On the latest Long Island History Project podcast Stephanie Eberhard-Holgerson’s journalism class at Bayport Blue Point (BBP) High School in Islip tries to solve a mystery. At the suggestion of BBP’s librarian Pam Gustafson, the class has spent the last year looking into the school’s mascot, The Phantoms. The takeaway is that the straightforward question “where did the name come from” has yielded a very convoluted answer. [Read more…] about How the Bayport Blue Point Phantoms Got Their Name
Women’s Basketball History
This week on The Historians Podcast, the guest is Kate Fagan, author of HOOP MUSES-An Insider’s Guide to Pop Culture and the (Women’s) Game an Adventure through Basketball History (Twelve, 2023). Fagan is a native of Schenectady and writes for Sports Illustrated. [Read more…] about Women’s Basketball History
The Buffalo Sports Curse: 120 Years Of Disappointment
Buffalo’s long, storied professional sports history runs back to the early 1900s. Despite a century of opportunity, none of its four major sports teams ever won a universally recognized championship. Not for baseball or basketball; neither football nor hockey.
On the other hand, Buffalo teams experienced numerous close calls and blown calls. As well, there have been injuries and deaths, nefarious back-office dealings, and just-plain-weird happenings, each at just the wrong time to deprive city teams from winning championships. Just bad luck? Or is there something more sinister at play, like a Buffalo Sports Curse? Greg D. Tranter’s new book from RIT Press, The Buffalo Sports Curse: 120 Years of Pain, Disappointment, Heartbreak and Eternal Optimism, chronicles thirty-two cursed events. [Read more…] about The Buffalo Sports Curse: 120 Years Of Disappointment
Stolen Dreams: Racism & Little League Baseball’s Civil War
In July 1955, when the African American 11- and 12-year-olds on the Cannon Street YMCA All-Star team registered for a baseball tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, it put the team on a collision course with segregation. White teams forfeited their games. [Read more…] about Stolen Dreams: Racism & Little League Baseball’s Civil War
Empire City Race Track in Yonkers: Some History
Early April saw New York State lawmakers adopt the 2022 budget and approve a plan to accelerate the siting of three new full casinos in the metropolitan New York area. This plan will see the casino licenses awarded to those able to cover the $500 million fee and be approved in a selection process.
The obvious first choice for one of the three sites is Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, and another possible location would be Empire City Casino in Yonkers.
Both locations for many years have successfully demonstrated their feasibility by conducting horse sports, and each of the casino facilities are managed by experienced operators, Resorts World at the Big A, and MGM at Empire City.
With Aqueduct in the Big Apple so well known, perhaps this is a good opportunity to delve into the origins of Empire City. [Read more…] about Empire City Race Track in Yonkers: Some History
American Prize Ring, 1812-1881: A New Book Documents the Bare-Knuckle Boxing Era
A new book, The American Prize Ring: Its Battles, Its Wrangles, and Its Heroes, 1812-1881 (2022), reprints important boxing history columns by William E. Harding, one of America’s most prolific sportswriters of the bare-knuckle boxing period.
Harding’s “The American Prize Ring: Its Battles, Its Wrangles, and Its Heroes” appeared as a column in the weekly National Police Gazette from June 4th, 1880, until September 10th, 1881. Although the Gazette, and its editor Richard K. Fox, published several pamphlets on boxing, Harding’s monumental history of American pugilism was never published in book form until now. The columns end just before John L. Sullivan’s first prize fight.
Harding’s columns are here assembled for the first time by Jerry Kuntz, who provides an informative introduction. In a foreward New York Almanack founder and editor John Warren writes that “the importance of Jerry Kuntz’s yeoman work in assembling sporting writer William E. Harding’s columns on pugilism in America cannot be understated. Quite simply, this is the best reference work on bare-knuckle boxing in America…” [Read more…] about American Prize Ring, 1812-1881: A New Book Documents the Bare-Knuckle Boxing Era
A History of Snowmobile Racing in New York State
In the motor toboggan era – the time before the advent of the modern snowmobiles we know today – motor sleds had been too slow for racing excitement. As a result they remained strictly utilitarian vehicles racing only occasionally for promotional purposes. Motor toboggan and later snowmobile maker Polaris traveled each year at the end of the 1950s to trapper festivals at The Pas, Manitoba where they helped organize ad hoc races.
“We tried to rig them a little bit so we had a zig-zag effect,” David Johnson said, remembering one of the first informal races, “one guy ahead, and then the other, and so on, at a terrific speed of about 20 miles per hour.” In February 1959, Johnson won the first organized men’s race on an oval at The Pas and in 1960, the first cross-country race was held there. [Read more…] about A History of Snowmobile Racing in New York State
The Spirit of the Times: A 19th Century Chronicle of American Sports
In the early 1800s it was unusual for Americans to be interested in sporting matters on their own shores. News from Europe was the only sporting news of merit, and publishing an American sporting journal was considered a risky use of capital.
The first attempt along these lines may have been in 1829 Baltimore, where John S. Skinner published a monthly magazine which focused on race horse pedigrees called The American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine. Another early attempt was published in New York by the recognized writer and horseman Cadwallader R. Colden, whose organ was called The New-York Sporting Magazine and Annals of the American and English Turf, first published in 1833.
Among the most notable of the sporting press arrived in 1831, when William T. Porter and James Haw published the first issue of The Spirit of the Times, focusing on horse literature and sporting subjects. They had chosen the name for their broadsheet from a quotation in Shakespeare’s King John, “The spirit of the times shall teach me speed.” [Read more…] about The Spirit of the Times: A 19th Century Chronicle of American Sports
The Oysters Sign: 19th Century Boxing’s Most Prized Trophy
When bare-knuckle “fair fight” pugilism reached a height in popularity in England in the early 1820s, many English boxers moved to the city of New York. Some simply for greener, less crowded professional pastures and others out of frustration over corruption or suppression of the sport by British authorities.
In the United States, these men bolstered the “manly art of self defense” by competing in local matches, opening gymnasiums, arranging fights, and training a new generation of American boxers. [Read more…] about The Oysters Sign: 19th Century Boxing’s Most Prized Trophy
The Cuban Giants: Black Baseball in Northern New York
Fans admired the Cuban Giants baseball team for its athletic skills, and Granville, Washington County, NY baseball promoters admired the black baseball team for its draw at the gate.
About 1,000 people, “including many ladies,” with groups of baseball enthusiasts traveling from Rutland, Whitehall, Glens Falls and Troy, attended the June 26, 1890 game when the Cuban Giants defeated the Granville Granvilles 7-0. [Read more…] about The Cuban Giants: Black Baseball in Northern New York