New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: B

Billy Baird

Billy Baird (Pro football.  Born, Lindsay, CA, Mar. 1, 1939.)  A regular defensive back for seven seasons (1963-69) with the Jets, William Arthur Baird never missed a game in his pro career.  Baird came out of San Francisco State and was signed as a free agent.  He had 34 interceptions in his career (including eight in 1964) and returned two for touchdowns.  He was also a punt return specialist and his 93-yard return against Houston (Nov. 10, 1963) was the second-longest in A.F.L. history.  Baird was one of several “Jolts” (Jets who were signed after being released by the Baltimore Colts, where Weeb Ewbank previously coached).

Hobey Baker

Hobey Baker (Hockey.  Born, Wissahickon, PA, Jan. 15, 1892; died, Toul, France, Dec. 21, 1918.)  When hockey was a seven-man game played largely on uneven outdoor rinks, Hobart Amory Hare Baker was considered the finest player in the U.S. by a wide margin.  Baker flashed his talent for St. Paul’s, his prep school, and championship teams at Princeton.  (He also starred in football at Princeton, following in the footsteps of his father, A.T. Baker, a halfback in 1883-84.)  After his graduation in 1914, Baker moved on to the St. Nicholas Hockey Club in New York (1914-17).  The St. Nicks won the American Amateur Hockey League title in 1914 and 1915 with Baker as their star, thrilling crowds with his rink-length rushes.  He scored three goals Mar. 11, 1915, against Boston to clinch that year’s championship, 5-2.  Baker became an Army flier in World War I and died in a military plane crash after hostilities had ceased.

Larry Baker

Larry Baker (Tennis.  Born, New York, NY, June 20, 1890; died, Washington, DC, Oct. 15, 1980.)  Lawrence A. Baker was a tennis administrator who served as president of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (now the U.S.T.A.) from 1948-50 after holding every other executive position in the organization (secretary, treasurer, second vice president, first vice president) and several sectional offices.

Ralph Baker

Ralph Baker (Pro football.  Born, Lewistown, PA, Aug. 25, 1942.)  One of the earliest of the Penn State linebackers to become a successful pro, Ralph Robert Baker was a sixth-round pick of the A.F.L. Jets in 1964.  Baker’s finest season at left linebacker was 1968, when he recovered key fumbles in both the A.F.L. championship game and the Super Bowl.  A mobile 228 pounds, he excelled on downfield pass coverage and sometimes worked at middle linebacker in 4-4 coverage schemes.  Baker became the Jets’ defensive captain in 1973 but he retired following the 1974 season after 141 regular-season games.

Neal Ball

Neal Ball (Baseball.  Born, Grand Haven, MI, Apr. 22, 1881; died, Bridgeport, CT, Oct. 15, 1957.)  While the only truly significant accomplishment of his major league career came for Cleveland, Cornelius Ball began his big league career with the Highlanders in 1907.  Ball, a 5’7” shortstop, was traded to Cleveland in May 1909, and on July 19 turned in the first unassisted triple play in major league history.  Against Boston in the opening game of a doubleheader, he grabbed a liner hit by Amby McDonnell, doubled Heinie Wagner off second, and tagged Jake Stahl coming into the bag to end the second inning.  In the home half, Ball hit one of only four home runs in his 496-game career.  He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1912 in time to get one at-bat in the World Series.  His career ended after the 1913 season.  Ball had a .251 lifetime average.

Lee Ballanfant

Lee Ballanfant (Baseball.  Born, Waco, TX, Dec. 27, 1895; died, Dallas, TX, July 15, 1987.)  A broken leg while playing in the old Texas Association led Edward Lee Ballanfant to start umpiring in the same league the next season.  Ballanfant umpired 10 seasons in the minors before moving up from the Texas League to the N.L., where he remained for 22 seasons (1936-57).  Although he had been with the U.S. Army forces in France during World War I, when he worked on Opening Day, Apr. 14, 1936, at the Polo Grounds, it was the first time he had ever seen a major league ballpark.  Once, after he was hit with a bottle thrown by a fan in Philadelphia, crew chief Al Barlick forfeited the game.

Jack Balletti

Jack Balletti (Photographer.  Born, New York, NY, Aug. 23, 1924; died, New Hyde Park, NY, May 4, 2003.)  Often called “Mr. Chairman” by fellow photogs for his long service as chairman of the Sports Committee of the New York Press Photographers Association, John T. Balletti was also president of the organization (1973-75).  Balletti began his career behind the camera during World War II when he served as an Army Signal Corps photographer (1942-46).  After separating from the service, he joined I.N.S. as a printer and photographer (1946-58).  Balletti moved to U.P.I. when I.N.S. was merged into United Press in Feb. 1958, and remained on staff (primarily as a sports photographer) until retiring in 1994.  But he continued to cover events after his retirement for U.P.I.  Balletti won numerous awards for his sports action photos over the years.

Harry Balogh

Harry Balogh (Public address.  Born, New York, NY, 1891; died, New York, NY, Aug. 16, 1961.)  As a boxing ring announcer, Harry William Balogh had few peers. During his early years, Balogh was known as “the Voice of the Armories” in the days when nearly every major armory in New York and Brooklyn staged a fight program at least once a week.  Balogh worked nearly every night, moving from one armory and one borough to another.  Balogh actually began his career at the famous old Grupp’s Gym on Eighth Avenue, where many famous fighters and trainers (including Whitey Bimstein and Ray Arcel) also got their starts.  Balogh began at a time when the fabled Joe Humphreys was the most celebrated ring announcer in the country and handled all the major New York fights.  But when Humphreys (who worked without a microphone) retired in 1933, Balogh became the principal voice of the sport.  Balogh, the first ring announcer to work in a tuxedo, began a tradition that endures to this day.  But he was also a relentless speaker against racism when black boxers began to come to the fore.  He frequently addressed the crowd on allowing the fighter’s talent and not his skin color to be the principal way in which he was judged.  After starting professionally in the Queensboro Arena, Balogh did many fights at Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds and in Madison Square Garden following Humphreys’ retirement.  Balogh retired in 1957.

Dave Balon

Dave Balon (Hockey.  Born, Wakaw, Sask., Aug. 2, 1938; died, Prince Albert, Sask., May 29, 2007.)  In his two tours with the Rangers, David Alexander Balon scored 98 goals in 361 games and had 113 assists.  Balon was the left wing on the “Bulldog Line” with Billy Fairbairn on the right and Walt Tkaczuk at center during his most of his second stint in New York (1959-63, 1968-71).  He was sent to Montreal in 1963 in a seven-player deal that featured goalies (Gump Worsley to the Canadiens and Jacques Plante to New York).  Balon’s best seasons for the Blueshirts were 1969-70 (33 goals and 70 points) and 1970-71 (36 goals and 60 points).  He played in the N.H.L. All-Star Game four times (once with the Rangers – 1971) and had 192 goals during a 15-year pro career that included nine games in the W.H.A. (Quebec, 1973).

Johnny Balquist

Johnny Balquist (College baseball.  Born, Pittsburgh, PA, June 18, 1908; died, Teaneck, NJ, Jan. 22, 1991.)  An infielder at Columbia (1930-32), John Balquist later succeeded the legendary Andy Coakley as the Lions baseball coach.  Balquist was head coach at Manhattan (1939-42), where he was also assistant athletic director, before joining Coakley as an assistant in 1943.  He handled the freshman and junior varsity teams until 1952, when he began a 21-year run as Columbia’s head coach.  Balquist was 180-176-8 at Columbia and 207-224-10 overall.  His 1963 team, featuring All-America shortstop Archie Roberts, was co-Eastern Intercollegiate League champions.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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