One of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, with a record of 523-126, John McClendon, Jr. is enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame. His milestone 500th victory came at Cleveland State where he coached from 1966-69. Earlier he coached the Cleveland Sweeny Pipers (1959-61) to NIBL and national AAU championships. John learned the game as a student of its creator, Dr. James B. Naismith, at the University of Kansas. Won an unprecedented three consecutive NAIA titles at Tennessee State. Also coached at Hampton Institute, North Carolina Central, Kentucky State and the professional Denver Rockets of the ABA, and served on the coaching staffs of three U.S. Olympic teams. After 21 years as a national and international basketball consultant, he returned to Cleveland in 1991 and became a special assistant to the athletic director of Cleveland State and is a Professor in the University’s Black Studies program.
For more than 40 years, Clinton Martin has trained amateur boxers on the local, national and international levels, tutoring some of Cleveland’s finest pugilistic products. Among them were Jeff Stoudemire, 1978 Golden Gloves champion and 1979 national AAU champion and Golden Gloves titlists Henry Hughes (1981), Sanderline Williams (1982) and Todd Hickman (1982 and 1983). Twice he was selected to coach USA amateur teams against the national teams of Cuba and Russia. Since 1990 he has served Cleveland as Commissioner of Boxing and Wrestling and in 1996 he was elected vice president of the local governing body, ABA of the USA, for the Northwestern Counties of Ohio.
Norbert “Nobby” Lewandowski’s athletic career began at St. John Nepomucene Elementary School in Slavic Village and never ceased to be an influence on his life’s activities. As a player, he not only starred at Benedictine High and Kent State University, he worked his way up the Cleveland Baseball Federation ladder from Class F to AAA, becoming, according to one Plain Dealer writer, “the most dominant pitcher in amateur baseball in Ohio during the 60’s.” When age and business commitments eventually ended his playing days, they did not end his allegiance to the CBF. He has remained a strong advocate of the City’s sandlot program, serving for many years on the board of the CBF and raising thousands of dollars for its programs. He has been equally supportive of his high school’s and college’s athletics departments and has received high honors from both.
Daniel Ferrazza’s 31-year career with the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) left thousands of youngsters with enriched athletic experiences and Cleveland with a nationally prominent track event. While executive Director of the CYO eastern region from 1972 to 1988, he assumed a vital role in the operation of the annual Knights of Columbus Track Meet for 11 years, six as meet director. The meet brought numerous world class athletes to Cleveland to join with college, high school and grade school runners, creating a major stop on the indoor track circuit. He also served as president of the Meet Association, and as president of the Lake Erie Association of the AAU for two years and vice president for ten.
George Chandick’s outstanding 18-year post-college career as a player and player-coach in the Greater Cleveland Basketball League set the tone for a lifetime of devotion and service to athletics in the Greater Cleveland area. A lengthy list of achievements and honors as a coach, official, team sponsor and participant, George embraced a variety of sports, from youth baseball and track and field to horseshoes. His tenure as Council President and later Mayor of Seven Hills, and as a teacher of elementary physical education for 38 years in the Cleveland Public School System enhanced, rather than stemmed, the tide of his activities on behalf of young athletes.
From 1955 to 1985, the road to participation in any City of Cleveland recreational activity for Clevelanders of all ages went through City Hall’s Room 8 and Mary Jane Boldin. As the Cleveland Recreation Department’s Secretary to the Director of Organized Sports, she shouldered the bulk of the day-to-day responsibilities for everything from finding teams for people to join to locating sponsors and funding for those teams. Her efforts in support of Director John S. Nagy were instrumental in the growth of the city’s summer playground Junior Olympics program. She also served with distinction as secretary and/or board member for a myriad of MUNY and AAU programs. In 1986 she was inducted into the Cleveland Men’s Slo-Pitch Hall of Fame.
At 16, Jenny Fish Baker was already a world class women’s speed skater. Thus her selection to the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team as a Baldwin-Wallace College freshman was no surprise. Nor was it a surprise when she earned Olympic Silver in the 500 meter sprint at Grenoble, France. She began her glide to the Olympics in 1961 at the age of 12, winning the Ohio indoor championship and the Cleveland Press Silver Skates Midget-Novice title. She repeated in the Juvenile division the next year, adding the Ohio outdoor championship. In 1964 she won Ohio and National indoor and outdoor Junior championships, then added the U.S. National Open indoor and outdoor titles. She won the Junior Division indoor and outdoor championships again in 1965 and in 1966 she became the U.S. National Intermediate Champion indoors and outdoors.
A Pennsylvanian who moved to Cleveland to play for the American Hungarian team, George Caraffi and his brother Ralph were the city’s best soccer players of the 1920’s. Originally a defender/midfielder, he gained his greatest fame as a center forward. He twice scored seven goals in a game, but his biggest goal came on June 23, 1929; the winning goal against Hakoah of New York, the U.S. National Champions. In the Western finals of the 1928 National Challenge Cup, he scored two overtime goals in a 4-1 victory and the clinching goal in a 2-1 win in early rounds, and the goal which gave his team a short 3-2 lead in overtime of the finals.
Danny Weiler won his 3,000th career victory at the age of 46 in 1983, enroute to becoming one of just 36 riders in thoroughbred racing history to have ridden over 3,500 winners. A large percentage of those victories came at Cleveland’s Thistledown Race Track where he won over a dozen Thistledown meet titles, beginning in 1960. He got a strong leg up on those many triumphs on August 12, 1961 by winning six races in one day, a feat accomplished just nine times in the track’s long history. He was also a four-time winner of Thistledown’s long-prestigious darling Nellie Gray Handicap.
From August 1972 through October 1990, Frederick Baker drove in 184 races, winning 88, placing second in 30 and third in 18. During his memorable career he qualified for the pole position 69 times and established 25 lap records. In 1980 he earned acclaim as the worldwide Jaguar Driver of the Year and also earned C Production National Champion laurels. He placed seventh in the 1989 international Porsche Turbo Cup Invitational held in Kylami, South Africa. Closer to home, he three times won the famed Nelson Ledges 24-Hour Endurance Race.
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