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

Category Archives: B

Red Blaik

Red Blaik (College football.  Born, Dayton, OH, Feb. 15, 1897; died, Colorado Springs, CO, May 6, 1989.)  Col. Earl H. Blaik, one of the creative figures of college football, was a towering name in the history of athletics at the United States Military Academy.  Blaik started as an undergrad at the Miami University in Oxford, O., but transferred to West Point, where he became not only the outstanding athlete in the class of 1920, but also the first cadet ever to face Navy in three varsity sports (football, baseball, and basketball).  After serving two years in the Eighth Cavalry, Blaik returned to his family’s business in Ohio, but in 1926 he started his football career as an assistant coach at Wisconsin.  Then came seven years as an assistant at West Point.  In 1934, he became head coach at Dartmouth.  His teams were 45-15-4, twice informal Ivy League champions (1936-37), and had a 22-game unbeaten streak.  In 1941 he returned to Army as head coach.  In 18 seasons, Blaik’s Black Knights of the Hudson were 121-33-10, with five unbeaten years.  His 1944 and 1945 teams were national champions.  His teams were undefeated in 32 games, from 1943-47 (before a 21-20 loss at Columbia).

Rivington Bisland

Rivington Bisland (Baseball.  Born, New York, NY, Feb. 17, 1890; died, Salzburg, Austria, Jan. 11, 1973.)  A major league shortstop who had a 31-game career with three teams (1912-14), Rivington Martin Bisland was a box office treasurer at Madison Square Garden for nearly 40 years.

Del Bissonette

Del Bissonette (Baseball.  Born, Winthrop, ME, Sept. 6,1899; died, Augusta, ME, June 9, 1972.)  A lefthanded hitting first baseman, Adelphia Louis Bissonette spent his entire major league career with Brooklyn (1928-31, 1933).  Bissonette spent six years in the minors and hit .365 for Buffalo in 1927, driving in 167 runs.  That brought him to Ebbets Field, where his first year was his best year.  In 1928, Bissonette hit .320 for the Dodgers, with 25 homers and 106 r.b.i.  He was the regular at first base until he tore an Achilles tendon in spring training in 1932 and missed the entire season.  Bissonette played 35 games in 1933 and then became a successful manager in the minors, winning four pennants.  He briefly managed the Boston Braves at the end of 1945.  In June 1972, he shot himself in the stomach in his apple orchard in Winthrop and died a few days later.

Whitey Bimstein

Whitey Bimstein (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, 1887; died, New York, NY, July 13, 1969.)  A ubiquitous character in New York boxing for more than five decades, Morris Bimstein was long associated with Ray Arcel.  Considered one of the best cornermen in the game, Bimstein excelled as a cut man who worked with Sixto Escobar, Freddie Apostoli, Joey Archibald, and Billy Graham, among others.  Often in association with Arcel, he was also considered one of the top trainers, handling many champions, including Jim Braddock, Primo Carnera, Barney Ross, and Rocky Graziano.

Katy Bilodeaux

Katy Bilodeaux (Fencing.  Born, Boston, MA, March 17, 1965.)  Doubtless the finest woman fencer ever from a metropolitan area college, Caitlin Bilodeaux came to Columbia from a Concord, Mass., family of athletes and began fencing at age nine.  Bilodeaux became the first woman ever to win the national collegiate championship twice (1985 and 1987) at a time when women fenced only foil (epee and sabre have since been added).  She was a four-time junior national champion at Carlisle H.S. in Concord, and was an immediate sensation at Columbia with a 61-1 record as a freshman.  Although Bilodeaux was 56-0 during the 1985-86 regular season, she failed to defend her national title, losing to Notre Dame’s Molly Sullivan in the final.  In 1987, she won her second championship by defeating Sullivan, 8-1, in the last bout.  Bilodeaux’s two older sisters, Becky (Cornell) and Mary (Temple) both earned All-America mention as well, creating perhaps a unique family distinction.

Michele Billings

Michele Billings (Dog show.  Born, Chicago, IL, Nov. 10, 1930; died, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Oct. 31, 2013.)  Like many of the greats in the dog show world, Michele Billings has had two distinct careers, the first as a breeder and the second as a judge.  Unlike most of her peers, she accomplished both with enormous distinction.  Although Chicago-born, Billings was raised from childhood in St. Petersburg, Fla., in a family of sportsmen who were both dog and horse fanciers.  She now resides there as well.  In 1952, she moved to Stone Mountain, Ga., and established the Kings Creek Kennels, which became noted throughout the dog world for its show-quality Beagles and German Shepherds.  In addition to breeding these dogs, she was also a show handler who travelled extensively, showing all breeds professionally for nearly 20 years.   Billings retired in 1970 but found that a two-year layoff was more than enough and began her second major career as a dog show judge.  After her return to the circuit in 1972, her rise as a judge was just short of phenomenal.  She became one of only six women in the country licensed by the American Kennel Club to judge all breeds and became the youngest all-breed judge in the country.  Billings was the recipient of the Gaines-Fido “Woman of the Year” award in 1983.  Three years later, she was named “Judge of the Year” by Kennel Review and was renominated for the award multiple times.  She reached the pinnacle of judging when she was appointed Best-in-Show judge for the Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden in 1988.

Verlon Biggs

Verlon Biggs (Pro football.  Born, Moss Point, MS, Mar. 16, 1943; died, Moss Point, MS, June 7, 1994.)  A third-round draft choice in 1965, Verlon Biggs became a star defensive end for the Jets, especially on the pass rush.  At 6’4”, 270 pounds, Biggs was considered the strongest man on the team by his teammates.  He was a three-time A.F.L. All-Star and had a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown in the 1966 All-Star Game (in which he was defensive M.V.P.).  Biggs forced a key fumble in the Jets’ Super Bowl III victory and in 1969 had 12 sacks during the regular season.  He retired after the 1974 season, having spent his last four years with Washington.  Biggs died of leukemia.

Isador Bieber

Isador Bieber (Thoroughbred racing.  Born, Vasloveck, Poland, May 10, 1887; died, Hollywood, FL, Aug. 29, 1974.)  Nicknamed “the Colonel” by Damon Runyon, Isador Bieber was born near Warsaw but came to the U.S. as a four-year-old and grew up to become one of racing’s most successful trainers.  By 1928, Bieber had formed a partnership with Hirsch Jacobs that was to last over four decades.  The tandem saddled 3,569 winners and earned over $12 million in purses, a huge figure for the time.  Among their most famous horses were Stymie and Hail to Reason.  After Jacobs’ death in 1970, Bieber continued to train but entered steadily fewer horses.

Al Bianchi

Al Bianchi (Pro basketball.  Born, Long Island City, NY, Mar. 26, 1932.)  A veteran N.B.A. player, pro coach, and executive, Al Bianchi was general manager of the Knicks from July 8, 1987, to Mar. 1, 1991.  Although all of the teams during Bianchi’s tenure made the playoffs, none got out of the second round.  When he succeeded Scotty Stirling, he initiated a policy of packaging draft choices, most being used in trades.  Bianchi’s top pick was probably Rod Strickland (first round, 1988, No. 18 overall), who lasted over 15 seasons in the N.B.A.  The 1988-89 team finished first in the Atlantic Division.  Bianchi played at Long Island City H.S., Bowling Green U., and Syracuse (N.B.A., 1956-63), which became the Philadelphia 76ers (1963-66).  He was a head coach in both the N.B.A. (Seattle, 1967-69) and the A.B.A. (Washington-Virginia, 1969-70), and an assistant for 12 seasons (1976-87) before joining the Knicks.  In his first season, he revamped a team that had won no more than 25 games in each of the previous three seasons.  Bianchi traded center Bill Cartwright to Chicago for forward Charles Oakley June 27, 1988, and brought in Kiki Vandeweghe from Portland for a first-round draft pick.  Bianchi picked forward Johnny Newmann off the waiver wire.  Bianchi hired both Rick Pitino and Stu Jackson as head coaches.

Bill Bevens

Bill Bevens (Baseball.  Born, Hubbard, OR, Oct. 21, 1916; died, Salem, OR, Oct. 26, 1991.)  If not for the intervention of the manpower shortage created by World War II, it is doubtful that baseball fans at large would ever have heard of Floyd Clifford Bevens.  Bill Bevens, a mediocre minor league righty, was 0-7 at Binghamton in the Eastern League in 1941 when he was dropped down to Augusta of the South Atlantic League in mid-season.  His E.L. e.r.a. had ballooned to 6.58 from 3.30 in 1940 and he was considered finished at age 25.  The outbreak of war on Dec. 7, 1941, and President Roosevelt’s decision to keep baseball going saved Bevens’ career.  In 1942, he jumped to the highest classifications in the minors.  He had a combined 4-11 record with Hollywood and Seattle of the Pacific Coast League.  Bevens wasn’t military draft material, however, and the Yankees picked him up in the off-season.  By 1944, he was at Newark, the Yankees’ highest minor league affiliate.  After a hot start there, he joined the Yankees in May.  Bevens went back to Newark but later rejoined the Yankees.  He wound up 12-6 for the Bears and 4-1 for the big club.  Further talent depletions moved him into the Yankees rotation, where he finished 13-9 in 1945 and 16-13 in 1946, when he threw a career-high 250 innings.  Bevens was 7-13 in 1947 but nearly became a baseball legend in the fourth game of the World Series on Oct. 3 at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.  Making his first appearance of the Series, he allowed a run, eight walks, and a wild pitch but no hits in eight innings.  The run came after two walks, a sacrifice, and Pee Wee Reese’s groundout in the fifth inning.  The Yankees led, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth.  With one out, Carl Furillo walked.  Spider Jorgenson fouled out.  Al Gionfriddo ran for Furillo and stole second.  Yankees manager Bucky Harris, in a much-debated move, then ordered a crippled Pete Reiser (hitting for pitcher Hugh Casey) walked.  Eddie Miksis ran for Reiser and Cookie Lavagetto batted for Eddie Stanky.  Lavagetto drove Bevens’ second pitch over Tommy Henrich’s head off the rightfield wall for a two-run double.  Bevens thereby lost the no-hitter and the game, 3-2, with two out in the ninth.  Bevens also worked the seventh game and technically could have been the winner.  He relieved starter Spec Shea in the second inning and got eight outs without allowing a run.  Bobby Brown hit for him in the fourth, doubled in the tying run, and scored the go-ahead run on Henrich’s hit.  But Joe Page pitched five shutout innings, yielding only a ninth-inning single to Miksis in what became a 5-2 victory.  The scorers awarded Page the victory and Bevens never pitched in a big league uniform again.  He was 40-36 in a four-year career that was as improbable as it was unexpected.

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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About Bill Shannon

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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