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

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Red Ormsby


Red Ormsby (Baseball.  Born, Chicago, IL, Apr. 3, 1895; died, Chicago, IL, Oct. 11, 1962.)  A combat Marine during the First World War, Emmett T. Ormsby was an A.L. umpire for 19 seasons (1923-41).  Ormsby was gassed Nov. 9, 1918, during the Argonne offensive that ended the war.  The armistice was declared two days later, but Ormsby suffered from the effects of the gas attack for the remainder of his life.  It was his illness before a 1935 St. Louis Browns-Chicago White Sox game that inadvertently started the umpiring career of Jocko Conlon, a fellow Chicagoan.  Ormsby spent nearly two years recuperating from his wartime experience and began umpiring in the 3-I League in 1921.  He moved to the Western League in 1922 and the A.L. a year later.  He was the father of 12 children.

Mel Ott


Mel Ott (Baseball.  Born, Gretna, LA, Nov. 21, 1909; died, New Orleans, LA, Nov. 21, 1958.)  Melvin Thomas Ott won six National League home run crowns during his long career with the New York Giants.  At his retirement in 1947, he had hit more home runs than any other man in N.L. history (511).  Ott was known for his unique batting style.  As the pitcher moved into his motion, Ott would raise his right leg waist-high and begin to stride toward the mound while dropping the bat below his waist.  While unorthodox, the style clearly worked for Ott.  His biggest single home run season was 1929, when he hit 42 but did not lead the league because Chuck Klein of the Phillies hit 43.  Ott did lead the league in 1932 (38), 1934 (35), 1936 (33), 1937 (31), 1938 (36) and 1942 (30).  Ott was also a steady run-producer, driving in 1,860 runs in his career (still a Giants record) and batting .304 over a 22-year career.  Ott never played in the minors, being brought to New York as a teenager to sit on the bench and learn the game from his master, John McGraw.  He began playing in 1926, when he appeared in 35 games without hitting a homer.  In 1927, he played in 82 games and hit only one.  From then on his output was steady.  On Dec. 2, 1941, Ott was named manager of the Giants, succeeding Bill Terry.  He was only the team’s third field boss since 1902, and he managed until 1948, when he was replaced by Leo Durocher, ertswhile manager of the Giants’ sworn enemies, the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Looking on the field one day at Ott and the Giants generally that Durocher, while still managing Brooklyn, said, “Nice guys.  Finish last.”  Over time, the period, and therefore the context, were removed.

Maribel Vincent Owen


Maribel Vincent Owen (Figure skating.  Born, Winchester, MA, Oct. 12, 1911; died, near Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 15, 1961.)  A Skating Club of Boston star who won nine U.S. championships as Maribel Vincent, Mrs. Owen gave numerous exhibitions at the Garden during her skating career.  Mrs. Owen later became a leading coach whose student, Tenley Albright, won the 1956 Olympic gold medal.  She was herself a U.S. Olympic team member in 1928, 1932, and 1936.  Mrs. Owen’s daughter, Laurence, was the U.S. Ladies champion in 1961 and both were traveling with the U.S. figure skating team to the world championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia, when their plane crashed in Belgium.  The entire U.S. team was lost in the crash.  Among the 18 victims of the U.S. figure skating team were U.S. men’s champion Bradley Lord; Diane Sherbloom and Larry Pierce, the U.S. ice dancing champions; Mrs. Owen and her partner on the winning senior pairs team, Dudley Richards; and both of Mrs. Owen’s daughters.

Mickey Owen


Mickey Owen (Baseball.  Born, Nixa, MO, Apr. 4, 1916; died, Mount Vernon, MO, July 13, 2005.)  In the long catalogue of Brooklyn Dodgers frustration in World Series games, Arnold Malcolm Owen always earns prominent mention.  Mickey Owen failed to catch a third strike to the Yankees Tommy Henrich that would have ended the fourth game of the 1941 World Series and tied the Series.  Henrich reached first when the swinging third strike glanced off Owen’s glove for a passed ball.  Pitcher Hugh Casey allowed two-run doubles by Charley Keller and Joe Gordon before the Dodgers finally got the third out.  The Yankees won the game, 7-4, and closed out the Series the next day.  A fine defensive catcher, Owen started with the St. Louis Cardinals (1937-40) before being traded to Brooklyn prior to the 1941 season.  He stayed with Brooklyn until being drafted into the Navy in 1945 and, after World War II, jumped to the Mexican League.  Owen was suspended by Commissioner Happy Chandler for “life,” but returned to the majors in 1949 when Brooklyn traded him to the Chicago Cubs.  He had a lifetime .255 average but hit the first pinch homer in All-Star game history in 1942.  Owen later managed in the minors, served 16 years as sheriff of Greene County, Mo., and was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Missouri in 1980.  He also founded the Mickey Owen Baseball School in Miller, Mo., in 1960, sold it in 1965 after being elected sheriff (1964), and, in later years, suffered from Alezheimer’s Disease.  As he himself often observed, Owen is remembered because of a “dropped third strike.”

Steve Owen


Steve Owen (Pro football.  Born, Cleo Springs, AR, Apr. 21, 1898; died, Oneida, NY, May 17, 1964.)  Steve Owen came out of Phillips University and was perhaps the best tackle of his era in the National Football League, but his real fame was to come during his 23-year tenure as the head coach of the Football Giants.  Owen began his N.F.L. career with the Kansas City Cowboys, but when the team folded after the 1925 season, Giants owner Tim Mara scooped him up for the Giants and he helped the team win the 1927 N.F.L. title.  In 1931, Owen became the fifth coach in the seven-year history of the team, but he was to remain for more than two decades.  During his tenure as field boss, Owen won 151 games, lost 100, and tied 17 for a .601 winning percentage.  He turned out N.F.L. championship teams in 1934 and 1938, plus division winners six times (1933, 1935, 1939, 1941, 1944, and 1946).  He also had two more teams tie for the Eastern Division title but lose in playoffs (1943, 1950). Perhaps his most famous coaching trick was equipping the Giants with sneakers on a frozen Polo Grounds field in the second half of the 1934 championship game against the Chicago Bears.  The Giants literally ran away from the Bears in the final quarter, turning a 13-3 deficit after three periods into a 30-13 victory.  Owen was also noted for creating the “umbrella defense” with defensive backs Emlen Tunnell, Tom Landry, Harmon Rowe and Otto Schnellbacher, a defensive alignment that had a powerful influence on the game.

Jesse Owens


Jesse Owens (Track and field.  Born, Danville, AL, Sept. 12, 1913; died, Tucson, AZ, Mar. 31, 1980.)  James Cleveland Owens, a spectacular high school athlete in Ohio and then an even more spectacular performer at Ohio State, achieved sports immortality in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.  He also provided outstanding performances for New York audiences before he performed his miraculous feats in the Olympics.  In 1935, he won the Millrose Games 60-yard dash in Madison Square Garden.  The 1936 Olympic trials were held at the new Randalls Island Stadium in New York and Owens put on his usual outstanding show, qualifying for the events that were to carry him to Olympic glory.  Owens won four gold medals (100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter relay and the broad jump).  Owens’ performance supposedly so annoyed Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler that the Fuhrer stormed out of the Olympic Stadium, refusing to participate in the medal-presentation ceremony to Owens. A 1960 national poll named Jesse Owens the “Champion of the Century.”

John J. O’Brien


John J. O’Brien (Pro basketball.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 4, 1888; died, Rockville Centre, NY, Dec. 9, 1967.)  Although he was successful in other fields, John J. O’Brien was devoted to basketball.  O’Brien was an energetic and efficient organizer who helped form the Interstate pro league (1914) at age 26 and served as its president from 1915-17.  In 1921, he helped start the Brooklyn Arcadians, one of the better pro teams in the days of regional play.  O’Brien headed the Metropolitan League (1922-26), a six-team circuit with clubs in New York, Brooklyn, Paterson, N.J., and Kingston, N.Y.  Benny Borgmann, Carl Husta, and “Poison Joe” Brennan were among the famous stars who played in the league.  Throughout this period, O’Brien was a celebrated referee in college ranks for over 20 years starting in 1910.  He was an E.I.B.L. referee (1915-30) and worked the first Army-Navy basketball game (1920).  But he really hit his stride in 1928 when Joe Carr of Columbus, O., president of both leagues, elected to run the N.F.L. full-time and O’Brien was chosen his successor as president of the American Basketball League.  The A.B.L. was the closest thing to a major league in pro basketball and he headed the league until 1954, when it, surpassed by the N.B.A., closed down.

Larry O’Brien


Larry O’Brien (Pro basketball.  Born, Springfield, MA, July 7, 1917; died, New York, NY, Sept. 28, 1990.)  A leading Democratic Party operative and fundraiser, Lawrence Francis O’Brien, Jr., served as commissioner of the N.B.A. for nine years (1975-84).  Previously, O’Brien had been Postmaster General (1965-68) under President Lyndon Johnson, a political associate and campaign strategist for President John Kennedy, and twice chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1968-69 and 1970-73).  It was the break-in of his office that triggered the Watergate scandal that resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon. During his term as N.B.A. commissioner, the N.B.A.-A.B.A. merger was negotiated (1976) and the N.B.A. grew from 18 teams to 23.

Jack O’Connell


Jack O’Connell (Sportswriter.  Born, New York, NY, Nov. 4, 1948.)  Primarily a baseball writer for more than three decades, John William O’Connell became the national secretary-treasurer of the B.B.W.A.A. in 1993.  O’Connell started his sportswriting career with the Suffolk Sun on Long Island in 1967.  When that paper folded, he went to the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle in 1969 and then became a baseball writer on a regular basis at the Oakland Press of Pontiac, Mich., in 1971.  O’Connell returned to the metropolitan area in 1977 with the Bergen Record.  While with the Record, he served as chairman of the New York chapter of the B.B.W.A.A. (1985-86) and then moved to the Daily News (1987-89).  In 1989, O’Connell joined the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, where he regularly covered the Yankees through 2004.  Among his duties with the B.B.W.A.A. is conducting the annual award selections and the Baseball Hall of Fame elections.

Hank O’Day


Hank O’Day (Baseball.  Born, Chicago, IL, July 8, 1862; died, Chicago, IL, July 2, 1935.)  After a brief career with the Giants as a pitcher, Henry Frances O’Day embarked on his life’s work as an umpire.  O’Day spent 35 years umpiring in the majors, 34 of them in the N.L. and one in the Players League in 1890.  O’Day ultimately umpired from 1888 to 1927 with several breaks.  He was one of two umpires in the first modern World Series in 1903 (Tom Connolly, representing the A.L., was the other).  He worked most of his career in one-man or two-men crews.  O’Day made his most famous call in 1908.  On Sept. 23, Fred Merkle failed to touch second in the ninth after an apparent game-winning hit by the Giants against the Cubs.  With base umpire Bob Emslie out of position, plate umpire O’Day ruled Merkle out after a force at second, creating a 1-1 tie.  The playoff Oct. 8 was won by Chicago, sending the Cubs to the World Series (where O’Day was one of four umpires assigned).  The 1908 Series was O’Day’s fourth in the first five Series played (also 1905 and 1907), and he subsequently umpired six more (1910, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1923, 1926).  In his early days as a righthander, he pitched for Toledo (1884) and Pittsburgh (1885) in the A.A. and Washington (1886-88) in the N.L.  He was 71-112 overall.  O’Day also managed the 1912 Reds and 1914 Cubs.  He returned to umpiring Aug. 8, 1915, replacing Bill Hart, who resigned four days earlier, and remained in the N.L. until 1927.

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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