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Star Athletes from Old Congers High School Not Forgotten

Ceremony to cheer on Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

The Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame is honoring six athletes who attended the old Congers High School in a ceremony set for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Peter Scheibner, chairman of the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame, said the Hall of Fame members will be honored at Congers Elementary School on Lake Road in Congers, the site of the former high school.

Scheibner said the idea for a special commemoration came when renovations at Clarkstown North High School in New City put focus on plaques that reconized Rockland County Sprots Hall of Fame members. He said discussions about the plaques led to the idea of creating a separate area at Congers Elementary School to honor the one-time student athletes who were standouts at the old Congers High School.

The honorees were stars in many different sports, some even going on to play professional sports — on teams including the New York Yankees and the New York Knicks.

The Hall of Fame athletes from Congers who are to be recognized are:

- Warren Austin:

Elected in 1983 ... ran track and played soccer for Congers High School in the late 1930s ... in the annual Dexter Press Field Day track and field competition in 1939, Congers entered two athletes, Austin and a teammate. Austin won the 100- and 220-yard dashes and the broad jump, finished second in the 440, and placed third in the pole vault, shot put and discus to lead Congersto the team title ... Austin later became very involved with helping Rockland youth ... in 1958 he founded the Nyack Bantam League, a bowling program for boys ages 8 to 12 ... in 1961 he established the Nyack Junior Classic Bowling League (ages 13-18), and in 1974 added the Warren Austin Recreation Bowling League for Rockland boys and girls ... a past president of Rockland County Men’s Bowling Association ... as president of the Nyack Monday Morning Quarterback Club, a booster group for Nyack High sports, Austin spearheaded a campaign that raised $48,000 in 1980 to fund the Nyack High School fall sports programs under an austerity budget.

- Bob Bacheller

Elected in 1979 ... Congers H.S. Class of 1929 ... earned 16 letters in baseball, basketball, track and tennis at Congers, and captained the baseball and basketball teams for three years ... his name is synonymous with tennis in Rockland County ... after excelling at Colgate University, including winning the Eastern Division Doubles Tournament with partner Ted Kaiser, he went on to a superb tennis career ... among his many titles are the 1931 Rockland-Bergen Men’s Doubles Championship with Orville Lewis of Haverstraw, the Steingester singles title in 1933 and ‘34, the Hudson Valley singles title in 1936, the 1939 Rockland County Men’s Singles crown, the 1952 Rockland mixed doubles title with his wife, Elaine, and the Rockland-Bergen doubles championship with McDonald Deming in 1961 ... Bacheller was one of the premier players in the country in the 65-and-older age group ... he was ranked in the top 10 in the East in all of the senior age groups he played in ... Bacheller was a tireless ambassador for tennis who helped form the Nyack Field Club (the site of many major tournaments) and lobbied successfully for the construction of tennis courts in Clarkstown, where he sat on the school board.

- Charles Dittmer

Charles attended Congers High School, Class of 1948, and lettered in 4 sports. He was a two year varsity letter winner on the track team, and a three year varsity letterman on the basketball team. Charles was a four year starter on the county championship Congers High soccer team. During that time, Congers only lost one game and were the county champs all four years. But it was baseball where Charles really excelled. He was the stating catcher on the baseball team for four years. Charles was the starting catcher in the very first baseball game played in the county under the lights at Nyack. During the summers while still in high school Charles played baseball for the Congers Liberties, an outstanding baseball team that won the county championships in 1947 and 1948. Aside from being a very well schooled catcher, Charles was an outstanding left handed hitter who could hit with power.

In 1949, Charles joined the U.S. Navy and continued to play baseball. He was on the Atlantic Fleet Division Team. They were champions in 1952 and Charles led the Newport Rhode Island League in homeruns that year. While playing in that league, Charles was spotted by the great Branch Rickey and, after being discharged from the Navy, Charles was signed to a professional contract by Mr. Rickey to play for the Dublin Irish which was owned by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Georgia State League.

He played one season and came home the following year to marry his wife, Eleanor. Like all good athletes Charles was not content to sit idle, so he took up golf, and became very good at that sport, too. Charles became the Rockland Lake Course Champion in the C flight in 1985 and the Rockland Lake Course Champion in the A flight in 1986. In 1994 Charles was the Governors Cup Champion.

- Bill Drescher

Enshrined in 1975 ... Congers H.S. Class of 1939 ... Major League Baseball player with the New York Yankees ... was a superior athlete at Congers, competing in baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball and track ... He was awarded a baseball scholarship to Villanova University, but turned it down ... he played semipro ball with the Congers Liberties, then signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940 ... his career in professional baseball spanned 1941 to 1952... he played with the Yankees as a catcher, appearing in 57 games in 1944, 1945 and 1946 ... his lifetime major league average was .266 ... was a good enough basketball player to play with the New York Knicks in 1940 ... he died in 1968 at age 46.

- Joe Klopchin

A 1995 inductee ... Congers H.S. Class of 1948 ... record-breaking soccer player but even better known for his baseball prowess ... received tryouts as a third baseman with the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds ... well-known figure on the baseball diamonds of Rockland, he played in amateur and semipro leagues from 1947 to 1979, often with players less than half his age ... at Congers, where he played varsity baseball for four years, Klopchin pitched the first night game in Rockland scholastic history, April 18, 1945, versus Nyack ... played third base, second base and pitched ... batted over .300 ... in soccer he was practically unstoppable ... in 1945, he scored 19 goals and 7 assists for 26 points ... the goals and point totals stood as Rockland County records for 20 and 22 years, respectively ... he led Congers to the county PSAL championship all four years he played (the Congers soccer dynasty won all but one county title from 1931 to ‘47) ... Klopchin also established county records for goals in a game (five), which stood for 21 years, and career goals (40), assists (24) and points (64) ... voted best athlete in his class at Congers ... competed in track for four years ... one varsity season of basketball ... in organized baseball, he played on four championship teams: Congers Liberties (1949-50), County Welders (1954), Spring Valley Bengals (1962) and Tenafly, N.J., Mets (1967) ... also played on All-Star teams in 1949 and 1958 ... other teams played for included the Mastromarino Lumbermen, Clarkstown IBEWs and Englewood, N.J. ...was team captain at Manhattan College.

- Jim Schnaars

Inducted in 1978...nationally ranked amateur and pro lawn tennis player..., tennis, who attended attended Congers for one year, 1936, before transferring to a prep school in Connecticut.

Commemorative plaques of the six athletes are being relocated from Clarkstown North High School to the elementary school. Congers High School closed in the mid-1950s and was succeeded by Clarkstown High School. The Clarkstown High School building became Clarkstown North when the district split into North and South high schools in 1971.

The plaque unveiling ceremony is set for 9 a.m. in the auditorium of the elementary school, 9 Lake Road West. There is on-street parking on Lake Road and South Grand Avenue.

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