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The Butler Did it: Kaiser honor long overdue

A few years ago, the school renamed Alumni Hall for legendary basketball coach Lou Carnesecca, an event covered by every city tabloid and television outlet. That's because for many, St. John's is basketball and St. John's basketball is Lou Carnesecca. The same could be said about Jack Kaiser and baseball, but he's too modest to admit it.In fact, it could be argued that Carnesecca is as famous as he is, at least in part, because of Kaiser. That's because Kaiser, who at the time was the St. John's athletic director, is one of the founders of the Big East conference. The first meeting for what would develop into arguably the best basketball conference in the country was held in Kaiser's office and included then-Providence AD Dave Gavitt and former Georgetown AD Frank Rienzo, a Queens native and Archbishop Molloy alum."At that time we weren't even thinking football," Kaiser said. "And now the Big East was 5-0 in bowl games. Then it was strictly basketball and other sports."Since the school made the announcement, I've spoken to several people with connections to St. John's, both past and present, about the honor and they all said the same thing: It's long overdue. St. John's might be the second largest Catholic university in the country, but it moves slow as molasses. In fact, I think there's still a few rotary phones on campus and the radio station uses 8-tracks. This is something that should have been done the day the field was renovated and flipped around, when it went from Fr. McCallen Field, named for the school treasurer who first proposed relocating the school to the site of the Hillcrest Country Club, to The Ballpark at St. John's, where the Toronto Blue Jays Single-A affiliate Queens Kings resided for one season. Perhaps the school was trying to cash in, like they did when naming Belson Stadium and Taffner Field House after school benefactors, but whatever the case, there is no one more deserving than Kaiser."Jack Kaiser embodied the ideals of St. John's University as a key contributor to our athletic success for many years," St. John's president Rev. Donald J. Harrington said. "It is fitting that the stadium be named in his honor."Kaiser began his St. John's career as a baseball, basketball and soccer player in the late 1940s, then as a coach from 1956-1973, the director of athletics from 1973-1995 and currently holds the title of athletic director emeritus. Throughout his career at St. John's, Kaiser has been one of the baseball program's biggest supporters. He led teams to the College World Series as a player in 1949 and a coach in 1960, 1966 and 1968, then went on to provide department-wide leadership as the director of athletics for 23 years.Sit in the bleachers behind home plate and you're sure to find Kaiser today, still rooting on the Red Storm. Walk into the athletic department at Carnesecca Arena and you'll still find Kaiser, supporting his alma mater, just as he has for the past 60 years."I'm absolutely delighted, humbled and awestruck," Kaiser said. "It doesn't happen to too many people. I'm very thankful to Father Harrington and the university to give me this honor."Reach reporter Marc Raimondi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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