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The Sports Hall of Fame selection committee has named Frank McLaughlin, Rick O'Keeffe, Jimmy Roberts, Paul Natale and Rich Leaf to the 2017 Hall of Fame. Read bios on each inductee below.
Congratulations to our 2017 winners!
A lifelong Westchester resident, Rich Leaf is a pioneer in high school sports in the county. He has left his mark on the community with his talents on the microphone, famously known around Section One as “The Voice of the County Center.” Leaf’s trademark greeting is “welcome to the County Center, Westchester’s most famous arena.” In 2017, he completed his 36th consecutive year as the announcer for the Section One boys and girls basketball tournaments. While he is well known for his work at the County Center, he has also lent his talents to other venues—announcing Section One football bowl games at Mount Vernon Stadium and Mahopac High School for years. In addition, he was the announcer for basketball at Scarsdale and Mamaroneck high schools, and the annual Westchester County Slam Dunk Tournament. At the collegiate level, he has been the voice of Iona College men’s and women’s basketball since 2008, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) post-season tournament. His announcing career began in the late 1970s as the sports director at WVIP radio in Mount Kisco, where he did play-by-play of local high school football and basketball. In addition to his announcing, Leaf has been a high school soccer official in the county since 1981 and has worked numerous sectional, regional, and state championship games. Leaf is a member of the panel that selects the prestigious Con Edison Scholar Athlete of the Week. He taught in the Harrison School District for 34 years and coached the district’s modified soccer and freshman baseball teams. He was also the voice of Harrison Huskies football for 20 seasons until his retirement in 2004.
Frank McLaughlin, a resident of Briarcliff Manor, has been a cornerstone of the Fordham University Athletics Department for more than three decades since taking over as the school’s director of athletics. During his tenure in the athletics department, Fordham saw many changes and upgrades to its playing fields and athletic facilities. Fordham also won 26 conference championships since 1985 and this success on the field carried over to the classroom. The university was consistently ranked annually among the leaders in conference and national student-athletes. His impact on Fordham stretches beyond his directorial duties, starting with his days as a standout student-athlete on the Rams’ basketball team. He captained the Rams during his senior season in 1969 and was drafted by the New York Knicks after college. He was briefly an assistant coach at Holy Cross, before returning to his alma mater the following year where the Rams were 26-3 and ranked 9th in the nation. McLaughlin was an assistant coach at Notre Dame for six years, and then head coach at Harvard for eight years. In addition, he served as the president of the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association (MIBA) and was voted into the halls of fame of the Catholic High School Athletic Association, New England Basketball, the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and Fordham University, among others.
During his time at Hendrick Hudson High School, Paul Natale was one of the top coaches in Westchester County. He was part of a rare breed of coaches that excelled in more than one sport, helping the Sailors achieve success in junior varsity basketball and at the varsity level - soccer, football, and most notably, baseball. In his 42 years as the head varsity baseball coach at Hendrick Hudson, he compiled a record of 546-360-3, for a 60.3 winning percentage. His teams won 17 league titles, two Section One championships, two regional titles and has been given the distinction of being ranked No. 1 in New York State twice. Along the way, he coached many all-league and all-section players, as well as seven Con Edison Student-Athlete of the Week winners, and three Diamond Nine players. Natale was named Westchester Coach of the Year and New York Daily News Coach of the Year two times each. He also coached soccer for 18 years before switching to football for 17 more years. In both sports, he coached numerous all-league and all-section players, as well as earning a handful of league and sectional championships. Aside from coaching sports, Natale is also involved in various volunteer opportunities. He is an active member of the Hendrick Hudson Lions Club, where he assists in facilitating a number of different community and fundraising events. Since retiring from his post at Hendrick Hudson, he is a volunteer baseball coach at Pleasantville. He served as a volunteer coach in Adaptive Physical Education for handicapped and PTSD veterans at the Montrose and Castle Point Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals. He also volunteered with “Play for Freedom” working with PTSD veterans and was named the 2015 Volunteer of the Year
Born and raised in Bronx, N.Y., Richard “Rick” O’ Keeffe would move to Yorktown in the late 1960s, where he would embark on a fantastic three-sport career. At Yorktown High School, he was a standout in football and basketball, but nothing compared to the success he earned on the baseball diamond. O’Keeffe quickly earned a reputation for being one of the most feared pitchers around, posting a 27-7 record, 0.40 ERA, and averaging 14 strikeouts a game over his four years at Yorktown. Along the way, he threw five no-hitters and a perfect game and was given All-League and All-County accolades three times each. He also was a Con Edison award winner and was even named the Daily News Player of the Decade in baseball in the 1970s. O’Keeffe’s baseball career went beyond Westchester County, as he was drafted fifth overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975. He played right out of high school for eight and a half years for four different organizations - the Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets. O’Keeffe was on the Reds’ 40-man Major League Baseball roster in 1978, during the time of the “Big Red Machine” era.
Jimmy Roberts’s career in journalism began with a part-time job writing for Gannett’s Westchester-Rockland newspaper chain while attending White Plains High School. There, he also wrote columns for the school newspaper and captained the varsity lacrosse team. Since then, Roberts has achieved much as a broadcaster and writer in sports journalism. He has won 13 Emmy awards, a Golf Writers Association of America award, and the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Distinguished Service Award. He currently works as an essayist, broadcaster, and studio host for NBC and the Golf Channel. Outside of golf, he has hosted the halftime show for Notre Dame football, anchored NBC’s coverage of the Wimbledon Championships, and is the primary anchor for NBC’s weekend sports updates. He has also worked as a field reporter for the 2000 American League Championship Series, and covered horse racing. Prior to joining NBC, Roberts worked at ABC and ESPN. In his broadcast career, Roberts has reported from 17 Olympic Games, and covered everything from Super Bowls to World Series and Stanley Cup Finals. In 2009, he published his first book, “Breaking the Slump,” which focused on how some of the best golfers in the game were able to recover from career-threatening dry spells. His book was widely praised in Newsweek, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Sports Illustrated.