Jun 26, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With accomplishments that span the entire second half of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st century, the six newest inductees to the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame provide a wide variety of compelling stories.
Of them, none is newer than that of Mike Hart, the Onondaga High School and University of Michigan standout running back who, at age 28, is the youngest man ever selected for this honor.
Hart, along with golfer Teresa Cleland, basketball coach Phil Clancy, parochial basketball star Father Billy Jones, Syracuse football legend Ger Schwedes and long-time sportswriter Bob Snyder, make up the Class of 2014 that will be inducted at a dinner Oct. 20 at Drumlins Country Club.
After getting his football start with the Clay Panthers, Mike Hart turned into a local legend at Onondaga High School, where he ran for a state-record 11,045 yards and 204 touchdowns, leading the Tigers to a 46-1 record and three consecutive state championships.
Once at Michigan, Hart set a freshman record for rushing yards (1,455), was fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a junior (1,562 yards), and his career total of 5,040 yards for the Wolverines remains a school record. After a brief NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts (where he played in Super Bowl XLIV), Hart went into coaching and is currently the running backs coach at Western Michigan University.
Teresa Cleland did not take up golf until age 26, but when she did, Cleland quickly blossomed into the dominant female amateur golfer in Central New York. Four times, she won the Syracuse Women’s District Golf Association title, most recently in 2012, and she also just earned her fifth Post-Stanard Amateur title, all in the last 12 years.
Spreading her success to the state level, Cleland won back-to-back New York State Golf Association Senior Amateur titles in 2009-10 and three consecutive NYSGA Mid-Amateur titles. A five-time competitor in the USGA Mid-Amateur, Cleland just retired from 30 years of teaching physical education at Corcoran High School.
Though he is a 1952 graduate of Nottingham High School, Phil Gordon made his big impact a few miles down the road, at Chittenango, where he started teaching and coaching in 1958 right after graduation from Cortland State. Though he had stints coaching football and baseball, Gordon made his biggest impact coaching the basketball Bears.
In 36 seasons, Gordon’s Chittenango teams won 411 games, claiming eight Tri-Valley League and two Section III titles (in 1967 and ‘77) along the way. A six-time Tri-Valley Coach of the Year honoree, Gordon served for more than three decades on Section III’s basketball committee and has made an impact as a guest speaker at countless clinics and camps in the area, including 16 years at Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes’ All-Star Camp.
In the late 1950s, Father Billy Jones made his name on the hardwood in Syracuse’s Parochial League, leading St. John the Evangelist to two playoff titles in 1957 and ’58. Though heavily recruited by top college programs, Jones instead went north, to Ontario, to begin his seminary studies, but he also played at the University of Waterloo, breaking record and having his number 22 retired.
From there, it was onto seminary at St. Bonaventure University, in Olean, and eventually Jones was ordained as a priest in 1967. For nearly half a century, Jones has remained in the priesthood, and he serves to this day, working as the parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on East Onondaga Street.
For Ger Schwedes, born in Germany but raised in New Jersey, his path to athletic glory led him to Syracuse University and a spot in the backfield next to Ernie Davis on the great Orange teams of the late 1950s. He led SU in rushing in 1958, but then did even better a year later, scoring a then-record 16 touchdowns during the Orange’s run to a national championship.
It was Schwedes who threw the famous 87-yard touchdown pass to Davis in the 1960 Cotton Bowl, and he also scored the final touchdown in that famous 23-14 win. He was the first-ever pick of the AFL’s Boston Patriots, but soon after went into the Army and into business, where he became the CEO of EFY Enterprises. His son, Scott Schwedes, also played football at SU and spent four years in the NFL ranks.
If a big sports event happened in Central New York, Bob Snyder was there to record it. At SU, he watched Ernie Davis win a Heisman Trophy and, after a stint in the Army, came back to Syracuse in 1965 to begin a long and distinguished journalism career with the Herald-Journal and, later, the Post-Standard.
From covering SU and the Syracuse Chiefs to attending big sporting events (Olympics, Final Four, Masters, Ryder Cup) to writing for national magazines and authoring two books, Snyder has spent a half-century immersed in the Central New York sports scene. It even spread to television (17 years co-hosting an SU/Big East postgame show on Fox TV) and radio, where he was SU basketball color analyst for three years.