If you were a kid growing up in Saugerties during the 1960s, ’70s, or mid-80s who played baseball and loved the Yankees, it was a special time.
During that time, New York Yankee players would come to speak at either the sports awards banquet for the Glasco Little League or for the annual banquet for the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame. Most years, it would be Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto, but other years it was Mickey Mantle, and one year it was Joe DiMaggio, according to Greg Chorvas, current president of the Saugerties Hall of Fame Club. “When they’d come up here they’d always bring stuff with them, such as autographed pictures, and other items for the kids,” Chorvas said. “It was all because of Fred Davi and Jack Keeley,” Chorvas explained.
Davi worked for the Yankees’ minor league team in Connecticut and had a connection with the big team in the Bronx, Chorvas said. Davi also founded the Glasco Little League and would work with the Yankee organization to have a player come up every year to talk with the kids at the annual banquet. “He could also get you on the field at Yankee Stadium for batting practice or into the dugout,” Chorvas said. “He was just such an all-around great person,” Chorvas said of Davi.
Keeley, who wrote a sports column for the predecessor of the Post-Star, had almost as many connections with the Yankees as his buddy Davi did. Each year Keeley would use his connections to get a Yankee to come up to speak at the annual Hall of Fame banquets.
“They’d all pile into a car and drive down to New York City to pick up one of the Yankees and drive them up here for the banquet and then take them back to the city,” Chorvas explained.
One year Chorvas and his friend Eddie Feldman got to go with Keeley to pick up Rizzuto. “You should have heard the stories they told,” he said.
However, all that ended when Davi and Keeley passed away and the old Flamingo Restaurant, where the banquets were held, closed, Chorvas said. During those years, Chorvas and Feldman would save most of the stuff the Yankees brought with them. “We both have boxes and boxes of stuff,” Chorvas said.
Feldman, who moved to California a couple of years ago, even has bats from Mantle and some of the other Yankees, and a uniform worn by pitcher Don Larsen (he of the perfect World Series game). There’s only one problem: The Saugerties Hall of Fame has no museum to show all of this memorabilia. There is no place to hang the pictures of all those Saugerties athletes who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, “and that’s a shame,” Chorvas said.
So the Hall of Fame Club has begun a project to raise money for a museum. “Ideally it would be in the center of the village,” Chorvas said, “but if not there then at the Cantine sports complex.’ But buying a building in the village is an expensive proposition “because we don’t have enough money to rent space each year. We would have to purchase a building or have one donated,” Chorvas said.
The town has said the Hall can build a museum at Cantine as long as it does not cost taxpayers any money. “That’s how we’ve always done it,” Chorvas said. “When the fields needed dugouts or when we built the press boxes, we never used any money from the taxpayers. It was always money we raised.”
The main fundraiser for the club is its annual golf tournament, which in addition to improvements at the fields is used for the scholarship for Saugerties High School athletes. Now the club is reaching out to the community to help raise enough money for a museum where all the Yankee and local sports teams and stars memorabilia can be displayed. To donate to their efforts, contact the club through its Facebook page (search: Saugerties Hall of Fame Club) or give Chorvas a call at (845) 246-5890 ext. 309.