Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Billy Harrell Dies, Was Best To Ever Play at Siena

Billy Harrell never played in a MAAC game, but he was an athletic legend in New York's Capital Region, in no small part because of his playing days at Siena College.

In fact, he was an exceptional two-sport athlete starting in the 1940's and beyond. He has been universally acknowledged as the greatest basketball player to wear a Siena uniform and, then, went on to a 15-year baseball career.

Most of his baseball days were in the minor leagues, but he spent parts of four seasons in the majors, including some time with the Boston Red Sox in 1961 as a teammate of a rookie named Carl Yastrzemski.

Harrell, 85, died Tuesday morning.

A long-time resident of Troy, N.Y., he was inducted this past March to the MAAC's Basketball Hall of Fame's Honor Roll, an honor recognizing not only outstanding athletic achievement but success in life beyond college.

While at Siena his teams had a 70-19 record. He led the 1949-50 team to the very prestigious National Catholic Invitational Tournament championship, the program's only national post-season tournament title before this year's CBI event, for which Harrell was in attendance.

In that year he averaged 12.1 rebounds per game, a single-season school record that stood for 60 years. Not bad for a player who stood all of 6-foot-1.

Those who don't live in upstate New York might not recognize his name. After all, his college playing days were more than 60 years ago and his time at baseball's major-league level was relatively limited.

But those familiar with Harrell know he is the best athlete ever produced in New York's Capital Region.

Your scribe wrote a column about Harrell that appeared in today's Troy Record Newspaper.

Here it is:

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