Category Archives: W
Bobby Walthour, Sr. (Bicycle racing. Born, Walthourville, GA, Jan. 1, 1878; died, Boston, MA, Sept. 2, 1949.) One of the true folk heroes of American bicycle racing, Robert A. Walthour, Sr., not only set numerous world speed record in his motor-paced specialty but also won two six-day races at Madison Square Garden in the early years of the 20th century. Walthour was such a well-known star in the American sports firmament that his elopement with Miss Blanche (Daisy) Bailey was thought to have fostered a popular song known variously as “On A Bicycle Built for Two” and “Daisy, Daisy” (although the song was written in 1892, when Walthour was 14). In 1901, Walthour and Archie McEachern won the six-day event at Madison Square Garden and he won again in 1903 with Benny Munroe as a partner. In 1902 he performed one of his greatest feats. On a cement track in Cambridge, Mass., Walthour set 26 national records in a 31-mile race during the National Motorpace Championship. In 1904, he again set records for five, 10, and 25 miles in the Motorpace Championship. He went to France in 1904, winning 16 races in a row, then captured the motorpace world title in London. But before his retirement in 1917, he had suffered 32 broken ribs and 46 collarbone fractures, among other injuries.
Harry Wendelstedt, Sr. (Baseball. Born, Baltimore, MD, July 27, 1938.) At the time of his retirement, Harry Hunter Wendelstedt, Jr., had served the second-longest tenure as an umpire in major league history. Wendelstedt came to the N.L. in April 1966 and umpired 33 seasons, through 1998. Although identified as “Wendelstedt, Sr.” for umpiring purposes, it is he, and not his son (who is actually Harry Hunter Wendelstedt, III and referred to as Wendelstedt, Jr.) who is the junior. His father was not an umpire. The two made major league history in 1998 when they became the first father-son combination to work a game together. (The son became a regular member of the N.L. staff in 1999.) Wendelstedt umpired five World Series (1973, 1980, 1986, 1991, 1995), four All-Star Games, three division series and six N.L. championship series.
Grete Waitz (Running. Born, Oslo, Norway, Oct. 1, 1953; died, Oslo, Norway, April 19, 2011.) When the New York City Marathon was run for the first time around Central Park, it was considered unusual for the time (1970) for women to be part of the entry field. In fact, no woman finished that first race. Historically, marathoning had been strictly a man’s world. But even Fred Lebow and the other organizers of the New York City Marathon little thought at the time when they made what could be considered a timely, bold social statement that the New York City Marathon would eventually become virtually a one-woman showcase. That woman turned out to be Grete Waitz, the great Norwegian who turned the Marathon into her own personal stage. From her first victory in 1978, Waitz dominated the women’s field. In 1978, Waitz, who had never before run a marathon, was clocked in a record 2:32:30. She lowered the record to 2:27:33 in 1979 and cut it to 2:25:41 in 1980; nearly seven minutes off the clocking in three races. Waitz missed in 1981 but then came back to win each of the next five years, giving her seven wins in eight years, and won a ninth time in 1988. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in the marathon. At the time of her death, she was generally acclaimed as the greatest women’s distance runner ever.
Dave Waldstein (Sportswriter. Born, Boston, MA, Dec. 28, 1962.) After a couple of different roles with the Boston Herald and a two-year tour with a magazine, David Waldstein joined the Post in 1991, where he eventually became the lead reporter on the Mets beat. Waldstein moved to the Star-Ledger in 2000, where he continued covering the Mets and other National League baseball. Two years later, he moved to the Knicks beat, and also covered U.S. Open tennis. Waldstein was an agate clerk for the Herald (1987-88) and a production assistant for 7 Days magazine while pursuing a freelance writing career. He covered the 1990 World Cup soccer championship for the Herald as a freelancer.
Ben Walker (Sportswriter. Born, Washington, DC, Oct. 8, 1957.) A bulwark of The Associated Press coverage for over two decades, Benjamin Staud Walker has covered every World Series game since 1983 and every baseball All-Star Game since 1984. Walker joined the A.P. in 1980 in Albany, N.Y., out of Syracuse U. He moved to the A.P.’s Philadelphia bureau in 1981 and the next year came to New York sports. Walker was named baseball editor in 1987 and, in addition to doing Yankees and Mets regular season games, covers Division Series and League Championship Series games annually. He is also responsible for pre-season and spring training coverage. Though primarily a baseball writer, Walker covers other sports, including the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at the Garden, and wrote the main lead for the A.P. on the B.C.S. championship game between L.S.U. and Oklahoma Jan. 3, 2004, at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La. In December 2004, he became the A.P.’s deputy sports editor.
Dixie Walker (Baseball. Born, Villa Rica, GA, Sept. 24, 1910; died, Birmingham, AL, May 17, 1982.) Another Yankees reject who made his name in Brooklyn, Fred Walker was doubtless one of the best $10,000 investments in baseball history. After parts of five seasons with the Yankees, Walker was sent to the White Sox via waivers (May 4, 1936) and following the 1937 season was shipped to Detroit as part of a six-player deal. He was hitting .305 for the Tigers when Larry MacPhail paid the $10,000 waiver price to bring him to Brooklyn on July 24, 1939. Walker won his first game with a pinch single and was on his way to becoming a Brooklyn hero. From 1940-47 he never hit less than .290, hit .311 for the 1941 pennant winners, and won the N.L. batting crown in 1944 (.357). Often injured early in his career and past prime draft age, Walker was exempt from World War II military service and drove in a league-leading 124 runs in 1945. He became a skilled technician in handling the tricky rightfield wall at Ebbets Field and also battered the wall with line-drive doubles (28 or more in each full season in Brooklyn). Walker was truly “the Peepul’s Cherce” as the team’s most popular player. However, his Southern upbringing imbued him with racial prejudice and he complained to general manager Branch Rickey (q.v.) when Brooklyn signed Jackie Robinson (q.v.). Rickey promised to trade him to the team that finished last in the N.L. in 1947 and did. Walker went to Pittsburgh Dec. 8, 1947, in a six-man deal that brought lefthander Preacher Roe and great-fielding third baseman Billy Cox (as well as infielder Gene Mauch) to Flatbush. But Brooklyn fans threw a “day” for Walker in 1948 anyhow.
Jimmy Walker (Sportsman. Born, New York, NY, June 19, 1881; died, New York, NY, Nov. 18, 1946.) In a book by Gene Fowler and a subsequent film starring Bob Hope (both entitled Beau James), James John Walker was immortalized as a bon vivant and a trusting politician caught in the vortex of municipal scandals that terminated his mayoralty prematurely. While some of this is accurate, Walker was also a modestly successful songwriter who was pressed by his father into a political career. To sports fans, he was a benefactor. Walker attended New York Law School, passing the bar in 1912, by which time he was already politically involved as a Manhattan Democrat. He served in the New York State Assembly (1910-14) representing the 5th A.D. (Greenwich Village). Walker was elected to the State Senate in 1915 from the old 13th and served 10 years. While a State Senator, he successfully steered through the Sunday Baseball Law that allowed sports events on the Christian Sabbath, no mean feat at a time when religious feeling was extremely strong. Next, he authored the Walker Law, which created the New York State Athletic Commission and legalized pro boxing in the state (1920). Walker in no small way helped trigger the “Golden Age of Sports,” in the 1920s, which had New York City as its epicenter. He was elected the 97th Mayor of New York City in 1925 by a two-to-one margin and was reelected in 1929 by an even wider margin (over Fiorello LaGuardia). After an extensive investigation led by Judge Samuel Seabury, Gov. Franklin Roosevelt convened hearings in Albany on Aug. 11, 1932, on the mayor’s “fitness” to hold office. Following several days of intense legal maneuvering, Walker resigned Sept. 1, 1932. He later divorced, married long-time girlfriend Betty Compton, and moved to Europe. In 1945, a survey regarding potential mayoral candidates found Walker favored by 38% of those polled, far more than any other candidate, including the incumbent LaGuardia. But he didn’t run. He received a unique honor July 11, 1948, when a plaque was placed in centerfield honoring his memory among four Giants baseball heroes and two Football Giants who had died in World War II. The plaque read, in part, “friend and fan whose Sunday baseball law made it possible for millions of his fellow citizens to enjoy the game.” Walker was a lifelong Giants fan and also often attended games at Yankee Stadium. He is remembered in the boxing community by an award presented annually by the New York Boxing Writers. In the overall, Walker was probably a better mayor than historians usually acknowledge. The Sanitation Department was formed during his administration, the subways expanded their reach, schools and highways were built. But regardless, New York sports fans remain in his debt.
Mickey Walker (Boxing. Born, Elizabeth, NJ, July 13, 1901; died, Freehold, NJ, Apr. 28, 1981.) A local favorite who began a professional boxing career in his hometown, Edward Patrick Walker became the world middleweight champion. Walker, known as “the Toy Bulldog,” reigned from 1926-31. Of his first 23 bouts, 19 were in Elizabeth (the other four were in Newark). Walker then moved into the big time in 1921, fighting in New York for the first time Feb. 23 and knocking out Ed Kelly in five rounds. The next year, he beat Jack Britton to win the welterweight crown, and won the middleweight title by beating Tiger Flowers in Chicago Dec. 3, 1926. He relinquished that title in 1931 but fought until 1935, trying unsuccessfully to fight up as a light heavyweight. When he retired, Walker opened a bar in Elizabeth, then went to Los Angeles, became a liquor salesman, created a name for himself in primitive art, and later opened another tavern, this time in New York. A generation of sports fans remember his New York bar on Eighth Avenue across 49th Street from Madison Square Garden.
Bill Wallace (Sportswriter. Born, Washington, DC, Apr. 29, 1924.) In a career that spanned over a half-century, William Noble Wallace wrote sports for three major New York newspapers. Wallace, fresh out of Yale, started at the World-Telegram as a yachting writer in March 1949. He moved to the Herald Tribune in 1957, initially for the same beat, but in 1959 succeeded Bill Seward as the chief pro football writer. A prolonged strike hit the major papers in 1962-63 and, at its end, Wallace moved to The New York Times, where he continued covering the Football Giants. Over his years at The Times, his vistas continued to expand, as he began to cover a wide range of events, including skiing, college sports, and sailing. Wallace went on a semi-retired status, where he was able to concentrate on producing weekly roundups of various sports such as college hockey. He proved to be among the most versatile writers of his generation. Wallace was also one of the most durable. His byline appeared in The Times (on Fordham football star Harry Jacunski’s obituary) on Feb. 22, 2003, nearly 54 years after he walked into sports editor Joe Val’s office at the World-Telegram on Barclay St. and was hired on the spot.
Ray Walsh (Pro football. Born, New York, NY, Mar. 18, 1916; died, White Plains, NY, Aug. 6, 1998.) A skilled jack-of-all-trades, Raymond J. Walsh served the Football Giants from 1947-91 in a wide range of positions. Walsh was a scout, publicist, business manager, and negotiator. He was active in the lease negotiation and planning that brought the Giants to New Jersey in 1976. Walsh was a No. 1 singles player for the Fordham tennis team and graduated magna cum laude in 1937 before going to Fordham Law School.