04/08/16 10:00am
COURTESY PHOTO |  Brian Feinstein, and his father, Bob, last weekend at Augusta National Golf Club.

COURTESY PHOTO |
Brian Feinstein, and his father, Bob, last weekend at Augusta National Golf Club.

It’s April, and in the world of golf that means the Masters.

The annual Masters Golf Tournament is easily the most prestigious tournament on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) schedule. This invitation-only event played at Augusta National Golf Club every year since it was established in 1934, started Thursday, April 7, 2016.

What’s special for all Islanders this year is that one of our own, Brian Feinstein, competed on the hallowed Augusta National course. (more…)

12/04/13 2:18pm

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Janelle Kraus-Nadeau after introducing Cliff Clark, her high school coach, as an inductee in the Shelter Island School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Ten individuals and four teams were inducted into the Shelter Island School Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday evening, November 29. (more…)

08/09/13 1:00pm

BOB DeSTEFANO

As Shelter Island author John Feinstein once put it when asked if he could go to just one sports event every year: “The answer is simple, Army-Navy. That is not for the quality of the football game but for the quality of the people playing the football game.”

On Shelter Island we have Marty Ryan, one of those quality people who played for Army in some of those legendary battles. One of the reasons I enjoy writing this column is because to me, and maybe you, Marty Ryan, until you have a chance to know him, seems like just a 70-year old man driving around the Island in an overgrown golf cart.
You will find out that Marty Ryan was much more than that in this story about a Staten Island boy born right in the middle of World War II, February 10, 1943, to be exact. A boy who was number seven in a family of 10 boys and one girl, born to a proud father who worked as a manager in the A & P but, incredibly, found a way to send all 11 of his children to college.

The entire family went to St. Peter’s school, a Catholic school that didn’t have a football team in those days. Although Marty’s oldest brother became a priest, Marty spent most of his time playing with his brother Jim, who was close to his age. Marty gives credit for his football career to the fact that he always played with the older and bigger boys. After the 8th grade, this 6 foot, 165 pound, 13-year-old switched to New Dorp High School. That first season, New Dorp went undefeated with Marty playing center on the varsity squad.

As a sophomore, Coach Sal Somma had him calling the plays as the team’s center. Marty was elected team captain in both his junior and senior years with the team going undefeated in his junior year and dropping only one game the following season. Marty was also switched to a blocking back as he finished his high school career, leading the team to an 28-4 record. A few years ago, a book titled, “Thanksgiving 1959,” was written about this fabulous New Dorp team that lost a Thanksgiving Day championship game to their Staten Island rival, Curtis. Featured on the cover of the book was none other than Marty Ryan.

After graduation, Marty was accepted at West Point. Like most players in those days, Ryan played both offense and defense. Even though the Black Knights’ coaching staff liked him as a center because of his expertise at long snapping, Marty anchored the line as a guard his junior year.

He played in the Army-Navy games in both his freshman and sophomore years. But playing his junior year against Penn State he was hit behind the ear and could not raise his arm. Ryan was out for the season and his football career was over. In his senior year at West Point he coached the freshman squad.

Ryan was proud of West Point. He recalled a beating that he and his teammates received from Nebraska, 77-7. The Nebraska coach told his West Point coach that he didn’t have a single player on Army that could play for Nebraska. The West Point coach answered, “That’s funny, I don’t think you have a single player that could get into the Academy.”

Ryan graduated from West Point as a 2nd lieutenant and was sent to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. His next stop would be Fort Hancock and in April of 1966 he was sent to Viet Nam, returning in November 1967.

Just before being deployed to Viet Nam, Marty, now a captain, met Mary Heffernan, and they married two years later. In 1970 he was named an “outstanding officer” and was honorably discharged from the service. Marty and Mary have one son, Tim, who also now lives on Shelter Island with his wife, Candace, and their two children, Molly and Jack. Tim and Candace are the reason the Ryans came to Shelter Island over 20 years ago.

One consistency I found in his life is that no grass will ever grow under his feet. After being discharged, Marty worked for two years for Exxon as a sales representative. Then it was off to Wall Street where he worked for three more years before going to Interactive Data for almost a decade. Marty finished his career with Russell Investments in Tacoma, Washington and retired in 2002.

The one thing that he stayed true to  his entire life was 44 years of marriage before Mary passed away on April 14, 2011. They had a great and busy life and enjoyed the last several years in both Arizona and on the Island. Mary did get to see her little boy grow up, get married and have two wonderful children that brought such enjoyment to her life.

Today, at 70, Marty still moves fast and doesn’t miss a thing. Last year, he met a schoolmate named Joyce Howe at a Staten Island reunion. Joyce, a nurse, had just lost her husband and they made an instant connection. They married on April 21 and are now living in Shelter Island and Maryland.

Quite a life for one of the men that John Feinstein called the ”quality people.”

Editor’s note: We received comments on the last Eye On the Ball column from some people who were offended by the portrayal of the individual profiled. It was never the intention to offend anyone, and for those who were, we apologize.

02/19/13 10:39am

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO | Acclaimed author John Feinstein celebrates with his putting trophy amid a crowd of 8- to ten-year-old Island winners. He lobbied for 30 years to get his treasured hardware.

This is a crazy time of the year living on Shelter Island and thinking about the world of sports. It is too cold for baseball and golf, the football season is over and the kids just played their final basketball game this week.

So my mind roamed to people who grew up on Shelter Island, still live here and have somehow made it in the sports world. With that thought in mind, the most successful sports person I know that fits that description is considered among today’s best sports writers.

That of course would be 57-year-old John Feinstein. Feinstein is an award-winning columnist and one of the nation’s most successful and prolific authors. Feinstein spent 11 years as a sports and political reporter for the Washington Post and has contributed to Sports Illustrated, National Sports Daily, ESPN, CBS Sports and Golf Digest. Along with appearing regularly on the Golf Channel, he recently finished a sports show for Sirius XM Radio. Feinstein also has “The John Feinstein Show” from 9 am to 12 noon every weekday on CBS Sports Radio.

He’s written two of the best selling sports books of all time. Feinstein’s first book, “A Season on the Brink,” was a runaway best seller and later adapted as a HBO TV movie of the same name. Another huge best seller was “A Good Walk Spoiled.” As of this writing, Feinstein has written 30 sports books covering such topics as basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, football, boxing and the Olympics.

With that basic resume, I guess that qualifies John as a sports expert and worthy of a few words from the people on the piece of real estate that he loves the most.

John first came to Shelter Island as a two-year old and for the last 55 years has not missed a season. We islanders, of course, knew him before all his fame and celebrity status and continue to spend time with him trying to figure out why people pay him $30,000.00 to talk when we hear the same stories for free.

Things didn’t change much for John. As a boy he always had a mind of his own and was never afraid to give his opinion on anything. He was always highly competitive in any sport and fought hard to win. He held a somewhat quiet grudge against me for over 30 years because of a putting trophy that he should have won. That’s right; John Caccese got the trophy and technically was supposed to be in a different age division. I just let it ride since the awards were presented and I figured it was over. Thirty years later I heard enough and I had to present John with a putting trophy. Yes, he posed for the newspaper picture with the current 8- to 12-year-olds with his trophy proudly in front of him.

Although John was a good golfer and could shoot in the 70s, at times he considered himself a hacker. I am his primary target for his poor golf. Although not true, he still blames me for letting him play golf right-handed when he was a natural lefty. He alleges he could have been a contender and competing at least on the senior tour today instead of just writing about it. Finally, Feinstein did reach national prominence as a swimmer by virtue of winning three national championships as a Masters swimmer — a special class of competitive swimming for swimmers 25 years or older — along with being a part of two relays that broke world records.
It is difficult to be in his company without being reminded of these records.

My message in this column is to let you know that you don’t have to remake yourself to become successful. John took what he had and kept improving it. He’s still the same guy I knew as a teenager and has never tried to be anything else and that is one of the reasons I enjoy his company. When he walks into the clubhouse at the club, he knows every employee by first name. That is important to him, a rare quality that few people possess but one of the best lessons we can take away from this column.

Great news just came through as I’m finishing this column. Last Friday it was announced that John Feinstein was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Congratulations John!