Blog | Sports: The Hot Corner
Long Island Native Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame
Joins Carl Yastrzemski as only other Island native in Hall
It looks like Craig Biggio’s finest achievement wasn’t winning the Hansen Award as Suffolk County’s top running back at Kings Park High. One of Long Island’s favorite sons is now a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
On his third year of eligibility, Biggio received enough votes to be just the second island native, after Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, to earn induction. Biggio, who spent his entire career playing for Houston, was a star in baseball and football at Kings Park. You can read any number of stories about Biggio and his career online, but here’s a boiled down version of what you need to know and what you might find interesting:
Biggio on his induction: “This has been a very overwhelming and humbling experience for me,” Biggio said. “When I received the phone call today at noon, it was very emotional for me. Today is a great day for my family, the organization and especially for our great fans. I was just an East Coast kid that came to Texas. I now love this city and this organization. This has been my town now for close to 30 years and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to come here. I feel very fortunate to have been paid to do something that I love to do. Not many people can say that.”
Inside the numbers (all stats from Houston Astros)
—Biggio is one of just 28 players in ML history to reach 3,000 hits, and is also one of just 14 players in Major League history to reach both 1,000 extra-base hits and 3,000 total hits.
—In his career, Biggio tallied 3,060 hits, which ranks 21st all-time in Major League history, and 11th all-time among right-handed hitters.
—His 668 doubles are the most in Major League history by a right-handed hitter and rank fifth all-time among all hitters.
—Biggio holds the NL record for career leadoff home runs with 53 and the modern Major League record for being hit by a pitch (285).
—Biggio is the only player in MLB history to reach all four of the following milestones: 600 doubles, 250 homers, 3,000 hits and 400 stolen bases, and is one of just three players all-time to reach 3,000 hits, 200 homers and 400 steals, joining Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson.
Piling up the accolades
—Five Silver Slugger awards, one as a catcher, four as a second baseman, latter ranks T-3rd for the position.
—One of five players to win Silver Slugger award at multiple positions, joining Albert Pujols, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla and Miguel Cabrera.
—Seven All-Star appearances (voted the starter at second base in four straight seasons from 1995-98).
—Became first player ever to be named an All-Star at both catcher (1991) and second base.
—Four-time Gold Glove winner (ranks T-7th all-time among second basemen).
—Had his No. 7 jersey retired by the Astros on Aug. 17, 2008.
—2004 inductee into both the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
—2014 inductee into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame.
—Member of Kings Park High School Athletics Hall of Fame, and the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame.
Biggio will be inducted alongside Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz in Cooperstown on July 26.
SWR’s Cutinella featured on ESPN’s College Game Day
Honored by US Army after death in high school football game
Tom Cutinella wanted to serve his country. He was a vocal leader as a junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School and would have carried forth his leadership skills in the United States Army if he could.
He passed away during a high school football game on October 1, but his legacy is now living on. He also received a scholarship offer to play college football at Army from Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken after his death. It was touching and a true testament to Cutinella’s being.
This story was featured on ESPN’s College Game Day the morning of the annual Army-Navy football rivalry game.
LI Native Featured on ‘A Football Life’
NFL monster’s life portrayed in documentary, shows softer and emotional side
Long before Lyle Alzado was crushing quarterbacks and linemen in the National Football League, he was a strong and hard-nosed player at Lawrence High School in Nassau County.
A native of Cedarhurst, N.Y., Alzado used to lift weights in longtime Lawrence coach Rich Mollo’s garage while staring for the Golden Tornadoes. He eventually went onto Yankton College in South Dakota and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 1971.
His life is the subject of “A Football Life” profile on NFL Network. It aired for the first time in November. The documentary airs randomly on the network, so check your channel guide to catch it.
Originally it was purely his on-field success that drew attention to Alzado. He was AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1977, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro selection. He was as dominant as any defensive end in the 1970s.
Then came the commercials and Hollywood notoriety, especially since he played in Los Angeles with the Raiders in the early 1980s.
He was a terrifying player. The league even crowned the “Lyle Alzado Rule” after he flung a helmet of Jets tackle Chris Ward in a game in the ‘70s. Now helmets can’t be used as weapons.
All that rage was chalked up to steroids eventually, something he didn’t admit to using until after his retirement and after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He credits steroids with his death and downfall.
The NFL did not begin testing for steroids until the year after Alzado retired in 1985.
The documentary shows his struggles with supplements, his desire to be a good person and how his death affected so many people, including friends, family and former teammates.
LI Connection to New Baseball Documentary
Rob Nelson, co-founder of Big League Chew, played ball in Portland
Another intricate sports story and another connection to Long Island. Did you know the founder of Big League Chew grew up on Long Island?
Rob Nelson, a pitcher at Nassau County Community College and at Cornell University, partnered with former teammate and baseball notable Jim Bouton to launch the product in the 1970s.
Nelson played with Bouton on the Portland Mavericks in 1977, an independent team founded by Bing Russell, the late actor and father of Kurt Russell, and grandfather of former big leaguer Matt Franco.
Nelson’s name came across the sports radar again this year after the younger Russell released a documentary on Netflix about the Portland squad called “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.” He was a vocal piece of the documentary.
The film captures Bing’s legacy and love of the game, which brought back baseball to the Portland area after a Triple A club there had been disbanded. At one point there were no independent teams in the nation, but Bing changed that and is the reason independent teams can co-exist with affiliated ball clubs. He’s even the reason the Long Island Ducks are able to play today if you think about. But onto the gum …
According to a story on the Cornell Athletic website, Nelson and Bouton watched teammates spit chewing tobacco on each other’s cleats. Nelson, as a kid on Long Island, had an idea for shredded bubble gum.
“I told him, ‘I always thought it would be cool to have shredded gum so we could look as good as these guys, but not get ill,’ explains Nelson in an interview with Cornell. “And I remember Bouton’s eyes got really big and he said ‘Jeez, I really like that idea.’ I like to say that I had the inspiration, but truth is, Jim was the perspiration because he was really the guy that did the bulk of the work. He said, ‘I can sell that idea. I can go to a company and I can find somebody that would manufacture this gum.’ And on a handshake, we became partners.”
Famous gum. Famous ball player. Legendary actor’s baseball documentary. And yes, a Long Island connection.
Speedy Claxton Inducted to NYCB HOF
Hofstra great honored with another Hall of Fame induction
The honors keep piling up for Hofstra and Long Island basketball great Speedy Claxton. He was inducted to the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.
Already a member of Hofstra’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Claxton jumped on board as an assistant coach with the basketball program last season after spending the previous two years as a scout with Golden State in the NBA.
The Speedy Claxton File (Hofstra)
• Graduated from Hofstra in 2000 as one of only six players in school history to score 2,000 career points (2,015)
• Graduated as the program’s all-time leader in both assists (660) and steals (288)
• Two-time Player of the Year selection in the America East Conference (1998, 2000)
• Named the 2000 winner of the Haggerty Award, given to the top player in the Metropolitan New York area, after leading Hofstra to an America East Conference championship and its first NCAA Division I tournament berth in 23 years
The Speedy Claxton File (Pros)
• First round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000
• Earned an NBA title as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003
• Averaged 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game
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