A 13-member committee headed by Jim Nicoletti, who perhaps is best known for the championship baseball teams he coached here between 1985 and ’95, is seeking nominations for an East Hampton High School Hall of Fame.
“We’ve talked about this for years,” the retired coach, and 1969 East Hampton High School graduate, said during a conversation last week with this writer and the district’s athletic director, Joe Vas. “You walk into our gym and you see all the banners on the wall, three deep, and you can’t help but be impressed by all the athletic history. . . . There are dozens of athletes and teams worthy of recognition. Our goal is to get the nominations in by March 30, to announce the first class at the athletic awards dinner on June 6, and to have an induction ceremony at homecoming in the fall.”
“That’s our goal,” said Vas, “but if we’re flooded, we may have to alter our timeline — we want to be as fair as we can be.”
Bonac’s almost 90-year athletic span dates to 1923, the year of East Hampton’s first football team, which was coached by Robert (Pop) Cheney, a Syracuse graduate who taught science here.
Besides Nicoletti and Vas, the committee that is to decide on the eligibility of the Hall of Fame nominees comprises Ed Bahns (vice president), Ellen Cooper (vice president), Kathy McGeehan (secretary), Dick Cooney, Mike Burns, Bill Herzog, Erin Bock Abran, Hugh King, Sandy Vorpahl, Fred Yardley, and the high school’s principal, Adam Fine. The committee’s (non-voting) historical advisers are Norton (Bucket) Daniels, Steve Marley, Fritz Schenck, Bob Budd, Dave Cheney, and Liz Granitz.
Cooney and Burns were athletic directors and coaches here, turning out championship teams in football and track, and Budd, likewise, has been associated with the football program for a long time, 58 years by his reckoning. Herzog has coached numerous championship East Hampton track teams as well.
Cooper, a retiree known for her field hockey teams, and McGeehan, known for her volleyball and gymnastics teams, have presided over the stunning growth here in female athletics since the late 1970s, and Erin Bock Abran, a product of that insurgence — girls teams here have for a while now fared better vis-a-vis their peers than boys teams — now assists Lou Reale in overseeing East Hampton’s strong softball program.
Yardley, Cheney, and Schenck played on, and Marley managed, the school’s only undefeated, untied football team, the Little Six Conference champions of 1952. Daniels, a former town official who lives in Florida, has written extensively on East Hampton history, including the early football teams.
“Beginning this week,” said Nicoletti, “people will be able to pick up nomination forms at all the schools and in all the libraries, and at the Y.”
The forms can either be mailed to Jim Nicoletti, c/o E.H.H.S. Athletics, East Hampton High School, 2 Long Lane, East Hampton, N.Y. 11937, or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nominating deadline, as aforesaid, is March 30.
There are four nomination categories — athlete (who has been out of the high school for at least 10 years), retired coach and/or athletic administrator, team (with Long Island or New York State recognition), and honorary (a category for those who have made outstanding contributions to East Hampton High School athletes and programs).
“Someone only has to be nominated once to be considered by the committee,” Nicoletti said in reply to a question. “Forms recommending nominees who haven’t met the 10-year criterion will be kept on file.”
“We want people to realize that this is going to be a process; it will take several years to get everybody in who deserves to be taken in,” said Vas, who added, “this is a great committee; it’s been meeting since the summer, and now it’s ready to reach out to the community. . . . We’re not going to get everyone all at once. It will be an ongoing process.”
“Though, arguably,” said Nicoletti, “this inaugural class will be the largest.”
Committee members’ terms, he and Vas added, have been staggered from one to three years in order to keep it vital, and, because of the 10-year requirement for nominees, “every year,” said Nicoletti, “there will be new people eligible. . . . The idea is that this process of nominations, committee review, and annual Hall of Fame inductions will never end.”
The Hall of Fame’s underlying “philosophy,” they said, has been summed up thus: “The East Hampton Union Free School District has proved over the years to be a school district that has a rich tradition and long history of success in its athletic programs. The program’s goal is to provide our athletes an environment that focuses on sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, dedication, teamwork, self-discipline, and commitment.”
“The East Hampton High School Hall of Fame recognizes those individuals and teams who have made outstanding contributions to the athletic programs at East Hampton High School and beyond, through their participation as athletes, coaches, and administrators.”