Jamario Moon Remembered “The Dunk”

I keep an eye on my flickr photos – as a flickr member, I can check to see if any of the photos have been searched, where the searches came from, etc.

So when one of my old Albany Patroons photos was searched several times by a site called “realcavsfans.com,” I got curious.

Background.  From 2005 until 2008, I was the Patroons’ team photographer.  Despite the craziness that went on with the team during that time period, one of the Patroons’ brightest shining stars was forward Jamario Moon.  I first met Jamario during a practice session, when he was trying out for the team.  One of the Patroons already on the roster, Carl Mitchell, told me that he had played alongside Moon in the WBA, a Southern league owned by NBA player Theo Ratliff.  “You’re gonna like this guy, Chuck,” Carl said to me.  “He jumps like Vince Carter.”

He sure did.  In the 1 1/2 seasons he played for the Pats, Jamario Moon leaped into the hearts of fans throughout the Capital District.  He could swat the ball away with the greatest of ease (once had nine blocks in a game), his dunks were poetry in motion, and he had a perimeter game that equated him with the best players to ever wear the gold and kelly green.

And one of the first dunk shots I ever captured on film of Jamario Moon was during the 2005-06 season.  The Patroons were facing the Dakota Wizards, whose head coach at that time was Dave Bliss, the former head coach at Baylor during that team’s horrible scandal.

The game was a solid matchup – the Patroons were just starting to jell as a cohesive unit, while the Wizards were essentially in a rebuilding year.  I was still trying to get the hang of shooting without flash, and trying to get decent action shots inside the cavernous Armory.

At one point in the game… well, let’s let J-Moon tell it in his own words.  As reposted in realcavsfans.com:

When I was in the CBA. I had this teammate – T.J. Thompson. And we were on the fastbreak. (Actually it wasn’t even a fastbreak. It was more like a three-on-two.) We were playing this team, the Dakota Wizards.

And he threw the ball off the backboard. He didn’t even look back to see if I was coming. He just knew that if he got the ball and pushed it that I’m always behind him.

So he throws it off the backboard and this guy tries to jump with me. The dude is between my legs and I’m at the dots! And I threw it down on him. He was between my legs – like you remember when Vince Carter did that to that French dude? It was just like that. The dude was stuck between my legs and I threw down on him.

The coach called timeout and the whole place was going crazy. That’s the best dunk I’ve ever had in my life! And it was an and-1!

Our coach at the time – Micheal Ray Richardson – he called timeout to celebrate. That’s how crazy the dunk was. When you make your coach call timeout just to celebrate, that’s a serious dunk!

Another poster referred to the picture I took.  A third poster noted that it must have been a special night at the Armory, if all seven front rows were sold out.  Ho ho.  That’s a knee slapper.

Jamario Moon with a monster dunk.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Jamario Moon with a monster dunk. Photo by Chuck Miller.

But the strange thing about that photo – not that it was a great shot, because it was – but I took it with basically the barest of photo equipment.  At that time, I had a Nikon D70 and the kit lens that came with it.  I had the ISO cranked up to 1600, which is the highest you can achieve on a D70.  The f-stop was at f/3.8, which probably occurred when I zoomed in or zoomed out with the kit lens.  In other words, it wasn’t skill that got this photo – it was just pure dumb luck.

It would be the first of many Jamario Moon monster dunks I would snag during his time with the Patroons.  Now he’s in the big leagues, suiting up with LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal and the rest of the Cavaliers.

At the same time, I’m getting ready for the new Premier Basketball League season, and maybe one of my photos will capture the skill of a new Jamario Moon, on his way up to the big time.

I can hope.

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Robert Ripley Arrives in Albany: Believe It Or Not!

It had all the pomp and circumstance of an arriving dignitary on a ship of state.  On August 8, 1947, hundreds gathered at the Port of Albany, both on the shore and in the water.  Yachts from the Albany Yacht Club escorted the honored vessel under the Dunn Memorial Bridge.  A Navy LCVP, or “Higgins Boat,” along with a Navy K-67 blimp that was rechristened as the “Tydol Flying ‘A'”, accompanied the visiting ship to the Capital District as it docked.

This was no ordinary arrival.  The boat was the Chinese junk Mon Lei, purchased by its owner only a year earlier.  The owner – and guest of honor in the Capital District – was Robert Ripley, the famed oddities expert and author of the popular cartoon and radio show Believe It Or Not!.  And thanks to a personal invitation by the Times-Union’s publisher, Fred Archibald, Ripley was visiting the Capital District for the weekend.

The TU promoted the event for days, with big articles about the arrival of the legendary world traveler.  A student at the College of Saint Rose, Ellen Chan, was featured in the Times-Union as one of the guests to greet Ripley upon his arrival; Chan, attending Saint Rose as part of a scholarship program, previously attended the University of Hong Kong, where her father operated an import-export business; Chan would be the first, along with local Cantonese restaurateur James T. Moy, to welcome Ripley to the Albany shore.  In another article, actor Bela Lugosi, who was at that time performing in Saratoga Springs as part of the Spa Summer Theatre’s revival of Arsenic and Old Lace, hoped to also meet Ripley and share some of his own “Believe it or Not” stories with the world traveller.

There were even articles about Ripley’s boat, the Mon Lei.  According to Ripley, the Chinese junk was built in 1939 as part of a fleet for a Chinese warlord.  It left China shortly after the Pearl Harbor invasion in 1941, and Ripley purchased the vessel in 1946, when he found it anchored off the coast of Florida.  Ripley boasted in an article that the Mon Lei would be the strangest ship the area had ever seen sail up the Hudson River since the Half-Moon.

And on Friday morning, August 8, 1947, the Mon Lei sailed up the Hudson River from its previous docking point the night before in Poughkeepsie.  One of the Mon Lei‘s diesel engines started to malfunction as the junk passed Castleton.  The skipper of the junk, William Platt, tried to unfurl the sails and use wind power to arrive in Albany; unfortunately, the only wind power available that morning resided in the Capitol itself.  The Mon Lei instead was towed into port.

Ripley arrived, however, to a cheering crowd.  The Higgins Boat arrived to greet Ripley on the Mon Lei, and Ripley, along with members of the Times-Union staff, twelve Fort Orange Council “Sea Scouts” and several political dignitaries, left the Mon Lei for the Albany shore.

Ripley had a very busy weekend, although he made time for all the necessary meetings and greetings.  History reports that Ripley had an early afternoon luncheon with members of the Rotary Club at the Ten Eyck Hotel; he conversed with TU publisher Fred Archibald and Albany High School principal Dr. Harry E. Pratt. At the luncheon, Ripley recounted a time when, while traveling in China, he was served a 40-course meal – everything imaginable in Chinese cuisine except for one dish, chop suey.

“Of this dish the Chinese had never heard,” said Ripley in a Times-Union article recounting the event.  “Chop suey was invented by an Irishman in San Francisco.  But the dinnedid include spaghetti.  The Chinese knew all about that long before the Italians did.  Marco Polo brought back spaghetti from his travels in China.”

Ripley then returned to the Mon Lei for his weekly broadcast over the NBC radio network (and carried locally on WGY at 1:45 p.m.), in which he recounted various “Believe It Or Not” stories submitted by Capital Region residents.  Among the stories recounted by Ripley, and retold in Times-Union news clippings, included a Second Street resident in Albany whose Selective Service draft number was 1492.  Why so unusual?  The resident’s name is Christopher Columbus.  Believe it … or Not!  Another story involved a Ticonderoga lineman, Charles Donovan, who came into contact with a high tension wire, took a jolt of 4,800 volts, fell 45 feet to the ground and landed in a baby carriage.  The baby inside the carriage was miraculously unhurt, and Donovan survived the accident with only a scar on his forehead.  Believe it … or Not!!

A party was held aboard the Mon Lei later that afternoon, where Ripley met with Times-Union reporters and columnists George Sokolsky and Ruth Alexander; along with Albany Common Council president John J. Murray and New York Lieutenant Governor Joe Hanley.  A photo from the event also shows that Bela Lugosi was an invited party guest as well.

And then another special treat for Capital District Ripley fans.  That night, after the Palace Theater showed its customary double feature on Friday night, The Long Night with For the Love of Rusty, Robert Ripley took the stage.  He showed various pictures and film clips of his travels and the oddities he encountered in his journeys, answered some questions, and entertained the Palace audience.

That evening, Ripley spent the night at the Ten Eyck Hotel, then traveled to Saratoga Springs for a day at the flat track.  History does not record whether Ripley won or lost at the track, or whether he drank from the mineral waters of the Big Red Spring.

By Sunday, though, the Mon Lei set sail for another port of call, and Ripley left the Capital Region.  This would be the last time the oddities enthusiast would ever visit Albany; less than two years later, Ripley passed away.

Believe it… or Not!!!

The Albany County Rail Trail: A New Use of Albany’s Railroad Past

Delaware and Hudson bridge in Slingerlands, N.Y.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Delaware and Hudson bridge in Slingerlands, N.Y. Photo by Chuck Miller.

They’re very familiar sights, especially if you live in the Delmar / Elsmere / Slingerlands area.  Several railroad bridges from the old Delaware and Hudson Railroad, spanning a network of nine miles of rail track from Albany to Voorheesville.  That stretch of rail line can no longer hold rail traffic; the bridges are just a reminder of a bygone era.  The tracks – which span from the Port of Albany over the Normans Kill, and through the Helderbergs – were abandoned by the D&H’s parent company, Canadian Pacific.  While these bridges are nice to photograph, and kind of cool to drive under, they – and the rail line they carried – need a new life.

In fact, yesterday I went out to Slingerlands, in plans to photograph the bridge you see above (the D&H bridge over New Scotland Road), and for a moment I thought about trying to photograph a panoramic shot from the railroad tracks itself.  After parking my car at the Toll Gate Ice Cream restaurant, I walked a few feet over to the snowy banks of the railroad tracks.  The rails were unused and coated in snow and broken tree branches and animal droppings.  On the bridge was a sign informing trespassers that Canadian Pacific Railrway will prosecute.  I packed my camera and went back to my car.  It wasn’t worth the trouble today.

Currently there are plans in place to turn the abandoned railroad span into something else – enter the “Albany County Rail Trail Project.”   This project will convert the rail span into a bike and hiking path – an unobstructed and beautiful nine-mile walkway of the Capital District.  Originally the rail trail would have stretched from Albany to Schenectady over what was then a closed CP Rail line, but CP Rail re-acquired the parcel and put a kibosh on the project.  Then, CP Rail shut down the 9-mile stretch from Albany to Voorheesville, and the County of Albany acquired the parcel for conversion into a rail trail.

Another organization, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, has organized “Friends of the Rail Trail (FORT)“, where volunteers can spread the word about the Rail Trail project.  In fact, FORT is a combination of three different volunteer organizations dedicated to the Rail Trail project, including the Tri-Village Greenway Committee of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, Citizens for an Albany Rail Trail (CART), and the Friends of the D&H Rail Trail.

It’s going to take a while to convert these rails into a walking and cycling track, not to mention repairs and safety issues for the bridges, as well as putting in the ability, should the need ever arise, for the trail to be used for light rail or industrial rail in the future – and even until then, the rail line is still owned by CP Rail, and walking it today would constitute trespassing.  But once it’s done, I can imagine it being used for bicycling, for jogging and hiking, for cross-country skiing in the winter, and for photography year-round (oh man I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to get some panoramic shots if the trail extends through the Normans Kill).

But until then, I’ll just have to take these photographs from ground level.

Photo Essay: Renovation of the Washington Avenue Armory

Flash back to 2005.  At the time, the Albany Patroons were going to return to the Continental Basketball Association, and I had lots of hope for their success.  So much so, that I actually plunked down a good sized chunk of change for two courtside season tickets.  But upon walking into the Armory for the first time in ages in 2005, I saw what had happened to the building – years of neglect and roof leaks and the like.

I took some photos of the Armory at that time.

A few months later, before the Patroons had their first game in the building, I came back to the Armory and took photos of the restoration work that the building underwent.  It was a tremendous effort by all concerned, and it was probably the first batch of photos I took with my then-new Nikon D70.

I thought these photos were lost in a hard drive crash that occurred a year or so ago, but apparently these snaps must have been saved on a secondary source that I had completely forgotten about.

Sadly, there is one photograph that documents a lost part of Patroons history.  In 1988, Patroons superfan Fritz Walker, who was famous for dancing on the sidelines and following his Green and Gold, passed away.

The team honored Fritz’ memory by painting a white circle on the court near Fritz’ old season ticket spot.  That marker was still there in 2005, and I got a photo of it just before the entire court was sanded off to make room for a new basketball floor.

Here’s a photo essay of the Washington Avenue Armory before and after its interior restoration.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

2010 Class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

A couple of months ago, I analyzed what I thought were the singers and bands that had the best chance of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

So with that in mind, my vote would include Kiss, the Hollies, Genesis, Darlene Love and Red Hot Chili Peppers, with the Stooges and LL Cool J getting more consideration in next year’s balloting.

So how well did I do as a pop music prognosticator?

The 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class includes:

  • ABBA
  • Jimmy Cliff
  • Genesis
  • The Hollies
  • The Stooges

A separate set of inductions for songwriters and producers meant that David Geffen, Otis Blackwell, Jesse Stone, Mort Shuman, the songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, all got in as well.

So I picked two of the five (Genesis and the Hollies) as well as hedged my bet on a third (The Stooges).  Jimmy Cliff, well, I guess if you’re going to put Bob Marley in, you may as well add Jimmy Cliff.  This probably means Peter Tosh will get in the Hall in a few years.

But ABBA?  ABBA?!?

I thought this was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not the Eurovision-winning disco-pop Hall of Fame.  To consider ABBA ahead of Kiss or the Red Hot Chili Peppers (both of whom were up for induction as well) is just lame.  I’m still smarting from when my wife dragged me to see the Mamma Mia! movie (and we ended up going to the “Sing-A-Long” version, where the song lyrics appeared at the bottom of the film, karaoke sing-a-long style).

That being said… congratulations to the inductees of the Class of 2010.  I just hope in 2011 somebody actually considers inductingt the Moody Blues, the Guess Who, Boston and acts that actually PERFORM rock and roll music.

Week 14 of the Elbo Room Holiday Tournament

With four teams already locked into the “money round” in late January or early February (honestly, this tournament and the latest Boston album are running neck and neck on which one will get completed first), it’s time for several other squads to pick up their game and try to get into the money round.

As for yours truly, I played last night as a solo team, while my wife spent the night enjoying Wicked at Proctor’s.  Forgive me – I thought Wicked was the New England equivalent of the Jersey Shore TV show.  “Did ya have a good time?” “It was wicked, brah – last night I was at Kenmah Square ta catch the Green Line for a Celts game at dah Gahden! Sweet Carahline, bah bah bah, good times nevvah seemed so good, so good, so good, so good…”

It was an okay night for me – I did hit some hard questions, including identifying all three members of the band Cream, as well as the actor who played both a TV dad in the 1970’s and a priest in the 1980’s (Tom Bosley).  But as the final question rolled in, I was tied for second place.  I really had nothing to lose – I was already locked into the tournament, so with the final category as “tourism,” I bet all my points.  Go big or go home.

“What state’s quarter features a landmark known as Chimney Rock, at 120 feet the tallest natural structure in the state?”

Now here’s where I made a big mistake.  I didn’t know the answer.  I would never know the answer.  But the guy who was at the bar next to me said, “Dude, I know this for a fact.  It’s Idaho.  My family visited it all the time.”

At which point I violated Rule #5 of competitive team trivia – if anybody SWEARS they know the answer, and you don’t KNOW them, they either are completely clueless or they’re playing you for a fool.  Nevertheless, I put down Idaho and handed in my slip.

General James read the answers.  “Street Academy says Idaho.  Woo Hoo a Go Go says Utah. Stern Fans says Utah.  Big Red Machine says Utah.”

Oh crap.  Everybody’s going to say Utah and I’m going to get clowned.

The guy next to me finished his drink.  “Oh man, I’m sorry, I think it could be Utah.”

Scuse me while I beat my head against a wall.

“And the answer – is NEBRASKA!”

Which NOBODY put down.  Whoa.  Everybody who thought it was Utah was in the same predicament as me.

But here’s the thing.  A couple of teams had safe bets, where they only wagered a few points.  Clay Aiken’s Skid Marks, on the other hand, wagered nothing.  And by virtue of everybody else betting big and collapsing, they bet nothing – and finished in first place.  Not only did they get the five playoff points, but they actually locked themselves into the money round.

It’s like coming in 12th in the Masters, but winning because the 11 golfers ahead of you signed an incorrect scorecard.

Still, they got in and you can’t fault them for doing so.  Mayhem and Stern Fans also had safe bets, which now put them 1-2 in the playoff seeding.

So after fourteen weeks, here are the standings, and remember – only the top eight squads get into the final round. Teams listed in green have guaranteed themselves a spot in the final “money week” round.

Elbo Room Trivia Standings – Week 13
Trivia Team Points Totals
1 Mayhem 1 23.3
2 Stern Fans 3 23
3 Big Red Machine 22.3
4 Street Academy 18.5
5 Clay Aiken’s Skid Marks 5 10
6 Touched by an Uncle 7
7 Brown Van Experience 5
8 Woo Hoo a Go Go 4.5
THE CUT LINE
T-9 The Wrong Guy 3
T-9 The Third Wheel 3
11 Monkey Knife Fights 2.3
12 Dr. Occam’s Razor 2
T-13 Nasty Nate 1
T-13 Overqualified and Unemployed 1

After a two-week holiday break, the tournament resumes on January 7.  There will be three final weeks of tournament play, with the big game on the 28th.

Retro 6 – WRGB’s online look at its past

Let’s face it.  Of all the local television stations in the Capital District, none has a longer and more detailed history than WRGB.  As a General Electric television station, it tested its broadcast capabilities as early as the 1920’s.  It had scripted dramas and sporting matches as early as 1939.  And it also created several locally-broadcast shows, many of which are still part of local pop culture.

For Chris White, WRGB’s history is something he enjoys exploring.

White is the Senior Interactive Content Producer for WRGB’s website, and he has started up a page called “Retro 6” – where photographs and videotapes and memories of Channel 6’s long broadcast history are available for viewing once again.

So far, White has uncovered documentaries on such classic Channel 6 programs as Teenage Barn –

He’s also found another documentary, this one about the children’s show Breadtime Tales (more commonly known as the Freddie Freihofer Show) –

He’s even found rare footage from Howard Tupper introducing TV Tournament Time, as well as the footage of Tim Welch’s legendary blooper (he pulled a postcard out of a truck filled with 20,000 postcards, read the winner’s name, then tossed the card back in the truck as he went to do the weather – but the card got buried in the pile of potential postcard winners, and it took a week to find the winner’s name and contact information).

White’s Retro 6 project hopes to uncover much more of the Capital Region’s broadcast history, and he could use your help.

Did you ever get on the Freddie Freihofer show, and do you still have your squiggle drawing?  Get in touch with Chris White.

Did you appear on the Teenage Barn or Student Spectrum or any of Channel 6’s old homemade shows – and by chance, still have your appearance stored away on an old VHS tape?  Get in touch with Chris White.

Did you defeat ten different bowlers to win a check from TV Tournament Time?  Get in touch with Chris White.

As a local history aficionado, this stuff is fascinating.  It’s a chance to see our local history and culture like never before.

To contact Chris White, send him an e-mail at cwhite@wrgb.com.  All materials will be carefully preserved and returned.