Fordham University has a rich baseball tradition, dating back to 1859 when the “Rose Hills” took on St. Francis Xavier in the first college baseball game with nine men on a side. On April 20, the Fordham University recognized eight who are responsible for some of those traditions with a pregame plaque ceremony.
The eight, Esteban “Steve” Bellán, Jack Coffey, Frankie Frisch, Dan Gallagher, John Kieran, Walter O’Malley, Vin Scully, and Ed Walsh, were each honored with a special plaque that will be displayed at Houlihan Park at Jack Coffey Field.
Bellán was the first Cuban and the first Latin American to play major league baseball, a game he learned as a student at Fordham (then St. John’s).
Jack Coffey was associated with Fordham in some capacity for 61 of his 78 years. As head baseball coach, he helped the Rams become a national sports powerhouse, winning five Eastern Collegiate Conference championships and 14 Metropolitan Conference titles along with a school record 1,095 wins.
Kieran, a member of the Fordham baseball team as an undergraduate, became one of the country’s best known sports columnists and was the recipient of the 1973 J.G. Taylor Spink Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony.
Vin Scully was a member of the Fordham baseball team as an undergraduate and began his career as a broadcaster at WFUV. He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ radio and television booths shortly after graduation and has been with the franchise ever since.
Ed Walsh had a brief though remarkable major league career following his stint at Fordham. He averaged 24 victories, 220 strikeouts and posted an ERA below 2.00 five times.
A 1930 Fordham University Law School graduate, Walter O’Malley owned the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1950 to 1979. He served as the Dodgers’ chief legal counsel when Jackie Robinson broke the racial color barrier in 1947.
Dan Gallagher served as head baseball coach for 21 years, amassing 518 career wins, second only to Coffey on the school’s all-time win list. Gallagher received the Fordham Coach of the Year Award three times in his tenure.
Frankie Frisch, the “Fordham Flash,” excelled in football and baseball at Rose Hill, pacing the 1919 baseball team to the Eastern Championship and a number two national ranking. He played major league baseball for 19 years, before being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was made possible by the support of Jim Houlihan, GSB ’74, former baseball Ram and the namesake of Houlihan Park.
— Joe Dibari