Powell's record jump in Japan thrills grandma in Philadelphia

September 01, 1991|By Mike Jensen | Mike Jensen,Knight-Ridder

PHILADELPHIA -- The phone in Mary Eaddy's West Philadelphia rowhouse rang a marathon Friday. Her daughters called. Cousins called. Nieces called. Old friends called. The deacon at her Baptist church called.

Everybody wanted to talk, or just scream. The first blast came shortly before 8 a.m., when Eaddy's daughter broke the news that Mike Powell, Eaddy's grandson, had shattered one of the untouchable records in sports.

Powell had jumped 29 feet, 4 1/2 inches at the World Track and Field Championships in Tokyo, breaking Bob Beamon's world record, set at the 1968 Olympics.

Powell then dedicated the triumph to his grandmother.

When Eaddy, a slender, vital woman of 72 years, heard that, she said: "All the money in the world couldn't take the place of that."

Powell's roots run deep here. He lived in West Philadelphia until he was 12, when he moved to California with his mother. He spent many nights at his grandmother's home.

"I'm his mentor, he always tells everyone," Eaddy said, as an Anita Baker song played softly in the background.

Eaddy said her advice to her grandchildren was, "I don't care what room you walk into, you walk in with your head high and say I can do anything I want to do, and don't let nobody tell you anything different."

Described as a quiet boy who went to church every Sunday when he lived in Philadelphia, Powell didn't play any organized sports while living here, his grandmother said -- but he was an active child.

"Ask his cousin, she would baby-sit for him," Eaddy said, pointing to her niece, Connie. "Tell how he always jumped off the porch. He'd jump off the banister, jump over the steps. He's been jumping over everything."

Eaddy talks with pride of all her grandchildren, mentioning that Mike's older brother is a drummer now touring with Diana Ross, that his sister is married to a Hollywood screenwriter. But the biggest photograph in her living room was of Powell, taken the day he won the silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

"The entire block was up watching," Eaddy said of that day. "It was on at 2 o'clock in the morning. When he won [the medal], everybody was out in the street hollering and screaming."

Friday, Eaddy brought out newspaper clippings from Powell's high school days in California. One was a picture of the all-San Gabriel Valley basketball team of 1981. The only other recognizable face was of a guy named Cecil Fielder.

Another of the old stories said that life was "pretty much a zero" for Powell before he moved from Philadelphia.

"He never would have made it," Eaddy said, agreeing with the story. "There's no opportunities here like [in California]. You have so many more chances to win out there. If he had stayed here, he never would have made it, he always says that."

Eaddy, in strong health except for what she describes as an enlarged heart, said her own home was always a gathering place for Powell and his friends.

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