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

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Horace Ashenfelter

Horace Ashenfelter (Track and field.  Born, Collegeville, PA, Jan. 23, 1923.)  At the top of his class as an indoor two-miler in the early 1950s, Penn State graduate Horace Ashenfelter, III, was also a U.S. gold medal Olympian in the steeplechase at Helsinki (1952).  That year, Ashenfelter pushed Fred Wilt to a Madison Square Garden two-mile record.  In 1954, at the New York A.C. Games, he set the Garden record at 8:50.5 in winning the Touissaint Two-Mile.  Overall, Ashenfelter won the event three times at the N.Y.A.C. Games and twice each at the Millrose and Knights of Columbus, and took the three-mile five straight years at the National A.A.U. (1952-56).  Ashenfelter was the 1952 Sullivan Award winner as the nation’s top amateur athlete.

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Ashe (Tennis.  Born, Richmond, VA, July 10, 1943; died, New York, NY, Feb. 6, 1993.)  Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., was not only one of America’s top tennis players for nearly two decades, but he was also the protagonist in one of the strangest stories in the history of tennis.  Since the inception of the sport, tennis had been a game played by amateurs for the glory of being a part of the atmosphere.  But in 1968, the sport became “open,” meaning that professional players could compete in all major tournaments for prize money.  One of the major events was the U.S. Open.  Ashe, however, remained an amateur and even though he won the U.S. Open in 1968, he could not accept the prize money and the $10,000 first-place payoff went to Tom Okker of The Netherlands, whom Ashe had defeated in the final.  Ashe first broke into the top 10 in 1963 (sixth) and moved up to fourth the next year.  From 1965-71, he ranked no lower than third and was the U.S. No. 1 in 1968, the year he won the Open.  He also had a distinguished record representing the United States in Davis Cup competition, playing in three Challenge Rounds and recording a 5-1 record in singles.  He later served as Davis Cup captain.  On July 31, 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack that ended his playing career.  He died of AIDS, having received a tainted blood transfusion.  In 1997, the new main stadium at the U.S.T.A. National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was named in his honor.

Ron Artest

Ron Artest (College basketball.  Born, Queensbridge, NY, Nov. 13, 1979.)  Although on his way to becoming one of the top 10 career scorers at St. John’s, Ronald William Artest decided to turn pro after his sophomore season.  Artest was then selected in the first round of the N.B.A. draft by Chicago (16th pick overall).  A 6’6”, 240-pound forward, he had been the third-best scorer on Fran Fraschilla’s last Red Storm team in 1997-98 (22-10) with 372 points in 32 games (11.6 points per game) and improved to 535 points in 37 games (14.5) under Mike Jarvis for the 1998-99 team that finished 28-9 and made the N.C.A.A. Regional final.  He finished his St. John’s career with 907 points in 69 games (13.1) and 433 rebounds (6.3).

Bill Arnsparger

Bill Arnsparger (Pro football.  Born, Paris, KY, Dec. 16, 1926.)  William Stephen Arnsparger was the only head coach of Football Giants teams to play home games in three different stadiums on a regular basis.  At Yale Bowl in 1974, the Giants were 2-12 in Arnsparger’s first season.  In 1975, the team was based at Shea Stadium and finished 5-9.  Giants Stadium was opened in 1976, and, after an 0-7 start, Arnsparger was succeeded by an assistant, John McVay.  His overall record was 7-28.  Arnsparger, defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Miami (1970-73) before being hired by the Giants Jan. 16, 1974, was credited with the development of the Dolphins’ “No-Name Defense” that won back-to-back Super Bowls (1973-74) and the “53” defense, an early version of the later-standard 3-4 defense.

Henry Armstrong

Henry Armstrong (Boxing.  Born, Columbus, MS, Dec. 12, 1912; died, Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 24, 1988.)  Henry Armstrong (whose real name was Henry Jackson) was the first man to hold three world boxing championships at the same time.  Armstrong won the featherweight, welterweight, and lightweight crowns in the span of fewer than ten months in 1937 and 1938. He won all three titles in New York bouts:  the welterweight at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, and the other two at the third Madison Square Garden on 49th Street.  Over his career, Armstrong fought 175 times, winning 144, including 97 by knockout.  He fought 18 major fights in New York (seven of them in 1937 alone), including two in which he lost titles.  Armstrong relinquished the featherweight crown in Dec. 1938 and, after 18 successful defenses, lost the welter title Oct. 4, 1940, to Fritzie Zivic in a 15-round battle at the Garden.  Lou Ambers had already taken Armstrong’s lightweight title in a 15-round decision at Yankee Stadium Aug. 27, 1939.  Following his retirement from the ring, Armstrong became an ordained Baptist minister and published a biography called Gloves, Glory, and God. He was also the founder of the Henry Armstrong Youth Foundation in Los Angeles.

Jessie Armstead

Jessie Armstead (Pro football.  Born, Dallas, TX, Oct. 26, 1970.)  One of the outstanding linebackers in the N.F.L., Jessie Armstead was an eighth-round draft choice (No. 207 overall) for the Giants in 1993.  A four-year star at Miami (Fla.), Armstead was the Giants’ standout rookie that season and, by 1996, was selected a First-Team All-Pro by Sports Illustrated. Each year from 1997-2000, Armstead was a Pro Bowl pick.  After his superb 1997 season (101 tackles with 33 assists and a 57-yard touchdown on an interception), he was selected to virtually every all-Pro team.  In 1998, he had a career-high five sacks.  Armstead started every game for 5 straight seasons (1996-2000) and had at least 100 total tackles in each of those seasons.  He was a key element at weakside linebacker for the Giants Super Bowl team in 2000.  Due in large measure to salary cap considerations, Armstead was released by the Giants and, in March 2002, signed as a free agent with Washington.

Norman Armitage

Norman Armitage (Fencing.  Born, Albany, NY, Jan. 1, 1907; died, New York, NY, Mar. 14, 1972.)  One of the greatest sabremen ever produced in America, Dr. Norman Cudworth Armitage was the U.S. champion in his weapon 10 times in 16 years.  His career was so distinguished that Armitage was twice chosen as the standardbearer for U.S. squads at the Olympic Games, carrying the flag in the opening ceremonies in both Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). Armitage began fencing as an undergraduate at Columbia and made the U.S. squad for the 1928 Olympiad at Amsterdam.  He was to appear in every Summer Olympics held in the next 28 years (1936, 1948, 1952, 1956).  After his graduation in 1927, Armitage did graduate work at Columbia to earn degrees in science and chemical engineering.  He won his first national championship in sabre in 1930.  He was the national individual champion in 1934, 1935, and 1936 while earning a law degree at New York University, which was granted in 1937.  Two years later, he won his fifth national sabre title.  Armitage was a member of the U.S. national three-weapon championship teams for the Fencers Club of New York four times (1929, 1932, 1933, and 1935), the team sabre champions in 1934 and the team epee champions in 1939.  In 1940, he began a run of four straight individual national titles in sabre and, after losing the final in 1944, won his 10th and final individual championship in 1945.

Roone Arledge

Roone Arledge (Television sports.  Born, Forest Hills, NY, July 8, 1931; died, New York, NY, Dec. 5, 2002.)  As the originator of “Wide World of Sports” and Monday Night Football for ABC-TV Sports, Roone Pinckney Arledge was a formative figure in the development of sports television.  After graduating from Columbia in 1953, Arledge joined the DuMont Network (then the third-largest in the U.S.) as a production assistant.  In 1955, he moved to NBC, where he specialized in children’s programming and public affairs.  Arledge joined ABC Sports in 1960, rapidly becoming vice president (1963) and then president (1968) of the division.  “Wide World of Sports” was introduced in 1961 when ABC-TV’s only major sports programming was Sunday afternoon American Football League games.  Later, Arledge introduced “The American Sportsman” to the network and, in 1970, when the merger of the A.F.L. and N.F.L. four years earlier became effective, Monday Night Football.  Then came the Summer Olympic Games in 1972 and 1976.  A year after the second Olympiad on the network, Arledge was named president of ABC News and, in 1985, group vice president of news and sports.  He won 10 Emmys and three George F. Peabody Awards.

Alexis Arguello

Alexis Arguello (Boxing.  Born, Managua, Nicaragua, Apr. 19, 1952; died, Managua, Nicaragua, July 1, 2009.)   Boxing’s elegant assassin was a brilliant tactician who carried knockout power in both hands. Arguello began his career as a 16-year old in his native Nicaragua. After winning 35 of his first 37 fights, he knocked out Ruben Olivares in the 13th to win the W.B.A. featherweight championship Nov. 13, 1974.  Four years later, Arguello stepped up in class and knocked out Alfredo Escalera to win the junior lightweight title.  He successfully defended this belt eight times, including a thrilling 11th-round knockout against the dangerous Rafael (Bazooka) Limon July 8, 1979, in New York.  In 1984, Arguello beefed up to battle the lightweights. The mass he added to his frame enhanced his already formidable punching power.  On June 20, 1985 Arguello mauled Jim Watt for 15 rounds in London to snatch the lightweight crown.  He won his next five title defenses, all on knockouts.  The most dramatic of these victories came against Ray (Boom-Boom) Mancini in Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 2, 1981.  For 13 rounds, the unrelenting Mancini bulled forward, cutting off the ring to pressure the champion.  Arguello masterfully parried each attack.  He wore down Mancini with body blows before finally knocking him out in the 14th round.  On Nov. 22, 1982, Arguello attempted to win a world title in a fourth division when he challenged welterweight king Aaron Pryor in Miami, Fla.  Arguello’s superior boxing skills dominated the early going. But midway through the bout, Arguello tired as the brawling Pryor pressed his attack.  By round 14, an exhausted Arguello could barely defend himself.  The referee declared Pryor the winner on a technical knockout.  In a rematch Sept. 9, 1983, Pryor stopped Arguello in the 10th round.  Arguello would fight sporadically over next decade before permanently retiring Jan. 21, 1995. His career record: 77 wins and six losses, with 59 knockouts. – R.L.

Troy Archer

Troy Archer (Football.  Born, Glendale, CA, Jan. 16, 1955; died, North Bergen, NJ, June 22, 1979.)  A defensive tackle from Colorado, James Troy Archer was the Giants’ first-round choice in the 1976 N.F.L. draft.  Archer became a starter in the second half of his rookie season and had 70 tackles.  He was voted the Giants’ outstanding rookie by the New York Pro Football Writers and showed continued improvement (as a 14-game starter in 1977, he had 127 tackles), but was killed in an auto crash after his third season.

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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