Outgoing National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, above, a speaker at this evening’s recognition at “Mr. Baseball” and “Mr. Oneonta” Sam Nader’s 100th birthday celebration at Damaschke Field, snaps a photo of Sam with fan PJ Harmer. Former mayor Nader, who turned 100 on July 8, brought the Yankees minor league franchise to the City of the Hills 50 years ago, and both milestones were recognized in an on-field ceremony that also featured state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and Mayor Gary Herzig. Oneonta Outlaws owner Gary Laing and Outlaws Manager Joe Hughes, who retired in June as OHS athletic director, shared emcee responsibilities. Nader was presented with a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol for a week, a gift from U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19; Sam’s name will now be included in a permanent record in Washington, D.C., of those so honored. Also present were many members of the 1969 team, which won the NY-Penn championship, including, inset, OHS graduate Randy Georgia. Behind Nader is his son, John, himself a former mayor and now president of SUNY Farmingdale. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – What do you get Oneonta’s most beloved citizen, Sam Nader, for his 100th birthday?
How about a birthday message from his favorite football team?
“My father has held season tickets to the Giants since 1952,” said his son, John. “So my cousin’s husband got Eli Manning to record a video sending him a birthday message, thanking him for being such a long-time fan and recognizing everything he accomplished. It was very nice of him to do that.”
Manning was there in spirit, but over 100 guests, friends and family members were, joining Nader to celebrate his birthday on Saturday, July 6, in his backyard at 95 River St. “It was a fun, low-key celebration,” said John. “My father was enormously pleased.”
Sam turned 100 on Monday, July 8, which Mayor Gary Herzig declared “Sam Nader Day” with a proclamation, which he gave to Sam at the party, “in recognition of the ‘too many to count’ contributions … to the well-being of the people of the City of Oneonta.”
Also present was Kim Muller, longtime friends of the family, for a total of four mayors at the gathering.
ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig today issued a proclamation declaring Wednesday, July 8, Sam Nader Day in the City of Oneonta, in recognition of the former mayor’s “too many to count” contributions to the City of the Hills.
Here is the text of the proclamation:
“In recognition of the “too many to count” contributions, made by citizen and Mayor Albert “Sam” Nader, to the well-being of the people of the City of Oneonta;
“I Gary Herzig, as Mayor of the City of Oneonta, hereby proclaim July 8, 2019 – the 100th birthday of Mayor Albert S. Nader – as Sam Nader day in the City of Oneonta. “Happy Birthday, Sam! Thank you and Enjoy!”
Sam Nader has that rare gift: When you talk to him, you feel there’s no one other than you he’d rather be talking to.
That, of course, is only one of the secrets of his success – there are many facets to his personality and accomplishment. Part of the rest of the secret is the City of Oneonta itself.
In the years before World War II, it was an exciting vital place, with locomotives streaming in and out of the largest roundhouse in the world, the streets busy, people working, even in the Depression to a great degree – the railroads had to move.
In the Sixth Ward, new arrivals – Italians, Russians, Poles, Lebanese like the Naders – were becoming Americans, celebrating America, adding their strains of culture, and family life, and religion, and food – all of it – to a changing nation.
After Pearl Harbor, virtually every able-bodied young man went to war and they returned – the ordeal behind them – to the city they called home, loved like a home can only be loved. And then, they prospered amid the admiration of their grateful fellow citizens.
For decades, Oneonta was a city of out-sized men, soldiers, citizens and friends, the sons of the war and often their fathers.
Bombardier Sid Levine, businessman, philanthropist and Sam Nader’s partner in the Oneonta Yankees, comes to mind. B-24 pilot Lloyd Baker, the revered OHS athletic director and principal.
The cheerful Tony Mongillo, Navy radio man on an aircraft carrier, who recorded his hometown’s
history in pen for the rest of his life.
Gordie Roberts, another B-24 pilot who returned home to dominate the insurance field; to the end (in 2010) he seemed to be everywhere.
Everyone knew these men, admired them and – even more unusual, liked them. Even loved them.
Time’s taken its toll. Today, two of the titans remain.
Tony Drago, 98, who returned from WWII to become Oneonta’s winningest coach, his OHS basketball team’s 1959-60 undefeated season still to be surpassed.
The other is Sam Nader, Drago’s friend of 85 years, who is turning 100 years old on Monday, July 8.
In everything he did, Sam Nader succeeded. At Bendix (now Amphenol), he was a counselor and mentor to many young Oneontans as he rose through the ranks to director of purchasing.
In love, the son of immigrants wooed a descendant of Oneonta’s first families, and their wedding at Colliscroft, the Greek revival mansion named for Collis Huntington, who from Oneonta became one of California’s Big Four, signaled the jointure of River and Walnut streets.
If not everyone got it, Sam’s elevation to mayor, despite being rebuffed by the then-dominant Republican Party, completed the inclusion of the “Lower Deck” immigrant families into the mainstream of Oneonta life.
Then in his baseball successes – he transformed Damaschke Field into Yankee Stadium North for a quarter-century – Oneonta got to know the National Pastime’s heroes, and the heroes Oneonta – simply cemented a legacy.
Sam Nader will be honored in various ways in the days ahead, with a proclamation from
Mayor Gary Herzig, “Sam Nader Day” in Damaschke Field, beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday,
July 13 – and much more.
When the celebrations pass, Sam Nader’s story will still be a gift to Oneonta and surrounding communities: That despite the current cynicism all around us, Sam Nader’s grit, hard work, humor, love of family and community was rewarded with success.