by Jim Riggs
February 18, 1997
Sellout Crowd Honors New Sports Hall of Fame Inductees
Talk about numerous sports was in the air at the 16th annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner Monday night at the Holiday Inn.Hockey, football, baseball, softball, basketball, bowling, swimming and auto racing were the topics covered by the four new inductees and guest speakers before a sellout of about 400.
Ken Martin, who was inducted for his numerous baseball and softball exploits in the area and also at the professional level earned him induction. Martin looked around the room and noted he was rejoining some of his former baseball teammates.
But there were some other important teammates that were special to Martin.
“One of my greatest moments was when I got to play (softball) with both my sons,” Martin said.
He also noted, “I would like to thank my wife, Gloria, for the time I spent playing sports.”
When it comes to softball, one of the best players ever in the area was Leda Peterson, who played at the professional level for two years. And before being inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, she was inducted into the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame late last year.
“The last few months have been truly an exciting time in my life,” the Falconer native said.
She recalled highlights of her professional career were hitting a grand slam home run, throwing out a runner at the plate and getting a hit off the legendary pitcher Joan Joyce.
Peterson also excelled at bowling at Falconer Central School and was member of Jamestown Community College’s only women’s basketball team to win an NJCAA Region 3 title and a berth in the national tournament.
The special day for Peterson was made extra special because she was honored on the birthday of one of her biggest supporters, her father.
Bill Radack could not attend to accept his induction honor, but it was only appropriate that his absence had something to do with water. The former All-American swimmer at Jamestown High School and a four-year letterman at Ohio State University had committed to a cruise long before his Hall of Fame induction honor was announced.
“I was informed he was last seen diving off the side of the ship,” said his daughter, Jody Radack-Weise, who accepted his award along with his son, Bill Radack III.
Radack-Weise read her father’s statement in which he covered his swimming exploits, including his biggest “prize” when he spotted a good looking young lady in a two-piece red swimsuit at practice one day at JHS. She became his wife of 43 years, Lynn.
Radack noted that when he began swimming, there were not that many pools available in Jamestown. Now there are plenty and he said, ”No child should be without the basic skill of swimming.”
Youthful NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon made headlines again Sunday by winning the Daytona 500. In 1995 he won the NASCAR title when he was 24, but Lynette Rexford from Elmira pointed out, “Historians would point out he wasn’t the youngest. Bill Rexford was and still is.”
Rexford, who passed away in 1994, won the second ever NASCAR title in 1950 when he was 23. His award was accepted by Lynette, his niece, and his wife, Peggy—who made the trip from California.
Lynette recalled Rexford taking practice laps in Conewango Valley and her mother yelling, “Get the heck out of the way! Here comes Bill with his jalopy.”
Speaking of Daytona, she noted when Rexford competed in the race, it was held on a 4-mile track on the beach.
After his career, Lynette pointed out that Rexford, “Moved to Arizona and forgot about racing and racing forgot him.”
But in 1987 NASCAR honored him as a past champion and last year he was inducted into the New York State Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Todd Peterson read the biographies of the inductees, who were presented with plaques and rings by Dr. Charles Sinatra, president of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
Keeping the affair lively for the second straight year was WGR Radio’s Chuck “Coach” Dickerson who served as the master of ceremony. He threw jabs all night, such as calling guest speaker Steve Tasker of the Buffalo Bills, ”One of the greatest midgets I ever saw play.”
Seriously, Dickerson said Tasker is, “The greatest special teams player in the history of the National Football League.”
Tasker noted he had just became free agent a few hours earlier but hinted he had no hopes of leaving the Bills. Even though he saw limited playing time this past season because of injuries, “I was glad I got to be a Buffalo Bill for another year.”
Another special guest: Brad May of the Buffalo Sabres, has also been fighting injuries and listed some of them. But he mentioned the other night he was hit by a puck and “My luck’s changing. It didn’t cut me. It just bruised me.”
Mark Maddox of the Bills and Bob Boughner of the Sabres were also guest speakers along with Jamestown Jammers general manager Mike Ferguson, who thanked the fans for last season’s attendance of 60,000. It was a perfect ending to a season dedicated to his sister Cherylann, who was killed while serving as a state corrections officer. And for her dedication, she is in the occupation’s hall of fame.
Among area sports teams and individuals honored were Ripley’s Brad Rowe for winning a state 119-pound wrestling title, the Frewsburg baseball team for winning the state Class D championship, the War Vets Rec hockey team for winning the state Midget Division crown and the Jamestown 11-12 Bambino League All-Stars who won a state championship. The Jamestown Community College women’s volley ball team was cited for winning the NJCAA Region Division III title and two of its players, Kay Beaver and Assa Gustavsson, were recognized as being NJCAA Division III first team All-Americans.
Also cited were Maple Grove’s Ryan Rambacher, Brad Verbosky and Brian Keefer, Randolph’s Chad Slade; and Frewsburg’s Chris Gray for making the New York Class D All State football first team.
The successful event was under the direction of Banquet Chairman Chip Johnson. Rev. Dayle F. Keefer gave the invocation and the benediction and the national anthem was sung by the Third Generation barbershop quartet.
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.