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Syracuse University Graduate & Music Legend Lou Reed to be Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015

Lou Reed at S.U. in the 1960s

Lou Reed (center) plays in front of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house in 1961 or 1962. Reed, an influential music legend, developed much of his musical style while a student at Syracuse University.

Syracuse’s connection with the Rock and Roll hall of fame just got a little bit deeper as Syracuse University graduate and Velvet Underground front man Lou Reed will be inducted in 2015. Reed passed away in October of 2013 and graduated S.U. with honors in the 1960s.

There are interesting stories about Reed during his time at Syracuse University, including his time as a platoon leader in the campus ROTC unit, a commitment he wanted out of. That in itself isn’t all that interesting. However, how he got out of it is something different all together. As the story goes, Reed held a gun to his commanding officer’s head in order to get out of his military commitment and, wouldn’t you know, it worked.

Reed also spent time as a host of a student radio show on WAER during his time at Syracuse University, a tradition that is now carried on by WERW. It’s said Reed was kicked off of the college radio station after faculty complaints because the music he was playing was “just too weird and cutting edge,” according to the program director at the time. Also while at S.U., he was played in bands and developed his own writing style (shown in the photo). It was in this band where he wrote early versions of “Coney Island Baby,” “Heroin,” and “Waiting for the Man,” which you can listen to below. He also met future Velvet Undeground bandmate Sterling Morrison.

 

In 1975, Rolling Stone had this to say about Lou Reed,

“Had he accomplished nothing else, his work with the Velvet Underground in the late sixties would assure him a place in anyone’s rock & roll pantheon; those remarkable songs still serve as an articulate aural nightmare of men and women caught in the beauty and terror of sexual, street and drug paranoia, unwilling or unable to move. The message is that urban life is tough stuff—it will kill you; Reed, the poet of destruction, knows it but never looks away and somehow finds holiness as well as perversity in both his sinners and his quest. . . . [H]e is still one of a handful of American artists capable of the spiritual home run.”

Alex Levinsky, The First Hockey Player from Syracuse

When people think of hockey players from Syracuse (and the surrounding area) many bring up Tim Connoly (Baldwinsville) or Jimmy Howard (Syracuse). However, few will remember Alex Levinsky who was not only the first hockey player born in Syracuse, but the first Jewish hockey player in the National Hockey League (NHL) from the United States. Canadian Jewish players Sam Rothchild and Joe Ironstone both played in the NHL in 1924-1925, though  Ironstone didn’t see action during his time with the Ottawa Senators (1917).

96349-9977758FrBorn in 1910, Alex “Mine Boy” Levinsky played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks, winning Stanley Cups with the Leafs (1932) and Blackhawks (1938). The nickname “Mine Boy” came from his parents, who would attend their son’s games and shout “That’s mine boy.”

The Levinsky family moved to Toronto early in Alex’s life. He began to attract attention as a hockey player in the late 1920s when Levinsky was playing for the Toronto Marlboros. Conn Smythe (for which the trophy is named after for NHL Playoff MVP) had signed him right from the Toronto Marlies junior team for the 1930-31 season. Levinsky would help lead the Leafs to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 1932.

The Leafs moved Levinsky to the Rangers for the 1934-35 campaign, but after just 20 games in New York, Levinsky was moved to Chicago. He would play the next five years with the Hawks, winning his second Cup in 1938.

Alex Levinsky and Art Weibe of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1935, photo by the Associated Press Nov. 7.

Alex Levinsky and Art Weibe of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1935, photo by the Associated Press Nov. 7.

He would later be suspended by the team as the Blackhawks traded Levinsky, the oldest player on their blue line at the time, down to the minors for Joe Cooper of the Philadelphia Ramblers. Levinsky, who didn’t want to play in the minors, decided he wouldn’t accept the move to Philadelphia and was suspended. He eventually reported to Philadelphia, but only after Lester Patrick of New York Rangers assured him he would soon return to the NHL with the Rangers, which never ended up happening. He would end is professional career in Philadelphia, playing there for two years and serving as team captain.

During his time with Philadelphia, it’s possible he would have played at least a handful of games against the Syracuse Stars, who played their games at the New York State Fairground Coliseum throughout the 1930s. Both teams played in the then International-American Hockey League.

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In 367 NHL games Levinsky scored 19 goals and 49 assists for 68 career points. He added another 2 goals and 1 assist in 37 playoff games.

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The Syracuse Firebirds: Syracuse Hockey History, Part I

As the Syracuse Crunch continue to power through their 21st season, OHA decided to take a look back at some lesser known hockey teams that many may have forgotten about that played in this city years before the Crunch. Teams include the Syracuse Stars, Warriors, Blazers, Firebirds, Eagles, and the St. Louis/Syracuse Braves.

During the middle of the 20th century, hockey leagues in the United States were born seemingly every few years and folded just as quickly. This meant new teams were created, sometimes two in the same city playing in different leagues, or moved often, depending on the success of the team on the ice and the owner’s wallet. These leagues would compete against one another, not on the ice, but for shares of the hockey market until eventually, leagues like the World Hockey Association (WHA), the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), the North American Hockey League (NAHL, pro), and a host of others folded, paving the way for the American Hockey League and National Hockey League as major stake holders in North American hockey, though there are other minor-pro leagues who, even now, are having trouble staying afloat.

Today, we focus on the short lived Syracuse Firebirds.

The 1976-77 Philadelphia Firebirds before moving to Syracuse.

The 1976-77 Philadelphia Firebirds before moving to Syracuse.

The ‪#‎Syracuse‬ Firebirds only played one year in the American Hockey League (1979-1980), which happened to be the last year the franchise would play before folding after moving from Philadelphia the year before. The team played in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) out of Philadelphia until 1977 and, when the NAHL folded, the team joined the American Hockey League (AHL). When the Firebirds left Philadelphia for Syracuse it was one season after the Syracuse Blazers ceased operations.

Dale Tallon for the Syracuse Firebirds

Dale Tallon for the Syracuse Firebirds

In 80 games during the 1979-1980 season, the Firebirds went 31-42-7 and lost to the Hershey Bears in the first round of the playoffs. During that year, Dale Tallon, currently the General Manager of the The Florida Panthers and one time G.M. of the Chicago Blackhawks, laced up the skates for six games in Syracuse. He also played 32 games in the National Hockey League for the Pittsburgh Penguins that year, the last of his 10 year NHL career.

 

 

Ron Low as a member of the Washington Capitals in the mid 1970s.

Ron Low as a member of the Washington Capitals in the mid 1970s.

Ron Low, known mostly for his coaching career, also played for the Syracuse Firebirds. Low, a goalie, went 5-9-1 with a 4.64 goals against average and a .877 save percentage over 15 games played. He played in 382 NHL games, winning 102.

As an assistant coach, he won a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1987 and 1990. He was head coach of the Oilers from 1994-1999 as well as the New York Rangers 2000-2002, followed by a stint with the Ottawa Senators as a scout and goalie coach from 2004-2006 and a brief appearance as assistant coach in 2007.

 

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Myer’s Medals: The Story of Syracuse University’s Most Decorated Olympian

1906_prinstein_jumpsOn this, the second night of Hanukkah, OHA is reminded of Syracuse’s Myer Prinstein, the most decorated Olympian in our region’s history.  Myer won four gold medals, and was “robbed” of another gold in a controversial incident that forced him to settle for silver, resulting in a five-medal Olympic hardware collection from a career spanning three Olympic games. In the process, he set one Olympic record that stood for 80 years and two Olympic records that have still not been broken.

Myer was the fourth of nine children in a family of Polish-Russian Jewish immigrants, who came to Syracuse in 1883 when Myer was five years old. They settled into a home at 724 Orange Street (now McBride St.) in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of the 7th Ward (later known as the 15th Ward) on the east side of downtown. The city directory of the time lists his father Jacob’s occupation as grocer and baker, and records show that the family regularly attended religious services at the Society of Concord synagogue.

In the late 1800’s, Syracuse was fast becoming a major powerhouse among the cities of New York State. The tight-knit Jewish community members of the 7th Ward supported each other as many became leading citizens, distinguishing themselves at everything from furniture making to foundries and from retail to real estate. The neighborhood residents provided the financial backing and much of the expertise that helped the young Shubert brothers build the largest theatrical empire our world has ever known. There is no doubt that these same people also supported Myer as he distinguished himself with his athletic, and academic, abilities and accomplishments.

Myer began competing in track and field while he attended the public Syracuse High School, which later became Central High, and he was a member of the local YMCA team until he enrolled at Syracuse University in 1897 to study law. At S.U. he was the captain of the track team, where he excelled at the long jump and the triple jump (known then, respectively, as the broad jump and the hop, step and jump). He also represented the team in the pole vault, the high jump, and the 60, 100, and 400-meter running events.  Actually, to say that he excelled at jumping is a major understatement.  Though he stood less than 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed only 145 pounds, Myer was a giant among jumpers.

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In 1896, Myer won the first of many national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) long-jump titles and, as a Syracuse University freshman, he set his first American and Intercollegiate (today’s equivalent of the NCAA) records with a long jump of 23 feet 8 inches. Just three months later, at nineteen years old, he captured his first world record with a long jump measured at 23 feet 8 7/8 inches during the New York Athletic Club Games.

Prinstein’s arch-rival was Alvin Kraenzlein, from the University of Pennsylvania, and the two jumpers went head-to-head, trading titles throughout their college careers.  Kraenzlein set a new long jump world record in 1899 of 24 feet 4 ½ inches but, in Philadelphia on April 28, 1900, as the New York Times reported, “Prinstein… the versatile Syracuse athlete won the world’s, American, and Intercollegiate championships from A.C. Kraenzlein of Pennsylvania, by one magnificent leap” measuring in at 24 feet 7 ¼ inches. This new record put Myer in good stead as both he and Kraenzlein headed to Paris that summer for a showdown at the 1900 Olympic games.
The track and field events were to take place at the beautiful Racing Club de Paris. The final for Myer’s first event, the long jump, was scheduled for a Sunday, which posed a problem for Prinstein.  As a strict Methodist-affiliated private school, Syracuse University did not allow its athletes to compete on Sundays, the Christian sabbath. Though Prinstein was Jewish and was officially competing for America, S.U. was his sponsor and it forbade him from competing in the long jump final on Sunday. At the time, however, Olympic rules allowed the results of qualifying rounds, which were held on Saturday that year, to count in the finals. As the top medal candidates in the long jump were all American, the team, including the Christian Kraenzlein, agreed in solidarity to refrain from competing on Sunday and vowed to treat Saturday’s qualifying round as the final. By the close of competition on Saturday, Myer was in the top spot with a new Olympic record jump of 23 feet 6 ½ inches.

On that Sunday, while attending religious services with the American team, Myer was unaware of the fact that a few of his teammates were inconspicuously absent from those services.  Among those missing was Alvin Kraenzlein. He was at the Racing Club de Paris, breaking his vow in the long jump final, where he was treated to six uncontested jumps, ultimately beating Prinstein’s qualifying mark by only one centimeter and setting a new Olympic record. Kraenzlein received the gold medal and a punch in the nose from Prinstein, who was reportedly held back by teammates before he could inflict any further damage. Kraenzlein’s tarnished victory brought his total individual shiny gold medal count, in those games, to four – an Olympic track and field record for one edition of the games that has been equaled but never beaten. Silver medalist Myer challenged Alvin to an on-the-spot rematch jump but Kraenzlein refused and promptly announced his retirement from the sport.

Myer_P-1904In the triple jump on the following day, Prinstein, perhaps fueled by angry adrenaline, captured his first gold medal, and the first for any Jewish Polish-American. In the process, he set a new Olympic record, beating teammate Connolly’s previous historic Olympic record jump by a whopping 5 ¾ inches. Prinstein returned to Syracuse University where, before graduating with a law degree in 1902, he set a new University long jump record that lasted 88 years.

Upon graduation, Myer practiced law in Syracuse before moving to Jamaica, Queens, outside of New York City, where his athletic pursuits were sponsored by the Irish American Athletic Association (IAAC). In 1904, the 25 year-old Prinstein headed to the St. Louis Olympics, again scheduled to coincide with the World’s Fair being held simultaneously in that city to celebrate the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase. In St. Louis, Prinstein proved he was at his peak by winning gold in the triple jump and the long jump on the same day. His “sweet revenge” long jump performance not only topped Kraenzlein’s record jump from 1900, it set a new Olympic record of 24 feet 1 inch that lasted for 80 years until it was finally broken by American Al Joyner in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  Myer’s amazing feats in the 1904 Olympics have kept him in the record books to the current day as the only athlete ever to win both events in the same Olympics and the only athlete to win both events in the same day. He also came in fifth in the 60 and 400-meter dashes. Returning to New York, Myer added a stationery business and a real estate company to his successful law practice while continuing to compete for the IAAC.

In 1906, the International Olympic Committee decided to stage an “interim” Olympic games in Athens. Eventually, these games were declared “unofficial” due to the fact that they did not adhere to the four-year competition cycle.  Myer was, again, on the American team roster and was, again, slated to compete and defend his Olympic titles in both jumping events. The long jump competition pitted Prinstein against the world record holder, Peter O’Connor, an Irishman competing for England. In a stunning victory, Myer won gold again, with a jump of 23 feet 7 ½ inches, beating silver medalist O’Connor by a comfortable margin. Plagued by an injury, Prinstein did not medal in the triple jump.

The local Jewish community was certainly proud of Myer and a review of the minutes of the March 13, 1912 Trustee meeting of the Society of Concord shows that a seat in the honored “first part of the Temple” was temporarily “reserved for M. Prinstein” while Myer was in town to visit his family.

Ending his Olympic career with an impressive four gold medals and one silver medal, Myer Prinstein is still, over 106 years later, the most decorated Olympic athlete from central New York. Unfortunately, he is also perhaps the most forgotten and unheralded American Olympian in our history. Even as early as 1908, though generally considered at the time as “the greatest jumper the world has ever seen,” a Syracuse newspaper column lamented the fact that Prinstein was not properly recognized for his amazing athletic accomplishments.

Myer Prinstein died of a heart ailment at only 46 years of age, leaving his widow, Henrietta, and a young son, Elsner, to survive him. He was buried in the Union Field Cemetery in Queens on March 10, 1925. For most of the next 75 years, however, Myer did not really reappear much in

American print and was, strangely, omitted from many historical Olympic reviews, including those published in our local press. In 1939, to commemorate its 100th anniversary, the Syracuse Herald-Journal published a special 14-page sports history section that omitted any mention of quadruple gold medalist Prinstein and erroneously named 1912 400-meter winner Charles Reidpath as Syracuse’s first gold medal recipient. This omission was repeated as late as 1972 in the Herald-Journal, which reviewed previous medalists in an article on the impending Olympics of that year. In Israel, he was posthumously inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. In 2000, he became a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, and in 2008 he was finally inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.

Myer Prinstein is worth remembering. He was the real deal, an Olympic hero for the ages, a role model worth emulating, and a great part of our local, and national, history of which we can all be very proud.

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Today in History: Charles Dickens and Syracuse


Wieting Hall interior 1856-1881_171 Years Ago:
On December 17th 1843, Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol was published. Dickens visited Syracuse in 1868 to give a reading of A Christmas Carol and The Pickwick Papers at Wieting Hall (photographed below). After having seen places like Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and London, he wrote that Syracuse was, “The most wonderful, out-of-the-world place, which looks like it had begun to be built yesterday and were going to be imperfectly knocked together with a nail or two the day after tomorrow.” Dickens also noted that the 40-year old Syracuse House where he lodged was, “surprisingly bad” and commented sarcastically on its cuisine: “We had an old buffalo for supper and an old pig for breakfast and I don’t know what for dinner at six.” It was reported that he was not feeling well at the time, but expressed an interest in seeing the city’s extensive salt works, no doubt Syracuse’s most famous landmarks in those years.
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Happy Hanukkah: The History of Syracuse’s Jewish Community

The Jewish Community in the 15th Ward

Jewish Community

From the mid-1800’s through the 1950’s, the 15th ward was the main Jewish hub
of the city of Syracuse. The area was both residential and commercial and generally considered to be safe enough for children to roam freely. Residents were within walking distance to schools, family, friends, places to play, stores, and religious and community
centers. Almond Street was the center of the community and originally home to the
Jewish Community Center. There was a large sense of community within the 15th Ward and many families returned there to do their shopping and visit old friends even after moving to other parts of the city. The Jewish religion was a central focus of everything from home life to schools and shops, even though there were small populations of African
Americans, Germans, Italians, and other immigrants living there at the time.

Sinatra Sings the Songs of Van Heusen& Cahn

Today in History: Frank Sinatra’s Birthday and His Syracuse Connection

Frank Sinatra (left) and Jimmy Van Heusen looking at music together, 1950s.

Frank Sinatra (left) and Jimmy Van Heusen looking at music together, 1950s.

Today in 1915, Frank Sinatra, Old Blues Eyes, the Sultan of Swoon, was born. He would go on to be one of the most important artists in the 20th century and even play the War Memorial in Syracuse in the 1970s. But, did you know that  Jimmy Van Heusen, a Syracuse native, wrote around 40 top hits for Sinatra

You can listen to some of those hit songs in the playlist below.

 

 

 So, who was Jimmy Van Heusen?

Jimmy Van HeusenBorn Edward Chester Babcock on January 26, 1913,  Jimmy attended several local area schools before being expelled for misbehavior of some sort or another.  Music was his first true love but his father didn’t approve, so Chester chose a stage name from a shirt collar advertisement and, at age 16, he began a radio career at local stations WSYR and WFBL as Jimmy Van Heusen (though his closest friends would always continue to call him Chester).  On those shows, he would often play the piano and write songs on the spot for listeners who phoned in a subject.

He also attended Syracuse University for a time but left for New York City in 1933 when he and his neighbor, Jerry Arlen (brother of Harold “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Arlan), picked up Harold’s gig at the Cotton Club when Harold was called to Hollywood to write songs for the movies. While in New York City, Jimmy landed a songwriting contract for the music publisher, Remick Music Corp., which brought him into contact with Hoboken, New Jersey native, Frank Sinatra.  Their mutual love of women, music, and late night revelry created an intensely close friendship that lasted 50 years.

Beautiful music is only one part of a great song and, throughout his career, Jimmy worked with some of the best lyricists of all time, including Eddie de Lange, Johnny Burke, and Sammy Cahn. Though Jimmy eventually became famous for his music, his first hit came, surprisingly enough, as a lyricist in 1938 for a tune by Jimmy Dorsey called “It’s the Dreamer in Me”.  In early 1940, he teamed with lyricist Burke to write the music for “Imagination”, his first big hit for Sinatra, who recorded it with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.  Another of the 60 songs he wrote that same year was a follow-up chart topper for Sinatra and Dorsey called “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”.  The team of Burke and Van Heuesen was so prolific, and so successful, they became known as the “Gold Dust Twins”.

It wasn’t long before Sinatra made his move to the movies and, together, he and Jimmy made Hollywood their personal playground.  Jimmy shared an apartment in the Wilshire Towers with Sinatra’s conductor-arranger, Axel Stordahl, that became ground zero for some of the wildest parties of the Hollywood hey-day era.  Jimmy and Frank cut a wide swath through the starlets who populated the streets of Tinseltown throughout the 1940’s and 50’s.

Jimmy was one of the original hardcore, though low profile, “Rat Pack” members.  Frank and Jimmy were best buddies and, uncharacteristically, there was no competition between them, even for the ladies they both loved so much.  Jimmy didn’t have Frank’s good looks and fame, but he had more than Frank’s share of personal magnetism and swagger, which resonated with women.  The famous actress and beauty, Angie Dickinson, who alternately dated both men noted that many people “always said that Frank really wanted to be Jimmy”.  Van Heusen once said “I dig chicks, booze, music, and Frank Sinatra…in that order”.  He was funny, bawdy, and talented and was the life, and often the instigator, of those famous parties.  Everybody loved Jimmy, and Jimmy loved a lot of those bodies back.