The Post-Journal

Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame Welcomes Newest Members

LAKEWOOD – Chuck Crist grew up in Salamanca as gifted as any athlete the Southern Tier has ever seen.

From all-everything in high school, to two scholarship opportunities at Penn State – football and basketball – to a seven-year career in the NFL, including stints with the New York Giants, New Orleans and San Francisco, Crist was, by any local standing, in a league of his own in the mid-to-late 1960s.

But when he traveled to a reunion of former Giants a while back, the Greenhurst resident introduced himself to Hall-of-Famer Michael Strahan as “just an oldtimer.”

“The key word is ‘timer,’” Strahan shot back. “Once a Giant, always a Giant.”

Since that conversation, Crist, one of 10 people inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night, has had time to reflect on what the legendary defensive end was referring to.

“It made me feel what I accomplished was something,” Crist said, “and tonight is special.”

Joining Crist in the Class of 2015 were the late Vincent Powers, a Kentucky Derby winning jockey; WJTN radio personality Jim Roselle; Clymer Central School and Michigan State University football player Jehuu Caulcrick; Falconer Central School wrestling coach Bill Davenport; the late Jack Keeney, Panama Central School football coach; the late Sherwood “Scrubby” Olson, former Post-Journal sportswriter; the late Ramsay Riddell, ski jumper and skiing enthusiast; track and field athlete/coach Dan Stimson; and Sherman Central School girls’ basketball coach Mel Swanson.

“Tonight we honor many athletes who are true champions,” said master of ceremonies Chip Johnson. “Their many years of preparation and hard work have paid off and now they will realize, in a small way, the fruits of their labors.”

In their own areas of expertise, the inductees accomplishments were huge, bringing the number of CSHOF members to 163 since its formation 34 years ago.

Roselle, a Jamestown native, has been at WJTN for 61 years and has interviewed countless people in all walks of life, but he’s never satisfied even after decades behind the microphone.

“Arnold Palmer said that the road to success is always under construction,” Roselle said. “You never complete the road. Arnie had the right idea.”

Keeney, who died in 2013, coached at Panama for more than three decades where he “lived his passion” according to his wife Mary.

“When we came to Panama we knew absolutely no one,” she said, “but soon after they made us feel welcome.”

And it didn’t take long, she said, before her husband was beloved.

“I know how much people loved him and miss him now, but I need you to know that he always felt the same way about you,” she said. “Wherever Jack is tonight, he’s smiling from ear to ear.”

Riddell moved to Panama after a very successful career in ski jumping. Ultimately, he turned his passion to snow skiing where he became involved in the organization of the Peek ‘n Peak Ski Center where he started the ski patrol.

“He was humble and would have never expected this,” his daughter, Nancy Nelson, said. “Thank you for the honor and legacy to our father.”

Caulcrick, who led Clymer to four trips to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four, turned in a distinguished career at Michigan State and played in the NFL for the New York Jets, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. But the resume wouldn’t have happened without the support of his family, his coaches, particularly Howard McMullin, and the friends he made upon arriving in Chautauqua County from war-torn Liberia as a child.

“Thanks to Clymer and Findley Lake, those two towns came together and helped raise me to the person I am today,” he said. “I’ve had great opportunities I wouldn’t trade for the world. God makes everything happen for a reason.”

Then he turned his attention to the high school athletes in the crowd of more than 400.

“As an athlete, chase the dream of a champion,” he said. “Be proud of yourself because you’re going to talk about this for years to come.”

Stimson, the retired director of track and field at William & Mary, said, “Good publicity is something you can’t buy, but is only something you hope to achieve.”

Based on his personal resume, the Falconer Central School graduate has achieved at the highest level, both as an athlete and as a coach. Most recently, he joined the Miami (Ohio) University’s “Cradle of Coaches,” one of several honors he’s earned in a banner career.

“Falconer High School afforded me a great education and I didn’t realize it until I went to college,” he said. “I found out I was so prepared.”

And upon graduation from Ohio University in the early 1970s, Stimson returned the passion to coaching for the next 43 years, including 28 at William & Mary.

“I hit the lottery when I was born,” he said.

Swanson, the decorated Sherman girls’ coach, is still passionate about the game, a trait he not only passed down to his own children, but also to countless in the community he calls home.

“Lots of people in this room our paths have crossed, and that’s a great thing about Chautauqua County,” he said. “If you look at the kids who came out of the local communities you see a lot of good things happening. That’s a big positive for our area. It says a lot about the parents.”

And the coaches.

“You get to touch those lives for years,” he said.

Davenport admitted he was “athletically challenged” as a high schooler, but he was “accepting his induction as a teacher and coach.”

And what a teacher and coach he was.

In 19 years at Falconer, he, among other highlights, posted a 229-17-1 record with eight league titles, seven second-place finishes and three undefeated seasons.

But, he said, “the satisfaction is not in the number of victories or honors but the thank yous he’s received from athletes for ‘making me a better person.’ That is priceless.”

Then he closed his remarks with a poem called “it’s a State of Mind” by Walter D. Wintle.

If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you won't,
If you like to win, but don't think you can
It's almost a cinch you won'tIf you think you'll lose, you're lost
For out in the world you'll find,
Success begins with a fellow's will
It's all in a state of mind

For many a game is lost
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work is begun

Think big and your deeds will grow
Think small and you'll fall behind
Think that you can and you will
It's all a state of mind

If you think you are out-classed, you are
You've got to think high to rise
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize

Life battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can

Former Penn State and Buffalo Bills linebacker Shane Conlan, a CSHOF alum (Class of 1992) himself, was a featured guest and was honored for his recent induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. He paid special tribute to his Frewsburg High School coach Tom Sharp for getting him noticed by the Nittany Lions more than 30 years ago.

From there sprang one of the greatest careers in the school’s history, which led to a nine-year NFL career and appearances in three Super Bowls.

But it’s his years in Happy Valley that had special meaning for the Frewsburg native, who maintained a special relationship with former coach Joe Paterno right up until his death three years ago.

And during their final meeting, Conlan recalled Paterno telling him the following: ‘How about we found a guy from Frewsburg, New York, and made him into an All-American.”

And with that an All-American evening came to an end.

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.