Former City Recreation Commissioner Alex Isabel, who many consider to be the Godfather of youth sports in Amsterdam, NY, used to say “There’s nothing too good for our kids.” Fortunately for the children of our community, each succeeding generation has brought forth enough devoted parent and community volunteers as well as dedicated city officials who continue to believe what Isabel said is true.
1. Little Giants Football: Approaching its 60th anniversary, this organization has to be considered the most successful youth sports league in Amsterdam history. The 1959 brainchild of the legendary “Whitey” Murray, it has provided generations of Amsterdam boys and girls with the opportunity to learn football, cheerleading and team working skills. The rosters of every Amsterdam High School and Bishop Scully football teams were loaded with former Little Giants players and it was no accident that both high schools’ gridiron programs became much more successful as soon as the first classes of Little Giants alumnae reached their grade levels. Pictured below are the 1970 Little Giants Champions, the undefeated Purple Knights.
2. Wee Men Baseball: This is one youth sports organization in our city for which it can be said is as strong now as ever. It actually started in 1950, when Amsterdam City Recreation Commissioner Alex Isabel affiliated the city with Little League Baseball. But over the next five years, the Little League official rules that limited leagues to just four teams and required their affiliates to compete in district and regional tournaments turned off the adults who were then running the program. The affiliation was formally ended in 1955 and Wee Mens’ Baseball was born in the Rug City. It’s six plus decades of operation have been blessed with the leadership of so many dedicated adults like the late Louie Noto, John Russo, Bob Crawford, Steve Porcello and more recently, involved parents like Paul Antonelli. When I look at the amazing improvements made up at Isabel’s field and the continued willingness of parents to get involved in the program in recent years, it makes me confident the Wee Mens’ Baseball success here in Amsterdam will continue. Pictured below are the 1968 Wee Men Major National Division Champs, Kiwanis.
3. Church League Basketball: The male youth of Amsterdam’s Protestant houses of worship started competing against each other in basketball way back at the beginning of the Twentieth Century as part of the YMCA youth activities program. Then in 1921, the churches formed a Sunday School League that became known as the Church League. They used the opportunity to play basketball as the carrot to get young boys to attend services every Sunday. This league had a much wider age grouping than it’s younger Catholic cousin, CYO basketball. Rosters included kids from grade school into high school. Pictured below is the 1971 champs, Trinity Reformed.
4. Cinderella Softball: Back in 1965, a small group of Amsterdam, NY parents decided it was time for the young ladies of the city to have a league of their own. So caring moms and dads like Vera Januszewski, Theresa Scialabba, George Lazarou, and Stan Pendrak under the determined leadership of Nadia Tuman went to work and created Amsterdam’s Cinderella League. It was a hit from the start. They needed to add two teams for the league’s second season to accommodate all the young girls in the city who wanted to play and then two more when they expanded the league to include thirteen year-olds. Still going strong and now called the Amsterdam Girls Softball Association, the league opened its 52nd consecutive season in May of 2017. Pictured below are the 1969 Cinderella League Champs; Sportsmen’s Club.
5. CYO Basketball: Though Amsterdam’s Catholic parishes began forming kids basketball teams to compete in city recreation leagues in the early 1940’s, it wasn’t until the fall of 1955 that the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Basketball League was formed. As was usual back then the league was originally just for boys and only five parishes, St. Stanislaus, St. Mary’s (who sponsored two teams), St. Joseph’s, St. Stephen’s and St. Casmir’s participated in that first season. Coaches that initial year included Dutch Howlan, Joe Pabis, Joe Dylong, Harry Flint, John Yurkon and Ed Murphy. St. Stephen’s team from Hagaman, pictured below, won the first league title with a 14-0 record. CYO basketball became a winter sports staple for Amsterdam’s 12-14 year-alders and then later expanded to include both younger age groups and girls!
I will finish this list of the Top Ten Amsterdam Youth Sports Leagues in time to get them in my upcoming book which is scheduled for release later this year. In the meantime, make sure you subscribe to my free monthly Amsterdam Top Ten Newsletter for previews and reveals of more Amsterdam Top Ten Lists. You can sign up for the newsletter here.