By the time he was 42, Miles Mack had become a neighborhood icon in Mantua, running basketball games and changing lives at McAlpin Playground. Then a bullet took his life in that very park.
When the idea of naming the park after him was proposed after his death in September, his mother, Sandra Mack, didn't see much use in it. But as the months passed, she came to believe that having his name there would remind kids that there was at least one person who always had their back.
"Miles loved the kids in Mantua," she said.
It was those same kids who came kicking at her door on a Saturday morning looking for Miles. He begged her not to "fuss" at them, even though he didn't live there, because they needed love, he told her.
Yesterday, City Council's Committee on Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs voted to rename McAlpin Playground after Miles Mack, giving a measure of comfort to a mother who wept for her son at yesterday's hearing.
Approval by the full Council is expected Thursday, along with the rechristening of two other parks.
Miles Mack founded the X-Tra Miles Development Basketball League to combat youth violence. On Sept. 11, he was killed shielding one of his players from a blast of gunfire during a basketball-championship closing ceremony. One of the teenagers was killed, and four others were wounded.
Pete Bridges, the retired supervisor at McAlpin, said Mack had told him upon his retirement that he would take up the torch for him, and one day the park would be named after Bridges. But it was Bridges arguing for that designation yesterday for his former protege.
"You couldn't pick a better role model," said Bridges, who said it would be a "pleasure" for the Mantua community.
City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell said the renaming resulted from a petition drive. McAlpin was originally named for the family of James McAlpin, a 19th-century tailor and landowner who donated the parcel where the playground sits, at 36th and Aspen Streets, said Leo Dignam, deputy recreation commissioner.
Two other parks also appear headed for a name change, based on committee recommendations that also are likely to come before the full Council on Thursday.
Vandegrift Park at the intersection of Eighth Street, Germantown Avenue, and York Street is to be renamed Danny Boyle Community Park after Police Officer Danny Boyle, who was killed in 1991 during a traffic stop nearby. The origin of the Vandegrift name could not be traced, according to Dignam.
The Fotteral Square Playground, originally named after Stephen Fotteral, whom Dignam described as a "real estate expert," would be renamed after James Young, the popular former executive director of the Neighborhood Action Bureau in North Philadelphia.