Sports in New York's Capital District

Sports in New York's Capital District are not very well known, but there is a rich history of professional teams and college athletics.

The "major league" sport of the region is thoroughbred horse racing at the Saratoga Race Course, which has been held annually since 1863 with only a few breaks. The Saratoga Race Course is the oldest racetrack in the US, and possibly the oldest sporting venue of any kind in the country.[1] The Saratoga meet runs for 40 racing days beginning in July and ending on Labor Day,[2] and includes fifteen grade I stakes races. The Travers Stakes, America's "Midsummer Derby" is the highlight of the meet; winners include Man o' War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Sword Dancer, Alydar, and Birdstone.

According to legend, the game of baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday of Ballston Spa. The Troy Trojans were a Major League Baseball team in the National League for four seasons from 1879 to 1882. In 1883 the New York Gothams, later the New York and San Francisco Giants, took the Trojans place in the National League. Nearly half of the original Gotham players had been members of the Trojans. Many other Major League ballplayers have had their start at various levels in the Capital District, including former Tri-City ValleyCats' Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Ben Zobrist, and Hunter Pence. Others include Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees who once played for the Albany-Colonie Yankees.[3]

NBA head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson, won his first championship ring when he guided the Albany Patroons to the 1984 CBA championship. Three years later, the Patroons completed a 50–6 regular season, including winning all 28 of their home games; at that time, Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl was the Patroons' head coach. Future NBA stars Mario Elie and Vincent Askew were part of that season's squad. A third NBA head coach has roots in the Capital District as well, Pat Riley, most famous as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but also of the New York Knicks and Miami Heat. Riley played for Linton High School in Schenectady,[4] where he was also a football star. He also played on the Schenectady Little League Baseball team when in 1954 it won the Little League Baseball World Series.

Mike Tyson received his early training in the Capital District and his first professional fight was in Albany in 1985 and Tyson's first televised fight was in Troy in 1986. He fought professionally four times in Albany and twice each in Troy and Glens Falls between 1985 and 1986.

Since 1973, the AKRFC,[5] has been promoting rugby and now includes a DII men's team, a DI women's team, and youth rugby all across the Capital Region. They play on Dick Green Field at 100 Frisbie Ave, Albany, named after the late Dick Green who suffered a heart attack while practicing at Lincoln Park.

Since 2002, The Tri-City ValleyCats have won three New York-Penn League titles, and have captured seven Stedler Division titles.

Since 1988, the Siena College men's basketball team (the Siena Saints) have appeared in six NCAA Tournaments (1989, 1999, 2002, 2008, 2009, and 2010).

Since 2005, the University at Albany Great Danes men's basketball team has appeared in five NCAA Tournaments (2006, 2007, 2013, 2014, and 2015).

The University at Albany Great Danes women's basketball team has made six consecutive NCAA Tournaments (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017).

Roller derby leagues in the area include Albany's Albany All-Stars Roller Derby,[6][7] Troy's Hellions of Troy Roller Derby.[8] and Capital District Men's Roller Derby.[9]

Professional teams

NCAA college athletic programs

  • University at Albany Great Danes: Currently play at the Division I level in all of its sports, though for most of its history it was a Division III school, with a brief stay at the Division II level in the late 1990s. The football team is a member of the Division I FCS Colonial Athletic Association, and the women's golf team plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC); all other sports teams play as members of the America East Conference. In 2006, UAlbany became the first SUNY affiliated school to send a team to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. The men's lacrosse team has also made multiple appearances in its sport's NCAA Division I Championship Tournament, the first University at Albany team to do so. The men's track & field team has produced All-American athletes such as Gered Burns, Joe Greene, Marc Pallozzi, and Luke Schoen. UAlbany has hosted the New York Giants summer training camp since 1996.
  • Siena College's Saints basketball team plays in the Times Union Center in downtown even though the college is located in the Albany suburb of Loudonville. The college teams play at the Division I level in all sports, although it discontinued its Division I-AA football program in 2003 (three years before I-AA adopted its current designation of FCS). Siena is a member of the MAAC in all sports that the school sponsors.
  • Union College Dutchmen: Union participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the Liberty League, and ECAC. Men's and women's ice hockey compete at the NCAA Division I level; all other sports compete at the NCAA Division III level. Won NCAA Division I Men's Hockey National Championship in 2014.
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Engineers in Troy. RPI currently sponsors 23 sports, 21 of which compete at the NCAA Division III level in the Liberty League. Men's and women's ice hockey compete at the Division I level in ECAC Hockey. RPI won the NCAA Division I Men's Hockey National Championship in 1954 and 1985.
  • The College of Saint Rose: The St. Rose Golden Knights play at the Division II level. St. Rose plays in the Northeast-10 Conference.
  • Skidmore College Thoroughbreds: Skidmore in Saratoga Springs fields 19 Varsity teams in NCAA Division III. Skidmore is a member of the Liberty League.
  • Albany Dutchmen: Formerly the Bennington Bombers of Bennington, Vermont team of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League formerly the New York Collegiate Baseball League, it is an amateur league of collegiate players who are unpaid to retain NCAA eligibility, whereas college baseball uses aluminum bats this league uses wooden. They played at Bleecker Stadium until 2010 when they moved to the new Bellizzi Stadium.[10][11]

The Dutchman's Shoes trophy is awarded to the winner of the annual college football game between the RPI Engineers and the Union College Dutchmen, the oldest football rivalry in New York.

Other sports

  • Head of the Fish is a rowing race held on the last weekend of October each year on Fish Creek in Saratoga County. The 2013 competition featured over 2,000 entries representing 160 clubs.[12]
  • Freihofer's Run for Women is an annual five-kilometer road running competition for women usually held in late May or early June in Albany. The race holds IAAF Silver Label Road Race status and had 5,000 participants in 2011.[13]
  • The Saratoga Polo Association, established in 1898, competes against the best polo teams in the world on Whitney Field in Greenfield. The season roughly corresponds to that of the Saratoga Race Course. The Whitney Cup is awarded annually. Spectators are encouraged to tailgate.[14]

Defunct professional teams

Sports facilities

Sports figures

Many sports figures have connections to the Capital District:

See also


  1. Olmsted, Larry (29 May 2013). "Nation's Oldest Racetrack Turns 150 And Plans Summer Of Fun". Forbes. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  2. Silver, Dan (October 7, 2009). "NYRA Expands 2010 Saratoga Meet by Four Days". New York Racing Association. Archived from the original on July 24, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
  3. Pietrusza, David. "Capital Region Baseball Time Line Part III: 1951-". Retrieved 2010-07-02.
  4. "Schenectady City School District Hall of Fame & Reunion Pat Riley Biography". Schenectady City School District. Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  5. "AKRFC".
  6. "Roller Derby Worldwide  :: Find a Roller Derby League". Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  7. "Albany All Stars Roller Derby". Albany All Stars. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  8. Roller Derby Worldwide
  10. O'Brien, Tim. "Ball club to call Albany home". Times Union (Albany). Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
  11. "Albany Dutchmen Unveil New Home Stadium". Retrieved 2011-05-16.
  12. "Head of the Fish". Regatta Central. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  13. Haqqie, Azra (June 4, 2011). "At the end of their finish line: Awareness". Albany Times-Union. Albany, New York. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
  14. "Saratoga Polo Association – home page". Retrieved Dec 18, 2013.
  15. Miller, Chuck. "Remembering Albany's Professional Soccer Teams". Retrieved Dec 16, 2013.
  16. "Albany Capitals". NASLHistory. Retrieved Dec 16, 2013.
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