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Manhasset Honors Jim Brown

On April 27, the multi-purpose field at Manhasset Valley Park was dedicated to the athletic achievements of Jim Brown, a stellar Manhasset High School alumni. Seventy years ago Brown moved to Manhasset at age eight, and eventually amazed everyone with his record-breaking athletic achievements, spreading his 13 varsity letters over five sports: football, lacrosse, basketball, track, and baseball.

As a young professional, his career was even more amazing. Brown’s 12,312 rushing yards remained the career record for 19 years, and no doubt contributed to him becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. Jim Brown is considered by many to be the greatest football player ever.

In dedicating the two new artificial-turf fields, one for baseball and one for soccer and lacrosse, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman said the inspiration came from community leaders. Roger Coleman approached him about building sports fields in the park. Kaiman said he remembers thinking the 12 acres had lots of hills and streams, “but Roger had a vision.” Kaiman indicated to Coleman that the town would partner with the community—and five years and a half-million dollars later, the development has begun. About $1 million more is needed for the complex to be complete.

Emphasizing that collaborative effort with the town, local sports teams, and community leaders, Kaiman said the actual turf was laid by Landtech, under the supervision of Marty Lyons and Mike Ryan. In time, a playground, lights for night games, a concession stand, and restrooms will be built. Netting too, he added, so balls aren’t flying into traffic. He thanked Manhasset PAL Lacrosse, Indian’s Rock Foundation, Manhasset Soccer,
 Manhasset Baseball
 for their ongoing assistance.

The Manhasset High School Marching Band strutted its stuff onto the field giving everyone time to get situated. Children from Adventures In Learning had the best seats—the grass in front of the podium—within reach of Jim Brown’s extended hand, following the dedication.

As the crowd waited with anticipation to hear Brown speak, he was busy on the sidelines granting photo ops. Michael Butler was intently observing Jim Brown from his position along the fence. He recounted how Jim Brown “spent time in my grandfather’s house.” Tom Butler, No. 37 in the team photo, had passed down the stories Michael had heard all his life from his dad. “I never met him,” Michael said, and he was there from Harlem that afternoon to see the star his father had talked about so often.

During his remarks, Jim Brown spoke to the children, telling them that sometimes when your dad is not there and your mom is struggling, try to understand how much she struggles for you. “We lived over the garage in the house where she was a domestic worker. She put as much into me as she could. Sometimes I took a taxi to school because I lived so far away.” Brown said his mother delivered him to a town that provided surrogate parents. “Ken Molloy was our godfather. He guided so many of us to success. He has our respect forever.” James, the son of Judge Kenneth Molloy, attended the dedication. Judge Molloy was an influential figure in Jim Brown’s life, and helped cultivate his athletic career at Manhasset High School, Syracuse University, and into the NFL.

When Rev. Edward Corley (No. 25 in the team photo) spoke to the crowd, he said the first person he thought of who would appreciate this day was James Molloy’s dad, Ken. “He put his hand print on black athletes. He helped them all.”

Jim Brown announced to the crowd, “That was my dear friend Rev. Corley.” Brown added Corley’s wife Marva attended Manhasset High with them, and the high school sweethearts had been married 57 years.

Earlier, Marva Corley had smiled brightly, “It’s a wonderful day remembering our childhood friends.” She explained her husband Rev. Corley played football and basketball with Jim Brown. “They were friends,” Mrs. Corley said. “You saw one, you saw the other.”

Roy Simmons coached Brown in lacrosse at Syracuse University and said Brown had a collective toughness that doesn’t bend, that he valued results. He said Brown set the standards in athletics for years to come.

“Roy Simmons, Jr., taught me what a great man should be,” Brown responded, adding, “We were undefeated and we should have been champs.”

Jim Brown said he was moved to see so many at the ceremony—in the stands, against the fences—and that he was a student some 50 years ago. “You didn’t know me and here you are to support me. This community means so much to me. This is No. 1 of all trophies; the one that means the most to me.”