As 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
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