This is the ninth in a series of stories profiling the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
By Owen O’Brien
News Sports Reporter
Ted Williams wasn’t the only talented baseball player serving in the Navy in 1944.
George Daddario, 19 years old in 1943, was hitting .337 for the Hagerstown Owls – a part of the Detroit Tigers organization – when he started a 30-month stretch in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The Buffalo native graduated from Kensington High School with 11 varsity letters and was named All-City for baseball three times and football once. Kensington High School was on Suffolk Street from 1933 to 2003.
Daddario will be one of four Buffalo standouts to be enshrined in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame posthumously as members of the Pride of Western New York on Nov. 4. Jim Konstanty, David Koch and Larry Wilson will join him.
After Daddario returned to the States, he played seven years of minor league baseball and had a lifetime batting average of .303.
Daddario had a knack for getting people to the ballpark. Following his playing career, Daddario became the director of public relations and promotions for the Buffalo Bisons. In 1958, the Bisons led the minor leagues in attendance, despite having only the seventh-best record in the eight-team International League. The following season, the Bisons drew a minor league record of 413,000 people.
His talents transitioned to the hardwood when he served as director of public relations and later the vice president for sales and marketing for the Buffalo Braves, the city’s NBA team from 1970-78. Daddario oversaw a 72 percent increase in attendance for the Braves. He died in 2007 at 84.
Here’s a question for sports trivia buffs: Who’s the only relief pitcher to win a National League MVP award?
If you said Rollie Fingers, I’m sorry, he only won an American League MVP from the bullpen. If you said Jim Konstanty, congratulations, you either really know your baseball or your Buffalo history. If you said Casimir Konstanty, then there may not be a piece of trivia you don’t know.
Casimir James Konstanty, better known as Jim, won the National League MVP in 1950 for the Philadelphia Phillies. As the statistics show, even nowadays it’s near impossible for a reliever to win an MVP. And back in 1950, 40 percent of starting pitchers threw a complete game. In 2014, 2.4 percent of pitchers went the distance.
Relievers weren’t really used in 1950. But Konstanty was. The right-hander from Strykersville appeared in 74 games (a major league record at the time), went 16-7 with 22 saves in 152 innings in 1950. With the prevalence of complete games in 1950, Konstanty’s 152 innings was just 34th in the National League and 65th in the majors. Konstanty helped lead the Phillies to the 1950 World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees.
After his 11-year career in which he went 66-48 with 74 saves, Konstanty opened a sporting goods store in Oneonta and served as athletics director at Hartwick College. He died in Oneonta at age 59.
If there’s a New Era hat in your closet, David Koch is a major reason why. Koch, who began working for New Era at 22 by hand-stitching wool baseball caps, became CEO of the company in 1972.
Koch’s grandfather, Ehrhardt Koch, may have founded New Era in its first building on Genesee Street in Buffalo, but David Koch grew the company into the giant it is today. Even with the expansions, Koch kept the main building in Buffalo.
Some Major League Baseball teams had been wearing New Era caps since the 1930s, but the hats weren’t available to the public when Koch took over in 1972. Seven years later, New Era began selling hats to the public with the use of a mail-order ad in the Sporting News. Under Koch’s leadership, every major and minor league baseball team donned a New Era cap.
Before Koch was making and supplying hats for athletes, he was an athlete himself. Koch, also from Kensington High School, was a pole vaulter and member of the swim team. He went on to swim for Colgate and the then-University of Buffalo. Koch died from cancer in 2002 at 66.
Take a minute to look up the Buffalo Bisons AHL all-time regular season hockey statistics. There’s one name at the top of all the categories. Except penalty minutes. He’s third in that.
Larry Wilson played 13 years for the Bisons and leads the franchise with 784 games, 267 goals, 429 assists and 696 points spanning from 1955-1968.
Before coming to the Bisons, Wilson won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 1950. He later brought Buffalo a championship of its own, as the team won the Calder Cup in 1963. Wilson was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2011. He died in 1979.
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Wednesday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.