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Honoring those who earned it

Burt Beagle, a CUNY Legend, to be Honored by Baruch of January 31

Bronx, NY - Queens and Baruch colleges will honor one school sports program and one individual in the coming weeks, both equally deserving yet linked only through the sports pages of this and other newspapers.

Queens will pay homage to its women's basketball team, circa 1968 through 1981 - a time of "unprecedented success” for the Lady Knights — with a reunion Saturday on the Flushing campus.

Baruch, in a move long overdue, will host "Burt Beagle Day” Saturday, Jan. 31, during the basketball doubleheader against Hunter College. Beagle has worked an estimated 6,000 high school and college games over the past 35 years as a statistician.

The ladies first, of course.

The Queens College women's team has had its ups and downs in recent seasons, a long way from the "trailblazing” efforts of the team's predecessors from decades past. Long before the WNBA, the Queens College women's team garnered big-time media attention by "setting records and breaking ground for women's athletics across the nation,” the school said in a release.

The team during that period included 83 players, coaches and managers, many of whom will attend the event, scheduled for Saturday. Beginning at 4 p.m. in the Fitzgerald Gymnasium, the event will include the current Queens women's team's taking on C.W. Post, with a ceremony honoring "these trailblazers” during halftime. There will be a dinner reception following the game.

Reunion attendees are expected to include team coach Lucille Kyvallos, a member of the NYC Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as Gail Marquis, a member of the first Olympic Women's Basketball team. Marquis also is a 1976 silver medalist who went on to play pro basketball for the now-defunct Women's Professional Basketball League's New York Stars and New Jersey Gems.

Althea Gwyn, a 1977 World University Games silver medalist and NCAA All-American and former WBL star, is also expected to attend, as are former teammates Debbie Mason, Sharon Beverly and Donna Geils, who all played in the WBL.

"The reunion marks a culmination — an acknowledgment of this era,” Marquis said. "The years from 1968 through 1981 were not only the glory days for women's basketball at Queens College but also for New York.”

During the stretch, the team was the first to compete in a national tournament, ranked among the top 10 nationwide from 1972 through 1978 and finished second in the country in 1973. Two years later the Lady Knights became the first women's basketball team to ever play at Madison Square Garden.

The team is a perfect example of the benefits of Title IX, which was passed by the federal government in 1972 and was designed to give women equal footing on the playing field.

"We drew thousands of people to the college, which, in the history of women's basketball, was unheard of,” said Barbara Riccardi, who played for Queens from 1970 to 1974. "We were extremely successful and the media, including television and radio, were just starting to pay attention.”

It may seem impossible for some to relate to what it was like for women athletes even as little as 25 to 30 years ago, but that is only due to the efforts put forth by these pioneering women. This recognition seems long overdue.

The same can be said of Beagle, who in my time here as sports editor has been an invaluable resource, someone whose knowledge of current day high school and college athletics in the metropolitan area is eclipsed only by what he knows of the past.

Beagle can been seen at just about any big-time game you go to, and if you have attended some high school games in your life, you have probably seen him, though you would never know it.

He arrives at games usually via public transportation, lugging a briefcase full of papers. Inside are box scores and stat sheets from around the city, not to mention the statistics, displaying the incredible eye for detail only a man like Beagle can posses.

"Burt has been a friend, student, coach, sports information director, statistician and just about anything else asked of him here at Baruch,” said Ray Rankis, assistant athletic director and men's basketball coach. "He is a walking institution whose efforts not only have served our school very well but the many regional high schools and colleges over the years as a statistician for the respective events. He is a special person and we want to put on a special day for him on Jan. 31.”

Beagle started as Baruch's first-ever sports information director in 1968 and helped start the men's basketball team in 1970, for which he still acts as associate head coach. He holds the record for most consecutive basketball games worked at any collegiate level, the last 856 consecutive Baruch men's games (as of this writing), all the way back to Jan. 10, 1969. That's longer than I have been alive.

A retired accountant, Beagle is also the official statistician for the CUNYAC basketball tournament and the sports information director for the Catholic High School Athletic Association. He was inducted into the CHSAA Hall of Fame in 1995.

Beagle's day will consist of the Baruch women's game against Hunter at 1 p.m., followed by the annual alumni game at 3 p.m., a ceremony to honor Beagle estimated to start at 3:45 p.m. and finally with the men's game, also against Hunter.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.


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