The Ballad of Pigskin Pete
by Bob Ingram
Fishtown is part of the so-called “river wards” in Philadelphia, hard by the mighty Delaware. Everybody likes to say Charles Dickens named it when he was in Philly once, but he didn’t.
Anyhow, back in the day, we had a weekly paper there called, appropriately enough, the Fishtown Star. It was powered by our love of the print game and meth. We’d pull over a couples times on the way to the printer to snort lines.
We had a building on Girard Avenue next to a bank and across from a Greek restaurant. The first two floors were for paper business, but the third floor was basically a party room and drug den. If you got up there, you belonged.
So it was with Pigskin Pete. He started life as Bob Levin with a shoe store up in the Northeast and a little weed business on the side. The store was Pigskin, in his mid-thirties, and a bunch of teenage kids who did his bidding for the privilege of doing his bidding. It had Dickensian overtones.
Then along came Roscoe, one of the Star’s publishers, which meant he spent his time selling ads. He sold Pigskin an ad and copped to the weed biz and saw a comrade entrepreneur because Roscoe had been selling weed since Hector was a pup.
So he brought him down to the office and took him up to the third floor and gave him his first meth and Bob Levin was no more in short order. Pigskin loved Fishtown at first blow.
Actually, he stayed Bob Levin for a while, but it was football season and he was beating the shit out of the football pools so we christened him Pigskin Pete and gave him a column in the Star and he actually did become somewhat of a star.
He also became a cocaine user. The meth was too rough for him probably. But his shoe store had gone all to hell and he was spending most of his time in Fishtown despite having a wife and two kids up in the Northeast. He’d actually come in the office and demand coke before he’d do his column and make his picks.
At this time, there was a goofy daily paper that had been started up by some goofy Canadian who thought he was going to waltz right in and knock one of the three dailies out of the box. It was a weird paper staffed by mostly people who couldn’t get a job on the dailies, so I called up a guy I knew there and told him about how Pigskin was killing the pools and that they should get his column in their weird-ass paper.
Which they did and Pigskin took his cocaine fondness and was off to the races. He started out like Man O War, picking every pro game that weekend dead on. Three weeks later he was down to maybe 50-50 and by the next to the last game when he went 0 for the world, they fired him.
He’d been doing all his stuff from the Star office and snorting up a regular coke storm. He was wearing out the stair treads up to the third floor. But he was running low on money because he was still supporting his family somehow, too.
At this time, Roscoe and J.A. and I had a three-floor row house on Sergeant Street in Fishtown. We rocked women and drugs. J.A. was a Korean vet who’d volunteered for Graves Registration so he could rob the bodies. He was also the cameraman at the Star.
Anyhow, we had card games there, too, friendly and reasonable stakes, but things escalated and when one night this dude with a patch over his eye came in, I left the game for good.
Now Pigskin was in the game to try to make some much-needed money but he was snorting so much coke he couldn’t play very well and by the end of the night he owed this eye patch dude 3,800 dollars. The guy gave him a week.
A week later, Pigskin was sitting on the first floor of the Star offices, whacked on coke, trying to figure some way out when in came Gino Vincente. Gino was a hairdresser by profession but he also worked strong arm. He was actually one of our meth crowd, so when he came in nobody thought anything about it.
Then we saw that Gino had his strong arm face on and he grabbed Pigskin up and marched him out of the Star office. We stood back because some people said that Gino had bodies.
We never saw Pigskin again. We heard that Gino had whacked him in the head with a baseball bat and dumped him out in front of St. Mary’s Hospital with a fractured skull.
After that, when Gino was a hairdresser again, Roscoe took to calling him the Louisville Slugger.