Hundreds of fighters, champions and also-rans alike, have come to the verdant Sullivan County countryside over the years to train for upcoming fights, providing the Catskills with a permanent link to the sport. And that link transcends the fact that heavyweight contender Ed “Gunboat” Smith grew up in Obernberg, heavyweight champ Jimmy Braddock owned a home in North Branch, and featherweight champ Abe Attell, generally regarded as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in history, is buried in Beaverkill.
It has not been recorded when the first professional fighter came to the county to train, but there is lots of information from which to make an educated guess. While it isn’t clear whether or not he ever actually trained in the county, Robert Prometheus Fitzsimmons, the undersized British fighter who wrested the heavyweight crown from Gentlemen Jim Corbett in 1897, is known to have frequented many of the Silver Age resorts in the region, primarily those favored by New York City’s policemen and firemen. That probably meant Brophy’s Mountain House in Hurleyville, which was so closely associated with New York’s Finest and New York’s Bravest prior to its demise in a fire in 1910 that is was often referred to as Brophy’s Mad House, due to the unrestrained antics of the off-duty officers. Continue reading
The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House has announced that the keynote speaker for the 2016 Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon will be Billie Jean King, sports icon, humanitarian, and champion of equal rights. The annual luncheon will be held Wednesday, February 10, 2016, at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
A native of Southern California, Billie Jean King has won thirty-nine Grand Slam singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles during her tennis career. She famously defeated Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match. King is the founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, which seeks to address inclusion and diversity issues in the workplace, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, and, in 2010, was appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. Continue reading
To most, Irving Jaffee will best be remembered for the two gold medals he won in the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid. To others, he will forever be the man over whom two legendary Catskill hotels went to court one winter.
Jaffee was among the greatest speed skaters of his generation. He turned in the fastest time in the 10,000 meters at the 1928 Olympics in St. Moritz, only to have the event canceled without an official winner because unseasonably warm temperatures had thawed the ice. Four years later, in Lake Placid, Jaffe won gold medals in both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races as American men swept all four speed skating events. Continue reading
Sports enthusiast Mike Hauser has a personal stake in advocating National Baseball Hall of Fame status for George Joseph Burns, who played his best years with the New York Giants. Burns was the brother of Hauser’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side.
Burns is being inducted into the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame on July 11th during the annual vintage baseball game. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features Victoria Tokarowski of the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs describing their new exhibit on the horse breeding Sanford family of Amsterdam. Sam Hildebrandt, son of Sanford jockey Lou Hildebrandt, has more on efforts by the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm to restore remaining buildings at the historic farm, which once covered 1,000 acres. The Sanfords bred many horses that won at Saratoga plus a 1916 Kentucky Derby winner and a horse that won England’s prestigious Grand National in 1923. Listen at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
Bobby Stewart of Tribes Hill won the National Golden Gloves Tournament as a light heavyweight in 1974, beating Mike Dokes in Denver, Colorado. It was the high point of Stewart’s amateur boxing career and was preceded by numerous regional bouts. His amateur record was 45 wins and 5 losses.
Amsterdam had a lively boxing scene years ago. Stewart was raised in Amsterdam on McDonnell Street and Chapel Place. His father was a New York State Police officer and his mother worked in local doctors’ offices. Continue reading
Opening day comes early to the Capital Region as the Albany Institute of History & Art presents Triple Play! Baseball at the Albany Institute, three exhibitions celebrating the history of baseball.
The exhibits include nationally and regionally significant materials, such as photographs, signed bats and balls, stadium seats, trophies, pennants, jerseys, and more. In addition, there is a roster of related events with guest speakers, family activity days, creative contests, and free admission opportunities. Continue reading
In Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014), Dolph Grundman presents readers with a portrait, the first of its kind, of the star of the Syracuse Nationals basketball team during the 1950s and 1960s.
Dolph Schayes may not have one of the most recognizable names in basketball history, but his accomplishments are staggering. He was named one of the fifty greatest players of all time by the NBA, and he held six NBA records, including one for career scoring, at his retirement. Continue reading
Among the folks who played an important role in Northern New York regional history and personified the traditional Christmas spirit was Willis Wells of Lake Placid.
Long before Willis gained attention, his father, Duran, a native of Peru, New York, had become a North Country fixture, operating a peddler’s cart in the post-Civil War years. From the shores of Lake Champlain to the Paul Smith’s area, he supplied homes and farms with the daily needs of life, an important function in those early days when stores visited many of their customers. Continue reading
Sailing on ice has been a winter tradition in the Hudson Valley since at least the 1800s. Until the invention of the automobile, ice yachts were the fastest vehicles on earth and attracted many rich and famous sailors – including the Roosevelts.
The Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year, has teamed with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home, Library & Museum to organize a historic exhibit of Hudson River Ice Yachts, on display from December 21, 2014 through January 3, 2015. Continue reading
The field of presenters is set, the huge video screen is up and hundreds of chairs are ready to be filled by racing enthusiasts attending the Saratoga Automobile Museum’s most popular program of the year, “Lost Speedways,” on Saturday, November 29th.
The annual look back at speedways that no longer exist and driving legends of the past will get the green flag at 11 am with memorabilia displays in the Golub Gallery and racing videos in the presentation area. In the “Racing in New York” gallery, Jamie Moore and Doug Holmes will be on hand to answer questions about their restoration of the famed Jim Shampine #8 Ball offset supermodified, which has been attracting a steady stream of visitors. Continue reading
The Saratoga Automobile Museum has instituted an ongoing series of educational programs of interest to both students and adults. Scheduled for the museum’s Orientation Theater at 11 am each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, “The Science of Speed” will consist of three programs showing how science is applied to real life. Continue reading
On Thursday, November 6 at 7 pm, John Strough will speak at the Chapman Museum in Glens Falls NY, about the short but fascinating career of local bicycle racer, Harry Elkes, who achieved great fame but died tragically at a young age. The program is free and open to the public.
Born in Port Henry on Lake Champlain, Harry started racing on 10 and 25 mile dirt courses when he was eighteen. By 1898 he was winning races and setting records. For two years he raced with great success in Europe, before returning to the United States to tackle distance events and the one mile record. Continue reading
As the companion volume to Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860–1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary, Michael E. Lomax’s new book, Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902-1931: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2014), continues to chronicle the history of black baseball in the United States.
The first volume traced the development of baseball from an exercise in community building among African Americans in the pre–Civil War era into a commercialized amusement and a rare and lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurship within the black community. In this book, the author takes a closer look at the marketing and promotion of the Negro Leagues by black baseball magnates. Continue reading
The Chapman Historical Museum’s new exhibit, At the Lake, which runs through August 31, presents different perspectives on what it has meant to be at Lake George over the past 150 years. Included in the exhibit are the stories of groups that camped on the lake’s many islands, families that built grand homes on the lake, and others who constructed more modest camps.
To diversify the story the exhibit also includes the experiences of people who lived on the lake and worked there each summer as waitresses, cooks, laundry workers, guides and boatmen. Continue reading
The New-York Historical Society has announced the winners of its recent scholarship contest, which invited high school students to submit original essays, videos or photographs on the theme of breaking barriers in sports and making history.
The contest was held in conjunction with New-York Historical’s exhibition on pioneering African American basketball players—The Black Fives—on view now through July 20, 2014. Continue reading
On March 31, 1929, seventy-seven men began an epic 3,554-mile footrace across America that pushed their bodies to the breaking point. Nicknamed the “Bunion Derby” by the press, this was the second and last of two trans-America footraces held in the late 1920s.
The men averaged forty-six gut-busting miles a day during seventy-eight days of nonstop racing that took them from New York City to Los Angeles. Among this group, two brilliant runners, Johnny Salo of Passaic, New Jersey, and Pete Gavuzzi of England, emerged to battle for the $25,000 first prize along the mostly unpaved roads of 1929 America, with each man pushing the other to go faster as the lead switched back and forth between them. Continue reading
Lawrence R. Samuel’s New York City 1964: A Cultural History (McFarland, 2014), connects the events of a single year in the city to the cultural threads of American life in the 1960s and beyond.
Five seminal events occurred in New York City in the pivotal year 1964: the “British Invasion” arrival of the Beatles in February; the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens in March; the World’s Fair in Queens between April and October; the “race riots” in Brooklyn and Harlem in July; and the World Series in the Bronx between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Continue reading
The Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society has announced the third program of its 2014 “Odds and Ends” Winter Lecture Series on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 in the Legacy Room at the Lake Placid Convention Center. The lecture will begin at 7 p.m.
This program in the four-part series is titled, “A History of Hockey in Lake Placid” presented by Denny Allen, Butch Martin and Steve Reed. The Historical Society, the Olympic Museum and Northwood School will showcase a display of memorabilia. Continue reading
At 2 pm on Saturday, April 12, 2014 the Schenectady County Historical Society will present a talk by Frank Keetz, “Professional Baseball in Schenectady, 1895-1904: A Fascinating Footnote in Local History”
Frank Keetz has written several publications about sports in the Schenectady area, including They, Too, Were ‘Boys of Summer:’ A Case Study of the Schenectady Blue Jays in the Eastern League 1951-1957, Class ‘C’ Baseball: A Case Study of the Schenectady Blue Jays in the Canadian-American League, 1946-1950, and The Mohawk Colored Giants of Schenectady. Continue reading