Craig Forth was the star of the Columbia High basketball team that lost to Schenectady High in sectional play the 2000-2001 season. He went on to Syracuse University, and in December, 2004, Forth was honored as the Orangemen Scholar-Athlete of the Week. A seven-foot center, he was selected to the athletic director’s honor roll five times, and was named to the Big-East Academic All-Star Team the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons. In 2004, Forth was selected to the Academic All-American Third Team. He had a 3.85 average in the classroom.
In his early teens, Former Schenectady High and Purdue star Willie Deane played on the AAU national team in Europe. Two of his teammates on that 1995 squad were future NBA players Lamar Odom and Elton Brand. They won the 18-team international tournament.
The Schenectady Stockade-athon, which was run recently, is a 9.6 mile race that winds through the city streets. Through 1993, Tom Dalton had won the event five times. Dalton’s first win came against his friend and mentor Barry Brown in 1982. Dalton was 24 years-old and Brown 38. Brown had trained with the great Frank Shorter. Dalton beat Brown by about three seconds.
Frankie Washington was among the greatest softball pitchers to come out of the Capital Region. He twirled 5 no-hit, no-run games in the GE Works League, and he consistently pitched no-hitters in the Country Inn Softball League on Carmen Road in Rotterdam in the 1950s.
In 1950, Frank & Mickey D’Amond started the Algonquin Sports Club, and they made boxer Petey Virgin the matchmaker. The group promoted boxing and wrestling shows at McNearney Stadium on Jackson Avenue in Schenectady. It was home to the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Can-Am League. Big-name boxers like Sandy Sadler, Joey DeJohn, and Primo Carnera all participated. They also booked wrestler Argentine Rocco, a former Mr. America, who drew some of the biggest crowds.
Kelly Paolino was a basketball star at Schalmont High School, and she also excelled at volleyball, softball, bowling, and golf. When she graduated in 1995, Paolino’s 1,400 career points were the most ever amassed in the Rotterdam school’s history. Paolino moved on and played for SUNY Albany, where the little dynamo bucketed over 1,000 points during a magnificent career. It placed her fourth on the all-time list of leading scorers.
Pat Popolizio wrestled for Niskayuna High School in the mid-1990s and was a three-time Class A champion. He also was named one of the top wrestlers in the country by a couple of national magazines. Popolizio continued his grappling career at powerhouse Oklahoma State, where at one point, the gritty wrestler was ranked number 1 in the country in the 184-pound weight class. Popolizio is the head coach at North Carolina State.
Stan Stringham was one of the best softball players ever to play in the Capital Region. During his earlier days, Stringham, the second-baseman on the 1959 Schenectady Little League all-star team that finished third in the Little League World Series, played pro baseball in the California Angels organization. Stringham was either a shortstop or second baseman, I’m not sure which, who worked his way up the ladder to the Triple A level. When he reached the Triple A level, the manager told Stringham that he would be switching him to first base because Jim Fregosi had settled into Stringham’s position on the Angels’ major league team, perhaps for the long haul. At that point, Stringham, not wanting to play first base, left pro baseball permanently.
Schenectady baseball sensation Jim Barbieri who had a short stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers and former Baltimore Orioles slugger Boog Powell once owned a sporting goods store together. The two lefty hitters played against each other in a World Series. Barbieri is the only player ever to play in Little League and Major League World Series.
Ricky Crookes and Al Steele were both very crafty pitchers when I faced them playing Babe Ruth League baseball back in the late 1950s. Both had good fastballs, excellent curveballs and great control. Ed Barnowski and Rusty Vitallo on the other hand were absolute speedballers, who were incredibly difficult to hit. Barnowski played in the Baltimore Orioles chain and Vitallo in the Oakland A’s chain. Crookes will be honored at the next Union College Hall of Fame induction, when his 1965 Union baseball team will be recognized as a team of distinction.
Abe Feldman of Schenectady was one of the greatest fighters to come out of the Capital Region. He was a a light-heavyweight who later moved up to the heavyweight division. He beat John Henry Lewis in 1935, then moved up to the heavyweight division and lost badly to well-known “Two Ton” Tony Galento in 1939.
Kayla Treanor, a three-time lacrosse All-American at Niskayuna High School, set a Syracuse freshmen record, tallying 59 goals in 2013. Treanor was also named Rookie of the Week, collecting 13 points for the Orange in the Big-East championship game. She was named tourney MVP.
After a lengthy career of over 200 fights, feisty Schenectady boxer Petey Virgin was set to take on Willie Pep for the World Welterweight title, when an eye injury forced his retirement from the ring. Pep had turned down an offer to fight Virgin earlier in his career because of Virgin’s reputation as a dirty fighter.
John Leonard, the son of former Linton High School track coach Bill Leonard who was a pretty good runner at Notre Dame University, was a 3-sport star at Niskayuna High School. His basketball team won the New York state title in 1978. Leonard, the team leader and floor general, was named tournament MVP. Leonard was a quarterback on the gridiron and an All-Suburban Council pick. He was also a defensive back and was named to the All-Area team. In baseball, the gritty Leonard played shortstop, outfield and pitched, and he was an All Suburban Council pick. Leonard was awarded a full basketball scholarship to Manhattan College, where he was a starter for three years. Later, he became Manhattan’s head coach and then an assistant at UMass. He still resides in Amherst, MA.
Tom Dalton, who over the years has consistently finished high-up in the heap of runners in the Schenectady Stockade-athon, is still running in the event. The 57 year-old finished this years’ race in the top 100 with a time of 59:18.
Mark Mindel competed in his 40th Stockade-athon this past Sunday. Mindel was a cross country and track star for Niskayuna High School, graduating in 1970. He participated in the state meet in cross country and indoor and outdoor track in 1968 and 1969. Mindel also ran outdoor and indoor track at Union College and graduated in 1974. He also wrote for the school newspaper titled Concordiensis, covering basketball which featured players like Jim Tedisco and Billy Carmody. Mindell began running marathons after college, and he ran 14 of them from 1976-1984. He won the Montreal Marathon in 1979 with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes. There were over 10,000 runners in that race. Mindel also started the 15K Schenectady Stockade-athon in 1976 with Chris Carroll and Joe Notar. He was race director for the first few years and won the race in 1976, 1977 and 1979. He has competed in every race. Mindel coached cross country and indoor and outdoor track at Bishop Gibbons for two years, and he also coached at Niskayuna from 1997-1981. Later, he coached at Averill Park. His cross country teams have won eight sectional titles, three new York state runner-up titles and three New York state girls championships (1990, 1995 and 1996). Mindell has coached two All-American cross country runners, Becky Pollock and Jen Fazioli.