June 28, 2011
George "Doc" Linnehan was well known in Levittown and in Long Island softball circles
By FRANK BARNING
Most of the boys who played sports in early Levittown shopped for their equipment at George "Doc" Linnehan's County Sports Center store. First it was located at the North Village Green and later on Division Avenue, a few blocks north of the high school.
Just imagine how many wiseguy kids greeted Linnehan with "What's up Doc?"
As Mark Rotker, class of 1968, recently reminded me, Division Avenue High athletes bought their varsity jackets and lettermen sweaters from Doc. Some of us knew, but not many, that he was a highly regarded softball coach, both fast and slow pitch.
Softball was huge on Long Island back then with well attended tournaments held at the Jones Beach Stadium and other venues in Nassau and Queens Counties. I worked at Jones Beach in the late 1950s and early 1960s and remember some of those games quite well. Grumman had a great team, as did DeJur Camera, Musicaro's Restaurant as well as Doc's Meenan Oilers and later County Sports.
Newsday and the Long Island Press gave softball considerable coverage so those teams became well known to local sports fans as did the top players such as pitchers Roy Stephenson (also seen as Stevenson), Ollie Johnson, Dick Surhoff and Jerry Fleming.
Surhoff, a mountain of a man who drank beer in the dugout, had played briefly for the New York Knicks during the 1952-53 season. His sons B.J. and Rich were major league baseball players. Another son, Jeff Albert, was a pitcher at C.W. Post College and in the minor leagues. I digress on Surhoff because Jeff Albert and his mother were friends of the Barnings.
In 1977, Doc was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame.
FROM THE HALL OF FAME WEBSITE
The only manager to have teams in the finals of the Men’s Major Slow Pitch and Men’s Major Fast Pitch National Championships, Linnehan started managing in 1956 and led the Meenan Oilers to a fourth place finish in the Men’s Fast Pitch National Tourney. In 1964, he led Local 138 of Huntington to a second place finish.
Switching to slow pitch in 1966, he led County Sports of Levittown to the national title in 1968 after finishing second in 1966 and third in 1967. His teams had a record of 55-23 in ASA national championship play. In 1965, he managed the Fast Pitch All-Stars and in 1968 managed the Slow Pitch All-Stars.
A native of Queens, Linnehan grew up in Jamaica, playing baseball in the Queens Alliance Baseball League in the 1930s before attending Palmer Chiropractic College in Iowa. After opening his County Sports Center, he continued his chiropractic practice at night for several years and began playing and managing softball teams. He died in 1990 at age 74 and was one of the most respected and well-liked people in the sport during his career. He also is a member of the Long Island ASA Hall of Fame.