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

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John Azary

John Azary (College basketball.  Born, The Bronx, NY, Oct. 14, 1929; died, Washington, DC, Sept. 15, 1981.)  The son of Hungarian immigrants who became naturalized U.S. citizens, John D. Azary became the first Columbia player to score over 1,000 points in a three-year varsity career.  Azary was a strong 6’3”, 200 pounds who played forward but liked to move in the pivot area with the ball.  He also had a good outside touch from up to 25 feet.  As a junior in 1949-50, Azary set a school record with 423 points (14.6 average), surpassing Walter Budko’s 381 (1947-48).  The team finished 22-7.  At Commerce H.S., Azary captained a team that won 20 games before losing in the P.S.A.L. semifinal.  In 1950-51, he virtually duplicated that performance as captain of a Columbia team that was 22-0 in the regular season (12-0 as E.I.B.L. champion) but lost to Illinois, 79-71, at Madison Square Garden in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament.  He finished his career with 1,015 points (14.1 per game) and was the 1951 Haggerty Award winner as the area’s best collegiate player.

Pete Axthelm

Pete Axthelm (Sportswriter.  Born, New York, NY, Aug. 27, 1943; died, Pittsburgh, PA, Feb. 2, 1991.)  Joining the Herald Tribune following his graduation from Yale in 1965, Peter Axthelm covered primarily thoroughbred racing.  After the closure of the paper in April 1966, Axthelm went to Sports Illustrated as a racing writer.  During this time, he completed the first of his five books – a novel and Tennis Observed with Bill Talbert.  Broader vistas opened for Axthelm when he became sports editor of Newsweek magazine, a position he was to hold for over 20 years (1968-88).  Two of his best-known books were published in 1970 – The City Game, an insightful look at basketball in New York, and a record of O.J. Simpson’s rookie season in the N.F.L.  Axthelm later became a frequent guest all-purpose sports authority on television and authored a book on jockey Steve Cauthen.

Tracy Austin

Tracy Austin (Tennis.  Born, Redondo Beach, CA, Dec. 12, 1962.)  Although her career was curtailed first by injury and later by an auto accident, tenacious, pig-tailed Tracy Ann Austin was the youngest women’s singles champion of the United States ever, winning the U.S. Open in 1979 at age 16 years, nine months.  In that tournament, she ended Chris Evert Lloyd’s four-year reign as champion in the semifinals.  She won the Italian championship the same year , was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 1980, and repeated as singles champion at the Open in 1981, defeating Martina Navratilova in the final.  Austin also won the Canadian Open that year before back problems began to hamper her career.  She later became a television tennis commentator.  Her older sister, Pam, was also a touring tennis pro in the early days of the women’s tour.

Bill Austin

Bill Austin (Pro football.  Born, San Pedro, CA, Oct. 28, 1928.)  Coming to the Football Giants from Oregon State, William Lee Austin was a tackle drafted No. 13 in 1949.  He returned from military service in 1953 and was shifted to guard, where he became one of the key elements in the Giants’ 1956 N.F.L. championship.  Austin retired after the 1957 season due, in part, to recurring knee problems.

Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas (Physical culture.  Born, Calabria, Italy, Oct. 30, 1893; died, Long Beach, NY, Dec. 24, 1972.)  Although never a competitive athlete in the strict sense, Charles Atlas (born Angelo Siciliano) was a major figure in early exercise and weightlifting.  In 1921, Atlas developed a system called “dynamic tension,” an early form of isometrics.  A year later, he was named “the world’s most perfectly developed man” by physical culturist publisher Bernart MacFadden.  Through a heavy promotion campaign, he built a significant business.  By 1970, over 70,000 of his body-building mail order courses were being sold annually in seven languages worldwide.

Ted Atkinson

Ted Atkinson (Horse racing.  Born, Toronto, Ont., June 17, 1916; died, Beaver Dam, VA, May 5, 2005.)  In the 20th century, no jockey dominated New York racing as did Ted Atkinson.  In a 15-year span from 1943-57, Atkinson was leading jockey at all New York tracks 11 times.  Atkinson became only the third jockey in American history to surpass 3,000 winners when, in 1954, he rode 226 to raise his 17-year career total to 3,069.  Atkinson first became the leading New York rider in 1943.  The next year, he led the nation with 287 wins and was also the nation’s top money-earning rider, with $849,101 in purses.  In 1946, Atkinson became the first jockey to earn over one million dollars in purses in a single year.  That year, he had 233 winners and total earnings of $1,036,825.  He was the leading jockey in New York in 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, and 1948.  Atkinson rode 198 winners at New York tracks alone in both 1944 and 1948.  He was the dominant rider of the 1950s, finishing first in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1957.  Among his proudest achievements is being the only rider on the great Tom Fool.  In 30 starts, the bay colt posted 21 wins and finished second seven times.  Tom Fool was the champion 2-year-old of 1951 and Handicap Horse of the Year in 1953.

Juliette P. Atkinson

Juliette P. Atkinson (Tennis.  Born, Rahway, NJ, Apr. 15, 1873; died, Lawrenceville, IL, Jan. 12, 1944.)  One of the first women’s tennis stars to attract significant attention, Juliette Paxton Atkinson made the U.S. singles final four straight years from 1895-98 while playing out of Brooklyn.  She had dominated New York-area play before defeating defending champion Aline Terry in 1895.  Miss Atkinson lost the 1896 final but then regained the title with a five-set victory over Elisabeth Moore (1897) and successfully defended the next year against Marion Jones.  This last win gave her permanent possession of the silver trophy then in competition for women’s champions.  She also won seven national doubles titles from 1894-1902 (two of them with her sister Kathleen, in 1897 and 1898) and three more in mixed doubles.

Al Atkinson

Al Atkinson (Pro football.  Born, Philadelphia, PA, July 28, 1943.)  A middle linebacker out of Villanova, Allen Edward Atkinson played the entire second half of the Jets’ Super Bowl III victory over Baltimore with a separated shoulder that he didn’t reveal until after the 16-7 win at Miami.  Originally drafted by Buffalo, Atkinson came to the Jets for a $100 waiver fee as a rookie before the 1965 season and played with them through 1974.

Evelyn Ashford

Evelyn Ashford (Track and field.  Born, Shreveport, LA, Apr. 16, 1957.)  A member of five U.S. Olympic teams from 1976 to 1992, Evelyn Ashford was a dominant sprinter both indoors and out during a career in which she won four Olympic gold medals.  Ashford was the 100-meter champion at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the silver medalist in the same event in 1988 in Seoul.  But it was indoors that she made her lasting impression on New York track fans, both at Madison Square Garden and the Meadowlands Arena.  Ashford was the A.A.U. national champion in the 60-meters indoors from 1979-83, while running principally for the Medalist Track Club.  In 1979, she was clocked at 6.71 seconds for the distance in winning her first national.  That summer, she shocked many observers by beating the best in the world at outdoor events such as the World Cup.  In 1982, Ashford won her fourth straight National title at the Garden and set an A.A.U. championship record with a 6.54 clocking for the 60.  The following year, she sped home in 6.58 seconds and became the first woman ever to win the 60-meter title five straight years.  At the Meadowlands, she won the 55-meter dash at the Olympic Invitational meet in 1986, an event she also won in 1979.  Millrose Games fans saw her turn in another superb performance in 1986, although she finished second.  Ashford finished the 60 in 6.65 seconds, pushing Gwen Torrence to a meet record (6.57) to beat her.  Outdoors, Ashford became the first woman to run the Olympic 100-meter dash in less than 11 seconds with a 10.97 clocking to win at Los Angeles and by 1989 had run 23 sub-11.0’s, plus nine others that were wind-aided.

Emmett Ashford

Emmett Ashford (Baseball.  Born, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 23, 1914; died, Marina del Rey, CA, Mar. 1, 1980.)  A man of many firsts, Emmett Littleton Ashford was the first black man to umpire in Organized Baseball when he started in a Class C league in 1951 and 15 seasons later became the first of his race to umpire in the majors when he joined the A.L. in 1966.  In between, Ashford spent 12 years in the Pacific Coast League (1954-65), where he rose to umpire-in-chief in 1964.  His last major league assignment was the 1970 World Series.  Ashford continued to umpire Pac-10 and other college games after his retirement from the A.L.

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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