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

Category Archives: V

Mo Vaughn


Mo Vaughn (Baseball.  Born, Norwalk, CT, Dec. 15, 1967.)  Following a stellar career at Trinity-Pawling (N.Y.) high school, Maurice Samuel Vaughn was rated as a sure-fire college baseball star.  The lefthanded power hitter more than lived up to his advance billing, hitting a school-record 28 home runs in his freshman season at Seton Hall.  In three varsity seasons (1987-89), Vaughn batted .417 with 56 homers and drove in 218 runs for the Pirates.  He was then the first-round choice by Boston (23rd overall selection) in the 1989 draft and was signed by Matt Sczesny.  By 1991, Vaughn was playing in Boston and in 1993 hit .297 with 29 homers and 101 runs batted in.  In 1995 he led the American League in r.b.i. with 126.  In 1996, he hit .326 with 44 homers and 143 r.b.i., and earned A.L. M.V.P. honors.  Two years later, Vaughn hit 40 homers and batted .337.  Vaughn signed as a free agent with Anaheim in Nov. 1998 but injuries (to his ankle in 1999 and bicep tendon surgery in 2001) cost him significant playing time.  After missing the entire 2001 season, Vaughn was traded to the Mets Dec. 27, 2001, for righthander Kevin Appier.  His first Mets season started with a homer in the second game he played (April 3), but, having missed all the previous year, Vaughn needed time to find his stroke.  He finished with 26 homers (and hit only .259) in 2002, but 21 of his homers came in the final 85 games.  By the time he started hitting, the Mets were already in fourth place and sinking.  Burdened with an arthritic left knee, Vaughn played his last major league game, for the Mets, in May 2003.  He finished his career with 328 career homers and an OPS of .906.

Frank Viola


Frank Viola (College and pro baseball.  Born, Hempstead, NY, Apr. 19, 1960.)  Probably the finest lefthander produced by St. John’s, Frank John Viola was 26-2 in his three collegiate seasons with a 1.67 e.r.a.  Viola pitched the Redmen into the 1980 College World Series and the 1981 N.C.A.A. playoffs.  He was the winning pitcher in the famed 1-0, 12-inning victory over Yale on May 21, 1981, when the Bulldogs’ Ron Darling (q.v.) threw a no-hitter for 11 innings.  Viola was a Baseball America first team all-America choice in 1981 and then was drafted by Minnesota.  He made the majors June 6, 1982, after just two partial minor league seasons.  During his years with Minnesota (1982-89), Viola helped the Twins with the 1987 World Series, getting the win in the first and seventh games of the Series, and won the A.L. Cy Young Award in 1988, when he was 24-7.  On July 31, 1989, the Mets sent five pitchers (including Kevin Tapani and Rick Aguilera) to Minnesota to obtain Viola.  He was 20-12 for the Mets in 1990, becoming just the 18th pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season in both major leagues.  Viola was an N.L. All-Star in 1990 and 1991 with the Mets but was just 38-32 for them before signing with Boston as a free agent Dec. 20, 1991.  In May 1994, he tore a ligament in his left shoulder, ending his season.  After surgery on the elbow, Viola pitched briefly for Cincinnati in 1995 (0-1) and Toronto in 1996 (1-3) before retiring.  He was 176-150 overall for 15 big league seasons.

Beto Villa


Beto Villa (Sportscaster.  Born, Caracas, Venzuela, Feb. 7, 1947.)  Beginning in 1996, the voice of Beto Villa became a familiar one to Spanish-speaking fans of the Yankees.  That year, Villa began calling play-by-play of the soon-to-be World Series champions on WADO (1280 AM).  When the MSG Network added the SAP option to its telecasts, his calls were simulcast to the Spanish video audience.  In 2002, Villa moved to the YES Network when it took over the primary Yankees television coverage.  His baseball career with major league games began in 1981 when he started working on radio broadcasts to Venzuela and the Caribbean.  Over the next 12 years, Villa called games for Spanish service to Mexico (1982, 1988-93), Puerto Rico (1986-88), and the U.S. (1982).

Joe Vila


Joe Vila (Sports editor.  Born, Boston, MA, Sept. 16, 1866; died, New York, NY, Apr. 27, 1934.)  Among the more significant and influential sportswriters and sports editors of the first third of the 20th century was Joseph Spencer Vila.  Starting in his native Boston, Vila went through a series of newspapers both there and in New York, where he moved in 1889.  His first New York job was with Hearst’s Journal where, with football writing in its infancy, he introduced a more contemporary play-by-play of the 1889 Harvard-Princeton game.  Vila moved to the most sports-oriented daily paper in town, the Herald.  In 1893, he was hired by the city’s most important daily, The Sun.  Vila got his first important beat in horse racing, where he spent almost 10 years (1900-10) before anti-wagering laws nearly destroyed the industry and he was moved to baseball.  He became sports editor of The Sun in March 1914.  Being sports editor also made him a columnist and his daily colum, entitled “Setting the Pace,” was to appear six days a week for over 20 years.  Vila’s column was, unlike those of many of his contemporaries, very factual and straightforward, often historic and less opinionated.  As sports editor, Vila sought to build a staff of solid, facile writers and aggressively recruited them.  Will Wedge was a top ship news reporter from The Globe whom Vila converted to baseball.  Other recruits included Frank Graham, Grantland Rice, and Dan Daniel.  Many stayed with The Sun for decades.  Vila remained a working writer as well as sports editor.  He covered mostly racing and boxing once it was legalized in 1920.  Vila was the first sportswriter to use a typewriter at ringside for boxing.  He dictated to typist Billy Nash between rounds and had the resulting copy carried to a Western Union operator.  Other reporters customarily wrote in longhand but rapidly began to switch to typewriters.  Vila worked the opening of the spring meeting at Jamaica racetrack on Apr. 21, 1934, was taken ill the next day, reported to The Sun office on Monday, Apr. 23, but left feeling sick and never returned.  Even in death, Vila had a fundamental influence.  Managing editor Keats Speed decided to split the daily column and the sports editor’s responsibilities, a practice then followed only at The Times.  Wilbur Wood, a boxing writer, became sports editor, but Speed gave Graham the daily column.  Graham brought an entirely modern approach to the column and began another fundamental change in sports coverage.

Richards Vidmer


Richards Vidmer (Sportswriter.  Born, Fort Riley, KS, Oct. 7, 1898; died, Calloway, KY, July 23, 1978.)  As much an athlete as a sportswriter, Richards Vidmer was more of an unorthodox character than anything.  Son of a U.S. Army cavalry officer, Vidmer was headed to West Point from St. Luke’s School in Wayne, Penna., in 1917, but joined the U.S. Army Flying Corps instead and served in World War I.  He then became a football and baseball player at George Washington U. and, in 1922, a football coach.  Vidmer began his sportswriting career in Washington, D.C., with Hearst’s Herald, spent two years as sports editor of the Daily News there, and, in 1926, came to New York, joining The Times’s sports staff.  In 1932, he moved to the Herald Tribune after a brief stint on The Morning Telegraph.  Vidmer wrote a column entitled Down in Front at the Herald Tribune and was a jack-of-all-trades writer, covering boxing, football, crew, polo, tennis, golf, baseball, and track and field.  He enlisted in the Army in 1942, was shipped to England with the Eighth Air Force, eventually wound up in intelligence, served on Gen. Eisenhower’s staff, and, in 1944, was wounded by a Nazi sniper in France.  Following the end of World War II, he married the daughter of the Rajah of Sarawak, was a golf pro in Barbados, and, for a time, a foreign correspondent in Europe for the Herald Tribune.

Bill Verigan


Bill Verigan (Sportswriter.  Born, Orlando, FL, Jan. 27, 1942.)  On Mar. 10, 1967, William Ford Verigan was covering ringside for U.P.I. at the third Garden when Ismael Laguna, the former lightweight champion, decisioned Frankie Narvaez in 12 rounds.  Then a riot broke out.  Verigan was struck in the head by a bottle heaved from the balcony by a disappointed Narvaez partisan.  Jose Torres and his trainer came to Verigan’s aid while the riot raged and they wrapped cold towels around his wounds to stanch the bleeding as he hammered out his story.  Later, he was stitched up by the Garden medical staff.  Verigan was with U.P.I., then a major wire service, for seven years (1964-71), mainly as a boxing and auto racing writer.  It was as a specialist in those areas that he went to the Daily News.  In 1975, he was assigned to the Jets, moved to the Football Giants for seven years (1979-86), and then covered the Devils starting in 1987.  Verigan continued to cover boxing, including many Muhammad Ali fights, as well as auto racing, baseball, and some tennis.  After leaving the Daily News in 1993, he spent many years working the desk part-time for the scholastic bureau of the Star-Ledger of Newark.

Tom Verducci


Tom Verducci (Sportswriter.  Born, Glen Ridge, NJ, Oct. 23, 1960.)  As a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, Thomas Matthew Verducci has become the weekly magazine’s leading baseball authority and has authored numerous exclusive stories.  Verducci began his newspaper career fresh out of Penn State, joining Today in Cocoa, Fla., as a writer and editor in June 1982.  He moved to Newsday a year later, becoming a regular baseball writer, primarily covering the Yankees.  A skilled writer and perceptive observer, Verducci covered Yankees teams that were below championship caliber, but he also became part of the Newsday team that covered the Mets 1980s champions.  He moved to Sports Illustrated in March 1993.

Juan Vene


Juan Vene (Sportswriter.  Born, Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 10, 1929.)  A veritable one-man army in Spanish-language baseball reporting, Juan Vene has been a broadcaster, author, sportswriter, columnist, and producer.  Vene was born Jose Rafael Machado Yanes and began his career as a reporter for Noticias Graficas in Maracaibo, Venezuela.  He decided to study journalism and graduated from the U. of Havana (Cuba) in 1952.  Vene has now covered every World Series since 1960 as a reporter or radio-television commentator.  He has authored or co-authored seven books in Spanish, including two on the World Series and one on auto racing.  But Vene has concentrated almost exclusively on baseball.  His column has appeared, at various times, in New York dailies El Diario, Hoy, and Noticias del Mundo.  Vene organized a radio production that broadcast major league play-by-play from 1969-86 to Latin America.  He worked with MLB Productions to create Spanish-language versions of such popular television progrrams as “This Week in Baseball” (1977-92) and was the Spanish baseball correspondent for Voice of America (1976-86).  In 1993, Vene started a weekly program on two networks and nine local stations in Venezuela during the baseball season in that country (October to February).  He has won many awards for his work, including presentations from former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, and Congressman Jose Serrano of New York.

George Vecsey


George Vecsey (Sportswriter.  Born, Jamaica, NY, July 4, 1939.)  Starting as a part-timer handling high school sports at Newsday in 1956, George Spencer Vecsey progressed to a columnist for The New York Times.  Shortly before graduating from Hofstra (where he majored in English), Vecsey became a full-time sportswriter at Newsday in February 1960.  He rapidly progressed to college sports and by 1962 covered the fledgling Mets.  In 1968, Vecsey moved to The Times, handling mainly college basketball and major league baseball.  Over the next 14 years, he wrote about many subjects for The Times besides sports, but, in 1982, joined the roster of regular “Sports of The Times” columnists.  Vecsey’s father, George, sports editor of the old Long Island Press in the 1930s, was dismissed for trying to organize editorial employees for the then-new Newspaper Guild, and subsequently worked at the Daily News and The Associated Press.  Vecsey’s brother, Peter, is the noted N.B.A. columnist for the New York Post.  Vecsey was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters by Hofstra in 1990.

Andy Varipapa


Andy Varipapa (Bowling.  Born, Carfizzi, Italy, Mar. 13, 1891; died, Huntington, NY, Aug. 25, 1984.)  Perhaps the most famous bowling star of the early television era, Andrew Varipapa came to the United States in 1903 and began one of the most remarkable careers in the history of American sports.  He began bowling in 1905 in New York and bowled his first 300 game in 1931.  He was to bowl a total of 70 sanctioned 300s in his long career.  Varipapa first came to public notice on Jan. 17, 1932, when he was already 40.  He bowled a six-game series in Queens Village, with a total pinfall of 1,652, an average of over 275 pins per game.  In the 1930s, Varipapa became the first bowler to make his living by giving exhibitions.  He developed a group of trick shots that have not been consistently performed by anyone else to this day.  He starred in a series of motion picture short subjects on the sport, helping to popularize bowling across the U.S.  Before the formation of the present pro tour, the B.P.A.A. All-Star was the major tournament and Varipapa became the first bowler to win successive All-Star titles with back-to-back championships in 1946 and 1947.  He later became a star of televised bowling matches in the early days of television both as a competitor, with his repertoire of amazing trick shots and his personality.  Varipapa’s shock of white hair and brilliant smile helped make him a fan favorite.

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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