In a sports-minded community like Saugerties, it’s quite a thrill to be a successful athlete. But perhaps the greater honor comes several decades later, when the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame picks only the best of the best to enter its halcyon hall. This year’s inductees are Andrea Ungvarsky, Billy Schaffer, and Marc Becker (pictured above left to right). They’ll be honored at a banquet April 26.
Schaffer went the farthest after high school. A Saugerties native, he played Grasshoppers and Little League baseball in town before going on to high school and assembling an admirable varsity career. Schaffer played on the Saugerties varsity football team when Saugerties High School was still in the Dutchess County Scholastic League, predecessor of the Mid-Hudson Athletic League, and netted All-County honors as a defensive safety in his junior and senior years.
But baseball was Schaffer’s natural sport, and he played the hell out of it. In 1981 – his senior year – Schaffer was named all-league at shortstop, and his Saugerties High team won the inaugural MHAL championship. For the Section IX championship in Cornwall, Saugerties played Albertus Magnus and defeated them by an obscene margin, “something like 20-4,” Schaffer recalls.
After finishing up his career at Saugerties High, Schaffer shipped off for Middle Tennessee State University, where he started around 30 games in his freshman fall season as a utility player – an uncanny number for a freshman out of the boonies 1000 miles away. Schaffer made it into 18 games in the springtime. His MTSU team made it to the national tournament and faced off with powerhouse Oklahoma State, falling one game short of making it to the College World Series.
“I could play third, second, even center or left field,” said Schaffer. “It was good for me, I had time to learn. If someone needed a break I could jump in and help out.”
He didn’t hang around MTSU too long. Schaffer shipped back home to play at Ulster County Community College the next year, after being a little put off by the tremendous commitment of Division I college ball.
“I mean, I had the best [GPA] on the team with a 2.5,” he said. “I had a roommate down there, a guy on my team who I liked enough, had something like a 0.9. That’s like not even knowing the title of the textbook.”
After UCCC, Schaffer went on to Utica College, got a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and went to work in Oakland, Calif., as a street cop. His athletic streak didn’t really stop after college, though: in 1991, after serving on several special units in Oakland, Schaffer and his dog Arno won the Western States Police Canine circuit title for top dog and top competitor. In ’92, Arno tied for top dog and he won for top competitor.
Schaffer retired from the Oakland Police Department in 2012 and lives with his wife and son in California. He’ll be making the long trip to Saugerties to attend the ceremony.
Andrea Ungvarsky, who passed in 1999, was one of 15 kids in the Ungvarsky family.
“Back when she was growing up, there were virtually no sports for women, so she did everything she could just to get her foot in the door,” said Andrea’s brother Ed Ungvarsky. From a young age, Ungvarsky was deeply involved in sports, taking the box score at the Little League games that her father coached.
“Growing up in a family of 15, sports is kind of your only way out,” said Ed. “She won so many awards, so many scholarships. My mother always said, ‘You try to follow in her footsteps. That’s your ticket out.’”
Andrea Ungvarsky wasn’t a Saugerties native. She comes from Elmira, where she played tennis and field hockey in high school. After attending Elmira College for one year, Ungvarsky transferred to SUNY Cortland where she played lacrosse and tennis as a member of the class of 1968.
Ungvarsky started the Saugerties volleyball program in 1972, and coached until 1990. Her record as head coach was 218-54. Under her guidance, the team won six league titles and three Section IX titles, and in 1978 Ungvarsky coached a team that went 20-0, winning all matches in the first two games.
“She was an incredible coach,” said former player Shelly Pfeil.
Ungvarsky also coached softball from 1976 to 1985, gathering a record of 138-42, and won three league and four sectional titles. She was selected softball coach of the year by the Daily Freeman in 1983.
Marc Becker is making the cut based in equal parts on his career as a top-notch junior league baseball player and as a high school and college basketball star.
“I played baseball and basketball and everything for a lot of years,” said Becker. “I played on a lot of all-star teams, with guys who I stayed on the nucleus of teams with since Little League.” Becker made Little League baseball and basketball all-star teams coming up, and credits his teammates – including Steve Schaffer, older brother of Bill, and Iggy Maines, both Hall of Famers – with any athletic success he mustered over the course of his career.
Becker played college basketball at Columbia-Greene alongside Lenny Hackett, another inductee and former Saugerties High School basketball star. He also played a stint with the Saugerties Dutchmen, Saugerties’ now defunct semi-pro baseball team, and the Kingston Braves.
“I’m honored and humbled, and I’m very, very proud that they saw fit to include me in the hall,” said Becker. “They’re a wonderful bunch of men, some tremendous teammates, role models in the older gentlemen. I’m just proud and humbled that I was accepted. I was nominated two years ago and I was very honored that I was even being considered, and pleasantly surprised when I got the call.”
Becker currently owns and operates Cartridge World in Clifton Park.
The Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame will hold an induction banquet on Saturday, April 26 at 6 p.m. at the Glasco Firehouse. Tickets cost $25, available by calling (845) 246-7574. Early purchase is suggested.