2016-06-22 / Star Journal

The Sporting Life Comes To Queens In Summer Of 1923

BY DAN MCDONALD

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal

Welcome to June 1923!

June 1923 was a memorable month for sports in New York City. Johnny Most, the beloved, raspy voice of the Boston Celtics for 37 years and grandson of 19th century anarchist Johann Most, was born on June 15th. Up at the Polo Grounds, spectators packed the stands as French boxer Eugéne Criqui knocked out his American opponent to win the World Featherweight Title in six rounds. Yankees slugger Babe Ruth was among those in attendance. That month also saw the debut of another Yankees great, as local favorite and Columbia University star Lou Gehrig made his first appearance for The Pinstripers against the St. Louis Browns.

Out in Queens, meanwhile, some were not content with life as a spectator sport. The fresh air and gentle summer breezes simply weren’t enough for one intrepid man atop a hill at the Belleclaire Golf Club in Bayside. Easing himself into an early glider designed by H.J. Nordman of Flushing, Arthur Heinrich of Baldwin, Long Island was catapulted into the skies above Queens one June morning, skillfully manipulating the controls of the sailplane and taking advantage of upward air currents in the successful flight above the golf course. (The Belleclaire Golf Club was sold in 1936 for the development of the Bayside Hills neighborhood.)

That month, one Queens boy returned home after an adventure of a much different sort. The previous July, Owen Allen of Elmhurst ran away from home on his 15th birthday out of jealousy toward his younger sister. After penning a note, which read, “Ma, I am going away till Hope is 12 years old. Forgive and forget me and don’t try to find me,” the footloose boy traveled to Asia, Africa and other places working as a cabin boy on a merchant ship. When his stunned mother asked where he had been, he simply waved a hand in all four directions of the compass and replied “all over the world.” Young Owen’s father was not present for the joyful reunion, as he succumbed to pneumonia shortly after his son set out on his journey.

Others, however, did not wish to stray far from home and were happy to enjoy the simple pleasures of a summer in Queens long ago. Local baseball fans were in for a special treat that month as slugger Maggie Riley, known as “The Female Babe Ruth,” arrived in town with her male “Devil Dogs” team to take on the local nine at the old Steinway Field. Little remains in the historical record of Maggie Riley and the barnstorming Devil Dogs. The site of Steinway Field, near the intersection of Steinway Street and 19th Avenue, is now an industrial park.

Mrs. James S. Walker of the Winfield section of Queens received quite a valuable treat that June when a piece of cake from the wedding of the Duke of York to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon arrived at her New York home. Mrs. Walker was well acquainted with the new Duchess of York through family connections growing up in Scotland, and the wedding was the third royal matrimony attended by her parents back home in the British Isles. While the Duke of York became King George VI thirteen years later, there is no word on the condition of the wedding cake following its transatlantic journey, nor of its ultimate fate.

That’s the way it was in June 1923!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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