In Amsterdam, local baseball, football and basketball teams and their stars have always received a lions share of the media attention but not all of it. Those of us who have faithfully followed the Amsterdam Recorder sports pages for a few decades or more are fully aware of the rich tradition several other “non-major” sports have established in our community. This list represents my attempt to identify the all-time greatest participant(s) in ten of those less publicized competitive activities. In today’s post I share my choices in Bowling, Weightlifting, Handball, Horseshoes and Speedskating. Those of you who subscribe to my free All-Time Amsterdam Top Ten’s Newsletter will be able to see my picks for greatest Track & Field participant (male & female), Swimmer (male & female), Tennis player (male & female), Skier and Race Driver in the July issue. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the free newsletter you can do so here.
Bowling: Nick Miseno Jr. – With 67 perfect games, four regional PBA Tour titles and two State Masters titles already to his credit, this Amsterdam native has rolled himself to the very top of an elite list of all-time great Amsterdam keglers. That’s not a misprint, Miseno has rolled 67 perfect games! As for the ladies, when I was a kid I bowled Saturday mornings in the Pin Haven junior league for boys right next to the Junior Girls. Even way back then, when Pat Meagher’s ball hit the pins it made a special sound. During the late sixties she dominated female bowling in Amsterdam, frequently beating the men’s top scores. I give Meagher the edge over great lady keglers like Julie Wilkevitch, Dot Jobin and Deal Guisti as the the top woman bowler in Rug City history.
Weightlifting: Though Fred Bryce was born in Broadalbin, he made a name for himself as Amsterdam’s most prolific weightlifter. In 1952, the then 32-year-old strongman travelled to New York City to try out for the US Olympic weightlifting team and finished in fifth place in the middle-heavyweight division. That same year, Bryce won the New York State 198 pound championship with a 320-pound clean and jerk lift and in 1953 he added the prestigious Eastern States Championship to his lifting resume. At one point, he won 23 straight Capital District weight lifting titles, beginning the amazing streak in 1939.
Handball: Marshall Lech was the godfather of Amsterdam handball. He started playing the sport in the 1930’s and use to travel to Schenectady so he could participate in the handball league sponsored by that city’s YMCA. He finally got the Amsterdam Y to form its own league and then dominated it for a couple of decades. I remember when he and Paul Lazarou use to team up in doubles tournaments and the sound of that little black ball slamming against the wall would echo throughout the entire Division Street facility. Lech kept playing and winning tournaments into his seventies!
Horseshoes: The greatest horseshoe pitcher in the history of Amsterdam, Tom Brownell won a total of seven New York State titles. His best performance at the World level was an incredible third-place finish at the 1955 World Championships held in Salt Lake City, Utah. During his best years, Brownell averaged 75 ringers for every 100 shoes he pitched. In the 1955 State Tournament, he set a New York State record by throwing 30 ringers in 31 pitches for a percentage of 96.9%.
Speedskating: Ted Ellenwood was born in Dunkirk, NY and moved to Fort Johnson with his family in 1924, when he was just five-years old. He grew up skating on the Fort Johnson rink. He began skating competitively with the Fort Johnson Athletic Association, which competed in meets every winter against teams from all over Upstate New York. In 1941, Ellenwood won five itles including the New York State Championship. He finished tied for third in the 1941 Nationals and just missed qualifying for the 1942 US Olympic team. Just before joining the US Navy to fight for his country in World War II, Ellenwood travelled to LaCrosse, WI to compete in the AAU National Speed Skating Championships and brought back home first place medals in both the 220 and 440.