Junius Kellogg, Manhattan’s Athletic Hero

by C. GARRETT KEIDEL, Sports Editor

As Black History Month comes to a close, here at the Quadrangle we wanted to celebrate one of the greatest athletic stories to ever come out of Manhattan College. A story of athletic integrity, standing up for the right in having fairness in the game of basketball, and standing up to one of the greatest point-shaving scandals in college basketball history.

Back before Manhattan College’s basketball team played in Draddy Gymnasium, the Jaspers played all of their games at New York City’s famous Madison Square Garden. College athletics played on such a high level location caused for there to be a lot of eyes watching the game and high attendances.

Because of the amount of attention the games received, people began betting and gambling on the scores of the highly publicised matches. It became common for players from New York City colleges to be approached by people in the betting circles with bribes to throw games, shave points and fix results. One such player that was approached was Manhattan College center, Junius Kellogg.

Born on March 16, 1927, Kellogg grew up in a poorer household in Virginia. After being drafted into the army post-high school, Kellogg came to Manhattan College to play basketball, becoming the first African American to play on an athletic team at the college.

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Kellogg showed intense physical perseverance on the court. MC ARCHIVES / COURTESY

During the early years of his basketball career here, he was approached by a former teammate at his dorm room, and was offered $1,000 in order to poorly perform at an upcoming game against DePaul at Madison Square Garden.

As reported in an article by the New York Associated Press at the time, “the man who approached Kellogg with the offer was Hank Poppe, a former player at Manhattan then working with the gamblers.”

After Kellogg was approached with the offer, he took it and made it known to his head coach, Ken Norton. Kellogg and Norton then took this information to the local Defense Attorney’s office and exposed the gambling ring that had been plaguing New York City’s college basketball world.

Kellogg’s incredible story doesn’t end there. He eventually graduated from Manhattan College in 1953, and went on to become a part of the traveling basketball stunt group, the Harlem Globetrotters.

While travelling to a game in 1954, he was involved in an automobile accident where the car he was in flipped several times, causing a spinal cord injury and leaving Kellogg paralyzed. His resiliency continued to show through his extensive work of physical therapy.

A local report at the time confirmed, “an auto accident in 1954 left him a quadriplegic. However, extensive therapy helped Kellogg recover the use of his hands and arms.”

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Kellogg showed intense physical perseverance in physical therapy. MC ARCHIVES / COURTESY

After this, Kellogg later went on to coach wheelchair basketball and become involved in his community, becoming the first deputy commissioner for the New York City Community Development Agency. He later died in 1998.

His place at the college will forever be cemented in history as the man who single handedly exposed the greatest college sports scandal in New York City. His role as the first African American athlete should be celebrated for what he was able to accomplish on and off the court. Junius Kellogg, and his name, will have hero status for years to come.

A report by the Daily News summed it up by saying, “This role model rolls on. Kellogg wouldn’t take the thousand bucks in 1951, and he won’t take a seat now.”