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Stepinac Great - Bob Hyland will move the Sports Page

Posted Thursday, April 06, 2006 by Mike ODonnell

Hyland ready for next page of his bar's history
By RICK CARPINIELLO
rcarpini@lohud.com
THE JOURNAL NEWS



Link to recent columns by
Rick Carpiniello
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(Original publication: April 6, 2006)


WHITE PLAINS — Bob Hyland remembers the night he was something of a hero to his teammates ... twice.

It was October, 1975, and Hyland, one of the best football players ever produced out of this area, was a center for the Giants, who were playing in Buffalo that night. It was a lean time for the Giants in the Alex Webster-Bill Arnsparger-Fran Tarkenton-Norm Snead era as the team was bouncing around from Yankee Stadium to the Yale Bowl to Shea.

This Monday Night Football game was against the powerful 4-0 Bills, and O.J. Simpson, who was as good at the time as any back ever was. In the Buffalo hotel, Hyland overheard Howard Cosell telling an ABC-TV luncheon crowd how the Bills would run over the 1-3 Giants by 30 points or more, and that the network was concerned that televisions would be turning off by halftime.

Well, instead, it was 14-14 with about 15 seconds left, "and Simpson only had about 56-57 yards," Hyland recalled. The Giants had moved into field-goal range. With the goalposts still on the goal line, it was only about a 27-yarder. Hyland had never heard of teams "freezing" a kicker, or for that matter, the snapper, but Buffalo called a couple of timeouts to try that new ploy.

Finally, Hyland made a perfect snap, and George Hunt kicked the field goal, and the Giants had this huge, emotional victory.

"We were pretty nuts about it," Hyland said. "The bad thing was there was no place to go when we get back to Westchester Airport. So I said, 'I know the place.' "

At around 2:30 a.m., Hyland called his manager, who opened up The Single Wing pub, and Hyland was a hero again.

Since March 1, 1973, Hyland, now 60, has owned a sports bar in White Plains, whether it was The Single Wing, or The Sports Page Pub, which is closing up April 23 or 24, and moving to a new downtown location at the White Plains Mall the first week of May.

First there will be an auction of some of the photographs and memorabilia in the old Mamaroneck Avenue location on Aug. 26, because Hyland can't take it all with him. But he can take a lot of us on a memory ride, because The Sports Page was a one of a kind place when it first opened in 1978 — when Hyland signed a 25-year lease he had no idea he'd actually use up.

The building originally was a Milk Maid, and Hyland, a White Plains kid and would-be Stepinac football star — was a customer within two days of its opening in 1955.

"The big thing was to go to the pool at Saxon Woods and then come here afterward," he said. "We all loved it when we were kids.

"My football career was basically over in 1978, and I was operating the Single Wing. I drive by here and see, 'For Rent.' I pursued it. Nobody else was, because interest rates were 18-19 percent back in 1980. Maybe ignorance was bliss, but I pursued it, got the lease."

He named the place The Sports Page because his dad was a commuter and he'd bring home an armful of New York City newspapers when Hyland was a boy. After finishing his homework, Hyland would cherish reading the classic old-time sportswriters and columnists.

Before the Single Wing — now it's Finn McCool's, and owned by former Sports Page bartender and current Stepinac football coach Mike O'Donnell — the sports bar in the area was DePaolo's Dugout. But the TV sports business was about to go boom, and Hyland had the foresight to fill his place with televisions, even if he didn't yet have the programming.

"Basically it was the Giants on Channel 2, the Jets on Channel 4, and there really wasn't much (else) going on," Hyland said. "Now we can virtually put on every game in the United States. We used to have a number of VCRs and just to fill in space we'd record games and show them again later. Or we'd show some of these highlight films that were available from the NFL. When ESPN first came out, during the daytime the only thing they had on was ladies' exercising and this crazy stuff. It's really come a long way."

Hyland has a championship ring from Super Bowl II, when he played for Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, and played with so many Hall of Famers he's lost count. The Packers drafted him ninth overall, as the first offensive lineman taken, as an All American out of Boston College in 1967.

He played with, among many others, Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke, and later Dick Butkus (in Chicago) — the two of them didn't speak for about six months after all their one-on-one trench battles.

There are pictures of all of those guys at The Sports Page, some going to the new 6,600-square foot building which formerly housed Michael's Tavern, and which will have more than the 55 TVs and five or six satellite dishes currently in the old place. There are also hundreds of pictures of legends such as Joe Namath, Muhammad Ali, Secretariat — and two guys who stopped in at one time or another, Mickey Mantle and Hyland's favorite, Willie Mays. There are the signature Louisville Slugger bats as door handles at the entrance. There is a blue No. 70 Giants jersey that Hyland wore, and a 20-plus-foot skull from the New York Athletic Club hanging from the ceiling, and a pair of seats from the old Yankee Stadium. Part of the backdrop for the original set of Kiner's Korner is there, too, as is a cartoon of Joe Riverso, the former employee and Stepinac assistant coach who perished in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

There are sayings all around. One reads: "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's where you watch the game. — BH."

Another makes a point: "Those who are drinking to forget, please pay in advance."

Hyland spends about 20 hours a week there, trying to keep his work week to 60 hours — he sells insurance for Northwestern Mutual Life as a full-time job. He has had both hips replaced and all sorts of arthritis that comes from playing pro football for 11 years.

But he's a businessman making another move, and historically he's been right more than Cosell was that night in Buffalo.

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