Keystone of Sports Support Was Collins
Louie Collins laughingly says he was once Jamestown's "non-salaried city recreation director."
"Until the city named Jim Sharp years ago (salaried) most people trying to organize a league or put across some sports promotion came to me," Louis said the other day in discussing the bicentennial observance.
Be that as it may, it is true few men in the history of Jamestown have done more for sports here than the stocky little former sporting goods store owner, now retired, a former football and basketball player.
He organized and kept the Chautauqua County Baseball Association afloat through some good times and bad for 50 years! That's right - a half century of effort - often sweat and tears - for no financial remuneration.
The league was and still is the oldest continually operating semi-pro circuit in the United States, according to the National Semi-Pro Baseball Council at Wichita, Kansas.
The league is still carrying on as the County Grape Belt League split into two divisions.
Collins played for 18 years with All-Jamestown semi-pro football team, a real power that turned in several undefeated seasons.
The surprising thing is that Louie weighed only 138 pounds during his playing days against some big bruisers who would do credit to the pro ranks today in size. "I got hurt a few times but it was fun and I kept coming up for more," he grinned in reliving the old days.
The All-Jamestown never looked for soft touches. The club played at Syracuse, Buffalo, Allegany, against a tough Indian club that called itself the Carlisle Indians, apparently taking the name from the original Carlisle Indians for whom Jim Thorpe once played. The All-Jamestown also played against Warren, Bradford and various Pennsylvania teams.
In basketball he gave away a lot of weight and height playing with the Spirals. The club competed in and out of the city and locally had some good opposition in such teams as Jeffords Hose, Epsilon-Pi, Company E and others.
One of the touring teams to make regular stops in Jamestown over a period of years was the Buffalo Germans, widely known in the East and once winners of the Pan-American cage championship. The Germans never lost to a Jamestown team but usually ran into some tough competition.
Some of the old-timers who played on various teams years ago included Jim Johnson, Jim Varley, Arthur Swan, Charles Durnin, Fred Morey, Oscar "Spike" Anderberg, Tom Kennedy, who usually handled the manager chores; Dick Lindbeck, John Engstrom, Henry "Pat" Riley, Harry Burgeson, Leonard "Doc" Childgen, Bert Hall, and Austin Anderson, to name some with no hope of compiling a complete list from the skimpy records kept in those days.
During his organizational activities, Collins, who had never played baseball "because I threw my shoulder out tossing green apples at other kids," struck on the idea of a county league. That was in 1921.
Louis is pointed out as the major domo in many sports by the old files. For instance, Jamestown had a girls' basketball and softball team in those days, proving the leagues now operating are not new to area history. Collins brought in Kit Klein, the famed skater, for an exhibition. He also sponsored the local appearance of Charlie Jewtraw, a former Olympic skater.
Supervising the Chautauqua County Baseball Association took Collins deeper into the ranks of semi-pro baseball and led to his promoting the New York State tournament here, which sent a team to the nationals in Wichita.
One of Louie's last promotions was talking the famed women golfer Mildred (Babe) Didrickson Zaharias into making local appearances one summer.
"Looking back now I miss a lot of the fun, but I'm contented to be in full retirement," Louis commented.
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.