Jack Helm

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Jack Helm
Football/Baseball • Downingtown

Jack Helm, Sr., was an all-around sports star at Downingtown High School six decades ago, earning 10 letters in three sports. Now age 79, Helm admits - with a little reluctance - that his best sport was baseball.

"I was OK in football and basketball but I had no aspirations on playing professionally," said Helm, who is being inducted into the 2012 class of the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame. "Baseball was probably my best sport."

So much so that in 1951, Helm was pursued by none other than the New York Yankees. Now retired and living in Mechanicsville, Helm picks up the story:

"My senior year, the Yankees wanted to sign me," he recalled. "But I also had a scholarship offer to play football at Villanova.

"I sat down with my dad and said: "I am going to be a Yankee!" He said: "Listen fool, you have a chance to get four years of an education. You don't really know if you are ever going to be a Yankee."" In the midst of winning four consecutive World Series (1949-52), the Yankees wanted Helm to report to its minor league affiliate in Joplin, Mo., where future star Mickey Mantle had just completed a season with the Joplin Miners.

"I didn't even know where Joplin was," Helm said. With all of that in mind, Helm decided to forgo the pinstripes and head off to college, where he earned four letters in football and three more in baseball. It's a decision that haunts Helm from time to time. "If I went to Joplin for even a month, at least today I would know whether I could have made it," Helm says. "Now, I will never know. But if I had to do it over again, maybe I would have still gone to Villanova. I don't know."

According to Helm, his days at Villanova were happy ones because he was allowed to play baseball in addition to football.

News of his induction into the hall of fame was greeted with a mixture of surprise and gratefulness. A throng of about 30 family members and friends are expected to attend the Nov. 10th banquet.

"When you get as old as I am, any news is pretty good news," Helm joked.

Excelling as a true all-around athlete is something that Helm never pondered at the time. It was a different time, he says, and playing multiple sports was commonplace. Few, however, excelled at so many.

"I never thought about it," said Helm, who was one of a graduating high school class of just 79. "In football season, I played football. Same with basketball and baseball. That was bred in to me, I guess.

"Back in those days you just did it. The sizes of the classes were so small they looked at you a little weird if you didn't."

After Villanova, Helm spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then went on to serve 26 years as Postmaster in Downingtown. He was later named Supervisor of the U.S. Mail at the Southeastern Mail Facility. In the late 50s and into the 60s, Helm was a standout with various local baseball leagues, including an eightyear stint with the Red Men in the West Chester Adult Baseball League.

"Those were great times," he said. "I remember there would be about 300 people at each ballgame, and for the playoffs we would have 400-500."

Helm's son, Jack, Jr., was a highly successful head football coach at Downingtown and Coatesville high schools and is now the athletic director for Downingtown East and Downingtown West.
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