Blog | Sports: The Hot Corner
LI Connection to New Baseball Documentary
Rob Nelson, co-founder of Big League Chew, played ball in Portland
Another intricate sports story and another connection to Long Island. Did you know the founder of Big League Chew grew up on Long Island?
Rob Nelson, a pitcher at Nassau County Community College and at Cornell University, partnered with former teammate and baseball notable Jim Bouton to launch the product in the 1970s.
Nelson played with Bouton on the Portland Mavericks in 1977, an independent team founded by Bing Russell, the late actor and father of Kurt Russell, and grandfather of former big leaguer Matt Franco.
Nelson’s name came across the sports radar again this year after the younger Russell released a documentary on Netflix about the Portland squad called “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.” He was a vocal piece of the documentary.
The film captures Bing’s legacy and love of the game, which brought back baseball to the Portland area after a Triple A club there had been disbanded. At one point there were no independent teams in the nation, but Bing changed that and is the reason independent teams can co-exist with affiliated ball clubs. He’s even the reason the Long Island Ducks are able to play today if you think about. But onto the gum …
According to a story on the Cornell Athletic website, Nelson and Bouton watched teammates spit chewing tobacco on each other’s cleats. Nelson, as a kid on Long Island, had an idea for shredded bubble gum.
“I told him, ‘I always thought it would be cool to have shredded gum so we could look as good as these guys, but not get ill,’ explains Nelson in an interview with Cornell. “And I remember Bouton’s eyes got really big and he said ‘Jeez, I really like that idea.’ I like to say that I had the inspiration, but truth is, Jim was the perspiration because he was really the guy that did the bulk of the work. He said, ‘I can sell that idea. I can go to a company and I can find somebody that would manufacture this gum.’ And on a handshake, we became partners.”
Famous gum. Famous ball player. Legendary actor’s baseball documentary. And yes, a Long Island connection.
Speedy Claxton Inducted to NYCB HOF
Hofstra great honored with another Hall of Fame induction
The honors keep piling up for Hofstra and Long Island basketball great Speedy Claxton. He was inducted to the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.
Already a member of Hofstra’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Claxton jumped on board as an assistant coach with the basketball program last season after spending the previous two years as a scout with Golden State in the NBA.
The Speedy Claxton File (Hofstra)
• Graduated from Hofstra in 2000 as one of only six players in school history to score 2,000 career points (2,015)
• Graduated as the program’s all-time leader in both assists (660) and steals (288)
• Two-time Player of the Year selection in the America East Conference (1998, 2000)
• Named the 2000 winner of the Haggerty Award, given to the top player in the Metropolitan New York area, after leading Hofstra to an America East Conference championship and its first NCAA Division I tournament berth in 23 years
The Speedy Claxton File (Pros)
• First round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000
• Earned an NBA title as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003
• Averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game
Sports on Plum Island
American soldiers kept occupied on grounds of Fort Terry
Imagine Plum Island as something other than the Animal Disease Center that it is today and people would think you’re crazy. But long before it was used by the Department of Homeland Security to study foreign animal diseases it was occupied by soldiers at Fort Terry.
Those soldiers had to keep occupied on the island just off the coast of the North Fork, so they took to open land and played sports. Photos of the athletic history on Plum Island are currently being featured in the administrative complex on the island in an exhibit supplied by the Southold Historical Society. Tours and access to the island are by appointment for approved groups only.
At the time, it wasn’t easy to attract and maintain a fit, fighting force for the United States Army prior to World War I.
The military encouraged men to participate in various sports and to form teams with their companies. At Fort Terry, there are acres of open land that was once home to football and baseball fields. Soldiers also boxed, swam and took part in track and field activities. The structures from Fort Terry are still standing on the island.
Soldiers often played against other competition from around Long Island and Connecticut.
Fort Terry was a coastal fortification and defense area to protect New York and America from foreign invaders and enemies. It was established in 1897 and used through the end of World War II.
The photo collection is on loan from Bolling Smith and the Coast Defense Study Group who is dedicated to the study and preservation of U.S. Coastal Defense Structures.
HU Hoops Gets New Arena Floor
Continuing with its progressive thinking, the Hofstra University Depart of Athletics hosted a contest for fans, students, designers and artists to submit possible basketball court designs.
The court has already been completed in the Hofstra Basketball Practice Facility and will be redone in the Mack Sports Complex later this summer, according to the university’s Office of Athletic Communications.
There were nine winners that each contributed some component of the final court design, Hofstra said.
“We thank all the wonderful Hofstra Basketball fans that submitted potential court designs,” commented Hofstra Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeffrey A. Hathaway in a statement. “Our basketball programs are thrilled with how the court turned out and appreciate the great support from the community. We can’t wait to showcase the court during the upcoming 2014-15 season.”
Legendary Sportscaster Bob Wolff Makes Guinness Book of World Records
Just when you thought Bob Wolff couldn’t do anything more impressive in a career that has seen one remarkable moment after another, the legendary Long Island sportscaster earned his way into the Guinness Book of World Records for the second time.
He now has the “longest career as a broadcaster.” Wolff’s record was certified during a special pre-game ceremony at Yankee Stadium in the spring. He also holds the world record for “longest career as sportscaster.”
This is a man used to recognition for his work. He’s enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the National Basketball Hall of Fame; the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame and the Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame. He has won countless Emmy Awards and the TV Ace Award.
Wolff, 93, is in his 75th year as a broadcaster. He is the only sportscaster to call a World Series, NBA Final, Stanley Cup Final and Super Bowl. He had the play-by-play call for Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1955 and the 1958 NFL Championship game between New York and Baltimore, dubbed “the greatest football game ever played.”
Wolff, who is old enough to have interviewed Babe Ruth, has been broadcasting sports news on News 12 for the last 28 years.
“Bob Wolff is a true broadcasting pioneer,” Guinness World Records Official Mike Janela said in a statement. “His career embodies longevity and versatility, and we’re honored to recognize this special achievement in the Bronx, where he called some of his most amazing moments.”
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