Chicago St. Philip High School "Gaels"

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St. Philip High School
Credit: Lake County Discovery Museum/Curt Teich Postcard Archives

                                The History of Chicago St. Philip High School

Chicago (population 2.8 million) is in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, along with the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers are the main waterways in the city. Interstates 55, 57, 90, & 94 will all lead you to the "Windy City." From what started as a small village in the early 1800’s along the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago has grown to the nation's third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world, as the result of an ethnically diverse community that adopted the city.


St. Philip High School opened its doors to boys only in 1904 at the rear of Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery by Servite Fathers on Chicago's West Side as a four-year academic school that also had a three-year commercial course. A preparatory program was also offered to 7th and 8th grade boys when the school opened, but it only lasted until 1916 at the school, which was also known as St. Philip Basilica High School after 1956 by a papal decree made by Pope Pius XII.


St. Philip Benizi was a Servite Cardinal that lived in Italy and joined the order in 1253 at the age of 20 after having practiced medicine. He was also considered to be a possible succesor to Pope Clement IV and was granted sainthood in 1671. 


A new building was ready for occupancy in 1910, while a gym with pool, bowling alleys, basketball courts, locker room and meeting rooms were added in 1924. More classroom space was erected in 1938, and an all-concrete stadium was ready in 1944.


The school stayed open thru two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Baby Boom to educate young men in a parochial environment. St. Philip averaged about 1,000 students at its peak between the late-1950's and early-1960's, then started to taper off to a point that 602 students were enrolled in the school's final year in 1970, which is when the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to close down St. Philip's.


In his 1990 dissertation about Chicago Catholic high schools, our good friend George Fornero stated that some of the reasons why the school closed its doors were as follows: the decrease of teaching religious faculty within the Servite order; the number of students deciding to choose religious life as a vocation significantly decreased; mounting operational deficits (the New World reported "an annual operating deficit of over $70,000"); and, the racial makeup of the school's neighborhood changed from Caucasian to African-American.


Prior to making the final decision, some of the other options that were considered for St. Philip students were to merge with Providence-St. Mel (nearby on the West Side), merging with all-girls' Siena and Providence-St. Mel and establish a parish grade school in the St. Philip building, or to phase out St. Philip by graduating the sophomores and juniors that were currently there at the time.


The building that housed St. Philip was later turned into Our Lady of Sorrows Grade School, and still remains in use today as a charter school on Chicago's West Side. Alumni still meet annually and can find out more at




Year opened:                       1904

Year closed:                         1970

School nickname:               "Gaels"

School colors:                      Purple & Gold

School song:                       "PURPLE & GOLD"

 Lyrics Provided by RICHARD WHITE, music courtesy of RICK IACCHINO from


                                          Purple and gold, purple and gold,
                                          To a man we're back of you,
                                          Not for a day, but when we're away,
                                          Forgetting St. Philip School.
                                          Rah, Rah. Rah
                                          Loving her name, ever the same,
                                          With a love that will never grow old,
                                          Loving the purple, loving the gold,
                                          Purple, purple and gold!

Principal Jim O'Brien (last principal of school)
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

History of principals at St. Philip:
1904-11 Very Rev. Hugh Crevier, OSM
1911-18 Rev. Bonaventure Maguire, OSM
1918-20 Rev. Ambrose Griffin, OSM
1920-23 Rev. Andrew Bauman, OSM
1923-32 Rev. Alfonse Cortney, OSM
1932-33 Very Rev. James Keane, OSM
1933-36 Rev. Maurice Wolf, OSM
1936-48 Rev. Terence Seery, OSM
1948-49 Very Rev. Philip Grimes, OSM
1949-51 Rev. Jerome Hurley, OSM
1951-58 Rev. Maurice Gilespie, OSM
1958-66 Rev. Mark Dennehy, OSM
1966-67 Rev. Brendan LaFave, OSM
1967-70 Mr. James J. O'Brien
St. Philip was a charter member of the Chicago Catholic League in 1913, competing in football, baseball, and softball while its doors were opened. Basketball, track and field, baseball, hockey, as well as boxing and bowling were also offered, but very little information is available.
Prior to joining the Catholic League, the school was a member of the Cook County League for one year and won a baseball title before the league broke up. If you know more about the Gaels' athletic history, please contact us at the addresses at the bottom of this page.
What is a Gael, you ask? A person who is either Irish or whose heritage and/or ancestry dates back to Ireland or to the British Isles.
The Gaels were competitive in the Catholic League wars while posting some good records, according to information gathered by Tom Sikorski. The following is a list of those accomplishments:
1942 4-4-2                                                                     Coach Marv Adams
1943 4-4-2                                                                     Coach Tom O'Brien
1944 4-3-1                                                                     Coach Tom O'Brien
1945 7-1-1 3rd Place Chicago Catholic North
1946 7-2-1                                                                     Coach Vito Ananis
1948 6-3
1949 6-3                                                                        Coach Clem Naughton
1950 6-3-1 3-way tie for Cath. North title              Coach Clem Naughton
                      Lost to Fenwick in Division title playoff game
1952 6-4
1954 6-3
1959 5-3
1960 4-4-1
1962 3-3-2
1969            Fielded their last team
According to St. Philip alumnus Rick Iaccino, the stadium that the Gaels played in was fit right behind the school buildings. At the north and northeast ends, the building was roughly 12-18 inches outside the endline and sideline (which required netting to protect the windows in the building), and the east side stands ran from about the 25 or 30-yard line south towards the other end zone. The west side stands ran inside the 10-yard lines, and there was a 20-foot wall at the south end of the stadium.
St. Philip alums that played professional football:
Tony Paquesi -- Two-way performer on the 1948-49 teams at linebacker and fullback that gathered all-state honors, later lettered three seasons at Notre Dame (1952-53-54) before being chosen by the Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals of the NFL. Paquesi played three seasons before a knee injury ended his playing career, He is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.
Arunas Vasys -- Like Paquesi, he was a linebacker that lettered three times at Notre Dame (1963-64-65) and was a 16th round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1966 NFL draft. He stayed with the organization from 1966-68 and appeared in 22 games.
Octavius Morgan -- As one of the final players to wear a Gaels uniform, Morgan attended the University of Illinois. He was an All-Big 10 selection and named co-MVP of the Illini in his senior year (1973) before being drafted by the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
Clanton King - played football and started at defensive tackle on Purdue University's 1967 Rose Bowl team that featured Bob Griese. Our good friend Bill Menard tells us Clayton was a 6'1" offensive guard that earned All-State honors in his senior season of 1964.

Arunas Vasys (class of 1961)
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

Octavius Morgan (class of 1970)
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

Clanton King (class of 1965)
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

St. Philip Stadium (1944-1969)
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

Clanton King at Purdue University
Courtesy of Bill Menard

As mentioned above, the Gaels did compete in the Cook County League as one of the few private schools to be associated with public school members such as Evanston, Oak Park, North Division, West Division, South Division, Phillips, Crane, Englewood, and Lindblom.
St. Philip's association with the CCL was only for one year from 1911-12 as it won the baseball title. In the previous year, the title was vacated due to the use of players that were also professionals. The Cook County League was broken up in 1913 when the Public League, Catholic League, and Suburban League were all formed.
Baseball did continue at St. Philip until the time the school closed, winning the junior division in 1914 (see photos of trophy below) and it captured the Catholic League title in 1969. Coaches' name and win-loss records would be greatly appreciated by anyone who may these pieces of information.

1911 Gaels baseball team
courtesy of Robert Pruter

St. Philip 1969 baseball--Catholic League Champs
courtesy of Jim O'Brien and Lisa Goodwin

1914 St. Philip Jr. League Baseball Champs
Trophy from Chicago Catholic League Jr. Division (courtesy of Thomas Patrice)

1914 St. Philip Catholic League Jr, Division Champ
courtesy of Thomas Patrice

The Gaels had a competitive hoops program in Catholic League play during the latter part of the 1920's and into the mid-1930's, taking home three titles in lightweight and heavyweight play. The following information on the St. Philip High School basketball program comes to us from Thomas Geraci:
"The Catholic League consisted of two (2) teams from each school (in basketball). They were distinguished as "Lights" and "Heavies." The Lights were for guys under 5' 8" tall and the Heavies for over 5' 8". The basketball program was in existence for quite some time. I do not know when the League started, but each Catholic high school was a member. I played for the Lights from 1960-1964. 
(NOTE: Historian Robert Pruter tells us that basketball was divided into senior and junior classes based on height, not weight.) 

In the 1960-61 season, we played St. Rita for the City Championship at De Paul University. St. Rita won by less than 5 points."
1927-28    Chicago Catholic League Hwt. Champions
                   Chicago Catholic League Lwt. Champions
1933-34    Chicago Catholic League Hwt. Champions
1944-45    Chicago City Champions                                               Coach Clem Naughton
                   Catholic League Hwt. Champions
                   Catholic League North Lwt. Champions
1958-59    Catholic League Lwt. Division 2nd Place               Coach Clem Naughton 
1960-61    Catholic League Lwt. Division 2nd Place                   Coach William Doherty
1968-69    Catholic League North Hwt. Champions                Coach Otis Williams

1968-69 Catholic League North Champs
courtesy of Jim O'Brien and Lisa Goodwin

St. Philip Coach Clem Naughton
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

1957-58 Gaels Lightweight Basketball team
courtesy of Frank Pearson (son of #85, Johnny Pearson)

1960-61 St. Philip Swim Team
courtesy of Jim O'Brien & Lisa Goodwin

In an experiment attempted by the Catholic League, St. Philip was one of seven schools that competed in the sport during the spring of 1943, along with St. George, DePaul Academy, Mt. Carmel, St. Rita, De La Salle, and Loyola. The Gaels were host to tripleheaders with all league contests at their own stadium, but the inclement weather held down the number of games that each team played and as a result, the experiment was not continued beyond that spring.
The Catholic League also sponsored boxing (briefly in the 1930's) and bowling. St. Philip won the league’s boxing title in 1933, winning nine out of ten final matches. The following year, St. Philip competed for the “state” boxing title against St. George and Peru St. Bede, but the results are unknown, although St. Philip was dominating the preliminary matches. In 1959, St. Philip won the Catholic League’s bowling title, according to Robert Pruter. The school also had a swim team that began with the 1960-61 school year (see photo above).
"My name is Tony Salerno and my Father, Joe Salerno, went to St. Philip's 1944-48. He played football and basketball. He received a football scholarship to Xavier University. Dad tells me about the great football games against Fenwick and Johnny Lattner all the time."
(from Jack Hogan, class of 1948)
"I played on the heavyweight basketball team from 1944 to 1948. I'm surprised you didn't know that the 1944-45 heavyweight team won the Chicago City Championship title (defeating Senn, the Public League champs at Chicago Stadium) and the lightweights won the Catholic League North Division Championship that same year.
"The heavyweight team probably would have won the state championship but could not compete because the Catholic League, at that time, did not comply with the state rule as to how many coaches a school could employ. That team was coached by Clem Naughton and had two great players named Ralph Hinger and Dick Kluck who both won scholarships to Notre Dame and played for The Fighting Irish. I may have some old photos and if I can find them I'll send them to you."
From George Lustrea:
"I remember the school very well. We lived on Lexington St. near Kedzie..I was a very good friend with Arthur Di Bouno..Me and him graduated Gregory grammar school in 1955...Being that I was not Catholic, I went to Austin and Arthur went to St.Philip's..I remember him telling me what a great school St Philip's was.....I still remember the sign "Home of the Fighting Gaels"....Thanks for letting me share this with you."
From Dan Leo (class of 1948):


"This may be a bit of interesting history of the school.


"There was a concern in the early 40's that there would be insufficient schools/classrooms available for children born of returning GIs. A program was initiated which selected students from various Catholic elementary schools to participate in an "experimental" program in which 6th grade students were placed as freshmen at St. Philip.


"We were segregated for the first year. The next year, we went into the general population. My class was 4CS. After four years, very few of us graduated. The experiment was not considered a success and was not repeated. I graduated just after my 15th birthday. I believe that I was the youngest graduate of the school.


"Those were good years and believe that I received an excellent education.


"I would absolutely advise against rapid promotions. In addition to social issues, I was "privileged" to work an additional three years."



If you or someone you know has information regarding the history of St. Philip High School, whether if be expanding on our listing of details or submitting a photo of one of its teams, please let us know. To send us your information, please email us at, or send via USPS to:
IHSGD Website
6439 North Neva
Chicago, IL 60631