History of the Stewart Park Volleyball Club

I had the occasion to speak with Tim "Mad Dog" Dorward last week about league history. Some interesting stuff I never knew. His recollection is that it all started in the mid '80s as a keg league. There were a few regular teams and they played at upper Buttermilk. Andy Antal was the commissioner. They had the good graces from the Park authorities to start at 5 without paying an entrance fee, no one booted them out after dusk as happens in many parks. Every week a team was in charge of bringing beer, another to bring not-beer liquids. After 3 years there, the authorities decided to insist on an entrance fee for those entering before 6 and that everyone had to be out at dusk. That prompted a move to somewhere on Rte 13 South. Near Stellar Stereo's present location. Various unstated circumstances prompted the move to Stewart Park after one season. Andy stayed on as commissioner for one more year, then Mad Dog took over the reins. As I was on a fire inspection at the Falls Restaurant at the time, I could not spend a bunch of time on the interview. Tim is a good source of the League's historical knowledge and he does like to talk about it. I will continue the conversation next time I see him and we both have some time.

-Tom Myers

Jack – didn't the Wednesday league actually evolve out of the NCR league that originally was not played at Stewart Park?

-Al Snyder

Here's some history, based on my swiss-cheese memory. I came to Ithaca in 1978. At that time there was a volleyball league which played Wednesdays at Stewart Park, I do not know the year it originated. I started playing at Stewart Park in 1981 or 1982. Before I started the league was involved in insquabbling – the upper level teams didn't want to play against the lower teams. So the league split into two separate distinct leagues, and called themselves the A league which played on the west side of the park near the flag pole, and the B league which played on the east side of the park. This happened before I started playing. I started out playing in the B league with a team from Morse Chain. It was more family oriented, you could have 9 people on the court, of any age. I believe Andy Antal was involved. After two years I moved to the A league. The A league teams seemed to change personnel each year. I played on several different teams, even with Tom Myers. The A league was doomed. Laurie McAvoy was the last A league commissioner. When she left, no one wanted the job so we played it by ear for a couple years. Each year there were fewer teams. The last year it existed, there were only 4 teams. That winter I contacted the B league commissioner, at that time Maddog (alias Tim Dorward), and was able to sign my team up with the B league, bringing that league to 10 teams. That summer only one A league team returned, I think it was Craig LaPoint's team. The A league ceased to exist. After I played in the B league for a few years, I think in 2003, Maddog stepped down, and asked for a volunteer to fill the vacancy. No one stepped forward, so I did. So the former B league has evolved into what we have today. But volleyball has been played at Stewart Park on Wednesdays longer than anyone remembers, over 40 years.

Before I first came to Ithaca, there was a YMCA in downtown Ithaca, near the Northside Pharmacy, which operated a men's volleyball league during the school year. In 1979 that building burned down. The YMCA was able to use the Ithaca High School gym for many of its activities while it had no home gym. When I first came to Ithaca I joined that YMCA volleyball league. We played Sunday nights. There was insquabbling in that league also. Again, the upper teams did not want to play against the lower teams. As a captain of one of the lower level teams, being young and energetic, I used to argue that my team wanted the competition against the upper teams. I argued that if nothing else, we needed that challenge just to show us we needed to improve our skills. That league was doomed. After several years, the upper level teams either quit or moved away as they graduated from college. With poor leadership from the Y, which had no home gym of their own, and took no interest in supporting the volleyball league, and pressure from the High School to go find another gym, the league folded.

There is another volleyball league in Ithaca, called the Ithaca Volleyball Professionals' League. When I first came to Ithaca that league was an all men's league, sponsored by various local businesses. I first played with a team from Borg Warner. I think my team was the first team to bring in a female player. That league used to play at the Immaculate Conception School, which is now closed. That league, led by Bob Delany (Angry Irishmen), has now fallen upon hard times due to the lack of a good gym.

-Jack Decker

Team Names

Submitted by Fred Conner: "Here's a list of team names that I started compiling two years ago [in 2019] and just updated with this year's [2021] new names. It's certainly not comprehensive, so it would be great if others were moved to remember and share additional team names from yesteryear."

Posted May 26, 2021, 8:25 pm.

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