Tag Archives: Sports History

A New Biography of Basketball Legend Bob Davies


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bob davies a basketball legendOne of the most influential basketball players is remembered in Barry S. Martin’s new book, Bob Davies: A Basketball Legend (RIT Press, 2016). Davies’s contributions to modern basketball include the introduction of the behind the-back dribble, the penetration and transition styles of play, and several innovative passes.

The book recounts Davies’ time with the Rochester Royals, today’s NBA Sacramento Kings. Sports Illustrated named Davies as one of the eight most infuential players in the frst century of college basketball. The NBA selected him as one of the ten best players in its first quarter century. Author and Rochester native Barry Martin narrates the Davies story and the athlete’s impact on the sport from experience watching Davies play. Continue reading

Olympic Museum Speed Skating Exhibit Opens


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Visitors to the Quest for Speed exhibit try the Skate to the Beat activityA new permanent exhibit has sped into the Lake Placid Olympic Museum that celebrates one of the original Lake Placid winter sports—speed skating. “Quest for Speed” features various displays explaining the history of the sport and its origins and impact in Lake Placid.

Skaters profiled included local Olympic stars Charles Jewtraw and Jack Shea, and of course Wisconsin-native Eric Heiden, who won an unparalleled five gold medals at the 1980 Olympic Games. Museum director Alison Haas interviewed several champions in the sport to research the exhibit, including traveling to Salt Lake City to interview Eric Heiden. Continue reading

New Biography of Playboy, Yachtsman Gordon Bennett


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gordon bennett book coverAfter a drunken evening in New York’s lavish Union Club, three of the richest men in America made a bet that would change the course of yachting history. Six men died in the brutal first race across the Atlantic, turning the perception of yachting from gentleman’s pursuit to rugged adventure. The $90,000 prize (about $15 million today) helped to herald the “gilded age” of America.

Sam Jefferson’s new book Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic (Bloomsbury, 2016) tells the tale of James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the playboy son of the New York Herald multi-millionaire. Continue reading

Some Interesting History Anniversaries in 2017


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New York State MapPlans are being developed for commemoration of at least three significant historical events next year – the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York State, the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, and the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. These are all exciting opportunities to call attention to New York’s history.

But the New York historical community might consider going even further with these three events. In fact, the historical community might consider making 2017 a special year for New York history.  Here are a few possibilities: Continue reading

Larry Wittner: A Short, Happy Life As A Baseball Fanatic


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Roy Campanella With Baseball FansAs a child, I was a baseball fanatic.

This fanaticism did not reflect any athletic ability on my part. Far from it! Growing up, like Bernie Sanders, in a lower middle class area of Brooklyn during the 1940s, I was often pressed into joining baseball games with the other boys in my neighborhood. But I was a terrible fielder, as well as a mediocre hitter. Stationed at my usual post in right field, I almost invariably missed the few fly balls or ground balls that headed my way. Also, when I finally caught up with them, I often managed no more than an inaccurate throw to the frantic infielders. When local kids chose up sides before the game, the organizers usually made me one of their last selections. Who can blame them? Continue reading

Boxing History And The Catskills


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Frank_Moran_cropHundreds 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

Billie Jean King Will Be Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon Speaker


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BJK headshot 2013_2_ Andrew Coppa Photography (3)(1)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

1932 Olympics: Speed Skater Spawned Suit


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JaffeeTo 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