IT BEGAN with a column that Donald Hunt penned in the Philadelphia Tribune. Four years later, he and the committee he helped form have collected 55,000 signatures on a petition and have received letters from an array of high-profile figures in support of their objective: to persuade the United States Postal Service to commemorate basketball icon Wilt Chamberlain with a stamp.
Given that it was 50 years ago today that Chamberlain became the only pro player ever to score 100 points in a game, Hunt had hoped a stamp would be issued this year in honor of the former Overbrook High School and 76ers star. But the USPS bypassed Chamberlain this year in favor of four former baseball stars: Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby and Willie Stargell.
Hunt is hopeful that Chamberlain will be recognized in 2013.
"We have our fingers crossed that this is the year," said Hunt, co-chairman of the Wilton Norman Chamberlain Postal Stamp Committee. "We have been informed by the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee that he is under consideration. We have worked hard to get him to that point."
The local Chamberlain group will hold a luncheon today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at First District Plaza, 3801 Market St. Expected to attend are former Sixers star/coach Billy Cunningham, former Temple coach John Chaney, Sixers statistician Harvey Pollack, former Harlem Globetrotter Carl Green and former Overbrook teammate Jimmy Sadler. Hunt said guests will be able to sign a petition at the event in support of a Chamberlain stamp.
According to Roy Betts, a USPS spokesman, the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee is a group of private citizens appointed by the postmaster general. Typically, he said, they are "lovers of American history or people with just a passion for stamps." He added that group has received "tens of thousands of suggestions for stamp subjects." Ultimately, they pass their recommendations to the postmaster general, who is the final authority on the matter.
"Wilt has been under consideration for a year or so," said Betts, who could give no other indication of how close Chamberlain is to getting a stamp. Betts did say that stamp subjects no longer have to be deceased for 5 years before being considered. The USPS last year announced that it would begin honoring living American icons. Between 20 and 25 new subjects are selected each year.
Hunt said he hoped to get good news in late summer or fall regarding 2013.
He said with a chuckle, "There has to be a special place for the Big Dipper."