joe picked up the nickname “Goople” while attending St. Leo School and this stuck with him his entire life. Aside from his volleyball exploits, “Goople” or sometimes just “Goop” participated in many sports, including football and basketball for the old Disston Scholastics and baseball for the William Oxley American Legion Post Juniors, for which he played first base.
Although accomplished at various sports, it became apparent that Joe McCloskey’s true passion was for the sport of boxing. He participated as a middleweight and light heavyweight at local venues such as St. Leo’s School Hall and Disston Union Hall, located in the old Tacony Trust Fund building at Tulip Street and Longshore Avenue. He often fought at Kensington’s storied Cambria Arena, usually boxing under the colors of the Southwark Athletic Club, which was located in Wissinoming at Deveraux Street and Torresdale Avenue.
Joseph graduated from Northeast Catholic High School in 1937, and earned his livelihood measuring garment material at the Tacony Factory Store, a successor to Rubin Brothers’ Department Store at Longshore Avenue and Hegerman Street.
McCloskey traveled several times to New York for his boxing bouts, and one of his most memorable was in Jersey City when he appeared on the undercard of the highly touted Max Bear – Pat Comiskey contest. He became regarded as a highly athletic, strong fighter whose lethal, sometimes wild swinging would often summarily dismiss his opponents. In 1946, Joe joined the Philadelphia Police Department. He continued to work with the community in which he was born and bred as he raised his family on Keystone Street. By 1947, McCloskey was among the first officers chosen for the Police Boys’ Club because of his background in sports.
The name of the Police Boy’s Club had been changed to the Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) by the early 1950’s. By then, its positive impact on the lives of urban youth was undeniable, and a wide variety of activities became available including football, table tennis, ceramics, marbles and glee clubs. Over the years, Joe McCloskey’s teams would take home championship trophies too numerous to mention in this profile.
Throughout Joe’s storied career, he guided as many as two thousand children in any given year. Some went on to greatness. Joe’s alumni went on to star in college Basketball and football, minor league baseball and national collegiate swimming. Over two dozen of Joe’s alumni became police officers themselves. Most importantly, to Joe, were the countless children who simply went on to become good citizens.
Joe retired in 1984 after thirty-seven years of dedicated service. He never lost his drive to help local youth, and at the age of 67 was one of the first in line when P.A.L. started an alumni group to assist officers in charge of existing programs. When asked by a local reporter about his involvement in the lives of children for over four decades, McCloskey said, “If they made me President of the United States, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more than the job I had all those years.”
Upon his retirement, Joe pursued his dream of attending a baseball game in every major league ballpark in America. By the time he passed away at the age of 70 in 1990, he had missed only three ballparks. He was posthumously inducted into the P.A.L. Hall of Fame and the Northeast Catholic High School Hall of Fame. In February of 2012, Officer McCloskey was honored by the “OLD TIMERS” Bat’s and Ball’s Organization and on April 9, 2013, he was inducted into The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. His career fills four scrapbooks.
Joe’s legacy has not been lost on those who continue to reinforce Tacony’s rich history to this day. Dr. Harry Silcox remembered McCloskey in his 1994 book, A Place to Live and Work: The Henry Disston Saw Works and the Tacony Community of Philadelphia…”There were Numerous independent teams, the most influential of which in Tacony was the 27th P.A.L. under the leadership of Joseph McCloskey. Connected with the 27th Police District, the team won the national P.A.L. Championship in 1949-50. McCloskey became known to every Tacony boy over a thirty year period for his work with the youth of Tacony.”
In September, 2001, a “History of Tacony” mural was unveiled at the corner of Longshore Avenue and Tulip Street, whose main scene is an image of a parade proceeding along Torresdale Avenue. Two Policemen appear in the mural on horseback, and as a lasting tribute to “Mr. P.A.L.”, the badge on one of the officers reads “McCloskey”.
***** This tribute was taken from Louis M. Iatrola’s, “The Life and Influence of Joseph C. McCloskey” First Printed in 2002. Copyright – 2002, The Historical Society of Tacony.