“Many may disagree with the choices herein, but no writer is infallible and it is our opinion that the players selected are standouts in their positions.”
Those words graced the pages of what was then The Chester Times in the fall of 1933, an introduction to (and preemptive apology for) the paper’s all-star football team. Nearly a century later, the lead it set still resonates.
For nearly 100 years, the Daily Times and its antecedents have in one form or another picked teams that we’ve called All-Delcos. For a paper that has long elevated coverage of local (particularly high school) sports, in a place as uniquely proud and independent as Delaware County, it has been a perfect match. But for too long, that history was only hinted at, in occasional reminders in print, in the collective memory of those involved, in the hard-to-access recesses of archives and filing cabinets.
That changes today. Over the last couple of years, since the Daily Times move from our offices in Primos to our new digs in Swarthmore, we’ve been trying to wrangle our All-Delco history into an operable form, something accessible as more than just microfilm or dusty old clippings. We’re happy to present the product of that work: A searchable, interactive database of All-Delcos dating back as far as we can find them.
A little history
All-Delcos have in one name or another been picked for decades. The football teams, sprouting from All-Suburban teams, date to the 1930s. Basketball squads came into bloom in the 1950s, and the selection of girls teams started in the 1970s, as the Daily Times was a pioneer in the area of giving girls sports the attention they deserved.
The main inflection point came in 1987, when sports editor Chic Riebel conceived of the All-Delco banquet, annually honoring the best in high school sports. It spurred an explosion in the number of All-Delcos named, codifying our blanket coverage of Delco sports. Though the banquet has gone by the wayside, it peaked in the mid-1990s at more than 700 attendees.
“Looking at that and the fact that we were into the 1980s, with the proliferation of girls sports and all the other sports growing, it didn’t seem fair that all we did was represent a couple of traditional sports and that was it,” Riebel, a Delco Athletes Hall of Famer, said recently. “It seemed like a good way to honor more kids that were really good in sports.”
The changes deepened the meaning of the All-Delco label. Through the years, one thing has remained consistent: The schools we cover are clearly demarcated, stopping at the county’s borders. No matter how good the schools outside that line get, there’s no changing the population eligible for All-Delco. That constancy lends the award its authority, what Riebel called being the “king of your backyard.” Even as school jurisdictions shifted or consolidated, the award remained the same. Being an All-Delco is as recognizable to athletes now as decades ago, a constant for kids as their parents and even grandparents.
“Riebel wanted to do something more than run the All-Delco teams in the paper,” assistant sports editor Terry Toohey wrote in 2009. “He wanted being named All-Delco to be a memorable experience, an honor the athlete and his or her family would remember for a lifetime.”
Consider this project a way of grafting those memories into the digital present.
A couple of things to remember
The database that follows is interactive. (For more information on navigating Tableau software, this page has helpful links.). You can search through lists of past All-Delco winners; in many cases, you can sort by an individual name, school or year. We’ve also manipulated the data to tease out trends and tell a little bit of our story.
The first slide, “An All-Delco History,” offers a more in-depth history lesson. The second, “The All-Delco Database,” is the crux of the information: A searchable list of both All-Delcos and Players of the Year that allows you to sort by different parameters.
The third and fourth visualizations are where we have some fun with the data. “All-Delcos by Schools” breaks out selections based on school, sport, and players of the year. The data is also mapped across the county.
The fourth visualization starts “Digging into the Data.” We tease out a couple of special groups, looking at gender balance and multi-sport All-Delcos. For the three sports with most robust history of selections – football and boys and girls basketball – we also look at trends in which schools have filled the teams through the years.
The database we’ve built is anything but perfect, and failure points in documenting such a tract of time are myriad. Some teams weren’t archived in the panoply of technologies we’ve shuffled through. Some weren’t picked as the paper wasn’t printed due to labor strikes. In other cases, there are inconsistencies in when or if teams were picked, and the lines between teams picked explicitly by coaches as opposed to by the Daily Times in consultation (as has become standard practice) are blurry. It is important to note that only first-team selections are included, a cohort that includes nearly 8,000 honorees, and the names are as they appear at the time, not altered by any changes later in life.
All that is to say that this project is a starting point more than a finished product. There are holes in the data that require plugging, and putting this out into the world will let us continue that process (direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org). Our hope is that the database can be not only a resource to answer a specific question but something that brings up answers you didn’t know you were looking for. It would be only fitting if we could continue the conversation that All-Delco has kept going for so long.