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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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Saluting A Little-Known Tampa Sports Contributor

Posted Aug 20, 2008 by Tom McEwen

Updated Aug 21, 2008 at 02:56 AM

This is a pretty memorable anniversary for professional football in Tampa. It is the anniversary of it all — undistinguished as it was — we surely should be reminded, or, well, enjoy being reminded.

The Tampa Bay Bucs have surely been impressive, with well supported with fine facilities, appropriate colors, and they’re civically involved, winners of a Super Bowl, and about to host a fourth Super Bowl at universally appreciated Raymond James Stadium.

Well, driving east on Cass Street with Sam Bailey Field and Ed Rood Stadium and the University of Tampa on my left, and Tampa Preparatory Academy on my right, where historic Phillips Field once stood, it hit me.

A man named Mac Mascioli got us into this professional football business right there at old Phillips Field 40 years ago. Mascioli came to Tampa and said he wanted to produce a first-ever pro football game at Phillips the second weekend in August, 1964. Do it, he was advised. He did. He lost his shirt.

The project was a financial flop. It matched the New York Jets (just before Joe Namath) of Weeb Ewbank against the Buffalo Bills of Lou Saban of the new American Football League. Optimistic Mascioli added end zone seats to make the capacity 17,000, so he could make his cut. He charged $3.50, $5.50 and $7.50. He sold 5,288 tickets, none in the endzone.

“Was that the game we split the take in the ticket offices where we were picking up quarters off the office floor?,” Bill owner Ralph Wilson asked a few years later.

But, also in the game, the Bills won 26-13 and their new place kicker, Pete Gogoliak, kicked an NFL record 57-yard field goal.

Mascioli said he lost $23,000. Don’t know. He left Tampa and opened a bar in Miami.

And Tampa was introduced into the pro football family. Three years later, old Tampa Stadium was built, nine years later, the Super Bowl was held here.  And now another one is coming Feb. 1, 2009.

The game forty years ago was truly the harbinger of virtually everything that has happened in sports in Tampa. Mascioli was the architect of all of this when he simply tried to promote a preseason game here and lost $23,000. Maybe he needs a bust erected here somewhere. He clearly was before his time. He has returned but only for a visit, but never for another sports adventure here.

You can’t really say he started it all, because Tampa only got into the big sports business when Tampa Stadium was built years later, and the new Raymond James Stadium was built after that.

I don’t know if Mascioli has returned and sneaked into Raymond James Stadium to enjoy what some can say began with him but if he hasn’t, he should. Maybe someone should salute him sometime.

For you out there and those who appreciate the Buccaneers, Bulls, Spartans, and the Lightning and those who were once Rowdies, I can say thank you.

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