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

Category Archives: T

Mel Triplett


(Pro football.  Born, Indianola, MS, Dec. 24, 1930; died, Toledo, OH, July 2, 2002.)  A high school football, basketball, track and field, and gymnastics star, Melvin Christopher Triplett chose to attend the University of Toledo after receiving twenty-six scholarship offers to play football.  After his graduation, the Giants made him the 56th overall pick in the 1955 NFL Draft.  A fullback, Triplett spent six seasons (1955-60) with the Giants. With veteran Bobby Epps serving a six-month stint in the Army that forced him to miss the 1956 season, Triplett became the starting fullback and helped lead the Giants to the NFL Championship game, which they won, 47-7, at Yankee Stadium against Chicago.  Triplett scored the game’s first points on a 17-yard run and was voted the Giants’ offensive player of the game, leading both teams with 71 yards rushing.  Triplett contributed to the Giants’ first NFL championship since 1938 in other ways, too.  As Giants coach Jim Lee Howell said afterwards, “Without Triplett’s blocking, a lot of our plays would not have worked.” On July 1, 1961, Triplett was traded by the Giants to expansion Minnesota in a five-player deal and played for the Vikings for two seasons.  One of Triplett’s 50 grandchildren was a guard for the Toledo basketball team from 2001-05. – By Carina Sturm

Bill Torrey


(Hockey. Born, Montreal, PQ, June 23, 1932.)  A hockey executive, William Arthur Torrey played a leading role in constructing one the most successful  dynasties in New York sports history. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, Torrey worked for the AHL Pittsburgh Hornets. He then became vice president of the NHL’s year-old Oakland Seals before the 1968-69 season.  During Torrey’s three years there, the Seals qualified for the playoffs twice.  Torrey left the Seals after the 1970-71 season and on February 15, 1972, became the first general manager of the expansion  Islanders, who began play that October.  Torrey in the mid- to late 1970s drafted future Hall of Famers Denis Potvin, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier, and Mike Bossy. These players anchored the Islanders from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s, forming the core of the teams that won four consecutive Stanley Cups. Torrey also acquired goaltender Billy Smith, whose play was vital to the Islanders’ fourteen straight winning seasons (1974-75 to 1987-88).  Notable for his ubiquitous bow tie, Torrey saw his teams win a record 19 consecutive playoff series – four in each of the four Stanley Cup-winning series and three more in 1984, when the Islanders reached the final before losing to Edmonton.   Torrey left the Islanders to become  the first president of the 1993 expansion Florida Panthers, helping them reach the Stanley Cup final in 1996. Torrey was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995. – By Jacob Kaczynski

Maria Cerra Tishman


(Fencing.  Born, New York, May 17, 1918; died, Paramus, NJ, Jan. 24, 2015.)  Born into a fencing family, Maria Cerra began participating in the sport at age nine. She fenced for Hunter College and was a nine-time member of the Amateur Fencers League of America (AFLA) national championship foil team from 1935-47.  She won the U.S. national individual championship in the foil in 1945.  At the 1948 London Olympic Games, Cerra finished in a three-way tie for second, only two touches away from the gold medal.  After tie-breaking procedures were applied, she wound up fourth.  For the rest of her life, no American woman matched her Olympic finish.  Following the Games, she married epee fencer Peter Tishman.  For more than 60 years after retiring from competition in 1948, Tishman dedicated herself to fencing.  She served as the first woman on the U.S. Olympic Fencing Committee.  During her tenure, Tishman established an international selection system for U.S. teams based exclusively on earned points.  In addition to promoting fencing throughout the U.S., she worked as an elementary school teacher in New Jersey and retired there in 1984.  In her later years, Tishman officiated at New Jersey high school dual meets around the northeast part of the state.  Tishman was in the inaugural class of 18 inductees to the U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame in 1963. – By Zhizhou Ye

Mike Tyson


Mike Tyson (Boxing. Born, Brooklyn, NY, June 30, 1966.)  Fury unleashed burst into the ring on Mar. 6, 1985 when heavyweight Mike Tyson made his professional debut against Hector Mercedes in Albany, N.Y. At the opening bell, Tyson raced from his corner to launch an attack so vicious that the older, more experienced Mercedes had to be carried from the ring by the end of the round.  This was the first of Tyson’s nineteen consecutive knockouts.  Writers were soon comparing the young fighter to the great KO artists of past eras, particularly Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier.  Like those two former heavyweight champions, Tyson could dispatch an opponent with either hand.  But that is where the similarity ended. Frazier and Marciano were both plodding fighters, willing to absorb punishment as they worked inside to deliver their own lethal punches.  But, with the help of veteran trainer Cus D’Amato, Tyson developed an elusive, bobbing-weaving style that made him surprisingly difficult to hit.  Tyson quickly transformed the heavyweight division into a shambles. On Nov. 26, 1986, only twenty months after his pro debut, he knocked out Trevor Berbick in the second round to win the World Boxing Council heavyweight crown. Barely 20, he was the youngest man to ever hold the title.  Over the next year, Tyson would become the undisputed king of the heavies by winning a pair of 12-round decisions over WBA titleholder Bonecrusher Smith (Mar. 7, 1987) and International Boxing Federation champion Tony Tucker (August 1, 1987).  By 1990, Tyson was 37-0 with an astonishing 33 knockouts. The champion appeared to be unbeatable when he entered a Tokyo ring on Feb. 11, 1990, to fight the relatively unknown James “Buster” Douglas. Las Vegas bookmakers had listed Tyson as a 45-1 favorite on the afternoon of the fight. But Douglas gave Tyson a fearsome boxing lesson, beating him to the punch repeatedly. In the 10th round, Douglas’s crushing overhand right put down Tyson for the count.  Tyson recovered from that loss with four straight wins to reestablish himself as a top heavyweight challenger. In 1991,  he was about to sign for another title fight when an Indiana rape conviction sent him to prison for 3½ years. Tyson resumed his career shortly after his release and soon won back both the W.B.C. and W.B.A. titles. However, on Nov. 9, 1996, Evander Holyfield, a 27-1 underdog, made Tyson a former champion once again with an 11th round TKO. After that defeat, Tyson remained a contender but his two efforts to regain the heavyweight throne failed. – R.L.

Willie Turnesa


Willie Turnesa (Golf.  Born, Elmsford, NY, Jan. 29, 1914; died, Sleepy Hollow, NY, June 16, 2001.)  An outstanding golfer from a family of outstanding golfers, William Peter Turnesa had six older brothers who played the game professionally.  He was the only one who never turned pro, but “Willie the Wedge” was an outstanding amateur before and after World War II, and also served as president of the Metropolitan Golf Association.  In 1938, Turnesa won the U.S. Amateur title at the Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, Penna., and ten years later turned the same trick at the Memphis (Tenn.) Country Club.  Turnesa also won the Metropolitan Amateur in 1937 and had a distinguished career representing the United States abroad.  He won the British Amateur in 1947 and was a finalist in 1949.  He was a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team in 1947, 1949, and 1951.  In 1947, the U.S. won, 8-4, in England and two years later won again by a score of 10-2 at Westchester’s Winged Foot Golf Club.  In 1951, Turnesa was the captain of the U.S. squad that defeated the British, 6-3, at Birkdale.  His affiliation with the Metropolitan Golf Association as an officer began in 1951.  In 1955, he was elected president of the Association.  During his long career, Turnesa was involved in virtually every major golf event held in the New York area.  He was known and respected throughout golf not only as a player but for his other contributions, including encouragement to young players and the development of amateur programs in the area.

Jim Turnesa


Jim Turnesa (Golf.  Born, Elmsford, NY, Dec. 9, 1912; died, Elmsford, NY, Aug. 27, 1971.)  Second-youngest of the seven golfing Turnesa brothers, James turned pro in 1931, was runner-up in the 1942 P.G.A. championship, and won the P.G.A. in 1952.  He lost the 1942 P.G.A. final, 2 and 1, to Sam Snead.  Turnesa won in 1952 by defeating Chick Harbert, 1-up.  Turnesa also won several smaller tournaments on tour.  His older brothers were Phil, Frank, Joe, Mike, and Doug.  Only his younger brother, Willie (q.v.), never became a pro, but rather became a star at Holy Cross, winning the New England collegiate title three times (1936, 1937, 1938) and the Westchester Amateur four times (1933, 1936, 1937, 1938) before becoming a U.S. Amateur champion.

Ron Turcotte


Ron Turcotte (Horse racing.  Born: Grand Falls, New Brunswick, July 22, 1941.)  A brilliant 18-year career as one of the finest jockeys in New York history was not dimmed in its luster by the tragic accident that ended the riding career of Ron Turcotte.  During the mid-1970s especially, Turcotte was at the top of his game, riding Belmont Stakes winners Riva Ridge (1972) and Secretariat (1973) in successive years.  In 1973, he was the overall riding leader in New York and the top rider at Saratoga.  In that year, Secretariat won the Triple Crown (becoming the first horse to do so in 25 years).  The photo of Turcotte’s looking over his left shoulder at the distant field aboard Secretariat near the end of the Belmont is an iconic photo.  Turcotte had earlier established himself with major stakes wins in New York including the Suburban Handicap (aboard Buffle in 1966), the Beldame (aboard Shuvee in 1970) and several other wins in his best years of 1972 and 1973.  He rode Upper Case to victory in the Wood Memorial in 1972 before winning the Belmont with Riva Ridge.  He rode Riva Ridge home in the Brooklyn Handicap in 1973. He also won the Coaching Club American Oaks with Summer Guest in 1972 and had another big winner with Hatchet Man in the Dwyer Stakes in 1974.  But on July 13, 1978, in the eighth race at Belmont, Turcotte’s mount, Flag of Leyte Gulf, clipped heels with Water Malone and Turcotte was thrown hard.  The injuries sustained in this tragedy ended his exceptional career prematurely. In that career, Turcotte rode 20,281 mounts and was in the money 8,488 times (42 percent) with 3,032 winners and earned $28,606,490 in purses.

Gene Tunney


Gene Tunney (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, May 25, 1898; died, Greenwich, CT, Nov. 7, 1978.)  James Joseph Tunney started his pro career with three fights in New York and won all three by knockout.  World War I delayed the development of his pro career, but in 1919 he gained considerable fame by winning the light heavyweight title in a tournament conducted by the American Expeditionary Forces in France.  Tunney won 20 bouts in the preliminary rounds of the tournament, then took the semifinal and final (over Ted Jamieson) by knockouts.  In 1922, he won the American light heavyweight title with a 12-round win in New York over Battling Levinsky.  He subsequently lost the title to Harry Greb, but in 1923 regained it by defeating Greb in a 15-rounder.  He became the heavyweight champion, defeating Jack Dempsey in Philadelphia in 1926, and then successfully defended the title against Dempsey in 1927 in the famous “Long Count” bout in Chicago before a crowd of 104,943.  Tunney’s share of the $2,658,660 gate was $990,000.  He fought only once more after that bout, defeating New Zealander Tom Heeney at Yankee Stadium on July 26, 1928, an 11th-round knockout.  Tunney then retired.  He was the father of the future one-term Senator from California, John V. Tunney.

Emlen Tunnell


Emlen Tunnell (Pro football.  Born, Bryn Mawr, PA, Mar. 29, 1925; died, Pleasantville, NY, July 23, 1975.)  One of the premier defensive backs in the history of pro football, Emlen Lewis Tunnell came undrafted out of the University of Iowa in 1948.  He had to plead with the Giants for a tryout.  With the N.F.L. then locked in a struggle with the rival All-America Football Conference, the Giants decided they had nothing to lose, and thereby gained one of the great pass defenders in league annals.  Tunnell was also a punt returner and returned kickoffs during the early part of his 11-year career with the club.  During that time, Tunnell set a Giants record with 74 career pass interceptions, which he returned for 1,240 yards and four touchdowns.  He became part of the four-deep back setup on coach Steve Owen’s “umbrella defense” with Tom Landry, Harmon Rowe, and Otto Schnellbacher.  This was a mobile defense alignment designed primarily to stop Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns’ passing attack.  Tunnell set another Giants record in 1953 when he returned 38 punts, and finished his career with 257 for 2,199 yards and five touchdowns.  He also handled 46 kickoff returns.  Tunnell was a key part of the Giants team that won the 1956 N.F.L. championship and the 1958 Eastern division titlists who lost the fabled overtime game to the Baltimore Colts at Yankee Stadium.  He played the final three years (1959-61) of his 14-season career with Green Bay.  In 1969, in connection with the N.F.L.’s celebration of its 50th anniversary, he was named the league’s all-time safety.  He was also the first black player to play for the Giants, and the first to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mike Tully


Mike Tully (Sportswriter.  Born, Passaic, NJ, Sept. 11, 1951.)  Michael T. Tully was a U.P.I. sports staffer for nearly 14 years (1977-91), during which time he was attached to the wire service’s baseball central operation.  Tully covered not only local New York teams but also post-season, World Series, and All-Star Games.  He was also later a U.P.I. national baseball writer and subsequently was with The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., in general news.

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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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