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

Category Archives: B

Ray Barbuti


(Track and field and college football. Born, Brooklyn, NY, June 12, 1905; died, Pittsfield, MA, July 8, 1988.)  A football star, Olympian, armed services veteran, and long-time college football referee, Raymond James Barbuti first gained attention playing fullback at Lawrence High School on Long Island. He scored eight touchdowns in a game to set New York State high school record that stood for the rest of his life.  At Syracuse, Barbuti was captain of both the football and track and field teams.  In 1928, he won the AAU title in the 400-meter dash, with a time of 51.8 seconds.  The same year, at the Amsterdam Olympic Games, he won two gold medals:  in the 400-meter dash and the 4×400-meter relay.  He covered the 400 in 47.8 seconds, and the relay team finished in a world-record 3:14.2. Barbuti was also a member of the 4×400 team that set another world record (3:13.4) in London a week after the Olympics.  Barbuti served in United States Army Air Forces during World War II and was awarded an Air Medal and a Bronze Star before retiring from the Army with the rank of major.  He later became the director of the Civil Defense Commission for New York State and director of the New York State Office of Disaster Preparedness.  Barbuti worked as a referee at more than 500 college football games. He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1967.  – By Qian Wang

Candy Cummings


Candy Cummings (Baseball.  Born, Ware, MA, Oct. 18, 1848; died, Toledo, OH, May 16, 1924.)  It is probable, though not absolutely certain, that William Arthur Cummings invented the curveball.  Cummings supposedly studied the flight of seashells tossed at the shore and perfected the wrist motion necessary to make a baseball curve.  In the days before pro teams, he came to prominence with the Star club of Brooklyn.  When the National Association was formed in 1871, Cummings turned pro with the New York Mutuals and went 33-20 in 55 games in 1871.  Pitching for Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Hartford in the N.A., he compiled a four-year record of 124-72.  In the National League, the righthander was with Hartford (1876) and Cincinnati (1877).  The 120-pound whippet had a 21-22 N.L. record.

Lord Byron


Lord Byron (Baseball.  Born, Detroit, MI, Sept. 8, 1872; died, Ypsilanti, MI, Dec. 27, 1955.)  Known as “the singing umpire,” William J. Byron had a propensity for singing on the field, often emphasizing his calls with rhymes and tunes.  Byron was a National League umpire for seven seasons (1913-19) and sometimes offended fans with his lyrics.  On Sept. 16, 1915, he made a public apology ot Chicago fans as the result of such an incident.  His most famous rhyme was variants of “You better learn/Before you’re much older/You can’t get a hit/With the bat on your shoulder.”  Byron’s only World Series assignment was in 1914.

Tommy Byrne


Tommy Byrne (Baseball.  Born, Baltimore, MD, Dec. 31, 1919; died, Wake Forest, NC, Dec. 20, 2007.)  There were times that it was tough to tell whether lefthander Thomas Joseph Byrne was a better hitter or pitcher.  Byrne hit 14 career homers and drove in 98 runs in his 13 seasons with four A.L. clubs.  He also had 80 pinch-hitting appearances to go with 281 as a pitcher.  Byrne started (1943-51) and finished (1954-57) his career with the Yankees, pitching in four World Series.  The lanky lefthander was 1-1 in the 1955 Series, losing Game 7 by allowing both runs as Brooklyn won its only World Series, 2-0.  Byrne also worked in 1949, 1956, and 1957, but did not have another Series decision.  His best seasons were 1949 (15-7), 1950 (15-9), and 1955 (16-5).  After tours with the St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, and Washington, Byrne wound up in the minors.  He had terrible control early in his career and led the A.L. in walks three years running (1949-51).  But at Seattle in 1954, he was 20-10 and led the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts.  That brought him back to New York.  In later years, Byrne had a part-ownership in a North Carolina country club.

Charlie Byrne


Charlie Byrne (Baseball.  Born, New York, NY, Sept. 10, 1843; died, New York, NY, Jan. 4, 1898.)  Lost in the glare of his more famous successors, Charles H. Byrne is the man who brought big league baseball to Brooklyn.  It was Byrne who started a pro club in 1883, moved it into three leagues in eight years, and established what became the Dodgers.  He was a partner with Ferdinand Abell in gambling houses when he assembled a team that won the minor Inter-State League pennant in its first season (1883).  Byrne stepped up to the American Association, then the major rival of the National League, in 1884.  His team, managed by George Taylor, wasn’t ready to compete at that level, finishing 40-64 (ninth in a 13-team league).  So Byrne took over managing the team for three years (1885-87).  He was 174-172 in those three years and also got Abell to take an interest in the game, at least financially.  Byrne also brought in Charles Ebbets in to handle front office work.  In 1888, he hired Bill McGunnigle as manager and Brooklyn moved up to second in the A.A. standings.  The next season, the team won the A.A. pennant although, as an augury of things to come, lost the World Series to the Giants, six games to three.  Byrne’s club then jumped to the N.L. and won the pennant again in 1890, in a league weakened by the so-called “Brotherhood War,” when players formed their own league to compete the two established circuits.  In 1890, the World Series between Brooklyn and Louisville of the A.A. was abandoned because of poor attendance after seven games, deadlocked 3-3 with one tie.  The ever-resourceful Byrne then moved his champions to the rural Eastern Park, built by the Players League, in 1891 after the P.L. failed.  (Following Byrne’s death, Ebbets moved the team back to Washington Park.)  Byrne made the move for two reasons.  First, the park was less accessible but new, requiring virtually no maintenance, and second, it had to be reached by trolley for most fans and the transit companies cut the team in on the take, since it was a traffic builder.  Byrne and Abell invested in control of the Baltimore Orioles, who became part of the 12-team N.L. after the collapse of the A.A. following the 1891 season.  Baltimore was the best team in the league during much of the 1890s under manager Ned Hanlon.  When Byrne died, Ebbets began to shift some of the Baltimore talent to Brooklyn, since it was a better market.  Thus came Hanlon and the N.L. pennants of 1899 and 1900 to Brooklyn.  But what Ebbets, Larry MacPhail, Branch Rickey and Walter O’Malley accomplished in Brooklyn was possible only because of Byrne’s initiative.

Dick Button


Dick Button (Figure skating.  Born, Englewood, NJ, July 18, 1929.)  First of the great post-World War II American figure skating champions, Richard T. Button was the U.S. national men’s champion seven straight years (1946-52) and a five-time world champion (1948-52).  Button was the Olympic gold medalist in 1948 at St. Moritz, Switzerland, the first American to win the gold, and repeated in 1952 in Oslo, Norway.  In 1949, he won the Sullivan Award as the top American amateur athlete and later had a long career as a figure skating commentator on television.

Nicholas Murray Butler


Nicholas Murray Butler (College athletics.  Born, Elizabeth, NJ, Apr. 2, 1862; died, New York, NY, Dec. 7, 1947.)  Known largely for his lengthy tenure as president of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler also had an active interest in athletics, especially football.  Butler ordered the football program dropped after the 1905 season following a wave of deaths and serious injuries in the sport.  He allowed its restoration on a limited basis in 1915.  Butler was inaugurated as the university’s president Apr. 19, 1902, and retired in October 1945.  He was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1912 and shared the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize (with Jane Addams).

Eddie Butler


Eddie Butler (Athletics.  Bron, Brooklyn, NY, Mar. 17, 1892; died, Brooklyn, NY, Nov. 26, 1956.)  An all-around athlete at Cornell (where he captained the 1912 football team), Edmund William Butler became the leader of the Crescent A.C. in Brooklyn.  Butler joined the Brooklyn amateur group in 1912 and became the New York State handball champion in 1923, representing Crescent.  He became the coach of of the club’s basketball and baseball programs the same year.  Butler was the national handball champion in 1925.  He was also active in the club’s hockey program, having played that sport in college, along with football, baseball, and basketball.  For decades, the Crescent club was Brooklyn’s leading amateur sports organization, thanks largely to Butler’s efforts.

Asa Bushnell


Asa Bushnell (College athletics.  Born, Springfield, OH, Feb. 1, 1900; died, Princeton, NJ, Mar. 22, 1975.)  Resigning as graduate manager of athletics at Princeton in late 1937, Asa Smith Bushnell became the first director of the Central Office for Eastern Collegiate Athletics, which came into existence Jan. 1, 1938.  What then was essentially a clearinghouse for officiating assignments became, in 1947, the Eastern College Athletic Conference and grew to include more than 150 member colleges, administering over a dozen sports.  Bushnell served as the first E.C.A.C. commissioner for over 20 years (1947-70).  He was also secretary of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Bullet Joe Bush


Bullet Joe Bush (Baseball.  Born, Brainerd, MN, Nov. 27, 1892; died, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Nov. 1, 1974.)  Despite spending the bulk of his 17-year career with the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox, Leslie Ambrose Bush helped the Yankees win pennants in 1922 and 1923.  Bush was 26-7 for the 1922 Yankees, accounting for over a quarter of their 94 victories, and 19-15 in 1923.  He lost twice in the 1922 Series and also the opener (in relief) in 1923 on Casey Stengel’s two-out, ninth-inning inside-the-park homer at Yankee Stadium.  But he started and won Game 5 in 1923 on a three-hitter, 8-1.  The righthander was 17-16 in 1924 and for his career (1912-28) was 194-183.  Bush pitched three games (1-1) for the Giants in 1927.

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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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