Sugar Ray Leonard had the quickness, ability and charisma, and he filled the boxing void left when Muhammad Ali retired in 1981. Leonard won the gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, and he won the welterweight crown in 1979, when he knocked out Wilfred Benitez. Leonard was the Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s, winning world titles in five different weight classes. He was one of the best finishers in boxing history.
Schenectady jockey Mike Cafarella once rode the first half of a monstrous $1,602.30 daily double at Tanforan in San Bruno, California. Cafarella also booted home 16-1 and 27-1 longshots in one week.
How can any basketball fan of the 1960s, locally or nationally, forget Bill Bradley. Bradley was a one-man wrecking crew when he played for the Princeton Tigers in the mid-1960s. ”Dollar Bill” elevated the level of play of his teammates, and he moved as well without the basketball as anyone who has ever played the game. Bradley was a three-time All-American and the Sporting News’ College Basketball Player of the Year in 1964 and 1965. He carried his team to the NCAA final four in 1965 and was named tourney MVP.
Al Kaline signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers for $30,000 when he was 18 years old, and retired as a legend when he was 40. Kaline won the batting crown in 1955 with a .340 average. He also had a league high of 200 hits and 27 homeruns. In 1956, Kaline had a career-high 128 RBI’s, and he batted .314. The Tigers won the pennant in 1968, and Kaline led his team to the World Series crown, batting .379 and driving in 8 runs.
Sweet shooting Murray Melton, a Nott Terrace basketball star of the mid1950s, will be inducted into the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame in September, 2014. Melton was, perhaps, the best pure shooter in Nott Terrace/Linton history. He went on to Columbia University, where he set the freshman scoring record that had previously been held by Chet Forte of TV fame.
Debbie Capullo and Danny Lucca were two of the finest athletes ever to graduate from Mohonasen High School. Capullo, a 1990 graduate, excelled in bowling and softball and was named MVP in both sports. Capullo bowled back-to-back 300 games n 1998. She is a member of the Schenectady/Scotia Women’s Bowling Hall of Fame. Lucca graduated in 1965. A three-sport athlete (baseball, football, and basketball), Lucca was the Suburban Council Football Player of the Year in 1963. He was the Tom McAn Award winner, which is given to the best player in Schenectady County in 1964, and an All-American honorable mention in 1965. Lucca was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Boston University, where he played football.
Well-known sportscaster Bob McNamara rsigned from WNYT in 2001. McNamara resigned because the station imposed a two-day suspension on him. It was due to McNamara’s verbal abuse, which was directed at someone who worked for the pro Bowler’s Association. He verbally attacked the individual for not calling him to let him know that someone had bowled a perfect game during the PBA Tournament at Latham Bowl. McNamara, a St. Anselm’s graduate, began his career as a sportswriter for the Knickerbocker News. He then left for a sportscaster’s position with channel 10 in 1966. A few years later, he moved to channel 6, and then to channel 13 in 1981.
On Saturday, November 23, 2013, I had the opportunity to see the Schalmont football team once again prove that the best offense is a good defense at Dietz Stadium in Kingston, when they trounced Marlboro in the state Class B semi-final game, 66-0. The Sabres scored an incredible 40 points in the second quarter, and their defense forced five turnovers in the first half. Devon Willis and Dom Friello intercepted passes and returned them for touchdowns in a little over one minute, and Hunter Gac blocked a punt, picked it up, and scampered into the end zone for another score during that big second period. A fourth second quarter score was generated by a fumble recovery by quarterback Nick Gallo, who followed it up with a scoring pass to Kyle Strube.
Frankie Washington is among the greatest softball pitchers ever developed in the Capital Region. He twirled 5 no-hit, no-run games in the GE Works League, and he was consistently pitching no-hitters in the Country Inn Softball League on Carman Road in Rotterdam. Washington kept opposing batters off balance by mixing up his pitches, and he had a good fastball.
Sig Makofski, the legendary Mont Pleasant basketball coach who was known for his ‘Wonder Teams,” turned down the Syracuse head coaching job in 1950, when the Orangemen would not meet his demand for $10,000 a year for five years. Makofski resumed his duties as the Red Raider head coach the 1950-1951 season. Makofski was the Mont Pleasant head coach from 1926-1951, and his overall record was an eye-popping 354-24. He had six undefeated teams and winning streaks of 46, 42, 39, and 36 games. Makofski also coached three undefeated football teams.
Dick Grubar of Bishop Gibbons , a two-time Schenectady County Basketball Player of the Year, and considered by many to be the best point guard to come out of the Capital Region, had 19 assists in one game his senior year. Grubar was the point guard for Dean Smith at North Carolina, and his teams went to the NCAA Final Four three times. Grubar and his Tarheel teammates went up against John Wooden and his UCLA Bruins in 1968 in the championship game. The Bruins, led by the magnificent Lew Alcindor, blew the Tarheels out of the gym by a score of 78-55. Grubar’s senior year, he was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team.
I saw the obituary about Al Van Wie in the Daily Gazette on November 14, and I realized that I had known nothing about his illustrious career as a coach an athletic administrator. Van Wie graduated from Nott Terrace in 1946, and after spending two years in the navy, he attended The College of Wooster in Ohio and graduated with a degree in physical education. Van Wie began as an assistant coach of basketball, football, and track at Wooster. In 1961, he became the head basketball coach, and over a period of 21 years led Wooster to 302 wins and two berths in the NCAA Tournament. From 1962-1975, he coached the tennis team to a record of 101-50. In 1974, Van Wie was named director of athletics and physical education and held that position for 17 years.
Friends Jen Drohan, Mark Vitallo, and Cheryl Olsen all finished well in the Schenectady Stockade-athon on November 10. Their times were: Drohan (age 28) 1:22:07; Vitallo (age 58) 1:26:10, and Olsen (age 61) 1:23:42.
The Schalmont football team has excelled on both sides of the football all season long. A 54-7 trouncing of a solid Broadalbin-Perth team for the Section II Class B title on November 9 was the exclamation point that ended a magnificent season. Heralded running back Devon Willis, who was riddled with injuries earlier in the season, scored four times, and quarterback Nick Gallo ran for 60 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. He also was perfect through the airways, completing all nine of his passes for 142 yards. Hunter Gac was on the receiving end of five passes for 87 yards. The defensive line was anchored by stalwarts Kevin Paskevich, Evan DellaVilla, and Dom Friello. Coach Joe Whipple once again did a sensational job guiding his charges.
I’ve never seen a local high school or college basketball player foul into a game. It did happen, however, in the NBA. Years ago, the Atlanta Hawks were playing without Dominique Wilkins and Antoine Carr, who were both sidelined with injuries. Scott Hastings, Spudd Webb, Kevin Willis, and Cliff Levingston fouled out, and “Doc” Rivers was ejected from the game. This left Atlanta with four players. But under a vague rule, Levingston, the last player to foul out, was allowed to re-enter the game, and the Hawks were tagged with a technical foul. Therefore, Levingston fouled into the game.
Dave Denny, one of Schenectady’s best tennis players of all-time, once teamed up with George Plimpton, the guy who often lived the lives of well-known people he wrote about, and they won a doubles exhibition match. Denny was ranked in the Eastern Tennis Association for more than 25 years, and he was ranked in the top twenty in Men’s doubles, singles, and mixed doubles.