August 15 – Happy Birthday Private Tony Dargush

tonydargush 1There were three Amsterdam Dargush brothers and each of them made their marks as talented schoolboy athletes at Amsterdam High School during the mid-to-late 1930’s. Benny was the oldest and after a stellar career in basketball at AHS he went to Michigan State and actually started at center for the Spartans as a sophomore. Vinnie was the second oldest of the brothers and the most athletic among them, having once been voted the top Amsterdam High School athlete. Youngest brother Anthony “Tony” Dargush played both basketball and football for the Purple & Gold, graduating in 1938. Like his brothers, he was a big broad six-footer who was an excellent lineman on the gridiron and extremely tough under the boards on the hardwood.

Tony was born in Amsterdam on August 15, 1921 along with his twin sister Ann. Their parents were Lithuanian immigrants who lived on John Street. In addition to his twin, Tony had two other sisters. He was the last of the three Dargush boys to go into the service.

Brother Ben had completed the ROTC program at Michigan State and was commissioned a second lieutenant when he entered in April of 1940. Vince Dargush had gone to Cobleskill Agricultural College after high school where he had captained that school’s basketball team for a year before enlisting in the US Army in September of 1941. He started out assigned to the Infantry but got reassigned to a Tank Destroyer unit and during training in Arkansas was promoted to sergeant. He then got selected as a candidate for Officer’s Training School, which he successfully completed. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and sent overseas in May of 1943.

Just one month earlier, Tony had been inducted into the Army and by September of 1943, he was shipped out to North Africa. In October of that same year he became part of the Allied force invading Italy, where he was wounded in battle and spent three months recovering in a military hospital. Fortunately, while in Italy Vince and Tony Dargush were stationed near each other and had the opportunity to get together frequently. As soon as Tony recovered from his wounds he was sent back into action just in time to be part of the invasion force of southern France in June. It was during a break in the fighting that Vince riding in a vehicle in the French countryside saw his older brother Tony sitting on the side of the road. It was the last time the two brothers would ever get the chance to talk.

They were not the only members of their family to be in France at that point. Their brother-in-law, Amsterdam native Peter Urban, who had married Tony’s twin sister Ann in November of 1942, was a member of the parachute force that jumped into the French countryside as part of the D-Day invasion in June of 1944. Within the next three months three telegrams would arrive at the Dargush’s John Street home carrying news that would have an impact on their family forever.

In August of 1944, the first telegram from the War Department arrived at the Dargush’s John Street home with the horrible news that Peter Urban, husband of  Tony’s twin sister Ann, had been killed in action. The following month two more War Department telegrams arrived almost simultaneously. The first informed Mary Dargush that her son Anthony had also been killed in action in France on August 18. The second informed the already grief stricken mother that her son Vincent had been injured in action. Fortunately Vince would recover from his wounds.

No Amsterdam family sacrificed more for their country during World War II than the Dargush clan did. We owe them an eternal debt of gratitude.

Tony Dargush was not the only Amsterdam-born war hero with an August 15th Birthday. Here’s a story about another one.

 

August 14 – Happy Birthday Joe Spencer

joesYou don’t forget the day you met your very first best friend. Well at least I don’t! It was my first day of kindergarten at Guy Park Avenue School. I didn’t want my mom to leave me in Mrs Palazzole’s classroom on that traumatic morning in September of 1959 but she did any way.  There were at least a half dozen kids in the room already crying and I was just about to join them when he sat down in an empty chair next to me. We just started talking to each other and we pretty much kept up that conversation for the next nine years. His name was Joe, his dad ran a radio station and he lived up on Fairmont Avenue.

We were both tall for our age, we both came from Italian heritage, we both had black hair and we were both a little chubby. We definitely had our differences. He loved the Dodgers and I was a Yankee fan, he wanted Nixon to win in 1960 and I was for Kennedy, he was a hillbilly and I was a river rat but there was no doubt about it, we were soul brothers. The first phone call I ever made in my life was to him and I still remember his number, Victor 25623. We both became enamored with American History and by the time we reached second grade, he and I were making our own Civil War epics consisting of hundreds of hand drawn battle scenes taped together in huge rolls. Our teacher, Betty Kent (God rest her soul) used to make the rest of the class sit there while we described each crayon produced scene in graphic detail.

I visited his house after school and he came to my birthday parties. One year, me, him and his little brother Phil marched in the Kiwanis Halloween parade as the Spirit of 76. We won a pen set, but so did everyone else. I’ll never forget the moon landscape he, I and John Belive built inside a huge cardboard box for our sixth grade science fair or how hard he laughed when the principal, Mr. Capece caught me doing a rather profane impersonation of the school janitor.

Once we got to Junior High we had completely different schedules and began making new friends. The very last time I went to his house he announced he was going to Bishop Scully the following September and we simply drifted apart after that.

Joe did great at Scully and got heavily involved working for his dad at WCSS. He went to Emerson College in Boston, graduated magna cum laude and then landed successive news correspondent jobs in North Carolina, Denver and Detroit, where he became a very popular television personality. His excellent work and high visibility in the Motor City landed him a job with ABC News as their midwest correspondent and all of a sudden, I was seeing my first best friend from Amsterdam, NY doing news reports on Nightline, Good Morning America and the Evening News anchored by Peter Jennings. By then, the chubby little Joe Spalletta I had met in kindergarten had been transformed into the dashingly handsome Joe Spencer and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that within a few years, he would be one of this country’s most watched and admired news reporters.

I reunited with Joe Spencer at Scully’s Class of ’72 Tenth Year Reunion. Ironically, Joe had met my wife Rosemary before I ever did and the two had become good friends as Scully classmates. We were so very happy to see each other again. The reunion was held in the picnic pavilions that used to be located behind the old Green Acres restaurant on Route 5, just west of Scotia. Joe and I sat at one of the picnic tables for at least an hour and a half catching up on each other’s lives. This was just before Joe landed the job with ABC and he was still living in Detroit. I was a member of the Amsterdam School Board at the time, working at GE and had just become a father for the third time a few months earlier. I was enthralled by Joe’s amazing professional accomplishments and he was equally interested in my career and my experiences as a board member and parent. We promised to stay in touch but of course we didn’t, which brings me to the last time I saw Joe Spencer alive.

It was early June in 1985 and I was sitting on the reviewing stand of Amsterdam’s Bicentennial parade on lower Guy Park Avenue waiting for Kirk Douglas and then NY State Governor, Mario Cuomo to arrive. I looked across the street and saw Joe Spencer waving to me. We hugged and once again caught up on each other’s lives. By then, Rosemary and I had had our fourth child and I had started my own publishing company and he was an up and coming star for ABC News based in Chicago and just about to get married. Before our conversation ended he said something that floored me. He told me that after he accomplished his career goals with ABC News he was seriously considering returning to our area and becoming a news anchor at one of the local television stations. He loved this area and he saw how happy his younger brother Phil was living here and raising a family. He hoped to join him. We exchanged business cards and we made plans to have dinner the next time I was in Chicago on business. We never did.

Six months later, in January of 1986, my first best friend lost his life in a pre-dawn helicopter crash. He was on his way to a Hormel meat plant in Austin, Minnesota to cover an employee strike-taking place there when the Bell-Jet Ranger aircraft flew into the ground in a heavy fog, killing Joe, his producer and the pilot.

A few days later, I sat with Rosemary in Mt. Carmel Church listening to Peter Jennings tell the hundreds of people gathered just how talented Joe Spencer was and how hard he worked to be the best. Then a young and not-yet famous Bill O’Reilly eulogized the man he described as his best friend.

I still have Joe’s ABC News business card and whenever I happen to see O’Reilly on TV I can’t help but think about how his last best friend was my very first.

August 13 – Happy Birthday Mary Duncan

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By the time Laddie Sanford was born in Amsterdam in 1899 the family’s fortune had been secured. His father was John Sanford who had succeeded Laddie’s grandfather, Stephen Sanford as the head of the Sanford carpet mills. The original Stephen Sanford had been the most effective leader of the family business, rebuilding it after a fire destroyed the firm’s factory in the 1850’s and growing it into the largest rug company in the world. Laddie’s father John also proved to be a skilled executive when his turn came to run the company. He engineered the merger in 1929 with Bigelow Carpets in Connecticut, which helped the company remain competitive and survive the great depression. Both Stephen and John Sanford also served as US Congressmen. As it turned out, Laddie would follow in neither of their footsteps.

Instead, after graduating from Yale in the early 1920’s he became a poster boy for “the idle rich.” He was given a seat on the Bigelow-Sanford Board of Directors but where he spent his most time sitting was in the saddle of a polo pony. He was a very good polo player, one of the worlds’ best, riding for five different National Championship teams between 1926 and 1949.

When he wasn’t competing in international polo matches he could be found participating in foxhunts or in attendance at the world’s finest racetracks where the elegant thoroughbred products of the family’s Sanford Stud Farms competed in the biggest and most glamorous stakes races.  In 1923 the farm made history as the first American owned thoroughbred, Sergeant Murphy, won the Grand National Steeplechase in Aintree, England, and Laddie Sanford’s picture was on the cover of Time Magazine, the only native of Amsterdam to be so honored.

So it was horses instead of carpet that excited young Laddie and beautiful women too. According to the things I’ve read about him, he dated some of the most glamorous women of the world in his day including a few who were married, like the stunning wife of the Earl of Mountbatten. But when it came time to settle down with a permanent partner, Sanford chose today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, the late Hollywood film actress Mary Duncan.

She was born in Virginia on August 13, 1895. Her dad was in the military and her real last name was Dungan. She got into acting as a child and made it to the Broadway stage by the time she was fifteen years old. But her father wanted her to become a lawyer so she went to Cornell University as a pre-law student for a year and a half before deciding to return to acting as a career. Her big break came in 1926, when she landed the role of Poppy in the smash hit play, The Shanghai Gesture. The following year she signed a contract with Fox Studios and appeared in Very Confidential, her first movie. She would go on to appear in starring roles in a total of sixteen films and was considered a leading actress of her era.

In 1931, while making the movie, Five and Ten, Duncan became friends with the film’s leading lady, Marion Davies. Davies loved polo and took Duncan to a match during a break in the filming, It was at that match that Duncan was introduced to Laddie Sanford. The two were married in 1933. Once wed, Duncan retired from her film career and began a long stint as one of this country’s leading philanthropists and socialites. Her and Sanford maintained homes in New York City, Saratoga and Palm Beach, Florida. Duncan would go on to become a noted philanthropist and socialite. She was active in the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross and Planned Parenthood. Her specialty was organizing and hosting glamorous fund raising balls and inviting the very upper crests of society and the world of entertainment. She became close friends with Rose Kennedy, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the Queen of Jordan.

She remained married to Laddie for the rest of his life. He died wheelchair-ridden in 1977. Amsterdam saw very little if any of Duncan during her 46-year marriage to Laddie Sanford. By the time the couple wed, Laddie’s father had merged the Sanford mill with the Bigelow carpet-making firm and was pretty much retired full-time and living in a huge suite at Broadway Lodge in Saratoga. Whenever Laddie and his wife were in this area they stayed there as well. But when Duncan died in her sleep on May 9, 1993, she finally became a full-time resident of our city. That’s because her body is buried next to Laddie’s up in the Sanford family plot in Amsterdam’s Green Hill Cemetery

 

 

August 12 – Happy Birthday Michael Paul Pallotta

mikep222Borrowing a line from Don McLean’s classic song American Pie, April 19, 1989 was “the day the music died” here in Amsterdam, NY. One of the very best musicians players ever to be born in our community, who became the beloved director of the instrumental program at Amsterdam High School left us on that day, after a valiant struggle with a horrific cancer.

I still remember the first time I ever heard Mike Pallotta play the trumpet and the very last time too. The first was in 1965 on the stage of the Wilbur Lynch High School auditorium, when our elementary school band went up there to practice for an upcoming concert. As we were taking the stage to begin our rehearsal, the AHS Stage Band was just leaving it and Pallotta was packing up his horn. The director of our band asked him to play something for us and though I don’t remember what it was he played I will never forget the sound that came out of his instrument. We all just sat there with our mouths open.

He was born on August 12, 1951, the son of Nick and Mary Salerno Pallotta. The family lived at 99 Center Street and young Michael spent much of his childhood hanging out with his South Side friends and cousins in the neighborhood streets and popular gathering spots that made the old Fifth Ward such an idyllic place to grow up. By the time he reached Junior High School he was already pretty much considered a prodigy with his horn. When he got to Wilbur Lynch, he helped the brass sections in the high school band, orchestra and especially the stage band create sounds that have never been duplicated, before or since.

It didn’t matter in which ensemble he was playing, whoever was conducting knew they had a true star in their midst and at some point during the evening a spotlight would shine, Amsterdam’s young trumpet master would stand up, clear his horn with a quick spit valve release, do a practice flutter of the valves with the fingers of his right hand, flex his lips, wait for his cue and then proceed to blow the audience away with a featured solo. And since I played the same instrument, I knew exactly what Pallotta had to be doing with his fingers, lips, tongue and breathing, not to mention the years of serious practice it took  to make those incredibly beautiful sounds happen and I was in awe.

After graduating from AHS in 1969 he got his bachelor’s degree at Ohio Northern University and then spent a year in the music performance program at the prestigious Berkley School of Music in Boston. He then went on to get his Masters from Brockport. Mike also got married to his lovely wife Kathi Gould and their union would produce three children.

He was first hired by the Johnstown School District as an instrumental music teacher in the late 1970’s and students, staff and parents of that Fulton County community instantly fell in love with him. Fortunately for Amsterdam’s future musicians, Pallotta’s goal was to return to his hometown and teach here.

That opportunity presented itself when long-time Amsterdam High School band director, Robert Kent Kyler left that position, creating the vacancy Pallotta was destined to fill and boy did he. During the next decade, he became one of the most effective and admired educators in this community. What made him so special?

There was his unquestionable musical talent. He was a walking, breathing, real-life example of what the results of practicing your instrument could be, which inspired his students to practice theirs’. Then there was his passion for teaching and his absolute love for working with young people. My younger brother played drums and was fortunate enough to have been among the last group of students who played and marched for Pallotta at AHS. I can tell you that he was a near magician when it came to the extremely difficult task of helping adolescents build confidence and self-esteem.

He instinctively knew to what degree he could challenge his students with more difficult music and more complex marching formations. And when they accepted and met those challenges, they got their rewards in the form of a standing ovations from thousands of adoring halftime show fans or the huge first place trophy they brought home from Georgia for winning the band competition at the Peach Bowl parade. Their biggest reward? Seeing that amazing smile break out on Mike Pallotta’s face after their last note of another excellent performance had been played.

I first heard about Mike’s cancer from my good friend Mike Sampone, who was Pallotta’s cousin. I remember thinking he was too young, too strong, too upbeat and too special to succumb to that disease. But as so many of us know, it’s an evil illness that just doesn’t let go. Nobody fought it harder or more valiantly than Mike.

I remember the day in April of 1989 when he died. I remember my little brother, the drummer crying. I remember thinking about how much Nick and Mary adored their loving son. I thought about his wife Kathi, who had just recently given birth to their third child, a girl they named Jean and how she and her older siblings Nick and Toni would be without a dad. It was a sad, sad day.

Now, 30 years after that tragic event, hearing or thinking of the name Mike Pallotta, makes me smile. It makes me think of the over $30,000 worth of Pallotta Memorial scholarships that have been handed out to graduating Amsterdam High music students, including my own youngest daughter.  And it makes me think of the last time I heard Mike play his horn.

That was at the old Starlight Theater in Latham. Remember, Mike was a world-class musician. When he wasn’t teaching or being a husband and dad, he was playing trumpet in the house band ensembles that accompanied some of the world’s greatest entertainers who came to Capital District venues to perform. That night, the incredible Tom Jones was at the Starlight and me, my brother and our wives were at the bar waiting for the show to begin. My brother is married to Maria Persico, Shorty’s daughter, who grew up on Center Street, next door to Mike Pallotta.

All of a sudden, Pallotta was standing next to us at the bar, dressed to the nine’s in a sharp-looking tuxedo with that huge smile on his tanned and handsome face. For the next half hour I listened to him and Maria talk about their wonderful childhood memories of growing up in their beloved South Side. You could tell he wanted to keep talking and he probably would have if Maria hadn’t finally screamed, “The show’s about to start, don’t you have to play!” He turned and ran down to the stage just before Tom Jones came out. If you can remember Jones’ hit “It’s Not Unusual” you can also remember the three-note trumpet-blaring staccato riff it featured, That’s the last great sound I can remember coming out of Mike Pallotta’s magical trumpet.

Mike shared his August 12th Birthday with this icon from Amsterdam’s radio broadcasting history.

 

August 11 – Happy Birthday Richard Dantini

It was one of the nights I couldn’t sleep so I turned on the TV and was watching either the History or Military Channels and they were interviewing a WWII Vet who had been among the first wave of soldiers to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Fifty years later he had been hired by director Steven Spielberg to serve as a consultant for the depiction of that same landing that opened Spielberg’s epic war movie, Saving Private Ryan. That landing scene remains one of the most shocking and terrifying cinema segments I’ve ever viewed in my life and I remember thinking, no actually hoping it was more fiction than fact. But on that night I couldn’t sleep, I heard this brave old veteran explain how he had to leave the set of the movie during that scene’s shooting because it was being so realistically recreated by Spielberg that watching it unfold had caused him to suffer terrifying flashbacks

Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Richard Dantini was a 19-year-old Army private and one of 197 members in Company A of the 29th Infantry Division, who were speeding toward Omaha Beach that June morning in 1944 aboard six landing craft. Only two of those crafts, including the one carrying the South Side native made it to the landing point and Dantini was among the first wave to hit the beach. Remember the scene in Spielberg’s movie? Dantini was about to live through it, but just barely. He was hit in the arm shortly after reaching the sand and for the next several hours he was pinned down by relentless enemy fire of every sort and hit by by that fire twice more, once in each leg. He ended up lying behind a large rock unconscious, barely alive and bleeding. The next day, an alert member of a body recovery crew noticed he was still breathing and Dantini spent the next thirteen months recovering from his wounds in Army hospitals. And then he came home.

Home for Dantini was his parents’ house on Montgomery Street, where he had been raised with his brother Hermie and sister Delsie. His dad, William Dantini ran a popular Bridge Street grocery store with his partner, Angelo Perfetti. Young Richie and his brother Hermie would follow their father into the grocery trade, becoming partners in Dantini’s South Side Market, which would become a food-shopping institution on Amsterdam’s South Side.

In April of 1947, he married his South Side sweetheart, Jayne Marie Quattrocchi at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, the ceremony performed by Father Burke. After a reception at the Century Club and dinner at the Hob Nob Restaurant, the new couple honeymooned in Montreal. At first they lived in the house of Richie’s parents on Montgomery Street. After a few more moves and a having two children, they ended up in their own home up the hill on Essex Street. That’s where they raised their two sons. Billy and Mark.

Dantini spent a large part of the rest of his life supporting and honoring his fellow veterans, especially those who were disabled. It was a common occurrence for Amsterdam veterans to stop and see Richie either at the store or his home and ask for help or advice about a veteran’s benefit or health issue and he always welcomed them and did whatever he could on their behalf. For years until he couldn’t physically do it any more, Richie took it upon himself to tend the beautiful grounds of the Fifth Ward Veterans’ Memorial Park, which was located right next door to his market. He told his family that he treated every day of his life after that horrible D-Day morning on Omaha Beach as a gift or bonus and he spent the rest of his life showing his appreciation for having been spared.

Dantini passed away in 2000 at the age of 76. In 2013 a plaque in his honor was added to the Memorial Park he loved so very much.

 

August 9 – Happy Birthday Madeline Duchessi

Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant created a direct link between two of our City’s better-known Italian-American clans. Madeline Lanzi was the daughter of the Southside Restauranteur, Luigi Lanzi. She was born August 9, 1922 and grew up working alongside her two brothers and two sisters in their father’s iconic Bridge Street Restaurant. The lot behind the eatery was as famous as the restaurant itself. That’s where some of the greatest amateur and professional prize fights in Rug City history were staged during the pre WWII era. In 1935, one of the fighters who began appearing on those amateur fight cards was a young man named Pete Duchessi. His nickname was “Duke” and it fit him well because it turned out he was more than pretty good with his dukes, winning 57 of his 71 career fights, including a six round skirmish with the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson.

Amsterdam’s original “Duke” was five years older than Madeline Lanzi but that age gap didn’t prevent the two from falling in love. Injuries suffered in an auto accident had kept Pete from serving in WWII so the couple were able to get married in 1943 and Pete assisted the war effort welding parts for the military at the ALCO plant in Schenectady. But the end of the war brought an end to that job and a laid-off Pete, with help from Madeline’s Uncle opened a new store in downtown Amsterdam that like Luigi Lanzi’s restaurant would become one of the Rug City’s iconic food businesses. It was located at 128 East Main Street and was called Duchessi’s Importing Co. and for the next three decades it became the place to go  for imported culinary delicacies including olive oil and cheeses from Italy, oranges from Israel and melons from Spain. Duke’s fresh meats and a full assortment of fresh seafood offerings also became standard fare for dinner tables all around town. I clearly remember the fruit and vegetable stand in front of the store being maintained so well that it looked as if an artist had staged it.

Madeline and Duke dedicated their lives to running that store and raising their daughter Linda and son Peter Jr. Then in the 1970’s the wrecking balls invaded and destroyed Amsterdam’s old downtown so it could be replaced with an indoor mall. Duchessi’s Importing Co. was the last business to leave. The couple then purchased the former Dean’s Market on Lincoln Avenue and kept the business going there until 1981.

Her husband then continued his remarkably long and distinguished food career with Golub Corporation, while Madeline spent the rest of her life caring for grandchildren, reading good books, listening to beautiful music, traveling and cooking for her family. Her grandson Chris worked with me for a while and would enthrall me and make me hungry with stories about his grandmother’s talents in the kitchen.

Madeline’s wonderful 74-year marriage ended in 2017 with Pete Duchessi’s death at the age of 99. A year and a half later, 97-year-old Madeline rejoined her beloved soulmate. They were one of Amsterdam’s all-time most admired husband and wife teams.

August 8 – Happy Birthday Jack Davey

The name of today’s Birthday Celebrant is forever enshrined in second place on St. Mary’s Institute’s all-time career scoring list. As a junior, in his first full season of Varsity ball, Jack Davey scored 232 points. He, Dick Vosko and Alan Johnson formed the Gael’s infamous “Terrible Trio” front line that spearheaded that outstanding squad to an 18-3 record. Davey then became a superstar his senior year, pouring in 427 points to average 20.2 points per game. He put together two historic 40-point outbursts that season and led the Gaels to a Parochial League title with a 14-0 league record. SMI also won  that year’s New York State Catholic High School Division One Tournament championship behind Davey’s MVP award-winning effort.

Jack was born and raised on Amsterdam’s West End. As a boy, he used to shoot hoops for hours on end on an outdoor basket behind the old St. Agnello Club on West Main St. Back then, West Main was part of NYS Route 5 and always busy with traffic. To stay in shape, young Davey would race passing cars for a couple of blocks. Dutch Howlan called him “a dynamo, the kind of kid that is always hustling and never has to be told to play hard.”

Davey also happened to be a gifted SMI baseball player to boot. He was a fleet-footed, hard-hitting starting left fielder back when Howlan was still Varsity head coach of the school’s baseball program.

After SMI, he went to Alliance College on a basketball scholarship and then returned to Amsterdam and became a school teacher. He coached baseball at Bishop Scully for a spell as well. He married a St. Mary’s School of Nursing graduate from Long Island named Joanne Nilsen in 1968. Together they would raise sixteen children. The fact that their offspring included some stellar male and female high school athletes surprised none of the old-timers on West Main Street who used to watch that Davey kid race those darn cars back and forth down Route 5.

Jack shares his August 8 birthday with another very talented Amsterdam native who became a teacher.

August 7 – Happy Birthday John Favorito

I started attending Amsterdam High School basketball games during the final couple of games of Tim Kolodziej’s legendary career in 1964. I don’t think I missed an AHS home hoops game for the next eight years. It was in the fall of 1965 that I first remember seeing today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant play. What I remember most about him was that John Favorito was a class act on the court, a tall, very talented center who played clean and hard on both offense and defense from buzzer to buzzer. He was just a junior that year but you could tell he knew how to play the game. He knew how to put the ball in the basket, averaging 12 points per contest that season and then 15 during his final year wearing the purple & gold.

He got most of his points close to the hoop but he also had a very nice shooting touch from the outside. The best part of his game however was his rebounding. He was ferociously good on the boards. If you wanted to teach your son or daughter how to box out an opponent on a rebound, a video of Favorito doing it against a much taller Sidney Edwards of Linton or Philip Schuyler’s Horne brothers would make the perfect teaching tool. I couldn’t find any  season stats on rebounding from back then but it was not unusual for Favorito to pull down 20 in a game. He was a double-double machine long before double-doubles became a coveted stat. This guy made every area all-star team his senior season.
He continued playing basketball in college at Bridgeport and eventually became a director of a Winning Edge basketball program in Massachusetts. One thing I’m certain of is that when kids left one of his camps, they were better rebounders than they were when they arrived. John is retired now and living with his wife Felicia in South Carolina. I believe he’s heading north in the next few days and plans to attend the Bert DeRose Tribute being put on by the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation on August 17th at Riverlink Park.

August 7 – Happy Birthday Bob Alexander

a447cdbd_davisBob Alexander did not spend much time in Amsterdam, NY during his professional baseball career. The right-handed pitcher was born on August 7, 1922 in Vancouver, Canada. He was signed by the Yankees in 1942 and was assigned to New York’s D-level minor league affiliate in Butler, PA. He only appeared in four games there before being promoted to the Rugmakers, where he went 2-4 for manager Tom Cain’s ball club, which finished in first place in that season’s Can-Am League pennant race with a 77-46 record, the second best won-loss percentage ever posted during the franchise’s 11 seasons playing in Amsterdam. Thirteen seasons later, in 1955, he became one of just 28 former Amsterdam Rugmaker players to appear in a Major League game. Here is a complete list of Rugmaker players who made the Major Leagues during their career. They are listed under the year in which they played here in Amsterdam. Names appearing in italic type designate players who went on to become Major League All Stars.

1938
Ford Garrison
Ken Sears
Vince Ventura
1939
Herb Karpel
Mel Queen
Eddie Sawyer
1940
Spec Shea
1941
Allie Clark
Karl Drews
Bill Kennedy
Vic Raschi
Jack Robinson
1942
Bob Alexander
Joe Collins
Bill Drescher
Joe Murray
1946
Dick Kryhoski
John Simmons
1947
Lew Burdette
1949
Bob Grim
Mayo Smith
1950
Wally Burnette
Nino Escalera
Johnny Gray
Gus Triandos
1951
Zeke Bella
Johnny Blanchard
Danny McDevitt

August 6 – Happy Birthday Evie O’Brien

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Her real first name was Evelyn but everyone knew her as “Evie” O’Brien. She was born in Amsterdam, NY on August 6, 1936 to Samuel and Julia Coulter. Her charm, skills, love of life, love of people and huge heart made the Sacandaga Boat Club a very special experience for its members for the 33 years she worked there.

She had five children of her own, whom she adored but she treated the generations of SBC members she served as her family as well. She made you laugh, she listened to your problems, she kept your kids out of trouble and her Evie Burgers were to die for.

Stories of her kindness to others could fill a book. Her lipstick smearing kisses and warm hugs were both prized and legendary, as were the home-cooked Sunday dinners she prepared at the Club.

When she died in 2013 after battling cancer, an era truly had passed for SBC members. For so many of the families who spent huge parts of their lives enjoying treasured summers on that beautiful body of water, Evie O’Brien will always hold a special place in their hearts.

Eve shares her August 6th Birthday with this former Amsterdam industrialist.