by Jim Riggs
February 19, 1996
Sports Hall Of Fame Welcomes Its Four New Inductees
Those who enjoyed greatness in their chosen fields were the four new members of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inducted Monday night.
The first inductee honored was Terry Ransbury, who was unable to attend from his winter home in Southern Pines, NC.
“Coaching success follows him everywhere he goes,” stated Todd Peterson who handled the introductions of the inductees.
Ransbury had success coaching football at Silver Creek, Jamestown, Clarence and the University of Buffalo. He was also a successful coach in basketball and track.
“It’s an occasion that means a great deal to me, something like homecoming,” said Ransbury in letter read by his longtime friend George Griffin, who accepted the new inductee’s plaque and ring. “I’d like to say hello to my friends at both ends of the county.
Ransbury coached the 1964 undefeated Jamestown football team and he couldn’t overlook the 1994 and 1995 JHS teams that were undefeated and won back-to-back state Class A titles.
‘They have made Jamestown a capital of high school football in New York State,” he wrote.
One of Ransbury’s players at Jamestown was Jim Rissel, who with his sister, Barb Stewart, accepted the honors for their late father. Harry “Doc” Rissel was a fine athlete at Falconer Central School and there was one of the areas top amateur baseball players. Then he took up bowling and excelled at that right up to the time of his death in 1983.
When it came to baseball, Jim recalled his father’s prowess behind the plate. He said opponents mentioned, “If there was a close play at the plate, you better slide or go around.”
And when it came to bowling, the saying was, “We want Harry Rissel on our team - not bowling against him.”
But Jim pointed out a couple of other things his father excelled at.
When his father was a child, he had huge success selling Dr. Scholl’s salve door-to-door in Kennedy. Adults gave him the nickname of “Doc” and it stuck.
Jim pointed out that there used to be mud wrestling at Celoron Park and one of the wrestlers wore a mask.
“That was Harry Rissel,” Jim said. “He was the Masked Marvel.”
Barb said, “When he was bowling, that was a part of family life.”
But she thinks her late father deserves another induction.
“If there was a hall of fame for fathers, my dad would be in it because he was the greatest,” she said.
Bill Rollinger was one of the greatest in high school swimming at Cathedral Prep in Erie, PA. He hoped to return there as a teacher and coach, so when Rollinger took a physical education job in Jamestown in 1965, he recalled, “This was only going to be a short stop for me. Thirty-one years later I’m still here in Jamestown.”
In that time he coached the Red Raiders to numerous swimming titles and now is doing the same as the boys’ tennis coach. But it was the coaching swimming that earned him his induction and Rollinger said, “I want to thank the parents (of the swimmers) I’ve had.”
He pointed out, “When we won our first sectional title in 1974 it’s something I’ll always remember.”
This is because Jamestown swimming was not treated with much respect in the Buffalo area. But that was not the first of many years when the Red Raiders piled up respect under Rollinger.
The fourth inductee, Fredonia State baseball coach Dale Till said, “I feel very fortunate to have played against and with many great athletes in Chautauqua County."
Before his coaching success in baseball at Fredonia State, he was a successful football and baseball player at Fredonia High School and then Fredonia State. Then Till became quite a softball player which earned him induction into the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame.
When he wasn’t playing, Till was having high school coaching success and basketball, track, baseball, and football at Cassadaga Valley, Brocton, Lockport and Jamestown.
But Till’s successes came in battling cancer in 1972 and 1988. He gave a lot of credit his wife, Ann, for winning those battles.
“If anybody needed a coach, it was me,” he said. “I wasn’t the smart guy to make any decisions. She made some good decisions for me.”
That meant going to Roswell Park for successful cancer surgery. Now Till is doing one of the area’s major fund raisers for cancer research.
When he’s not doing that, Till is coaching Fredonia State baseball wins – 344 of them since he took over as head coach in 1980.
Dickerson kept the program lively with plenty of humor, but then seriousness at the right times.
The first guest speaker he introduced was former world welterweight and middleweight champion, Carmen Basilio. He could easily have been auditioning for a standup comedy routine because Basilio had the audience in stitches.
One of Basilio’s stories was about the time he was being clobbered by an opponent and his manager asked, “Can’t you block any of those punches.”
Basilio said his reply was, “You don’t see any going past me do you.”
Sparky Lyle, who was a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox, had plenty of humorous material because when he was with the Yankees, Yogi Berra was a coach.
Lyle, who won the Cy Young Award in 1977, recalled Berra always used his toothpaste. One time the tube was low, so he told Lyle, ‘You and I are almost out of toothpaste. You better pick some up.”
Dickerson, who was never known to pull any punches when talking about the Buffalo Bills, said, “It’s good Thomas Smith is the representative of the Buffalo Bills tonight. He’s going to be a great football player. Not a good football player, a great football player.”
The third year cornerback said, “I’m glad I’m on the good side of Chuck Dickerson.
At Gates High School in Gates, N.C., Smith was the top male student in his graduating class, so he attended the University of North Carolina on an academic scholarship. He was a walk-on on the football team and proved he belonged. He eventually was the 28th overall selection in the 1993 NFL draft.
Smith said he used to tell his friends he was going to be on television.
“You’re going to be on a game show?” they would answer with a laugh.
Now Smith gets the last laugh when he’s on television playing for the Bills.
Also recognized were some area youth champions. Individuals honored were Karen Thomas of Lakewood, the Stock Division championship from the All American Soap Box Derby, Dirk Ayers of Falconer, winner of the 1995 New York State Golf Association Amateur Championship; and Carl Carlson, the current University of Buffalo swimmer who won All American honors last year at Jamestown High School.
Area high school state championship teams were also honored. They were the Jamestown High School football team that won its second straight Class A title; and Class D state titles winners Pine Valley in girls basketball team, Maple Grove in boys basketball and Frewsburg in baseball.
Also, cited was the War Vets Rec hockey team that won the state midget championship last year.
Jamestown football coach Wally Huckno was also presented a plaque for being named the large schools coach of the year. Four of his players, Aaron Barnett, Andy Benson, Ryan Calkins and Joe McKay, were recognized for making the state Class A first team. Pine Valley’s Josh Roth and Rich Chase were cited for making the Class D first team.
Those teams and players were recognized by Hall of Fame president Chip Johnson.
Another speaker was Jamestown Jammers general manager Mike Ferguson who told the audience of the team’s upcoming New York Penn League season.
Rev. Billy Banks, Assistant Pastor at First Lutheran Church, gave the invocation and benediction. Tony Dolce sang the national anthem and Hall of Fame Inductee and board member Russ Diethrick handled the welcoming.
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.