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

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Bill Rafter


Bill Rafter (Sports editor.  Born, Rhinecliff, NY, Sept. 1, 1875; died, Brooklyn, NY, Feb. 13, 1926.)  William A. Rafter was unique among the sports editors of the four principal Brooklyn dailies in the first quarter of the 20th century.  Rafter, unlike his confreres, was not born in Brooklyn and, even more unusual, was not a follower of the N.L. baseball club, now familiarly known as the Dodgers.  Instead, boxing and amateur baseball were his primary interests.  (George N. Palmer, who was to succeed him as sports editor, was the main reporter on the N.L. club.)  Rafter joined the Standard-Union as a telegraph operator in 1892 and soon began covering local boxing in his off-hours.  A series of heavyweight championship fights featuring James J. Jeffries (q.v.) in 1899 and 1900 at Coney Island gave Rafter a chance to show not only his skills but the selling power of sports to his paper.  In 1901, he was named sports editor of the Standard-Union, a position he would hold until his death.  Rafter began a campaign before World War I to legalize sports events on Sundays, leading to major clashes with religious leaders.  He found an ally in Manhattan assemblyman James J. Walker (q.v.), and sports events became legal on Sundays in 1919.  Rafter entered into an agreement to contribute articles to the Police Gazette, then a national sporting weekly.  When the Gazette refused to honor the agreement, Rafter sued.  In May 1923, he was awarded $202,180.50 for breach of contract.  With part of the proceeds, Rafter bought a home in Babylon, N.Y.  But he soon tired of commuting and country living, moving back two years later to his apartment at 25 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, where he suddenly died.

Frank Ramos


Frank Ramos (Public relations.  Born, Valley Stream, NY, Aug. 5, 1938.)  The longest-serving public relations representative for a single New York pro team, Frank R. Ramos was the Jets’ head publicist for 36 years (1966-2002).  Ramos joined the Jets in June 1963, as the assistant to Joe Cahill, his former boss at West Point.  Ramos had served in the U.S. Army from Nov. 1960 to Oct. 1963, a part of which time he spent at West Point, where Cahill then hired him as assistant director of sports information.  When his boss went to the Jets in April 1963, Ramos became the acting director of the office.  Slightly over two months later, Ramos was also with the Jets.  He was a political science major at Florida State who began his career as a sportswriter for the Miami Daily News before entering the Army.  He retired from the Jets Mar. 1, 2002.

Cal Ramsey


Cal Ramsey (Basketball.  Born, Selma, AL, July 13, 1937.)  As a sophomore out of Commerce H.S., Calvin Ramsey had the third-best scoring season in N.Y.U. history up to that time (401 points) and went on to set new standards in almost every offensive category.  Ramsey had N.Y.U.’s first 40-point game (Feb. 7, 1959, vs. Hunter at Alumni Gym) and closed his three-year career with 1,295 points (20.2 per game), 476 field goals, 1,101 rebounds, all Violets records at the time.  He was captain of the 1958-59 team that finished third in the N.I.T., but N.Y.U. was only 33-32 overall in his three seasons.  After a short (seven games) tour with the Knicks and parts of two seasons with St. Louis and Syracuse, Ramsey became a television commentator (1972-82) for the Knicks.  In 1991, he became the Knicks’ director of community relations.

Ed Randall


Ed Randall (Sportscaster.  Born, New York, NY, Oct. 20, 1952.)  A baseball jack-of-all-trades announcer, Edwin Wayne Randall has done play-by-play, update work, and anchored his own syndicated television program.  Randall was a minor league play-by-play voice in such towns as Elmira, N.Y., Bristol, Conn., Spokane, Wash., and Vancouver, B.C., from 1974-81.  A Fordham graduate, he then returned to New York, where he was a field reporter for CNN in 1980 and then began a two-decade association with ESPN as a daytime update anchor (in December 1980) and then a reporter for ESPN Radio.  Randall is perhaps best known as the host of his “Ed Randall’s Talkin’ Baseball,” a syndicated cable television program.  He was also with SportsChannel New York (1987-91), during which time he spent a year as a pre- and post-game host for SportsChannel’s Yankees telecasts.  Randall has also done a Spanish-language baseball program and a radio version of “Talkin’ Baseball” for WABC Radio.

Vic Raschi


Vic Raschi (Baseball.  Born, West Springfield, MA, Mar. 28, 1919; died, Groveland, NY, Oct. 14, 1988.)  A hard-throwing righthander whom Mel Allen called “the Springfield Rifle,” Victor John Angelo Raschi was a 21-game winner three straight years (1949-51).  Raschi began his minor league career in 1941 but began to hit his stride after three years of military service (1943-45) during World War II.  In 1946, he pitched at Binghamton, Newark, and with the Yankees (13-12 overall) and rejoined the Yankees midway through the 1947 season to stay.  Raschi was 7-2 with six complete games in 15 appearances, then went 19-8 in his first full season (1948).  Overall, he was 120-50 in eight seasons with the Yankees (1946-53) before being peddled to the St. Louis Cardinals on Feb. 24, 1954, for $85,000.  But only six of his seasons were full years and in that span, Raschi was 110-48 from 1948-53 and the Yankees won five straight world championships (1949-53) at least in part because of him.  He threw 84 complete games in 165 starts from 1948-52.  Having not become a regular until age 28, Raschi still finished with a 132-66 record, including two years with St. Louis and Kansas City (4-6 in 1955).

Jean Ratelle


Jean Ratelle (Hockey.  Born, Lac Ste. Jean, P.Q., Oct. 3, 1940.)  An ankle fracture cost him part of what is, by one measure (points per game), still the greatest point-scoring season in Rangers history, but Joseph Gilbert Yves Jean Ratelle remains among the best centers ever to play for the team.  In 1971-72, Ratelle had 46 goals and 63 assists for a team-record 109 points in 63 games, but missed the final 15 games of the season thanks to a broken ankle from teammate Dale Rolfe’s slapshot.  A smooth, graceful skater and gentlemanly player (he won the Lady Byng Trophy twice), Ratelle also holds team records for most 30-goal seasons (six) and successive 40-goal seasons (1971-72 and 1972-73, when he had 41).  For years, he pivoted the famous GAG (Goal-a-Game) line flanked on his left by Vic Hadfield, the Rangers’ first-ever 50-goal scorer (1971-72), and on his right by childhood friend Rod Gilbert.  Ratelle was a product of the Rangers organization who first played for the parent club in 1960-61 (three games).  For the first five years of his career, he bobbed up and down betweem the Rangers and their minor-league clubs.  In 1965-66, he became a Rangers regular and the following season the Rangers made the playoffs for the first of nine consecutive seasons.  In what was then generally considered the most spectacular trade in N.H.L. history, Ratelle and Brad Park (q.v.) were both dealt to Boston Nov. 7, 1975 (with throw-in Joe Zanussi), for center Phil Esposito (q.v.) and defenseman Carol Vadnais.  He played on six more playoff teams in Boston before retiring after the 1980-81 season.  In his Rangers career, Ratelle had 336 goals and 481 assists in 862 games.  During the 1972 run to the Stanley Cup final, he returned from his ankle injury only for the final series against Boston but was not really ready and had only one assist as the Rangers lost in six games.

Willie Ratner


Willie Ratner (Sportswriter.  Born, Newark, NJ, June 3, 1895; died, Newark, NJ, Apr. 3, 1980.)  For longevity at a single newspaper, the career of Willie Ratner may be unique.  Ratner joined the Newark Evening News as a copy boy in 1912 and remained with the paper until it closed Aug. 31, 1972.  He became a sportswriter who covered bike racing, then a major sport in Newark and nearby Nutley, N.J., moved on to boxing, and then thoroughbred racing.  The bike racing world championships were held in Newark the year Ratner began with the News.  His career as a boxing writer began during World War I, when he covered Jack Dempsey, later a heavyweight champion who was to become a life-long friend.  For many years, Ratner wrote a column entitled “Punching the Bag.”  He covered most major fight cards at the Garden for decades.

Joie Ray


Joie Ray (Track.  Born, Kankakee, IL, Apr. 13, 1894; died, Benton Harbor, MI, May 13, 1978.)  Although he was eventually overtaken by the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi (q.v.), Joseph Ray was the dominant miler in the world for nearly a decade.  Ray won the A.A.U. indoor 1000-yard title three straight years (1918-20) at Madison Square Garden and was also the A.A.U. mile champion outdoors eight times (1915, 1917-23).  He tied the world record in the mile in 1925 (4:12.0) and dominated the Wanamaker Cup event at the Millrose Games.  In those years, the event was run at 1½ miles and Ray won it seven times (1917-20, 1922-24), setting world indoor records for the distance in 1917, 1922, and 1924 (6:41.8).  The Chicago cab driver met his match on Jan. 6, 1925, in the Finnish-American A.C. Games at the Garden when Nurmi beat Ray head-to-head and cut a full second off his indoor mile record.  Nurmi beat Ray again three weeks later in the Millrose at two distances.  The night Ray ran his 4:12 at the New York Knights of Columbus meet at the Garden, Nurmi didn’t finish, pulling out due to a reported upset stomach.  Yet, during his long reign, Ray helped popularize indoor track events.

Willis Reed


Willis Reed (Pro basketball.  Born, Hico, LA, June 25, 1942.)  Startlingly enough, Willis Reed was only a second-round draft pick by the New York Knicks, but he went on to stardom as the captain of the club’s first two N.B.A. championship teams.  The 6’10” Reed was the N.B.A. Rookie of the Year in 1965 and five years later, during the 1969-70 championship season, he became the first New York Knick ever to become the league’s Most Valuable Player. That year he was also M.V.P. of the All-Star Game and the playoffs, a First Team All-Star, and a member of the all-defensive team, the top N.B.A. big man.  In the seventh game of the final that year against Los Angeles at the Garden, Reed, hobbled by a hip injury incurred in the fifth game, scored New York’s first two baskets after a late, surprise entrance during warmups and inspired the Knicks to a 113-99 victory.  At the height of his career, Reed was a bulwark of strength in the middle for the Knicks, both as a scorer and rebounder.  He averaged 20 points or more per game for five straight years, from 1966-67 through 1970-71.  His career was then curtailed by injury, but he still finished with 12,183 points in 650 games, a solid 18.7 career average.  He was also the playoff M.V.P. again when the Knicks won their second championship in 1973.  Reed was distinguished not only by his skill and determination but also by his class, his courage and his dignity.  Many consider him the heart and soul of those championship seasons.  He also subsequently coached both the Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Pee Wee Reese


Pee Wee Reese (Baseball.  Born, Ekron, KY, July 23, 1919; died, Louisville, KY, Aug. 14, 1999.)  Harold Henry Reese was the acknowledged leader of the Brooklyn Dodgers during their glory years after World War II.  After two seasons with Louisville, the Red Sox’s American Association club, Reese was purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an eventual successor to playing-manager Leo Durocher, then the club’s shortstop.  “Eventually” became 1941, when Reese played 152 games (in a 154-game schedule) as the Dodgers won their first National League pennant in 21 years.  After playing regularly in 1942, Reese spent the next three seasons in military service during World War II.  Upon his return, Brooklyn began to assemble the team that would become the terror of the National League for the next decade.  Reese was to play a major role in its dominance.  He was also to play a major role in helping Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey integrate the major leagues.  As a southerner, Reese’s leadership in accepting Robinson did much to calm some of the heated passions of the time.  On the field, Reese was a fine shortstop and a timely hitter.  Although he had only 126 home runs in his major league career, many came at key times for the Dodgers.  Over his career, Reese batted .269 in 16 seasons (all but one of them in Brooklyn).  He played 2,166 games and was a member of more Brooklyn pennant-winning teams than any other player: seven (1941, ’47, ’49, ’52-53, ’55-56).

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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