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

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Don Newcombe

Don Newcombe (Baseball.  Born, Madison, NJ, June 14, 1926.)  An overpowering right-hander, big Don Newcombe was one of the key players on the great post-World War II Brooklyn Dodgers championship teams. He was a three-time 20-game winner and, in 1956, had a 27-7 record that led the National League.  Newcombe came to Ebbets Field in 1949 with the first major wave of players liberated from discrimination by Jackie Robinson, his Dodgers teammate. As a rookie, he compiled an impressive 17-8 record with a 3.17 e.r.a. that was particularly sparkling considering the cozy confines of his home park. His greatest season was 1956 when he had a 3.06 e.r.a., but in between Newcombe won 20 games in 1951 (20-9, 3.28) when the Dodgers scrambled into a tie with the Giants on the final day of the season after having led the N.L. race all season. He also won 20 in 1955 (20-5, 3.20) when his winning percentage of .800 was tops in the league. Newcombe compiled an exceptional 123-60 record in seven seasons with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and his totals might have been even more impresive if he had not missed all of the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to military service.  “Big Newk,” as he was affectionately known in Brooklyn, was also an outstanding left-handed power hitter. He was so good that his batting statistics were regularly listed with those of the everyday players in the New York newspapers. He hit 10 homers for the Brooklyn Dodgers, seven of them in 1955, when he batted .359. He was frequently used as a pinch-hitter. Overall, his career encompassed 10 seasons including two in Cincinnati, and he finished with a 149-90 career record in 344 games.

Jerry Neudecker

Jerry Neudecker (Baseball.  Born, Marine, IL, Aug. 13, 1930; died, Fort Walton Beach, FL, Jan. 11, 1997.)  Jerome A. Neudecker was an A.L. umpire for 20 seasons (1966-85).  Following Bill Kunkel’s retirement after the 1984 season, Neudecker was the last A.L. umpire using the outside “balloon” chest protector while working behind the plate.  The outside protector, over the objections of A.L. umpire supervisor Dick Butler, was eliminated in 1979 by commissioner Bowie Kuhn in the interests of “uniformity.”  Umpires were told to use the inside protector and adopt the N.L. system of crouching behind the catcher on the side of the plate used by the hitter.  Those using the outside protector were “grandfathered” and some continued to use it.  Others, such as Marty Springstead, gave it up voluntarily.  Neudecker continued the A.L. style of standing directly behind the catcher and bending the knees slightly to get a clear view of both sides of the plate (with the additional virtue of less back strain).

Graig Nettles

Graig Nettles (Baseball.  Born, San Diego, CA, Aug. 20, 1944.)  During the decade of the 1970s, only two American League hitters drove in more runs than Graig Nettles – Reggie Jackson and Carl Yastrzemski – but it was Nettles’ spectacular fielding in Game 3 of the 1978 World Series that awakened baseball fans to his talent.  Nettles joined the Yankees after the 1972 season, following six years split between Minnesota (1967-69) and Cleveland (1970-72).  In 11 seasons with the Yankees (1973-83), he hit 250 of his 389 career homers, leading the A.L. in 1976 (32) and belting a career-best 37 in 1977.  A career .248 hitter, Nettles was a superb third baseman (even though he printed “E-5” on the back of his glove) as well as a serious power threat.  His 21-year career saw him finish with San Diego (1984-86) and Atlanta (1987).  Nettles played in four World Series with the Yankees (1986-78, 1981) and another with San Diego (1984), where he later became a coach.  Hepatitis cost him half of the 1980 season, although he returned for the Yankees’ playoff loss (hitting an inside-the-park homer in Game 2 at Kansas City).  He was the M.V.P of the 1981 A.L.C.S. against Oakland, driving in three runs in each of the three games of the Yankees’ sweep.

Lindsey Nelson

Lindsey Nelson (Broadcaster.  Born, Brownlow Creek, TN, May 25, 1919; died, Atlanta, GA, June 10, 1995.)  Lindsey Nelson earned his national reputation broadcasting college football.  In fact, only once in a span of 35 years did he miss having a bowl game assignment on New Year’s Day.  That year was 1969.  That season, Nelson was the principal voice for one of the most exciting continuing events in New York sports history – the Mets’ run for the National League pennant and their subsequent startling victory over Baltimore in a five-game World Series.  Nelson began his play-by-play baseball career in New York when the Mets were born in 1962 and was the lead announcer (with Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner) on both radio and television for 17 seasons.  During his tenure, the Mets won two pennants (1969 and 1973) and one World Series (1969), carrying the other Series to seven games against the Oakland Athletics.  His network college football career began with the old Liberty Network in 1951 and ultimately led to 21 years of football (college and pro) for CBS, 12 years for NBC and even a few games for ABC-TV.  Added to that was LBS, Mutual and CBS on radio.  However, New York fans will always best remember him for the years with the Mets when “Hello, everybody, I’m Lindsey Nelson,” opened some 2,700 Mets games on radio and television.  Nelson subsequently did three years of broadcasts for the San Francisco Giants and five years of network weekly games for NBC.  But his bright plaid jackets and soft drawl remain a part of Mets lore.

Art Nehf

Art Nehf (Baseball.  Born, Terre Haute, IN, July 31, 1892; died, Phoenix, AZ, Dec. 18, 1960.)  On Aug. 11, 1919, the Giants sent four players and an estimated $50,000 to the Boston Braves for lefthander Art Nehf in the season’s most sensational baseball trade.  Nehf first came to public notice while at Rose Polytechnic Institute, where he also played football.  On Aug. 5, 1915, Nehf joined Boston, where was 17-8 in 1917 but slipped to 15-15 the following year and 8-9 in 1919 before being dealt to the Giants.  Though the deal was controversial when made, it helped the Giants win four pennants and two World Series.  Nehf pitched the Giants into the 1919 race by going 9-2 after the trade, was 21-12 in 1920, and 20-10 for the 1921 world champions.  Overall, he was 107-60 for the Giants before being sent to Cincinnati early in the 1926 season.  He pitched a four-hit 1-0 victory in the eighth (and final) game of the 1921 Series, won by the Giants over the Yankees, five games to three.  With the Series reverting to a best-of-seven format, he threw a five-hitter to win the clincher in 1922.  The following year, Nehf won the third game, 1-0, on Casey Stengel’s homer.  But he lost the sixth and deciding game and gave up a homer to Babe Ruth as the Yankees won their first world championship.  Nehf was 4-4 in five Series starts, including a 12-inning, complete game 4-3 victory over Walter Johnson and Washington in the 1924 opener.  Nehf also briefly appeared in the 1929 Series for the Chicago Cubs.  He was 194-120 in his career with a 3.20 e.r.a., recording 182 complete games in 319 starts.  Nehf made 132 relief appearances, too.

Bob Naso

Bob Naso (College football, lacrosse.  Born, Garden City Park, NY, Sept. 11, 1937.)  A successful lacrosse coach at Rutgers, Robert J. Naso was much less successful with Columbia football.  Naso became Columbia’s 13th head coach Dec. 18, 1979, but his five seasons (1980-84) produced a dismal 4-43-2 record.  His teams never won more than one game in any season and went 0-9 in 1984.  At Rutgers, Naso was a football center (1956-58) and played lacrosse (1957-59).  As head lacrosse coach there (1962-74), he was 95-59-1.

Joe Namath

Joe Namath (Pro football.  Born, Beaver Falls, PA, May 31, 1943.)  During his collegiate career at the University of Alabama (under the legendary Bear Bryant), Joseph Alexander Namath quarterbacked teams that lost only three games in three years.  His Alabama teams played in three Bowl games.  In 1965, Namath became one of the most celebrated names in American sports before ever playing a single pro game when Sonny Werblin signed him to a contract with the New York Jets of the American Football League for a then unheard-of $427,000.  In 12 years with the Jets, the flamboyant Namath, despite knee and other injuries, passed for 27,057 yards and 170 touchdowns.  His most spectacular seasons came in 1966 and 1967.  He completed 232 passes for 3,379 yards in 1966 and the next season completed 258 for 4,007 yards, leading all pro football in both categories both seasons.  He threw for 26 touchdowns in 14 games in 1967.  His best was yet to come.  He blazed himself into the sports consciousness of America in 1969 when he “guaranteed” that the Jets would beat the heavily-favored N.F.L. champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III – and Joe Willie Namath (and the Jets) delivered, 16-7.

Barney Nagler

Barney Nagler (Sportswriter.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 24, 1912; died, Freehold, NJ, Oct. 22, 1990.)  Becoming a sportswriter in 1937 under Harry Singer at the Bronx Home News, Bernard Nagler was one of the outstanding writers of his era with a special affinity for boxing.  Nagler did not move to the Post when that paper bought the Home News, instead spending two years writing scripts for Bill Stern’s radio program, “Colgate Sports Newsreel.”  He returned to newspaper writing in 1950 with The Morning Telegraph, the racing daily that was merged into the Daily Racing Form in 1972.  Nagler wrote a column on all sports titled “On Second Thought.”  He also authored numerous books, his last with matchmaker Teddy Brenner.

Boris Nachamkin

Boris Nachamkin (College basketball.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Dec. 6, 1933.)  A lanky 6’6” from Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson, Boris Alexander Nachamkin set a then-record at N.Y.U. with 437 points in 1952-53 (in 20 games), averaging 21.8 per game.  He also set Violets records for points (1,091) and rebounds (844) in his three-year career of only 63 games, surpassing Sid Tanenbaum’s (1944-47) 1,074.  His teams were just 20-20 in his junior and senior years.  Nachamkin had a brief N.B.A. career (six games) with Rochester Royals.  He was an executive at Bankers Trust Company for 37 years.

Jack Nicklaus

Jack William Nicklaus (Golf.  Born, Columbus, OH., Jan. 21, 1940.) Winner of more major tournaments than any other golfer in history, “the Golden Bear” captured 20 major titles, with two of his most dramatic victories coming in U.S. Opens at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J., in 1967 and 1980.  Jack Nicklaus also won the Open in 1962 and 1972, as well as a record six Masters, five P.G.A. championships and two U.S. Amateur crowns.  His first-round 71 in the 1967 Open placed him behind amateur Marty Fleckman (67), Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper (69).  A second-round 67 drew him to within one stroke of Palmer’s 68-137.  Fleckman regained the lead on the third day.  But for Nicklaus, the first 54 holes were just a warm-up for his blistering finale.  Nicklaus roared through the final 18 in 65 strokes and knocked in a birdie putt on 18 to finish four strokes ahead of Palmer.  He had eight birdies on Sunday and finished at 275, an Open record, breaking the standard set in 1948 by Ben Hogan in Los Angeles.  Perhaps even more dramatic was his 1980 triumph, which enabled him to become only the fourth man ever to win four U.S. Opens.  Nicklaus came off a 1979 that was his worst year ever on the tour.  He hadn’t won a tournament since July 1978, at Philadelphia, and in 1979 was a miserable 71st on the money-winning list.  Yet he turned in another Open record with a 63-71-70-68-272.  He needed that brilliant performance to shake Japan’s Isao Aoki, who toured the 72 holes in 274.

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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