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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
General Clinton Canoe Regatta got a new home in 1972
Ever since 1963, when Charles Hinkley and a group of Tri-Town businessmen came up with the idea for what we know today as the General Clinton Canoe Regatta, people lined the shores of the Susquehanna to watch the canoeists as they made their 70-mile trek from Cooperstown to Bainbridge.
Sunday movies in Oneonta finally shown in 1934
You know an issue is divisive when a vote to resolve it is quite close. In Oneonta during the early 1930s there were probably plenty of discussions or arguments at the family dinner table or sermons from the pulpits on Sunday mornings, regarding whether or should be able to see a movie in Oneonta on Sunday.
Politics, fitness and landmarks dominated local news in May 1968
Area residents mulled over the idea of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as their next President of the United States. New fitness opportunities emerged for all ages. One area landmark was saved while another was razed. It was only a part of our life and times in May 1968.
Local people sought income in many ways in 1933
In the economy that was the Great Depression, there were times people would do what it took to try to earn some money.
Local windstorm in 1983 caused tense moments
I realize I've got the wrong month in mind when I say "May came in like a lion." However, that's what happened in 1983 as a number of twisters moved through our region, leaving plenty of damage behind in their trails. Add some melting snow and heavy rain, and scenes of cleanups were widespread 30 years ago this month.
- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Disaster, expansions put people to work in May 1913
- Monday, April 29, 2013
Job opportunities abounded in area 45 years ago
If you were looking for a job in April 1968 in our area, or perhaps looking to change your employment situation in the near future, opportunities were pointing in your favor.
- Saturday, April 27, 2013
Oneonta greeted an aviation giant in 1928
An early aviation superstar came to Oneonta in 1928.
- Monday, April 22, 2013
Area saw its own armed standoffs 30 years ago
This past Friday, we watched how the Boston area went into a lockdown during a tense search for the last suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Had I still been living and working in that area, as I was in the early 1990s, I would have had a day off from work Friday, as police scoured the city of Waltham.
- Saturday, April 20, 2013
U.S.S. Maine explosion, war drew much local sentiment
For most people in our area in early 1898, a growing conflict between two distant nations probably didn't get much attention, other than some glances at the newspaper. When a young Oneonta man was one of many injured or killed in an explosion of a battleship he was aboard, the local attention increased markedly to what was soon to become the Spanish-American War.
- Monday, April 15, 2013
Oneonta river walking path came from a surveyor's daydream
Leon Kalmus of Oneonta spent a lot of time surveying land near the Susquehanna River in the early 1970s around the time Interstate 88 was being planned and built in this area. What he saw along the shores of the river, he called â€œpristine,â€� and soon had an idea for some kind of walking or hiking pathway along the shores of the river in the town of Oneonta.
- Saturday, April 13, 2013
Decline of Prohibition led to return of beer in April 1933
â€œI think this would be a good time for a beer,â€� remarked President Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he signed the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 22, 1933. This marked the beginning of the end for Prohibition that year.
- Monday, April 8, 2013
Dietz Street shifted from residential to commercial through the years
By taking a walk along Dietz Street today, heading north to Walnut Street, one can see a lot of businesses and the recently refurbished parking lot on the east side of the street. It would take some imagination to see this street lined with houses and a church, but prior to the late 1940s, thatâ€™s what was there.
- Saturday, April 6, 2013
Oneontans voted for a 'dry' city in 1918
- Monday, April 1, 2013
Future city historian kept family busy for Easter and April 1958
- Saturday, March 30, 2013
Colliscroft became new Oneonta landmark in 1902
If the Oneonta building trade sector of the economy could have awarded a plaque to a most valuable individual customer of 1902, it would have nearly been a shoo-in. That was Edward H. Pardee, who was listed in the Oneonta Directory around that time as a farmer, on Southside.
- Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Historic Cooperstown cottage got a new address in 1988
To unknowing tourists seeking information from the tourism information center at 31 Chestnut St. in Cooperstown, they would probably believe that the mid-19th century cottage had always been on that site. It blends in well with some of the grand old houses along that street, and the same tourists might think it has an interesting history behind it.
- Saturday, March 23, 2013
Free mail delivery began in Oneonta 125 years ago
- Monday, March 18, 2013
Oneonta enacted first building code 60 years ago
There will be no parade, fireworks display or commemorative coins minted for the occasion.
- Saturday, March 16, 2013
Area isolated during historic March 1888 snowstorm
Earlier in the week, we recalled the "Blizzard of 1993," which was one containing historic snowfall that fell on our region on Saturday, March 13. It was the largest recorded in a single local snowfall in the 20th century, and ever since another storm dating back 105 years. The latter snowfall was worse than the 1993 storm, falling overnight into Tuesday, March 13, 1888. It was commonly referred to as the "Blizzard of 1888."
- General Clinton Canoe Regatta got a new home in 1972