by Jim Riggs
February 28, 1995
Variety Of Sports Presented To Induction Dinner Audience
It was sports potpourri at the 14th annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Holiday Inn Monday night.
The audience was treated to stories involving canoeing, football, swimming, auto racing, baseball, and hockey from the four inductees and speakers.
Involved in even more sports than those was the late Louis Collins, who was inducted for his involvement in organizing and promoting sports in the Jamestown area.
“I’m sure he would be very happy,” said his sister, Betty, who accepted her late brother’s plaque and ring.
She added that Collins’ great nephew in Colorado agreed after he read a newspaper clipping about the induction.
“Uncle Louis would be sailing down from heaven,” he said.
Southwestern graduate Jay Kearney was inducted for his success in canoeing and said, “The sport has been a very important part of my life.”
In 1978 he was the United States champion in four classes. At the 1980 Olympic Trials he finished first and was a member of the 1980 Olympic team that never competed because of the U.S. boycott.
Kearney pointed out it was not just coaches, but also teachers and parents who led to success.
“You teach those things that allow us to be successful,” he said.
Kearney is now sports physiologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, so it was a long trip to the induction dinner, but his canoeing helped him make it. At a regional competition in Denver he qualified for the Indoor Rowing Championships at Boston last weekend, which allowed him to stop here on the way back to Colorado.
Inductee Bill Race has coached the Falconer Central School football team to four undefeated seasons and once to a 28-game winning streak. His record of 169-91-6 in 32 years ranks ninth in the state.
Despite his accomplishments, Race said, “It’s an honor to be on the same card (with the other inductees).”
Race recalled from his days as a football player at East Stroudsburg State the statements of an opposing coach that helped inspire him.
“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help young people,” Race recalled the coach saying. And the coach also pointed out, “When you are climbing the ladder of life, be nice to your fellow man on the way up because you might have to pass him on the way down.”
Race also credited some other area high school coaching colleagues for his success, including two who have passed away and are also members of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame – Joe Annarella and Roger Moore.
Inductee Shirley Smith of Jamestown has officiated swimming for more than 30 years, including the U.S. Open International Meet, U.S. Junior Nationals, U.S. Senior Nationals, National Junior Olympics, NCAA Division II Championships and the World University Games.
Smith thanked the local swimming officials for their support in nominating her and her husband for his patience and understanding. Because most of the local meets she officiates are at dinnertime. Smith explained, “He had a lot of evening meals alone.”
Smith has taught plenty of swimming and said the main satisfaction is seeing people afraid of the water learning to enjoy it. As a coach Smith enjoyed the challenge of teaching swimmers to be competitive with sportsmanship. And as a swimming official, “I’ve made friends all over this country and Canada.”
Also honored were the Jamestown High School football team for winning the state Class A Championship, the Mayville Central School girls volleyball team for winning its fourth Class D state title in five years and Kristina Damond, who won the Stock Division World Championship at the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.
They were presented plaques for their accomplishments by Sports Hall of Fame president Chip Johnson.
The main speaker was three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who said he first became interested in race car driving when he was 9-years-old.
“Kristina knows,” he said. “Something clicked in me and I said, ‘I want to be a race car driver.’”
It is often said that race car drivers are not athletes and Rutherford heard that stated again recently by a caller to a radio talk show.
“I’d sure like to take that guy for a ride in a race car,” Rutherford said.
He pointed out that at the Indianapolis 500, the cars travel 300 feet (the length of a football field) in a second. In the turns the strain is five G’s and that must be endured for 200 laps.
To control the car, “It’s like sitting in isometric exercises for three hours.”
Another guest speaker was John Gurtler, the television voice of the Buffalo Sabres. He said that despite the Sabres’ sluggish start, he doesn’t think the team is too far behind because “I haven’t seen a club dominating in every position.”
Gurtler noted that Buffalo has seven injured players now, but when everyone returns the team can hopefully have a strong run to the playoffs.
On the subject of today’s “clutch-and-grab” style of play in the National Hockey League, Guntler said he recalled when it was skate, shoot and score.
“I’d like to see more of that,” he said. He added the game has become “too complex.”
Mike Billoni, Vice President of Rich Baseball Operations, was scheduled to speak, but was unable to attend because he had duties with the Buffalo Bisons concerning the baseball strike. His pinch-hitter was Jamestown Jammers general Manager Sean Reilly.
The master of ceremonies was Pine Valley Central School graduate Chuck Howard, a sportscaster for WIVB-TV.
Todd Peterson read the biographies of the inductees, Gary Kindberg sang the national anthem and Rev. John J. Kuhlman of St. James Catholic Church gave the invocation.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.