Hall of Fame inductions never get old for Nick Lambros.
But even the Oneonta native was a little surprised by his latest honor, as a member of the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.
“They called me and told me that I was nominated and I go, ‘That’s awful nice, but why?’” said Lambros, a 1995 Hartwick Hall of Famer who is the college’s winningest men’s basketball coach with 353 victories.
“My baseball career was long, but it was a long time ago, too,” Lambros, 76, continued. “When I asked why, they said they investigated my background and saw I had 10 years as a minor league general manager, I played in college and high school, I had a tryout with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and I coached college baseball, too. Those were the type of guys they were looking for.”
NYS Baseball Hall of Fame spokesman Rene LeRoux said Lambros earned election to the organizations third class for several reasons.
“We take into consideration character and love of the game as much as statistics,” LeRoux said. “Nick’s a treasure of a man. We’re absolutely thrilled we chose him and he accepted.”
LeRoux said inductees from three regions of the state are represented in the Hall — Western New York (Oneonta, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica), Upstate New York (Kingston to Montreal) and Metro New York (New York City and Long Island).
He added that Lambros, who spent 10 seasons as the general manager of the New York-Penn League’s Oneonta Yankees, will join former major leaguers Craig Biggio, Ralph Branca, Ed Kranepool, David Lemanczyk, Mark Lemke, Andy Van Slyke and Lou Whitaker in the Class of 2013.
The 2013 induction ceremony is set for Nov. 10 at the Hilton Hotel in Troy.
Oneonta High and Hartwick graduate Lambros said one of the highlights of his baseball career was a spring training invitation to Vero Beach, Fla., as a free agent in 1961.
“I stayed at spring training for 3 1/2 weeks, which is a long time, and I was doing well,” said Lambros, who added that Dodgers greats Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were among those at the spring training facility that year. “I had a very good spring. I hit the ball well, but I learned when I got out of there that there are a lot of other very good players in the United States.”
Lambros went on to serve 10 seasons as the Oneonta Yankees general manager under former owner Sam Nader in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His baseball coaching resume includes two seasons with the OHS junior varsity team and six with Hartwick (1972-77).
Lemanczyk played for Lambros during his first season as Hartwick’s baseball coach.
“He’s a hell of a guy,” Lambros said of Lemanczyk, who graduated with Hartwick records for all-time pitching victories and all-time strikeouts, the latter including a program-record 70 in a single season in 1972. “He could win games. He was tough.”
The Detroit Tigers drafted Lemanczyk in 1972, leading to an eight-year career in the majors with Detroit, the Toronto Blue Jays and the California Angels.
Former American League All-Star Lemanczyk also played basketball for Hartwick, with Lambros serving the team as an assistant coach in his senior season.
“He played for Roy Chipman and I had him one year as an assistant,” Lambros said. “He was a big, strong rebounder.”
Lambros took over for Chipman as Hartwick’s men’s basketball coach in 1977, effectively ending his career as the college’s baseball coach. He then amassed a 353-191 men’s basketball record that included 13 postseason appearances. The highlight of those postseason berths came during the 1987-88 season, when Lambros led Hartwick to a 23-6 record and an appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament’s final-four round.
Lambros is also a member of the Oneonta High and New York State Basketball halls of fame. His name is attached to Hartwick’s Binder Physical Education Center, too, as its main gymnasium is known as Lambros Arena.
“I thought the (baseball honor) was pretty cool,” said Lambros, a four-year starter for Hartwick’s basketball and baseball teams who also coached varsity and junior varsity basketball at OHS, as well as golf and tennis at Hartwick. “I am very humbled by this.”
LeRoux said tickets for the Nov. 10 induction ceremony in Troy cost $75 per person and are available by calling 518-877-5170. He added the event will begin with a reception at 4 p.m. Nov. 10, followed by a dinner and induction speeches from 5-8 p.m.
Dean Russin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.