Terry and son Terry

The Butler's Still Doin' It

   One of the joys of this job is receiving calls/e-mails from long-ago players who are now succeeding in life; especially from those who faced difficult situations in their childhoods. Please take time to read this update on former Edison basketball player Terry Butler (class of 1983), a North Philly native who now lives in California. I asked Terry to write a little bit about his life and how he forged ahead. He had it back to me within 45 minutes. Thanks very much, Terry. It was great to hear from you! Continued success! -- Ted  

Remember . . . It's not where you're from. It's where you're going, and how determined you
are to get there.

   I was born at Temple University Hospital in Jan. 1965 and lived in North Philly until age 18, when I joined the U.S. Army. I played in numerous summer and winter leagues in the city from 16th and Susquehanna to 52nd and Parkside. However, the league at 17th and Ingersoll was by far the toughest. Everyone from Doug Overton to Hank Gathers played there back in the day. I grew up around 16th and Stiles (Ted's note: that's in the shadows of St. Joseph's Prep) and then moved up to 23rd and Cambria. I played for Mr. Nate Mask and Mr. Leonard Poole at Gillespie Jr. High and then for Mr. Howard Ratinoff at Edison. From there I joined the Army. I was stationed in Weisbaden, West Germany, and our post team went on to win the 5th Corps championship in 1984 before going on to lose the Armed Forces championship to an Air Force team out of Ramstein Air Base. After my stint was up, I was back in Philly, thinking about becoming a police officer, when I received a call from Tyrell Cromwell and Warren Hawthorne, ex-Mastbaum players and Division C rivals about coming out to California to play at Allan Hancock JC. This college has a tradition of bringing out Philly players; they call it The Philly Connection. I did come out and was able to earn first team All-Cal. honors in 88-90 and third team JC All-American honors as well. I then signed with the Univ. of Hawaii and later New Mexico State in the early 90's. I currently coach the Santa Maria High School Saints. We are located in beautiful Santa Barbara County. I am currently -- get this -- 42 years old and I've been reading the Daily News for as long as I can remember. I also head on-campus suspension, study hall, noon detention, and after-school detention for SMHS. Also, I manage a six-bed group home for teenaged delinquents as well out here on the Central Coast; we are located 175 miles north of Los Angeles and 80 miles north of Santa Barbara. I have one son, 15-month-old Terry Michael Butler, and he will be the first kid drafted out of junior high and the first billion-dollar contract signer. SMILE!
  Thanks for e-mailing me back, Ted, and giving me this chance to "talk" to the kids coming up now. They need to know they can  make it.
  -- Terry Butler

  P.S. -- I hope I did not write, and bore you, too much.
  Terry may be contacted at tbutler@smjuhsd.org


The chief custodian at Strawberry Mansion should have attached a "Men Only" sign to the backboards. Better yet, he should have painted the words, ''Enter at Your Own Risk," in the foul lanes.

Public League brass scheduled Mansion and Thomas Edison for what it thought would be a basketball quarterfinal involving centers, guards and forwards. But the people who jammed into the gym, and kept it rockin' for almost two hours, would swear that the teams employed blacksmiths, lumberjacks and guys recruited out of the intramural league at US Steel.

If you didn't finish with a minimum of three bruises, one puffy eye and the hint of a limp, people were suggesting that you'd better make a trip to see the wizard . . . to ask for a heart, of course.

"Physical ball," Terry Butler said, gently shaking his head and licking his chops. "I thrive on that stuff. "

Edison bested Mansion, 72-64, in overtime to advance to the semifinals - tomorrow, 2:30 p.m., against West Philadelphia at William Penn - for the first time since 1975, which also was the last time the Owls made the playoffs.

Along the way, Terry Butler shot 7-for-14 and 8-for-11 for 22 points and took 22 rebounds, although snatched, swept, surrounded, devoured or enveloped would definitely fill the bill if you're looking for a verb that's stronger and more to the point.

"I would never want to get into a fight with Terry Butler - no way!" said point guard Calvin Gambrell. "He doesn't know his own strength, which is a lot. "

"When Terry drives to the basket in practice," said Coach Howard Ratinoff, "no one gets in his way. It's difficult for me to convince anybody to step in front and take a charge. "

Terry Butler goes 6-3, 205, modest dimensions compared with those of other guys who can lift a house with little more than a grunt. Unlike most of them, Terry never has lifted a weight.

"I've never needed to lift weights," he said. "Plus, doing that is boring. "

Butler didn't play organized basketball until ninth grade at Gillespie Junior High and was not exactly The Franchise. In fact, he recalls he "didn't play much" and entered Edison not really expecting to emerge someday as a major contributor.

"In the beginning, all I had was a good body," Terry said. "I had to find a way to make it useful on a basketball court. I was never a good outside shooter, so I had to learn to do things inside.

"Sometimes, though, my strength is a disadvantage. Say I make a strong move and the defensive guy goes down hard to the floor. The ref mistakes what happened for an offensive foul even if the defensive guy was out of position. It just looks to him like I did the fouling. "

Terry Butler got plenty of help in the muscle department, which Edison certainly needed against a team that is no shrinking violet itself. Anthony Robinson collected 22 points and 14 boards of his own and, as always, carried the Owls through several rough stretches.

Robinson's field goal gave Edison a 58-54 lead with 1:32 left in regulation, but Owolabi Folami scored one of his own at 0:47, passed to Marc Starling for another at 0:22 and, when Gambrell was called for an offensive foul at 0:12, Mansion had a great chance to win.

Folami was a little strong with a right-baseline jumper just before the buzzer and Edison proceeded to shoot 10-for-11 from the line in OT.

"We should have won in regulation," Ratinoff said. "By the end of regulation, though, we were also lucky we didn't lose.

"I told Jerry (Mansion Coach Gerald Hendricks), 'We were evenly matched for four quarters and we happened to be a better team for three minutes. That was all this proved. ' Hey, they had (four) guys fouling out and we didn't have any. Don't think that wasn't big . . . And don't think this was an easy team to beat. "

The Owls would have saved themselves some grief, had Gambrell put together a performance matching his skills. The creative 6-1 guard appeared tight in the beginning and stumbled into halftime with his point total and confidence level reading zero.

Calvin bounced back to finish with 13 points and five assists and did so many incredible things on a drive early in overtime, resulting in a three- point play, he might have a future as a contortionist.

"I knew Terry would play well and I knew Ant (Robinson) would play well," said Gambrell, whose brother, James, made Daily News second-team All-Public for Edison in 1980. "I thought I'd play well, too, but that's the breaks. I sure didn't want to finish the game the way I finished the first half - not really helping. I'm just glad that guys like Terry, Ant and Truck (Tim Sherfield) played well enough all the way through to cover for me. "

"I don't know about the other guys," Butler said, "but I wasn't thinking I had to pick up (for Gambrell). Even if I wanted to, I'm not good enough to take games into my own hands. I just play hard the whole time and hope that what I do is enough to help make us win. "

Yesterday, the way Terry Butler played did more than help make Edison win. It also made the people in Mansion's gym glad they were there to watch, not participate.

People like to celebrate their birthdays. You tangle with Terry Butler on a basketball court, there's no guarantee you'll survive to see the next one.