Randy Anderson opened the door of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame last week, just ahead of a man who looked vaguely familiar.
''Can I look around?'' the man asked.
Anderson, the organization's president and arguably its most vocal ambassador, was more than happy to give the visitor a tour of the West Third Street facility.
Since 1982, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame has inducted 139 members, whose plaques hang in its headquarters on West Third Street in Jamestown.
P-J?photo by Scott Kindberg
Among the items most noticeable upon entering the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame are the collection of signed jerseys, including inductees Shane Conlan (No. 58) and Jim McCusker (No. 75), above. Below are pieces of memorabilia belonging to Hall-of-Famer and former St. Bonaventure University basketball star Leo Corkery that were recently donated by Marlene Corkery.
P-J?photos by Scott Kindberg
''We had the greatest conversation,'' Anderson said. ''He came to town for his high school reunion and someone must have mentioned the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame and he came downtown to see it.''
Anderson said the man - Tim McIntyre (Jamestown High School Class of 1982) - was eventually drawn to a bulletin board that had newspaper articles tacked to it. One that he especially enjoyed was a story and photograph of Jamestown High School's Tommy Campion, who was the 2011-12 Post-Journal Player of the Year.
McIntyre's interest was understandable, because his association with the Campions dates back to his Red Raider basketball days when he was a teammate of Tommy's father, Jim.
Pretty soon, McIntyre, who lives in Massachusetts, was finding more familiar names on the inductee wall - men like Ron Graham, Wally Huckno and Bill Rollinger.
''He came in and suddenly he has a connection and then he starts retelling his sports history,'' Anderson said.
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The first meeting of the Jamestown Area Sports Museum Committee was called to order at 10 a.m., Dec. 6, 1980 at the Fenton Mansion in Jamestown.
In attendance were Russell E. Diethrick Jr., Leo Squinn, Komo Tane, George Mathews, Jim Riggs, John Franco, Vic Larson, Tony Milioto, Bob Illig and B. Delores Thompson. Eventually, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame was formed and its first induction banquet was held in February 1982. Thirty banquets have followed since and 139 inductee plaques hang on the walls at the 3,500-square-foot facility between Main and Cherry streets.
''Personally, I'm most proud of our inductees,'' said Anderson, who is part of a 30-member board of directors. ''That is the reason, in my mind, that we exist. When someone comes in and asks for a tour, I always start with the inductees. Basically, the rest of the hall is a collection of the sports history of Chautauqua County.''
From auto racing to wrestling, the CSHOF has memorabilia lining its walls and filling several display cases. And since doubling its size 10 months ago - it is now renting additional space from Covenant Manor - the Hall is a far more spacious and eye-pleasing venue.
''The thing that people first notice when they come into the Hall is our collection of signed jerseys,'' Anderson said. ''That's a big 'wow' factor with all those superstars on display. But then as they get away from that and they start looking at the memorabilia of our inductees and - this happens more often than you think - they'll walk around and say, 'I know that guy, he lived near me,' or 'he was a friend of my grandfather.' Inevitably, people who visit the Hall find their own connection, something they'll connect within their own sporting history.''
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Sitting at a table near a display of recently donated Leo Corkery memorabilia - Corkery was star basketball player at St. Bonaventure University in the early 1950s - Anderson didn't hesitate when he was asked what has been the most important step the CSHOF has made in the last half-dozen years.
''It's our website,'' he said. ''The Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame is always going to exist (because of its on-line content) and that's what is important.''
Thanks to webmaster Doug Hoisington's efforts, the CSHOF site receives about 10,000 hits per year, Anderson said.
''If you were to Google anyone in our Hall of Fame - Bill Bergey, Shane Conlan, Jim McCusker - one of the first two or three searches that comes up is our site. As big a superstar as Shane was - he has a worldwide presence - you're going to come to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. I think that's awesome.''
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In early June, I received a Facebook message from friend and Jamestown native Ted Wyberanec. Now living in Florida, Wyberanec was planning to be in Jamestown for a long weekend because he had plans to play in the Italian-American Charity Golf Tournament at Holiday Valley. What he wanted to know specifically was when the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame would be open because he wanted to pay a visit.
You see, Ted Wyberanec Sr., was a 1990 inductee and Ted Jr. wanted to check out some of the baseball memorabilia that belonged to his dad. So when Ted Jr. arrived in his hometown, he spent time at the Hall and chatted with 2012 inductee Bob Schmitt, who was volunteering that afternoon.
On his Facebook status later that day, Wyberanec posted a photo and the following comment:
''This is my first time in the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame,'' he said. ''That's my Dad's plaque and photo. Pretty cool, huh?''
Another visitor, another connection made.