Bob Murray, the former Superintendent of the Schenectady City School District, was a football, basketball and lacrosse player for Union College. He also boxed and won the intramural light-heavyweight title twice. In the late 1950s, Murray was named to Sports Illustrated’s 25-man silver anniversary All-America football team.
In the 1960s, Schenectady Union Star sportswriter Al DeSantis organized and promoted a Schenectady-based pro basketball team known as the Wedekind Pros and later the Schaefer Brewers . They often competed against teams made up of college all-stars, and their games were played in the Linton High gymnasium. Some of the college super-stars they faced were Jo Jo White (Kansas), Cazzie Russell (Michigan), Austin Carr (Notre Dame), Artis Gilmore (Jacksonville), Julius Erving (Massachusetts), Dave Bing (Syracuse), Elvin Hayes (Houston), and Calvin Murphy (Niagara). Murphy once scored 73 points against the Brewers. Some of the talented Brewers players were Barry Kramer, Billy Kirvin, Joe Geiger, Armand Reo, and Bill Telasky.
McNearney Stadium on Jackson Avenue, home to the Schenectady Blue Jays in the late 1940s and 1950s, held outdoor wrestling matches in front of huge crowds. TV heroes like Verne Gagne, Pat O’Connor, Ronnie Etchison, and Hans Schmidt topped four of the cards.
Highly respected veteran Times Union writer Marv Cermak recently interviewed former Mont Pleasant football coach Larry Mulvaney who will turn 90. Cermak was on the scene as a sports writer for the Schenectady Gazette during Mulvaney’s tenure as the Red Raiders’ mentor. He asked Mulvaney who were his greatest players. The gregarious Mulvaney came up with Paul Della Villa, Jack Edwards and Ron Page (not necessarilly in that order). All three were All-Americans. I think if you were to ask Mulvaney to increase that list to five, he might include lineman Sylvester Huggins and guard/linebacker Gale Knull. Knull led the Red Raiders to an undefeated season and the state championship in the late 1960s.
Paul Della Villa was, perhaps, one of the two best running backs to come out of Mont Pleasant High School. The other was Ron Page who went on to Syracuse. Della Villa excelled for the Red Raiders in 1963. He also was a three-year starter for Boston College. The Eagles were ranked number two in the country in offense Della Villa’s senior year. That year, the speedy running back was named to the All-East team for one game. Professionally, Della Villa played for the Quincy Giants, a New England Patriots farm team. One year, he was voted their Most Valuable Player.
In the 1950s, Joe Syzdek of Chrysler Avenue in Schenectady caught a 24-pound northern pike at Sacandaga Reservoir. The trophy fish was 46.5 inches long.
Trainer Al Weil gave ex-welterweight champion Marty Servo of Schenectady $650 to pay for his lung tumor operation in Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is where Servo passed away in 1969.
Nott Terrace basketball players Lew Gwinner, Dick Ah Kao, Jack Sheppard, and Dick Staszak had their high school hoop careers cut short because they scrimmaged the Terrace grads at the Jewish Community Center, and the score was kept. It was in violation of rule 9 of the NYSPHSAL regulation which reads, “No contestant shall play with an outside team after he has participated in his first interscholastic game.”
Linton High School’s Barry Kramer and Pat Riley were two of the greatest players to come out of the Capital Region. Kramer went to NYU where he had a career scoring average of 22.5 points per game. His best season was his junior year when the 6’4″ jumping jack was second in the nation with a 29.3 points per game average. Riley played for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, and he had a career scoring average of 18.2 ppg. Riley averaged 15 points as a sophomore, 21.9 as a junior and 17.8 ppg. his senior year.
Hard cover book titled Mr. Basketball – George Mikan, The Minneapolis Lakers, and Birth of the NBA. 281 pp.
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Originally $24.95 – Now $11
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Former Schenectady High basketball player Mark Lyons is playing in a Pro League in Israel. The 6’2″ guard is a member of the Ironi Nahariya team. A clutch player when he played for Arizona, Lyons is averaging 18 points and close to 5 assists per game.
Answer - Hassan Miller
I recall many athletes of the 50s and 60s favored playing basketball over the other sports. In fact, Schenectady was a hotbed for basketball stars, coaches and teams. But you also had those athletes who focused only on baseball and football, and they played these two sports very well. Four among others that I remember well were Lou Schiavo and Alonzo Burnham of Nott Terrace, Benny “The Whip” Winslow of Linton, and Tony Parisi of Mont Pleasant. This year, Dan Zeglen of Scotia-Glenville is of the same ilk. A shortstop/pitcher in baseball, and a gifted quarterback in football, he excels at both sports. You hear a lot about the Joe Cremos, Scotty Stoperas and Scotia Glenville basketball, and rightly so, but don’t forget Dan Zeglen.
The deceased Dot Hoyt Nebel will be inducted into the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame in September. Nebel graduated from the original Schenectady High School in 1921. A great downhill skier, Hoyt Nebel won the downhill and slalom titles in the Eastern Skiing Championships in 1940 and 1941, winning the downhill in a course record time in 1940. She also won the downhill event in 1942 in the U.S. vs. Canada competition at Lake Placid. Hoyt Nebel was named to the 1940 Winter Olympic Team, but the Olympics were canceled due to World War II. She was inducted into the United States Ski Hall of Fame in 1972.
The great heavyweight fighter Jack Dempsey was training in Sararatoga Springs for his bout with Jack Sharkey in 1927, when there was a murder-suicide in Schenectady. It turned out that Dempsey’s brother John, who was estranged from his wife, paid her a visit at 847 Emmett Street on Hamilton Hill, shot her, then turned the gun on himself. Dempsey came to Schenectady, handled the funeral arrangements, then returned to Saratoga and resumed training. Later, he successfully defended his title by knocking out Sharkey.
The 1962-1963 basketball season, Schenectady’s Barry Kramer was a junior year All-American at NYU, and Art Heyman was a senior year All-American at Duke and College Player of the Year. The 6’4″ Kramer and 6’5″ Heyman went head-to-head in a memorable confrontation in the east regional semi-finals of the NCAA Tournament. Duke was leading by a hoop in the final 60 seconds, and Kramer drove to the hoop, only to have Heyman block his shot. The ball came back to Kramer, and he took another shot, which Heyman also blocked. Kramer again got the ball back, went up, and Heyman blocked his shot for a third time. Duke then got control of the ball and went on to win the game 81-76. Heyman finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Kramer 34 points and 4 rebounds. Kramer averaged a little over 33 points for the entire east regional tourney.