| Overall UK Wins: 3 | Overall UK Losses: 0 | Win % 100 |
Date of Death: February 20, 1994
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
For a generalized listing of officials, please consult this page.
|2/1/1956||Duke at Kentucky||W||81 - 76||20||16||30||39||0||3||-||Max Macon and Leonard Toff|
|12/2/1957||Duke at Kentucky||W||78 - 74||19||18||27||27||2||0||-||George Conley and Leonard Toff|
|12/7/1957||Temple at Kentucky||W||85 - 83 3 OT||15||23||33||19||0||2||-||George Conley and Leonard Toff|
Obituary - Philadelphia Inquirer (February 22, 1994)
Leonard Toff, 78, A Ref For NBA And Colleges
By Andy Wallace, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Leonard Toff, 78, of Northeast Philadelphia, who became a top-notch college and NBA referee after he fell short of making the grade as a player, died Sunday at Nazareth Hospital.
He loved the game and the prestige that went with the striped jersey.
"Being an official makes you somebody," he said in a 1959 interview. "I get a kick out of being recognized by fans, by being stopped on the street to discuss sports, by being asked questions, by being quoted in the papers."
But he also got to see the game's hazardous side. Mr. Toff said that angry fans had hung him in effigy, shot at him, and set fire to his dressing room. Once, he said, he spent the night in jail - for his own protection.
He also got to see the seamy side of basketball. By the mid-1960s, he told an interviewer, he had been barred from working Ivy League games and contests of two Big Five schools because of conflicts with coaches or athletic officials.
Shortly afterward, he hung up his whistle and striped shirt for good and spent the next 20 years as athletic director for Army personnel at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Md. While there, he traveled to Europe, South America and the Far East to lecture on officiating.
A Philadelphia native, Mr. Toff played basketball and baseball at West Philadelphia High School and at Brown Prep, but he was not a star. He loved sports, though, so when he had finished his education, he turned to officiating as his ticket to the games.
After a Coast Guard stint during World War II, he made a serious attempt to make it to the Major Leagues as a baseball umpire. For five years, he called minor league games.
He returned to basketball, where he supervised games at every level, from high school through the pros. For 10 years, he refereed NCAA championships.
In 1959, he was regarded as the top referee in the Philadelphia area, and one of the best in the East, working Ivy League, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southern Conference and Eastern College Athletic Conference games.
A chunky man of about 5-10, with iron gray hair, Mr. Toff smoked Havana cigars, drove an MG sports car, loved the theater and read reams of detective and mysteries stories.
He never married. "I've just been too busy to get serious," he told a reporter.
Candid about his job, he readily admitted that referees were only human and could be counted on to blow several calls a game. "If they were (machines), we'd have Utopia," he said. At that time, 1958, he was president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Approved Basketball Officials.
Mr. Toff called more than 3,500 games in more than 28 years and was a regular at the Palestra. He was known as tough and decisive. He was also intolerant of racism.
A Bulletin reporter once saw a game between North Carolina and Cincinnati, then the top two teams in the country, in which the crowd heckled star player Oscar Robertson. When Robertson protested the crowd was calling him racial names, Mr. Toff told him, "Oscar, there are 10,000 nice people here. Forget those 20 or 30 idiots."
Early in that game, when a North Carolina player hit Robertson in the chest as Robertson went up for a jumper, Mr. Toff awarded Robertson both the shot, which was good, and two free throws.
When the Carolina coach asked why Mr. Toff did that, Mr. Toff quickly yelled, "Reverse discontinuation."
He later admitted he made up the call. "I had to let those Carolina guys know they weren't going to push Oscar around."
He is survived by several cousins.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael Sachs, 6410 N. Broad St. Burial will be at Har Nebo Cemetery, Northeast Philadelphia.