Only in my boyhood daydreams did I ever have to face such a conundrum concerning my future.
Major League Baseball player, or star NFL quarterback?
It's a good thing I went with "Plan B," when reality set in.
Thirty years ago this summer, a 21-year-old junior from Stanford University was in Oneonta, here to play baseball and think things through.
John Elway had that same conundrum, in reality. A star quarterback at Stanford and a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, Elway would be a shoo-in for the first round of the NFL draft in 1983.
On the other hand, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had his sights on Elway. The Yankees had him as a top draft pick in June 1981, but it wasn't until that fall that they persuaded Elway to sign a contract to play in their farm system, with a first stop in Oneonta. Steinbrenner paid Elway $150,000 for coming to play here.
"It's too early for me to know what decision I'll make," Elway told The Daily Star on July 8, 1982. "There are too many unknowns now. The decision will be tough, but I wouldn't trade it for anything I'll ever have to do."
Elway became a fan favorite. He had been wondering if he could hit a ball out of Damaschke Field since his arrival. With his parents, Jack and Janet Elway, watching from Albert "Sam" Nader's first base box seat, Elway slammed his first home run Wednesday, July 14, helping the Oneonta Yankees win their eighth straight game.
"That was beautiful," Jack Elway, who was head football coach at San Jose State, told his son, the Stanford quarterback, after the game. The father and son would be meeting on the gridiron for opposing teams that fall.
Sam Nader remembered having the Elways as his guest, and recalls how George Steinbrenner then invited John's parents to Yankee Stadium around the same time as their Oneonta visit.
Nader recalled what kind of an arm John Elway had, playing right field.
"A guy on the opposing team would've had a triple, but Elway made a throw from right field and got him out."
"He would've been a major leaguer," Nader said, "but he wouldn't have been the star he became as a quarterback in the NFL."
For Oneonta it was also a memorable year for the Nader family. Suzanne Nader became the general manager for the Oneonta Yankees that season. She was the first woman in that position, and Sam Nader said she was probably the first woman manager in the New York-Penn League.
Suzanne helped Elway with all the calls from the national media about this young sports prospect, among other duties.
Elway played for six weeks in Oneonta before heading back to California to start football practice with Stanford.
"I'm glad that I proved to myself that I can play baseball," Elway said of his improvement as a Yankee hitter upon his departure.
As it was, Herschel Walker edged Elway as the Heisman Trophy winner in 1982. Elway was initially drafted in the NFL in 1983 by Baltimore, but refused to play in that city, attempting to leverage a better deal, possibly with the Yankees. Elway got a better football deal with the Denver Broncos in the end.
We all know how that turned out. As for the Oneonta Yankees in 1982, they lost to Niagara Falls in the NY-PENN championship series.
This weekend: A rally day at Scintilla in Sidney in July 1942.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.
Only in my boyhood daydreams did I ever have to face such a conundrum concerning my future.
- Mark Simonson
Oneonta's Foreign Exchange Student Program got green light 55 years ago
"A foreign exchange student, attending classes at Oneonta High School, looms somewhere near in the future."
It could be difficult to get around Oneonta in late 1888
In getting around Oneonta in 1888, there were pretty much two seasons for the streets -- summer and "mud" season. To add to the misery of "mud" season that year, the bridge over the Susquehanna River on lower Main Street was taken out of use for a short time, replaced by a new one.
Professional basketball exhibitions played at armory
Every now and then our region gets a visit from basketball show teams such as the Harlem Globetrotters. In recent years no one can say they saw NBA caliber teams play in Oneonta. In late 1948 and in early 1953 however, Oneonta could boast of watching both levels of basketball talent play on what was their premier hometown court.
Railroad, related developments expanded Oneonta in 1863
Famous hobo discouraged youths from becoming wanderers
A-No.1 made an appearance in Oneonta 80 years ago this week.
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Local college students pushed for equality in the late 1960s
A modern day college student at any of our region's institutions of higher learning might either get a chuckle or cast a jeer at some of the customs and rules of campus life in the late 1960s and early '70s. For instance, only female students had curfews until 1968 and college dormitories were strictly male or female until 1970. These customs began to change during those years at the State University College at Oneonta.
- Saturday, November 16, 2013
IBM thrived in region during Great Depression
Last weekend we learned that many local unemployed men found much-needed temporary work by building new sewers and water lines in Oneonta during the Great Depression. While the times were tough for so many, just about 65 miles southeast of here a totally different employment strategy was in progress in Endicott, at the IBM Corp.
- Monday, November 11, 2013
Mansion was leveled for Cooperstown's Clark Sports Center
There were considerable rumbling and crashing sounds coming from the lower section of Susquehanna Avenue in Cooperstown 30 years ago this week. Workers on bulldozers were tearing down the 40-room Iroquois Mansion, in order to make way for the present Clark Sports Center.
- Saturday, November 9, 2013
Creating better sewers helped many during Great Depression
Many remember from the 1950s sitcom "The Honeymooners," Ed Norton worked in the sewers and made plenty of funny remarks about his job. It wasn't a glamorous job, but someone had to do it.
- Monday, November 4, 2013
Local enthusiasm was high in 1968 presidential election
- Monday, October 28, 2013
A variety of local changes made news in October 1988
Departures and arrivals of various kinds could easily describe many local news items reported during October 1988.
- Saturday, October 26, 2013
'War of the Worlds' caused little local concern
If there was ever a big boost in the career of actor, director, writer and producer Orson Welles, it came 75 years ago this coming week when radio was a media giant. It was Sunday night, Oct. 30, 1938, when Oneontans and those across the nation tuned in -- many of them after the program's introduction -- to the Mercury Theatre play, "The War of the Worlds."
- Monday, October 21, 2013
Local education, employment trends shifted in early 1960s
- Saturday, October 19, 2013
Search for Upstate Baptist Home site began locally in 1923
These days, you don't have to wait for tomorrow's newspaper to learn the latest breaking news. A look nearly each day at The Daily Star website will show something you'll read in print the next day. In Oneonta, 90 years ago, if you didn't hear breaking news by word of mouth, you had to wait for the next day's newspaper.
- Monday, October 14, 2013
Oneonta campaigned to keep a Sears store downtown in 1978
Downtown Oneonta as a retail hub was showing signs of distress in the late 1970s. A "SOS" message was being delivered by many retailers in October 1978. In this case, the message meant, "Save Our Sears."
- Saturday, October 12, 2013
Infrastructure, social growth made news in October 1888
If one could quickly describe Oneonta in October 1888, it would be that the village was experiencing growing pains. By looking through the pages of a recently started daily newspaper, The Oneonta Daily News, the news and some debates made it quite clear the growth had its effects on daily life.
- Monday, October 7, 2013
Beat poet Ginsberg had ties to local area
It would be safe to say that the late poet Allen Ginsberg raised a few eyebrows, good or bad, with some of his work through the years.
- Saturday, October 5, 2013
World Series scoreboard attracted many in Oneonta in 1913
If you've attended Minor League baseball games in recent years in Binghamton and Syracuse, you can't help but notice the state-of-the-art video scoreboards the ball clubs have added to the baseball game atmosphere. Having attended some games in these cities myself, oftentimes the scoreboards became more interesting than the actual game.
- Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Oneonta inched closer to becoming a railroad town in 1863
When the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad finally reached Oneonta in 1865, signs seen at the celebration in August read, "Isolation Obliterated," among others.
- Saturday, September 28, 2013
War Trophies Train visited Oneonta area in 1918
There was no doubt about the curiosity Oneontans had about the First World War in 1918. That curiosity was evident on Tuesday, Oct. 1, when more than 5,000 people showed for a special appearance of the War Trophies Train as part of a war bond fundraiser in the city.
- Oneonta's Foreign Exchange Student Program got green light 55 years ago