By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, April 17- The Bronx has been a place of learning, nurturing and growth for many greats in the world of sports. Several of these legendary figures will be honored at Houlihan Park, the sparkling baseball field located on the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University, on Saturday afternoon, April 20. Plaques of the greats will be unveiled by current Fordham baseball coach Kevin Leighton and Fordham alumnus and benefactor James J. Houlihan.
The history of collegiate baseball at Fordham goes back in time to years before the Civil War began. Its first recorded intercollegiate schedule was in 1860, when the club compiled a mark of 40-7. The record of winning seasons continued until 1923, when the team was 14-17. The one aberrational season was followed by 24 straight winning campaigns. Fordham ranks #1 in wins of all Division I programs, with more than 4,000 victories.
Interestingly, Fordham’s first losing season, 1923, was the first year of Jack Coffey’s second reign as coach. He previously was coach from 1909-17. His second stint lasted through 1958. In total, Coffey’s teams were victorious in an astounding number of 1,095 games. Although Curry was a teammate of both Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb in the same season, 1918, he did not join the two in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; he was inducted in the Fordham Athletic Hall of Fame in its first year of existence, 1971.
Dan Gallagher, the Fordham coach from 1984-2004, led the team to 518 wins, seven league titles and five berths in the NCAA Tournament. The molder of men was recently inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (ABCA).
Five former Fordham students were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The first to be inducted, in 1946, was a turn of the twentieth century pitcher, “Big” Ed Walsh. Even in an era when power hitting and high scoring games were frowned upon, Walsh was superior. He hold the mark for the lowest lifetime ERA in the majors.(1.82). According to historians, Walsh was only on campus for two days.
“The Fordham Flash” Frankie Frisch was inducted into the HOF one year after Walsh. Still holding a Fordham Ram record of six hits in a single game, Frisch batted over .300 in the majors for 11 straight years. The great second sacker with the Giants and Cardinals played 19 years in the big leagues.
Two individuals with a lifetime connection to the Brooklyn Dodgers never played a game with the team. Walter o’ Malley was a graduate of the Fordham Law School in 1930. His law degree led to his hiring as the chief legal counsel of the Dodgers in 1947. Three years later, he became the team’s owner. Although he remained in control of the team for nearly 30 years, he is still a figure of contempt by many Brooklynites as the man who removed the team from the borough in 1958.
The second and still current link to the Brooklyn major league franchise Is Vin Scully. Scully became a broadcaster in 1950, after graduating from Fordham. It has become a lifetime job for the deservedly honored broadcaster as the octogenarian in currently in his 64th year in that position. Scully was inducted into the HOF in 1982.
The fifth recipient of HOF honors was writer John Kieran. Three years after his 1912 graduation from Fordham, he was hired by the New York Times. He rose to become sports editor of the paper.
Esteban Bellan was a student at Fordham, at that time called St. John’s College, in the 1860’s. The Cuban native was the first of his nationality to play professional baseball in the United States.
On the day of the ceremony, Fordham will host George Washington University at 4 pm. The plaques of the greats will be unveiled at 3:30 pm. A barbeque will be held at 2 pm. Those interested in attending all the festivities should call ryan kirwan at 646-312-8223 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.