Top Ten Amsterdam High School Female Athletes since 2000 by Scott Mulford

Few if any know more about girls’ sports in Amsterdam, NY than Scott Mulford. A 1983 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Scott started covering and writing about this community’s lady athletes and their teams back in 1995 when he went to work for the old Amsterdam Star Newspaper and he continues in that role today with the Mohawk Valley Compass. This explains why I was thrilled when Scott graciously agreed to contribute this list to this book. It includes his choices for the top ten Amsterdam High School female athletes since the year 2000. He took into consideration all AHS girls sports, so they are equally represented. Here are five of Scott’s ten picks in no particular order. I will include all ten in my new book: Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

Nina Fedullo (girls basketball) – The all time leading scorer in the history of the Amsterdam Lady Rams basketball program. Fedullo graduated in 2017 having scored 1500 points, recorded 856 rebounds, and helped the Amsterdam girls varsity basketball team reach back to back New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A title games in 2016 and 2017. Remarkably, Fedullo put up her impressive numbers in only four seasons on the Lady Rams varsity. She was twice a member of the NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A All Tournament Team, was named a Foothills Council First Team All Star, and was Foothills Council MVP for the 2015- 2016 season. Fedullo was named to the NYSPHSAA All State team the past two seasons, and is currently in the NYSPHSAA top 50 in scoring for girls’ basketball. Fedullo signed her letter of intent to play for The College of St. Rose before the start of the 2016-2017 high school basketball season, and became only the second girls basketball player in the AHS programs’ history to receive a full scholarship, joining Brittany Stahura, who played for Bryant University.

Anna Dyakiv (girls tennis)- A 2010 Amsterdam High School graduate, Dyakiv was part of perennial Big 10 Conference championship teams during the late 2000’s and was the number one singles player for the Lady Rams. A Big 10 and NYSPHSAA Section 2 All Star, she went on to play women’s singles and doubles tennis for Nichols College (MA) where she was named Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) player of the year three times, and was an inter-collegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All Academic scholar athlete. The Lady Bison reached the CCC championship match all four years with Dyakiv leading the way.

Sarah Adamowski (golf)– A 2012 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Adamowski was captain of the AHS golf team where she earned a varsity letter, and twice was named a Big 10 Conference All Star. Adamowski continued her athletic career playing for West Liberty University of Charleston (WV). She was an honorable mention choice on the All Mountain East Conference team as a college sophomore. Adamowski is the founder and head of FORE The Girls, a non profit organization that helps provide scholarships for high school girls with an interest in golf.

Brittany Stahura (girls basketball, girls tennis)- A 2008 graduate of Amsterdam High School and varsity letter winner in girls basketball and girls tennis. Stahura, won back to back Big 10 Conference titles with the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team that went undefeated in league play in 2007 and 2008. The Lady Rams basketball team was ranked in the USA Today’s top 25 in 2008 after defeating some of the top high school girls basketball teams in the state including Christ The King High School. Stahura was the Big 10 Conference MVP in girls basketball in her senior year, and finished her AHS career with 1000 rebounds, tops on the list all time at AHS. She ranks third all time in scoring with 921 points. Stahura received a full scholarship to NCAA Division 1, Bryant University where she played all four seasons, started 60 games, and finished her college career with over 500 rebounds, and more than 150 assists for the Lady Bulldogs.

Olivia Lazarou (girls cross country, girls track and field)- The first girl in the history of the Amsterdam High School cross-country program to qualify for the NYSPHSAA state and federation championships. Over the past three seasons Lazarou reached the NY State Meet in 2014, and 2015, and ran at the Federation Meet in 2015, and 2016. As a junior in 2016, Lazarou finished among the top twenty runners in the talent laden NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A championships at Saratoga State Park among Suburban Council powerhouse teams including Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa. Lazarou has posted top five finishes at the Foothills Council Championships during the last three years as part of the AHS varsity team and will be looking to add Foothills Council individual and team titles to her impressive resume’ when she begins her senior year in the fall of 2017. Lazarou is also a school record holder in several events with the AHS girls indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

TEN AMSTERDAM WORLD WAR II HEROES by Robert Going

Editor’s Note: Robert Going’s poignant book “Where Do We Find Such Men?” is the definitive source for information about Amsterdam’s role in WWII. As his well-researched writings have documented, this Mohawk Valley community of ours has produced some incredible tales of courage, valor and sacrifice in defense of our freedom and the freedom of people around the world. I was thrilled when Mr. Going agreed to put together a list Amsterdam’s most valiant WWII heroes for my new book. It is an honor for me to include it in this compilation. I preview five of his selections in today’s post.I will post the complete list in my new book: Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

Paring this list down wasn’t easy. Over 4,000 Amsterdam men, and quite a few women, served during World War II. The final list includes some chosen for their warrior skills, others for courageous displays of humanity, and some for both. Some died in battle, some came home and tried to live normal lives. There is no ranking here. They all deserve perpetual honor:

Tech. Sgt. Richard Marnell: Amsterdam’s most-decorated soldier. Distinguished Service Cross for action on November 15, 1944 when, under constant fire, single-handedly destroys two, German machine gun nests and captures seven soldiers. It went along with two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts and five battle stars

(Reverend) Anthony Sidoti: Catholic chaplain, on November 8/9, 1944 assisted in the 90th Division crossing of the heavily flooded Moselle River, and then made numerous return crossings escorting the wounded while under heavy artillery fire for the next thirty-six hours. Awarded Silver Star. Spent November 25 removing wounded from the battlefield and earned Purple Heart when artillery shell bursts over his head. Returns to duty on March 13, 1945 and earns second Silver Star on March 17 in Germany rescuing wounded from the battlefield and incidentally inspiring disorganized American troops to rally and achieve victory.

PFC John (Jack) Blanchfield: While training to be an officer is suddenly called up with others as replacement troops after Normandy invasion and sent straight to the front in the summer of 1944. Taken prisoner, he organizes a POW work crew, essentially assuming the duties of Captain of a company. In a manner worthy of Hogan’s Heroes they continuously outwit their German captors often at risk of their lives, and build a concrete wall to block Russian tanks, which promptly disintegrates at its dedication. Late in the European war they escape en masse and Blanchfield leads his company behind enemy lines for several days before linking up with advancing American forces. He leaves all that out in his debriefing and is rewarded by promotion to corporal.

Cpl. Allen Pileckas (USMC): An Amsterdam High graduate from Hagaman. Already commended for bravery on Guam and with a Purple Heart from action there, he is serving with the Third Marine Division on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945 under heavy rifle, mortar and machine gun fire. Crawls fifty yards through the thick of it alone and takes out the well-defended nest with a perfectly placed grenade. He then takes shrapnel to the head and dies two days later at the age of 24.

Staff Sgt.. Fenton Brown: A former Wilbur H. Lynch athlete, during Battle of Naples, October 3, 1943, earned Bronze Star and Purple Heart, crawling out of his foxhole to rescue a wounded comrade and administering First Aid under fire. In August of 1944, in France, he found himself in command of a 35-man platoon assigned to cover a retreat. He organized his men, personally killed or wounded 25 Germans with his machine gun, then picked up his M-1 rifle and shot two more, organized a counter-attack and regained the lost ground, earning a Silver Star. Killed by a sniper on October 5, 1944. According to his Class of 1938 yearbook he hoped to become a football hero.

 

Ten of Amsterdam’s Most Memorable Musical Groups

This Amsterdam Top Ten List was a tough one for me because I was very familiar with the Amsterdam bands of the sixties and early seventies that played top 40 tunes of their day and not at all familiar with the local music scene of today. So I asked for help and the result was what I feel is a great representation of the music Amsterdamians loved to play and more importantly, loved to listen to from the beginning of the Twentieth Century until this past weekend! Here’s five groups that made my Top Ten List. What about the other five? I will post the complete list in my new book: Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

Eljer Band: These guys were red hot in the early-to-mid seventies, when bell-bottoms were in and right before disco took over the music charts. Formed in April of 1972 by Amsterdam natives Adrian Lizotte and John Tucci, the name of the group was inspired by the make of the toilet at the band’s practice site! Two other guys I went to high school with, Larry Bursese (keyboards) and John Chiara (drums) were also part of this group for a spell. They were good enough to tour the northeast for about a ten-year stretch. I remember them playing at Meadowbrook and I think the old Bronze Bell. They had a terrific sound and great stage presence.

The Tony Brooks Orchestra: Tony Brooks’ tenure as one of Amsterdam’s busiest and most popular musicians began right before World War II and continued into the 1970s. He was the Amsterdam version of Tommy Dorsey. He played a mean trumpet and led a 16-piece ensemble that produced a big band sound, which was featured at all the biggest local events plus toured throughout the entire upstate region. His musicians included Frank Intilli, Zeke Romelski, Marty Dybas, Ray Iwanski, Hermie Bianco, Johnny Carbone, Jerry Ciulick, Chick Martuscello and Marty Fontana. Brooks also ran a popular music store in downtown Amsterdam for a while.

Dusty Miller and the Colorado Wranglers: For over fifty years, Elmer Rossi, a.k.a. Dusty Miller was the Rug City version of Roy Rogers, the singing Cowboy. Of course Elmer did not shoot a gun, do rope tricks, own a famous horse like Trigger, or star on his own TV show but as Dusty, he did have his own musical group called the Colorado Wranglers and he did perform in the Grand Ol Opry and he did have his own highly rated (in Amsterdam)
radio show on WCSS. And for many of those years him and the Wranglers were one of the most in-demand, live country & western musical acts not just in Amsterdam but also the Capital District, northern New York State and Vermont. Back in the 1940’s and ‘50’s the Wranglers included Barry Frank on guitar, Curly Dean on the accordion and fiddler Flash Gordon. By the time I got to know Dusty and his music, it was the early 1970’s and he was playing regularly at Ralph’s on Amsterdam’s lower Market Street, where I served as bartender. By then Joey Iannotti and Johnny Costello were his band mates.

Tony’s Polka Band – No list of great Amsterdam bands could be complete without a great polka band and one would imagine that all the great polka bands from Amsterdam played their final notes back in the days when Amsterdam’s Polish-American community was at its apex of growth. There certainly were several great polka ensembles active in our city during the mid decades of the Twentieth Century but none were any better than Tony’s Polka Band, an eight-piece, high-energy group of musicians who got together as high school students in the 1990s and committed themselves to carrying polka music into the Twenty First Century. The foundation of the band is Amsterdam’s talented Banewicz family. They’ve put together a playlist of traditional and modern sounds that blends polka with country, rock, pop, Latin and even disco and performed it at venues throughout the northeast, winning a major national polka competition in the process. Do yourself a favor and Google this group and check out their discography.

Alex Torres y Los Reyes Latinos: When Alex Torrez was growing up in the Bronx, his Mom made sure their apartment was always filled with the hot and sensuous beat of Latino music, including the likes of Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. The family moved to Amsterdam in 1980, when Alex was just 14 years-old and he was shocked to find that there was no radio stations in this area that played the Latino genre. So he formed a band of his own, teaching himself how to play bass guitar and then teaching a dozen of his neighborhood and school buddies to play instruments he had never played himself. It wasn’t long before the band caught on big in Amsterdam’s Latino neighborhoods and soon thereafter in Latino communities outside of Amsterdam as well. Before you knew it, they began recording their own music and were getting invited to bigger and bigger events throughout the northeastern United States. They started winning awards and getting asked to play for bigwig public figures including New York Governor George Pataki and Bill and Hillary Clinton. They hit the big time officially in 1999 when the group’s fourth album entitled Entre Amigo was a Grammy Award semi- finalist.

Ten Things Folks From Amsterdam Have Been Able to Do Since At Least 1950

Here are four of the ten things I’ve identified that folks in Amsterdam have been able to do since at least 1950. I’ll share the other six in my new book: Fifty Amsterdam New York Top Ten Lists, which will be available in September of 2017.

Order a pizza at Bottisti’s – The pizza at Amsterdam’s first ever dedicated pizzeria hasn’t changed since Herm Bottisti started making them in the late 1940’s. His sons and now his grandchildren are carrying on the great tomato pie tradition at this Van Derveer Street Landmark.

Get their car serviced at Sikorski’s – Cas Sikorski built the business with hard work, great service and by treating his customers fairly. Cas’s son Fran has doubled down on that formula plus filled the garage at the foot of Locust Avenue with a crew of top-trained mechanics and the latest auto technology.
Get a shot and a beer at Russo’s – and don’t forget a sausage sandwich and maybe fries with gravy too. Started out as an illegal speakeasy during Prohibition behind John Russo’s West Main Street “Mohawk Grocery Store.” Two generations of the Russo family have kept it going since and today, John’s talented grandson Mike Russo is running Amsterdam’s most popular eatery and watering hole. No truth to the rumor that Mike is running an illegal grocery store in the back of the place.
Purchase Insurance from the DiBlasi Agency – Meadeo and Catherine DiBlasi started an insurance business inside their Division Street residence right after he got home from service in World War II. His sons and now his grandson are keeping that business going in the DiBlasi Agency’s Guy Park Avenue location.

Amsterdam’s All-Time Top Ten Fraternal and Service Organizations

Throughout Amsterdam’s history, fraternal and volunteer service organizations have contributed greatly to the fabric and spirit of our community and fortunately for all of us, many still do. In today’s post, I write about six such organizations. I’ll include five more (there was a tie for one of the slots making this a top 11 list) in my upcoming book of Fifty All-Time Top Ten Amsterdam Lists:

Amsterdam’s Elks Lodge 101 was organized in 1888 at the long ago demolished Red Men’s Hall, which used to be located on East Main Street. Their mission statement was summed up into four tenants; Justice, Charity, Brotherly Love and Fidelity. It wasn’t until 1909, when membership in the local lodge had exceeded the 500 mark that the local chapter had enough money in its treasury to afford their own clubhouse and the one they built on lower Division Street, alongside the Amsterdam Savings Bank was indeed one of the finest fraternal organization homes in the history of the Rug City. The early charity of the lodge focused on the unfortunate and underprivileged of the community and for years, their trademark philanthropic effort was the distribution of Christmas baskets to Amsterdam’s neediest families. Many of Amsterdam’s leading male citizens joined the organization over the years. Well-known local names like former School Superintendent Raphael J. McNulty and Mohawk Finishing founder Frank Pabis took on the title of Exalted Ruler. Urban renewal took the lodge’s regal clubhouse in the 1970’s. The organization is still going strong today, thanks to the efforts of familiar names like Fran and Jackie Sikorski, Rich Boice, Cliff Gillis, Vic Sperduto and a host of others. They are now lodged in the former St. John’s Club Social Center on Fourth Avenue in Amsterdam. Their much appreciated community good will and charity efforts go on. They continue to visit the needy and the sick among us, took over sponsorship of Amsterdam’s Halloween parade from the Kiwanians in 2004, and donate teaching tools about the U.S. Constitution to local schools. In 2013, the Amsterdam Elks Lodge No. 101 celebrated their 125th anniversary.

Amsterdam Rotary Club: The very first Rotary Club was started in Chicago in 1906, as a cure for loneliness in a big city. Four businessmen got together and decided they would continue meeting every week, rotating the sight to each of their offices, hence the name Rotary. Fourteen years later a group of prominent Amsterdamians replicated that Chicago get together in the dining room of Amsterdam’s Barne’s Hotel on Market Street. These Rug City businessmen weren’t lonely but they loved the idea of getting together regularly to brainstorm about business and do good things for their city. Fast forward 98 years and those regular Rotary luncheons are still going on here in Amsterdam up at Raindancer Restaurant but now women members are welcome too. During their almost century of existence, Amsterdam’s Rotary Club has done so many good things for this community I could fill several pages of this book trying to describe them all, from sponsoring Amsterdam’s first farmers market on a vacant lot on Railroad Street in 1919, to creating a college loan fund for Amsterdam students who wanted to further their education; from establishing the Amsterdam Community Chest which evolved into the United Way to planting 28,000 tulip bulbs imported from Amsterdam, Holland in 1969. Their fish fries and summer variety shows have become favorite Amsterdam traditions. What an outstanding organization the Rotarians have been for this community.

Lions Club – The Amsterdam chapter of the Lions Club was formed in 1951. The first president of the local chapter was Robert Young. The mission of the Lions Club is to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. In the 1920’s the international organization took on the cause of eradicating blindness and providing whatever aid was possible to the blind and vision impaired. Amsterdam’s Lions Club members took this to heart. They led the local effort to garner eye donations for corneal transplants and then organized a delivery system to get those donations to their recipients in the prescribed amount of time. They donated books printed in braille and extra large print along with audio books to the Amsterdam Library. They sold record amounts of Blind Seals to help pay for their programs. They collected old eyeglasses, refurbished and redistributed them to the neediest of the sight impaired. More recently, the Lions have initiated a similar support and assist initiative for the hearing impaired and victims of natural disasters. And as of the summer of 2017, the Amsterdam Lions Club is still going strong. They meet twice a month on Thursdays at Bosco’s Restaurant on Amsterdam’s Division Street.

Century Club – Women in America had not yet been given the right to vote when an Amsterdamian named Mercy Annie Allen Trapnell gathered 25 of her lady friends together to talk about the plays of William Shakespeare and the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Trapnell then suggested each attendee invite three of their friends to a subsequent get together. Now since the majority of these ladies came from the upper portion of Amsterdam’s late 19th Century Society, the task of finding three friends to attend their next gathering was not a particularly challenging one and sure enough a total of 100 women showed up at the next meeting. That’s when the decision was made to formalize the group into a club that would be dedicated to providing members with exposure to culture, knowledge and self-improvement. Since there were 100 ladies in attendance, they named their new organization the Century Club and initially limited membership to 100. By 1908 the cap had been raised to 250 and after another 25 years of nomadic gathering around town, ground was broke on what would become one of the most elegant clubhouses ever constructed in the city of Amsterdam, on Guy Park Avenue. During the subsequent decades the members of the Century Club have accomplished some great things for this community, among them the establishment of the free milk program to the kindergarteners in Amsterdam’s schools and the development of the Sassafras Bird Sanctuary. In addition, their beautiful clubhouse has hosted a multitude of community events and activities of which the annual Festival of Trees during the Holiday season is a classic example.

Historic Amsterdam League – One of the newest service organizations in our community, the League was established in 2010, in conjunction with the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the 1885 chartering of the City of Amsterdam. HAL’s official mission is to preserve, promote and protect the physical, cultural and natural heritage of the city. Based on the success of HAL’s program initiatives during the first seven years of their existence, this organization has absolutely nailed that mission. Led by a group of intelligent and enterprising lovers of Amsterdam heritage, HAL has pulled the dusty covers of time and lack of attention off of some of this community’s most treasured history. Using wonderfully creative reenactment tours and commemorative books, the organization shines bright lights on the remnants of places, people and things that still exist in every section of our city and tells us their stories. They spend time, money and effort to seek official recognition and legal preservation status for some of Amsterdam’s most valuable historical artifacts and also work hard to restore them. HAL’s members are people who truly understand that learning the lessons of the past is the key to charting a more successful future plus they have a heck of a good time teaching us all these amazing things.

Knights of Columbus – This fraternal order began in Connecticut in 1882. Fifteen years later, Amsterdam Council 209 was formed by several of the male members of St. Mary’s Church. The local chapter grew quickly aided by the dramatic growth in Amsterdam’s Roman Catholic population during the pre-WWI years. Called Knights because they took vows to defend the Roman Catholic faith, members were also expected to promote the values of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism in the world. Those of us who served as altar boys in Amsterdam’s Catholic churches in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s remember fondly the many times the Knights who reached the fourth degree level of membership would march in processions during special mass celebrations at our respective churches. Carrying swords and dressed in feathered hats and capes, they were an impressive and appreciated sight. Though their clubhouse on Market Street was not as old-world elegant as the nearby Elks Lodge, it was one of the finest and most functional venues in town for special events and epic Bingo nights. The Amsterdam K of C did a whole lot of good for this community as well. The Knights made huge contributions to the construction funds of both Bishop Scully High School and St. Mary’s Hospital. They donated truckloads of modern hospital beds and special convalescent chairs to both St. Mary’s and the Mt. Loretto Nursing Home. They sponsored youth sports teams for many years and consistently did whatever was asked of them on behalf of Amsterdam’s elderly and our special needs population. Like most organizations in this depressed old mill town, as jobs and young people disappeared the membership numbers of the Knights suffered. But it still continues. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Jeff Stark and a bunch of guys who had fathers in the organization, the Knights of Amsterdam are making a comeback. They have a new down-sized clubhouse on West Main Street and have begun a new tradition by sponsoring an old-fashioned street festival in that neighborhood every August to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. I wish them every success.

Ten Ideas for Reviving Amsterdam, New York

I call them “buzz-worthy project proposals.” They are ideas designed to enhance development of an urban community and its surrounding area, which are designed and structured in such a way so that they have the potential of generating huge volumes of FREE PUBLICITY. Let’s face it. There are plenty of reasons why developers, new businesses and tourists are not flocking to or spending money in Amsterdam on their own. We need to eliminate those reasons. How? By being smarter and more creative in our efforts to convince those same groups otherwise. They need to be sold so we need to come up with better development and tourism packages that are compelling and unique enough to get newspaper editors and bloggers from outside our area to write about and help sell them. Here are five such idea packages that I think have this type of appeal. I include five more in my upcoming book. I’d like to get your feedback and perhaps other ideas you may have for enhancing Amsterdam’s economy and quality of life:

Business Plan competition to fill vacant Chalmers’ site: How can the City of Amsterdam attract young entrepreneurs with solid, fully financed business plans to consider locating their start-up businesses and their personal residences in our City? By providing them with attractive enough incentives to do so. What could the City offer as an incentive? How about one year worth of free rent for newly constructed combination living and business space on a rejuvenated waterfront and their choice of a free membership to a Robert Trent Jones designed Golf Course or a fully equipped health club.  Where would this City find the new business applicants needed to drive this program? By having AIDA, with the assistance of Montgomery County EDC and the offices of Tonko, Amedore and Santabarbara network with all of the local universities (RPI, Union, Albany State etc.) and all of the state, county and privately funded programs that promote incubator business development. How would AIDA decide who receives a grant? Applicants would need to submit a business plan that includes full financial disclosure. A committee of business and finance professionals would be formed to review these plans and select those most likely to succeed. Those selected would receive the above-described incentive. Who would develop the combo units on the Chalmers property? One of the advantages of pursuing this strategy is the fact that the incentive offered the entrepreneurs would also serve as a strong incentive to potential developers of the post demolition Chalmers property. The fact that AIDA would be willing to promote the property and pay the first year’s rent of new tenants significantly reduces the burden and risks that the developer of such a property would normally face. What happens after the first year? Each new business selected for this grant would be required to sign at least a two year lease at an agreed upon rate for the second year. Perhaps the City could also agree to adjust the property tax rate for the property so that during the first five years of the development’s existence the owner is paying taxes only on those units occupied by tenants. Small businesses have been traditionally, the single largest provider of new jobs in the US economy. Thanks to the Internet and the efficiency of wireless and e-commerce technologies, location is no longer an essential component of success for so many types of business start-ups. Put yourself in the shoes of a young electrical engineering student at RPI, or Nano Tech graduate assistant at SUNY who has a documented great idea and a brilliant mind. Being able to start your business on the first floor, live on the second floor with a balcony that looks out over a beautiful river, play golf at Muny, be in Albany or Saratoga in just half an hour. Why not Amsterdam?

Create a New York State Walk of Fame that extends from The old Armory on Bridge Street, across the Pedestrian Bridge through Riverlink Park; I love Amsterdam’s new pedestrian bridge, I really do. The problem with it, however, is that folks who don’t live in Amsterdam are not coming to see it in any where near the numbers originally projected by its planners. So the challenge now is how do we make that happen. There are 62 counties in the State of New York. Lets create a more compelling reason for residents from every one of those counties to consider coming to see the new pedestrian bridge that opened in 2016 or at least consider making it a stop in Amsterdam to take a look on their way to someplace else. Let’s incorporate the bridge into New York State’s Official Walkway of Fame. Ask our state legislators to seek a state charter for this designation. Then let’s find out via an online election, who residents feel is their county’s most famous native. We will have 62 winners. Have a designer come up with a standard plaque/display piece to commemorate each Walk of Fame honoree and then have each county create one for their most famous resident and as those displays are completed have an official unveiling ceremony for that county held on the bridge. Add new inductees each year. The bottom line is that a bridge that celebrates the history and culture of our entire state will have much greater media and tourist appeal than a bridge that celebrates the history and culture of only our community.

Build the largest Cross in the world at the Auriesville Shrine: In the 1970’s I worked for Tom Constantino at Amsterdam, New York’s Noteworthy Company. Tom loved the Auriesville Shrine and wanted to do something that would assure its long-term survival. He presented the owners of the Shrine, the Society of Jesuits a plan to construct the largest Cross in the world on the grounds of the site. The Jesuits rejected it back then but now they have ceded control of the site to the Albany Diocese. Perhaps the time is now right to get the Cross project approved. Back when Constantino was pushing the project, there was no Internet, which means fundraising efforts for the construction would have had to been raised via expensive direct mail and broadcast efforts. Today, one well designed, Web-based campaign on a popular donor appeal site like GoFundMe.com might be all that is needed to raise the necessary funds. Adding such a significant spiritual landmark to the location where the first Christian missionaries to North America were martyred, would greatly enhance the Shrine’s appeal as a religious attraction and would certainly garner the ongoing attention of both the Christian and mainstream media.

Create the Amsterdam Demolition Institute: Propose to the state that Amsterdam become the site of a new training institute for demolition skills certification. Communities from around the state would be able to send their public works employees to this school where they will be taught the skills necessary to safely and responsibly demolish abandoned dwellings in their community that have been deemed beyond repair. All aspects of the demolition process would be taught including site prep, hazard remediation, heavy equipment operation, safety and environmentally compliant disposal of all construction debris. Each class will actually participate in a live demolition of one of Amsterdam’s uninhabitable, irreparable dwellings. Every time a final exam is given another unstable and dangerous Amsterdam eyesore disappears.

Formation of an “Invest in Amsterdam” venture capital group: One of the things I’ve discovered in the process of writing about the history of Amsterdam is that there exists a large community of current and former Amsterdam residents who have done well in their careers here and elsewhere and remain interested in their hometown and would be willing to help rejuvenate it if given the appropriate opportunity. I believe it is entirely possible to find a group of these current and former Rug City residents willing to purchase shares in a venture fund that would then be used as a revolving loan/investment fund to help bring new business to the city and/or expand existing businesses. Even more importantly, many of these ex-Amsterdamians could be convinced to sit on an advisory board to not just evaluate each investment opportunity but to also mentor and advise recipients of these monies.

Amsterdam’s All Time Top Ten Adult Sports Organizations

1. Recreation Softball: If you’re my age and you’ve lived in Amsterdam all your lives, not only did you probably play in the city of Amsterdam’s recreation softball league but your dad and perhaps even your mom did too. So did your sons and daughters and right about now you have grandkids old enough to take their own swings at that stitched and spongy grapefruit sized sphere. And though the generations were different, the game has remained pretty much the same. No taking a lead when on base, ten players to a side thanks to a “short-fielder” who really doesn’t have to be short and of course the two “pitcher” rules. During the game, the “pitcher” has to throw the ball underhanded and then after the game, all team members must gather in a common spot where beer is served, preferably in “pitchers!” Three people I think of when the subject of Amsterdam Recreation Softball comes up are: Marty Tambasco, who is approaching his 50th year as a player and no-one has contributed more time, friendship or enthusiasm to the game; Tom “Flick” Flint who started out as a catcher with DePalma’s in the 1970’s and was still one of this town’s best pitchers when his terminal cancer struck in 2010. The annual tournament he started for his dad remains one of this city’s premier softball events; Jorge Rivera was the guy most responsible for bringing Amsterdam’s Latino population into the recreation softball community. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my entire life. As for all-time most willing softball team sponsors, the former West Main Street bar known as Liber’s certainly deserved a vote of thanks for sponsoring so many different softball teams for so many years. Below is one of my favorite all-time Recorder photos showing the ladies softball team sponsored by J.J. Newberry’s Department Store in 1947.

2. Recreation Basketball: A much older recreation sport than softball, Amsterdamians have been playing basketball in city recreation leagues since the World War I era. Back before television took over as the main source of after-dinner entertainment, Amsterdam sports fans could head down to Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School’s huge gym on winter evenings or go across the bridge to the Armory’s and watch some of this city’s all-time greatest hoopsters go head to head against each other. Through the 1950’s the teams were mostly neighborhood and ethnically bundled and sometimes a mixture of both. For example, the pre-WWII American Lithuanian Club (ALC) had a super hardwood team for years and drew their rosters from Amsterdam’s burgeoning Lithuanian community, which centered itself around East End neighborhood of the old St. Casmir’s Church. St. John’s Club was where the Polish American athletes from Park Hill played their ball and the Mohawk Athletic Club represented Amsterdam’s Italian dominated West End. None of these teams were beyond recruiting from outside those lines to strengthen their league title chances. By the 1960’s the grills and retail businesses of Amsterdam began to dominate team sponsorships, recognizing that a headline like “Mortan’s Win’s Championship” on the Recorder sports pages was worth its weight in advertising and public relations gold. The picture below shows Mortan’s 1965 city championship team.

3. Over 30 Basketball: The biggest advantage softball has over basketball is that you can still play it competitively in your middle age years. Heck, I still remember when the late great Stan Burza drove a towering smash over our right fielder’s head when he was 64 years old! Amsterdam’s older basketball community was not about to let a little thing like a few too may birthdays stop them from playing the game that they loved. So back in the 1960’s, a group of men got together and formed a four-team organization known as the Over 30 Basketball League and after about a decade of existence, it actually had become one of the most popular recreation leagues in this city’s history. It reminded me of the City High Rise because you had to wait until you were a certain age to get in and even when you reached that age, you had to put your name on a waiting list because so many people wanted to to play! The first venue for “Over 30” games was the old Truax School. The final one a half century later was the gym at the Perth Bible Church. In between were millions of dribbles and hundreds of thousands of shots by guys who may have been losing some hair at the time but not their love for the game of basketball.

4. City Night Softball League: It was the big leagues as far as Amsterdam softball was concerned. Real uniforms, night games under the lights, dugouts, uniformed team managers, a public address announcer, an actual outfield fence and full line-up game stats in the next evening’s Recorder, about the only thing missing from Veterans Field during these games was a beer vendor! From the early 1960’s until about the mid ‘70’s City Night Softball was where all the best players in the area played the game. I can remember when Baia’s Tommy Moran and Rupsis’ Danny Phelps faced off against each other, those rickety sets of Vets’ Field bleachers would just about fill up to watch the league’s two best pitchers go at it. Just before the first ever City Night game on May 18, 1964, Recorder Sports Editor Art Hoefs used the opening section of his popular sports column to promote the new circuit and included this nostalgia churning comparison; “(Night softball) will provide sports competition and relaxation for fans after 8 p.m. Amsterdamians will recall sitting at the Mohawk Mills Park watching the old Rugmakers in the cool of summer’s night. Now this same opportunity will be afforded once more.” Pictured below is the 1971 City Night Champions, Baia’s Tavern. Led by Moran’s lights out pitching, the team representing the legendary Lyons Street establishment was the toughest club to beat for most of the seasons of the league’s existence.

5. Adult Bowling Leagues – Search the closets of any house or apartment in this city from right after World War II until Ronald Reagan left the White House and I guarantee it wouldn’t take you long to find at least one bowling ball. Everybody in this town bowled in one league or another and those leagues, which were organized at classic bowling alleys named Wilton, Bannisters, Sky View, Pin Haven, St. John’s and Windmill Lanes made it possible to bowl three games on a team in this town on any night of the week. Amsterdam certainly wasn’t alone in its love for bowling but no place had a bigger passion for the game or a richer tradition in the sport. One of the great thrills created by this wonderful sport was getting your name placed among those set in the thick bold faced type that used to appear under the heading “Aces of the Alley” on the sports pages of every single edition of the Amsterdam Recorder. Bowling was indeed Amsterdam’s favorite sport and it was the secretaries of the hundreds of bowling leagues that functioned in this city over the years, the men and women who kept track of all those scores and averages, who were the keys to making it all possible. Pictured below is the “Amsterdam Rug” sponsored team that won the 1970 Womens City Championship.

I will finish this list of the Top Ten Amsterdam Adult Sports Organizations in time to get them in my upcoming book which is scheduled for release later this year. I can promise you that though the next five may not have been as popular as those shown above, they most certainly have a rich and interesting tradition in this community. 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.

Amsterdam’s All-Time Top Ten Youth Sports Organizations

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.

All Time Greatest Amsterdam Participants in Ten Non-Major Sports

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.

Ten of the All-Time Most Effective Amsterdam, NY Church Leaders

Religious disputes have given rise to some of the most horrible wars in human history and also, as it turns out, many of the Amsterdam churches we Rug City residents were baptized in. For example, the very first church building constructed in what is now the city of Amsterdam, the Dutch Reformed Church of Veddersburg was erected on the iconic corner of Market and Main Streets in 1800 by a group of disgruntled Reformists after they lost a battle with the rest of their congregation, who voted to build their new house of worship up by Manny’s Corners. Three decades later, after that first church had aligned itself with the Presbyterian denomination, about 100 disgruntled members broke away from it to form the Second Presbyterian Church of Amsterdam, which has occupied the same location on Church Street (across from the Amsterdam Free Library) since 1832. The Lutherans of Amsterdam split when the non-German portion of their congregation wanted services in English and not German. Protestants were not the only folks of faith seeking separation from their brethren. The Irish and German Catholics of St. Mary’s parish went their separate ways when the German portion of the congregation consisting of about 100 families, built St. Joseph’s Church on Guy Park Avenue (then called Spring Street) in 1884. Ditto for the city’s Polish Catholics who lived on Park Hill. They broke off from their St. Stanislaus parish on Reid Hill to build their own neighborhood church which they christened St. John the Baptist. The Mohawk River eventually became the dividing line between Amsterdam’s Italian Catholics, most of whom had arrived here to work on the construction of the Barge Canal. The north side portion formed St. Michaels while the South Siders chose Our Lady of Mt Carmel.

This is why I believe strongly that buildings don’t define a church, it’s the people who worship there that do, which is where the pastor comes in. As the leader of the flock, he or she is the one who sets the tone of the congregation. Will they be aggressive or passive, active or disengaged, tolerant or strict, forgiving or damning, unified or divided? Will the church grow or decline faster or slower than others in the community. It is of course impossible for me or anyone to objectively decide who the top ten church leaders are in Amsterdam’s history. So instead, the following list profiles ten of the many great ones who’ve ministered here in this old mill town.

Reverend Frank T. Rhode: Second Presbyterian Church – When a carload of Second Presbyterians left Amsterdam one morning in 1921 for a two-day trip to Majestic, Connecticut, they were on a mission to find the fifth pastor in that Church’s 80-year history. They were headed to meet and observe a young graduate of the Chicago Theological Seminary named Frank T. Rhodes, who was then serving as a student pastor for a congregation in the seaside New England town. They liked what they saw and the decision to hire Rhodes was made. Fast forward to March 18, 1957. Three hundred and fifty members of the Second Pres. congregation have gathered in the Church hall to celebrate Rhode’s retirement. The consensus that evening was that the “Rhode” Trip taken 36 years earlier had been a success. Rev. Rhode had become one of Amsterdam’s most respected spiritual and community leaders during his tenure at Second Pres. and would remain so as Pastor Emeritus throughout his retirement years.

Rabbi Samuel Bloom: Congregation Sons of Israel – He became the spiritual leader for the Congregation Sons of Israel in 1949, replacing Rabbi Jack Weitman, He continued in that role for the next four decades. Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, Bloom earned bachelors and doctorate degrees from NYU, and a masters from Union College. He was ordained at Beth Joseph Rabbinical Seminary in Brooklyn. The Congregation’s original Amsterdam Synagogue was located on the corner of Liberty and Grove Street when Bloom first arrived in town and it thrived under his leadership. He was a gifted orator, just as well versed on most secular issues as he was the Torah. His schedule was filled with speaking engagements all over the city and every Sunday morning he hosted his own talk show on WCSS radio for thirty years. A true servant of the community, Bloom was a very active volunteer in Amsterdam’s United Way campaigns and was a champion of this town’s efforts at interfaith dialog and understanding, also serving as President of the Greater Amsterdam Clergy Association. The highlight of Rabbi Bloom’s wonderful stewardship of Congregation Sons of Israel was its move to a beautiful brand new home at 355 Guy Park Avenue in 1976.

Father Anton Gorski: St. Stanislaus Church – Like all immigrant Catholics who came to Amsterdam, NY in the mid-to-late 1800’s, the first Polish people who settled here (circa 1880) worshiped at St. Mary’s Parish. By 1888, they had formed their own sub-group called the Saint Stanislaus Society and were ready to form a church of their own. In September of 1895, the Bishop in Albany sent them their first official pastor. His name was Anton Gorski. Within two years their new Cornell Street house of worship was open and by 1906, so was their parish school. Gorski headed the church for a total of 35 years and the strength of the foundation he established is still evident today to anyone who attends the still-going-strong St. Stanislaus Summer Festival.

Reverend William D. Orr: St. Ann’s Episcopal Church – All of Amsterdam was shocked when the 56-year-old Rev. Orr suffered a stroke while teaching a confirmation class of young St. Ann parishioners in February of 1961. Tragically, he died one week later. Orr had to be one of the most devoted, enthusiastic and involved citizens in Amsterdam history. In addition to being the spiritual leader of the St. Ann’s congregation, he served on the Board of Education, the Amsterdam Housing Authority and was credited with rejuvenating the Amsterdam Concerts Association at a time when local support had all but disappeared. He rarely missed an Amsterdam High School home sporting event, was a talented pianist and very active in both the Rotary Club and the Masons. He had come to St. Ann’s in 1935 after graduating from Harvard University and serving parishes in Albany, NY and Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the time, the St Ann’s congregation was burdened by a huge mortgage on their church in the middle of the Great depression. Not only did Orr get that mortgage paid off, he also purchased a home next to it and got it converted into the church’s first rectory. He was a native of Newton Center, Massachusetts.

Father Joseph Girzone: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church – He was caring, compassionate, friendly, very smart and though he had some difficulty making prepared speeches on the altar he was a genius at making a difference in the community. He understood government as well as he understood God and he was instrumental at getting the Montgomery County Office of the Aging initially funded and up and running. Then he showed us all how to love thy neighbor by doing the same thing in neighboring Fulton County. Girzone was a driving force behind the launch of Amsterdam’s Meals for the Elderly, a wonderful program that continues to serve a vital function for so many of our senior citizens four full decades later. He started a youth community center at Mt. Carmel, which offered all kinds of cultural and recreational programs for teenagers. He brought God’s words into area jails and advocated for better treatment of prisoners. He worked closely with the Red Cross to provide assistance to victims of disasters. He truly tried to live his life the way he thought Jesus would want him to. In fact, he often found himself at odds with church doctrine, which he thought at times focused too much on harshness, telling people what they couldn’t do and driving them away from God. In 1983, shortly after a heart ailment had forced him to retire from the priesthood, he wrote and self-published his interpretation of what God would be like if he was here today. He called the book “Joshua” and sold copies from the trunk of his car. Everyone who read it loved it including professional reviewers and new talent editors at Doubleday. When he passed away in 2015 at the age of 85, over 3 million copies of his books had been sold spreading his story of Joshua around the world. This wonderful priest who sometimes had a tough time explaining the will of God from a pulpit, had absolutely no problem doing so with a pen and paper.

I will reveal my choices for the other five top Amsterdam church leaders in my new book; 50 Top Ten All-Time Amsterdam Lists, which will be released later this year. If you subscribe to my free monthly Amsterdam Top Ten Newsletter, you will receive a special offer that will permit you to order my new book at a special discounted price. You can subscribe to the free newsletter here.