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

Category Archives: F

Ray Felix

Ray Felix (College and pro basketball.  Born, New York, NY, Dec. 10, 1930; died, New York, NY, July 28, 1991.)  With his college career truncated by L.I.U.’s dropping basketball in 1951 in the wake of the widespread point-shaving scandal, 6’11” Ray Felix played for the national Y.M.C.A. champions (Carlton Branch, Brooklyn) before turning pro with Baltimore in 1953, where he earned N.B.A. Rookie of the Year honors.  Traded to the Knicks, he played 376 straight games (4,499 points, 12.0 average), still second-most in team history, before being swapped to Minneapolis Jan. 24, 1960.  He played three seasons with the Lakers.

Til Ferdenzi

Til Ferdenzi (Sportswriter.  Born, Ashland, MA, Mar. 8, 1915; died, Lorton, VA, Mar. 12, 2002.)  A varsity football halfback and baseball infielder at Boston College, Atilio L. Ferdenzi became a Journal-American sportswriter in 1947.  Ferdenzi spent the next 19 years at the paper until in closed in 1966.  He was primarily a baseball writer, covering the Yankees.  Ferdenzi did public relations work after the Journal-American folded, serving nearly 10 years as director of sports publicity at NBC Sports until he retired in 1977.  For over 30 years, he was a correspondent for The Sporting News.  After his retirement, Ferdenzi was a consultant (1982-91) for ESPN.  He was chairman of the New York chapter of the B.B.W.A.A. in 1963-64 and was an official scorer for the 1962 World Series.  During World War II, Ferdenzi was an intelligence officer for the Marine Corps.  He joined the Journal-American shortly after his discharge from the Marines.

Herve Filion

Herve Filion (Harness racing.  Born, Angers, P.Q., Feb. 1, 1940.)  Herve Filion’s story began in the farm country of Quebec, where his father began racing harness horses as a hobby when Herve was nine. Herve entered his first race when he was 12 (finishing second) and at age 13 won his first race at Riguard, Quebec.  By 1961, Filion was racing in the U.S.  After several years of success on the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley circuit, he came to New York in 1970.  Over the next 20 years, he established himself as one of the all-time greats.  Filion won the Harness Tracks of America “Driver of the Year” Award 10 times in the first 22 years it was presented.  No driver ever won the award more than three times during that period.  He was also one of the busiest drivers in the sport, frequently driving both afternoon and evening cards when possible.  Filion often hopped from Freehold’s daytime card to Yonkers, The Meadowlands or Roosevelt for night meetings.  In 1971, he drove 3,001 races and won 637.  In 1988, he had 4,356 drives and 798 wins.  In 1989, he won 814 times.  Filion was the nation’s leading driver 16 times, and has more than 14,000 wins.  He cracked the $5 million mark in winnings in 1988 and 1989 and his career winnings total more than $70 million.  Filion was suspended for over five years when he was implicated in a race-fixing scandal at Yonkers Raceway in 1995, but eventually pleaded guilty only to failing to report New York state income tax.  Though denied reinstatement in New York and New Jersey, Filion was reinstated in other states and resumed driving on a limited basis in 2002.

Eddie Firmani

Eddie Firmani (Soccer.  Born, Capetown, South Africa, Aug. 7, 1933.)  Perhaps the finest coach in the history of the North American Soccer League, Edwin Firmani guided two different teams to a total of three Soccer Bowl titles and one of them to an indoor crown as well. Firmani earned a near-legend status for his job with the 1977 Cosmos when he inherited a club from Gordon Bradley that seemed laden with talent but lacked cohesiveness. In less than half a season, Firmani not only brought the Cosmos home second in their division but guided them through a 5-0 playoff series for their first Soccer Bowl title and second N.A.S.L. Championship.  That season, Firmani also earned the distinction of being Pele’s final coach as the most famous player in the history of the sport retired at the end of the 1977 season.  In 1978, Firmani coached the Cosmos to a 24-6 record that matched the N.A.S.L. record for wins in a season and then guided them to a second straight Soccer Bowl championship, their only such feat in the history of the illustrious club. Previously, Firmani had coached the Tampa Bay Rowdies to the 1975 Soccer Bowl title and also to the 1976 NASL indoor crown.  He was replaced by Prof. Julio Mazzei on June 12, 1979, but the Cosmos were later eliminated in the semifinals.  As a player, Firmani had an extensive career in Europe with England’s Charlton Athletic (twice) and with three Italian League clubs – Internazionale Milan, Genoa and Sampdoria.

Luis Firpo

Luis Firpo (Boxing.  Born, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct. 11, 1896; died, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 7, 1960.)  Though he fought only 35 bouts over a 16-year period, Luis Angel Firpo became a ring legend based on just one fight.  Known as “the Wild Bull of the Pampas”, Firpo took on Jack Dempsey in a heavyweight championship bout Sept. 14, 1923, at the Polo Grounds.  There were nine knockdowns in the first round as Dempsey decked Firpo seven times and Firpo put the champion down twice, one driving him through the ropes on top of the writers and photographers at ringside.  In the second round, Dempsey sent Firpo to the canvas twice, winning on a knockout on the ninth knockdown.  Many in the crowd of 82,000 felt Dempsey had illegally been assisted back into the ring but referee Jack Gallagher did not agree.  The knockdown through the ropes the subject of a famous painting by George Bellows.  One of the reasons for the many knockdowns was one fighter’s ability to stand over the other as the latter was trying to get up, and boxing subsequently adopted the so-called “neutral corner rule” in the wake of this fight.  Firpo was 14-0 from 1919-21 before he made his U.S. debut, kayoing Tom Maxted in Newark, N.J., Mar. 20, 1922, in the seventh round.  He was 25-0 with one no-decision before facing Dempsey, having won all but three of his bouts by knockout.  Firpo fought three no-decisions but lost only one other bout – a third-round knockout by Arturo Godoy in Buenos Aires in 1936 when he was nearly 40 and had fought only once in 10 years.  His 30 wins in 35 fights included 25 kayoes.

Stan Fischler

Stan Fischler (Hockey.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Mar. 31, 1932.)  A man of many parts, Stanley Fischler is best known as “the hockey maven,” although the appellation falls well short of full description.  A graduate of Brooklyn College, Fischler began his career as an assistant in the Rangers publicity office in 1954, but joined the New York Journal-American the following year.  He was a deskman and sportswriter until the paper closed in 1966, when he became New York bureau chief for the Toronto Star.  Fischler’s television career began in 1973 as a color commentator for W.H.A. New England Whalers games.  In 1976, he moved to Cablevision (later Fox Sports Network) and, a year later, he left the Star.  In 1997, Fischler moved to MSG Network.  He has also written more than 70 books (several with his wife Shirley), including The Hockey Encyclopedia, and two on the New York subway system.  Fischler has also taught writing courses at Queens College, Fordham, and Columbia.

Bob Fishel

Bob Fishel (Baseball.  Born, Cleveland, OH, May 15, 1914; died, New York, NY, June 30, 1988.)  Robert O. Fishel was one of the most popular and respected baseball executives of his day, having served as public relations director of the Yankees for almost 20 years and was with the American League for another 15 years.  Fishel’s sports career began in his native Cleveland, when he was hired by the Indians in 1946.  He set up the Indians’ radio network and handled promotional work.  In 1951, he moved to the St. Louis Browns when the club was purchased by Bill Veeck.  After the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, Fishel was in Baltimore briefly, but became the Yankees’ PR director that year and held the post until 1974.  He moved to the A.L. office as special assistant to president Lee MacPhail, became the Secretary of the league in 1978 and executive vice president in 1983.  Although he retired in 1987, Fishel continued to work daily as a special assistant to American League president Dr. Bobby Brown.

Freddie Fitzsimmons

Freddie Fitzsimmons (Baseball.  Born, Mishawaka, IN, July 28, 1901; died, Yucca Valley, CA, Nov. 18, 1979.)  Burly knuckleballer Frederick Landis Fitzsimmons spent his entire 19-year career with the New York Giants (1925-37) and Brooklyn Dodgers (1937-43), helping both teams win N.L. pennants.  Behind Carl Hubbell, Fitzsimmons was the No. 2 pitcher for the 1933 world champion Giants with a 16-11 record, although he lost his only World Series start, 4-0, in Game 3 when Washington won its only game.  The righthander also lost twice in 1936 to the Yankees.  Fitzsimmons suffered a worse fate in the third game of the 1941 World Series, when Marius Russo smacked a hard drive off his knee in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, cracking his kneecap, and he was never the same pitcher.  At age 40, it is probable that his career was in its last laps anyway.  Fitzsimmons’ best years were 1928 (20-9) and 1930 (19-7) with the Giants, who traded him to Brooklyn June 11, 1937, for righthander Tom Baker.  Baker was 1-0 in 15 games for the Giants while Fitzsimmons was 47-32 for the Dodgers (including 6-1 in 1941).  He finished with a 217-146 career record.

Jim Fitzsimmons

Jim Fitzsimmons (Horse racing.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, July 23, 1874; died, Miami, FL, Mar. 11, 1966.)  Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons was born on a stretch of land that later became Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay Racetrack, but he wasn’t attracted to the sport of racing until he was 15, when he began as a waterboy and part-time jockey. When he grew too heavy to ride, he switched to training horses in the mid-1890s.  It was a move that benefitted racing.  He began a career that was to produce 2,275 winners worth $13,082,911 in purses, very large numbers for the time.  Much of the winning was done for owner William Woodward’s Belair Stud Farm, for which Fitzsimmons produced two Triple Crown winners, Gallant Fox (1930) and Omaha (1935).  He also had ten other horses that won one or two legs of the Triple Crown, including Johnstown (1939), Faireno (1932) and Granville (1936).  Fitzsimmons was the nation’s leading trainer in 1936 and 1939.  For Wheatley Stable in 1956, he was again the leading trainer.  In 1955, he saddled Nashua, winner of the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes and the Horse of the Year, and did the same for Bold Ruler, 1957’s Preakness winner and Horse of the Year.

Red Flaherty

Red Flaherty (Baseball.  Born, Maynard, MA, Apr. 28, 1918; died, Falmouth, MA, Apr. 1, 1999.)  An A.L. umpire for slightly over 20 seasons, John Francis Flaherty was distinguished by a unique strike call.  When raising his right arm to call a strike, Flaherty would emphatically thrust upward with both his arm and right leg.  He joined the A.L. in July 1953 and worked through the end of the 1973 season.  Flaherty drew three All-Star game assignments and umpired four World Series (1955, 1958, 1965, and 1970).

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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