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
Teacher developed Oneonta's science fairs in the late 1930s
Enthusiasm toward science, engineering and technology abounds these days among our area's youth, as teams such as Sidney Project Lead the Way and Otsego 4-H FIRST Robotics, also known as "RoboKronos," have been busy preparing and competing in meets in Binghamton and Troy, with robots they created.
Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
Unlike the proposed Constitution Pipeline project, planned to bring natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania through our region to a terminal in Schoharie County, another pipeline project built from Watkins Glen to Selkirk generated considerably less local controversy 50 years ago.
Natural gas drilling efforts of the 1880s found little locally
There was no such process as hydraulic fracturing. New York didn't have a Department of Environmental Conservation. Lawn signs for or against it weren't seen anywhere. Yet natural gas drilling efforts were going on in our region more 125 years ago. It was an industry still in its infancy. Numerous reports were published in local newspapers during the late 1880s and beyond.
Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
Good grooming, beauty and style seemed to be a recurring theme in the news around Oneonta during the month of March 1964.
Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
Modern-day newspapers make it very clear where local news is found, as well as opinion, separated by their own pages in weekly or daily editions, including The Daily Star.
- Monday, February 24, 2014
Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
"Trending" has become a popular word in our present everyday language. This word wasn't used in February 1974, but for what I write twice weekly, it could just as well have applied to local history.
- Saturday, February 22, 2014
Early efforts to halt Silver Creek were slow going
Incidents of Silver Creek overflowing into the streets of Oneonta aren't making news as often as they once did.
- Monday, February 17, 2014
Effort to establish Oneonta historic district began in 1970s
- Saturday, February 15, 2014
Experiment to treat inebriates began 150 years ago
Dr. J. Edward Turner came up with a unique idea in the 1840s on how to treat and restrain inebriates in the United States. Turne
- Monday, February 10, 2014
Milford fought over new school 30 years ago
At times nearly 30 years ago, the future of the Milford Central School District could have been portrayed as a weathervane, spinning in directions of either a new school, consolidation, or closing. The â€œwindsâ€� changed considerably between 1984 and 1988, but the end result was a new school in the village before the end of the decade.
- Saturday, February 8, 2014
Military camp, jobs, new Sidney church made news in February 1934
Despite bitter cold February weather, some already had summer camp on their minds, including one camp that may not be very popular today. A re-employment service was experiencing unusual success during the Great Depression. Also, a new church opened in Sidney. All were part of our local life and times in February 1934.
- Monday, February 3, 2014
The Farm of Franklin became a 'commercial for God' in the 1970s
Their mission was pretty simple.
- Saturday, February 1, 2014
Oneonta businesses expanded, bonded in February 1904
While some of Oneonta's businesses were changing hands or expanding, some of them paused to remember one leader who helped make the village's overall prosperity possible. Other business people who had previously worked in a bit of vacuum saw the benefits of working together for a better business climate. It was part of Oneonta's "Business Beat" of February 1904, as read in The Oneonta Star.
- Monday, January 27, 2014
Business changes, energy conservation made news in January 1974
Our family's automotive parts store business on Valleyview Street in Oneonta was no place to be if you wore a short-sleeve shirt to work in January 1974.
- Saturday, January 25, 2014
Oneonta students responded strongly to Victory Corps in 1943
Oneontans seem to have a history of responding when being called upon to help. Earlier this week, when our local radio stations held an on-air fundraising event to help rebuild the Doc Knapp Little League field, after being hit hard by vandals last weekend, a goal of $3,000 was set. Local listeners responded with more than $10,000 in only two hours.
- Monday, January 20, 2014
Debates, updates dominated local education news in 1969
Need for another local college was debated, departures of two longtime college administrators, and the dedication of a new occupational center made local news during January 1969.
- Saturday, January 18, 2014
Civil War deserters challenged local law enforcers in 1864
Area law enforcers had their hands full with rough and tumble activities in the early months of 1864. While there were still many enlisting in the Civil War, there were also many local deserters from the front lines, and it was the latter men who challenged the authorities. These accounts came from January editions of The Oneonta Herald.
- Monday, January 13, 2014
Otsego Habitat for Humanity got start 25 years ago
Here's proof that good things can happen on any Friday the 13th. A potluck supper was held on Friday, Jan. 13, 1989 at the First United Methodist Church at 66 Chestnut St. in Oneonta, and over some good, shared food came the start of a positive mission in Otsego County.
- Saturday, January 11, 2014
Winters spent differently by Worcester residents in 1914
I hope you've been coping with the wild roller coaster ride of temperatures we've experienced the last few weeks, from the teeth chattering cold to days we could break out the barbecue grills. Worcester residents had an adventure in coping with the winter weather 100 years ago, while a few others from the village had it a bit easier.
- Monday, January 6, 2014
Moving clocks forward caused local controversy in January 1974
- Teacher developed Oneonta's science fairs in the late 1930s