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

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Charles Oakley

Charles Oakley (Pro basketball.  Born, Cleveland, OH, Dec. 18, 1963.)  At 6’9″, 245 pounds, Charles Oakley was an intimidating presence who played for Knicks teams that went to the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons with the team (1988-98).  Oakley averaged just over 10 rebounds and 10 points per game for the Knicks while starting 722 of the 729 games in which he played.  All but one of his 10 teams got out of the first round in the playoffs (the exception was 1991, when the Knicks lost to the eventual champions. Chicago), and the 1994 team made the N.B.A. final before losing to Houston in seven games.  Oakley was acquired June 27, 1988, from Chicago for Bill Cartwright (four draft choices also changed hands).  He combined with center Patrick Ewing to give the Knicks a formidable frontcourt tandem.  The power forward was traded June 25, 1998, to Toronto for Marcus Camby.  Oakley also played for Chicago (1985-88), who drafted him out of Virginia Union, Toronto (1998-2001), Washington (2002-03), and Houston (2003-04).

Floyd Odlum

Floyd Odlum (Executive.  Born, Union City, MI, Mar. 30, 1892; died, Indio, CA, June 17, 1976.)  A law graduate of the University of Colorado, Floyd Bostwick Odlum came to New York in 1917 to join the firm of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, specializing in utilities work.  In 1923, Odlum and his first wife with a partner formed an investment pool that became Atlas Utilities Corp., an exceptionally successful holding company.  He shrewdly sold his stock just before the 1929 stock market crash and used the resultant cash to prosper even further during the Great Depression.  On Sept. 24, 1935, Odlum and several associates took control of the financially-ailing Garden, installing Col. John Reed Kilpatrick as president.  In 1937, he took over R.K.O. Radio Pictures and shifted his attentions towards California, where he and his second wife, aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, subsequently moved.  Odlum later moved into the aviation industry and promoted the development of a new missile (called the Atlas), which was eventually used to power N.A.S.A.’s lunar landers.  During World War II, he served with the War Production Board and the Office of Price Administration.  Odlum subsequently sold his Garden interests, left Atlas in 1960, and, afflicted with severe arthritis, went into semi-retirement on a 732-acre estate in Indio, Calif.

Al Oerter

Al Oerter  (Track and field.  Born, New York, NY, Sept. 19, 1936; died, Fort Myers, FL, Oct. 1, 2007.)  Alfred Adolf Oerter, Jr., earned his permanent place in the annals of American sports heroes by becoming the only man ever to win an Olympic gold medal in his specialty in four successive Olympics.  Oerter turned this amazing trick by winning the discus gold in 1956 (Melbourne), 1960 (Rome), 1964 (Tokyo), and 1968 (Mexico City).  However, his performances around the metropolitan area were also somewhat more than noteworthy.  That began with his setting a national schoolboy record in the discus while still in high school at Sewanaka.  Only two years later, he was an Olympic gold medalist for the first time.  As a representative of the New York Athletic Club, Oerter continued his active career for more than 20 years after that first gold.  In 1980, his career-best throw of 227 feet, 11 inches was the second best in the world.  That came at age 43.  In 1962, Oerter became the world record holder.  By 1964, he was back at Randalls Island in the Olympic trials and set what was then a stadium record with a toss of 201 feet, 11 inches.  Although his distances improved over the years, Oerter never evidenced any interest in throwing farther than anyone else in the world.  He only evidenced interest in throwing farther than anyone competing with him that day.  A classic example of that premise came in the A.A.U. Nationals in 1966 (also at Randalls Island), when he tossed 193 feet, 9 inches.  He won the event by more than two feet.

Herman Olcott

Herman Olcott (College football.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 1, 1879; died, Wallingford, CT, Jan. 4, 1929.)  A Yale all-America center in 1900, Herman P. Olcott was the N.Y.U. football coach for six seasons (1907-12).  Olcott had an unbeaten (6-0-1) team in 1909 and was 18-18-7 as Violets coach.  He came to University Heights after two seasons (1902-03) at North Carolina, where he was 11-4-3, and later coached Kansas (1915-17) to a three-year record of 16-7-1.

Murray Olderman

Murray Olderman (Sportswriter.  Born, New York, NY, Mar. 27, 1922.)  A multi-talented sportswriter, cartoonist, and executive, Murray Olderman filled all three roles with the Newspaper Enterprise Association for 18 years (1953-71).  Olderman was not only a nationally-known cartoonist and writer, but also became executive editor of the N.E.A.  He authored several books on sports such as baseball, pro football, and tennis, and served as president of the Football Writers Association of America before moving to California to become a freelancer.

John Olerud

John Olerud (Baseball.  Born, Seattle, WA, Aug. 5, 1968.)  John Garrett Olerud joined the Mets Dec. 20, 1996, after eight seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays in a trade that sent pitcher Robert Person to Toronto.  The smooth-swinging lefthanded hitter (the A.L. batting champion in 1993 when he hit .363) immediately became the Mets’ incumbent first baseman.  He hit .294 in 154 games in 1997 but added 60 points to his average the next season as the Mets jumped into playoff contention.  His .354 average set a Mets club record, surpassing the .340 by Cleon Jones in 1969.  Oddly, Olerud was drafted by the Mets in 1986 but elected to go to Washington State Univ., signing with Toronto in 1989.  Olerud went directly to the Blue Jays that season, and became only the fourth player since 1965 to play his entire career in the majors without ever playing the minor leagues.  On Dec. 7, 1999, Olerud signed a three-year contract with Seattle after hitting .298 with 19 homers and 96 r.b.i. in his final season with the Mets.  He also played briefly with the Yankees in 2004, hitting .280 in 49 games.  In Game 3 of the 2004 A.L. championship series, while the Yankees were winning their third straight over Boston, Olerud was injured and had only one at-bat the rest of the series as the Red Sox won four in a row to complete their historic comeback.

Jordan Olivar

Jordan Olivar (College football.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Jan. 30, 1915; died, Inglewood, CA, Oct. 17, 1990.)  A Villanova player who started his head coaching career there, Jordan Olivar earned his renown at Yale.  Olivar graduated from Villanova in 1938 and became head coach of the Wildcats in 1943.  In six seasons (1943-48), he was 33-20 before going to Loyola of Los Angeles (Calif.) for three seasons.  Olivar succeeded Herman Hickman at Yale in 1952 and his first team was 7-2, routing Harvard, 41-14, at Cambridge in the season finale.  With the formalization of the Ivy League in 1956, Yale was 8-1 and won the first league title.  Olivar’s 1960 team was unbeaten (9-0) and swept to another Ivy championship, winning 11 straight until an 11-0 loss to Columbia in Yale Bowl Oct. 14, 1961.  He finished with a 61-32-6 record for 11 seasons (1952-62).

Bobo Olson

Bobo Olson (Boxing.  Born, Honolulu, HI, July 11, 1928; died, Honolulu, HI, Jan. 16, 2002.)  A middleweight champion (1953-55), Carl Olson became famous for four legendary losses to Sugar Ray Robinson and three of his five New York fights.  In 1953, Olson won the American middleweight title with a 15-round decision over Paddy Young June 19 and another over Randy Turpin at the Garden earned him the world championship Oct. 21.  On June 22, 1955, Archie Moore knocked him out in the third round of a light heavyweight title fight at Yankee Stadium.  That December, Olson lost to Robinson for the third time and Robinson regained the middleweight crown.  Following his fourth loss to Robinson, May 16, 1956, Olson announced his retirement (Oct. 3), but made a comeback.  He fought until 1963, scoring a couple of impressive victories but never challenging for another title.  None of his bouts with Robinson was in New York.

Maureen Orcutt

Maureen Orcutt (Golf.  Born, New York, Apr. 1, 1907; died, Durham, N.C., Jan. 9, 2007.)   One of the “Big Four” of women’s golf in the 1930s and 1940s, Maureen Orcutt was a dominant figure in her sport as an amateur in the days before the formation of the women’s pro tour.  She was a leading contender for national honors for more than 40 years.  Along with Helen Hicks, Charlotte Glutting and Glenna Collett, Orcutt dominated women’s golf.  She won her first major event, the Eastern Amateur, in 1925, and 43 years later her last major, the Metropolitan Amateur.  Perhaps no competitor in any major sport has been a significant factor for so long in top-level play.  Orcutt’s victory in the Metropolitan Amateur in 1968 was her 10th.  She also won the event in 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1934, 1938, 1940, 1946 and 1959.  She lost several finals by narrow margins, including the 1927 U.S. Women’s Open to Miriam Burns and the 1936 Open to England’s Pam Barton.  Orcutt won the Eastern Amateur seven times, including the 1929 event at Aronimink, when she shot a 54-hole medal play record of 241 and defeated Hicks in the final.  During most of her competitive career, she played out of White Beeches in New Jersey.  Orcutt was also a writer on golf for several New York newspapers including The World, the Evening Journal, and, for over 25 years, The New York Times.

Rey Ordonez

Rey Ordonez (Baseball.  Born, Havana, Cuba, Nov. 11, 1972.)  Virtually a one-man highlight reel at shortstop from the start of his career with the Mets (1996), Reynaldo Ordonez gradually curbed his tendencies to overswing at the plate and mess up routine plays in the field.  Ordonez defected from the Cuban National Team after the 1993 World University Games in Buffalo, N.Y., and his rights were won by the Mets in a lottery on defectors (Oct. 29, 1993).  In his first four years with the Mets (1996-99), he averaged .246 and hit one homer each season, but made himself a regular on the nightly television highlights with his spectacular plays in the field.  Ordonez hit .254 in 144 games, the second-best average of his career, in 2002, but was traded Dec. 15, 2002, to Tampa Bay.

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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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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