History and tradition abounds in latest Nutley Athletic Hall class

Albie Hallam is now 75 years old and almost 60 years removed from graduating from Nutley High School.

In fact, Hallam was certain that most people had forgotten his accomplishments as a three-sport standout (football, basketball and baseball) at Nutley High.

“I think so, mainly because I’m not in the record books anywhere,” said Hallam, who earned All-Essex County honors in football and baseball and was Third Team All-State in football. “I guess a lot of people had to have seen me play to appreciate what I had done.”

But Hallam is a rich part of Nutley’s past.

“We were the No. 1 team in the state in 1960,” Hallam said. “And the top two teams were from Essex County. We were the only team in Nutley history that produced four future college football captains.”

Hallam went on to play at Gettysburg College after his days in Nutley were through. He played tight end for three years at Gettysburg and lettered there for three seasons.

But someone remembered Hallam’s contributions to Nutley High and nominated him for induction into the Third Half Club’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Hallam, seven other athletes and an entire team will gain their worthy spot in the Nutley Hall on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Chandelier in Belleville.

The 2017 Hall of Fame class, the first class to be inducted in five years and only the 10th since the inaugural Hall of Fame dinner was held in 1988, will first be honored at the dinner, followed by the official induction Saturday, Oct. 14, prior to the Nutley Homecoming football game against Orange at the Nutley Oval.

Hallam is the eldest of this year’s Hall of Fame class. The other inductees include Sam Battaglia (Class of 1964, football); John Monaco (Class of 1981, wrestling); Dawn Marie DeRose (Class of 1983, soccer, basketball, softball); Andy Joyner (Class of 1984, basketball, baseball); Alan Branigan (Class of 1993, soccer); Don Sellari (Class of 1993, football, track); Kim DiVincenzo-Root (Class of 1999, basketball, softball) as well as the 1992 Nutley softball team that won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III state championship.

Hallam was indeed shocked when he was informed that he was being inducted.

“I’m excited about it,” Hallam said. “I’m usually a low-keyed guy, so I take everything in stride. But I’m looking forward to this.”

Hallam spent four years in active duty with the United States Marines and seven years as a member of the Marines Reserve unit. He did a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1967-1968, before getting a job in sales. He remained as a financial advisor with Smith Barney for 25 years.

Hallam and his wife of nearly 50 years, Angela, reside in Montclair since 1970. They have two children, Ryan, a managing director for Citibank and was an All-State hockey player at Montclair High School, and daughter Christy, who is a law professor at George Washington University.

Battaglia just missed being a teammate of Hallam. He spent three years with the Nutley varsity as an offensive tackle and defensive end, then headed off to the University of Maryland to play offensive tackle from 1964 through 1968.

“If I didn’t get the scholarship to Maryland, I might not have made it through college,” said Battaglia, who serves as the president of the Third Half Club.

Battaglia, who played on some of the greatest football teams in Nutley history, said that he vividly recalls his first varsity game as a sophomore.

“I got to replace Sylvester Moore,” Battaglia said. “That was a big thrill for me.”

Moore was one of the greatest two-way linemen in Maroon Raider history.

“We had some good players back then and I played on some good teams,” Battaglia said. “That pushed me to the limit. I was able to excel and go on to college.”

Battaglia went on to spend 45 years in the oil industry before retiring in 2007. He has also been married for 49 years to his wife Kathie. The Battaglia family still resides in Nutley. Son Joseph resides right next door and works for UBS and daughter Kristin is a teacher’s aide in a preschool.

“I just didn’t want people to think that I was doing this to honor myself,” Battaglia said. “My wife and son were the driving forces behind this. They went into this old box with my old clippings and put my name up. If it weren’t for my family nominating me, it never would have happened.”

Battaglia is proud of what the Third Half Club has been able to accomplish over the years, raising more than $165,000 in order to present four or five students a year a scholarship.

Battaglia said that the Third Half Club also organizes the March Madness youth basketball tournament in the spring and a golf tournament is held every summer.

“We’ve done a great job taking care of the young people of Nutley,” Battaglia said.

Joyner played three years of high school and four years of college baseball at Fairleigh Dickinson University under long-time Nutley legendary coach Dennis Sasso.

Joyner was All-State in baseball in 1984, winning 11 games that season, earning All-State honors along with Mets and Yankees standout pitcher Al Leiter. He still ranks No. 1 all-time in career victories with 24.

Joyner also pitched in the ECAC College All-Star game in Yankee Stadium.

“I’m humbled, grateful and elated to be inducted,” said Joyner, who spends a lot of his time umpiring baseball games on the collegiate, high school and Little League levels. “I lost my Mom in April and when I heard the news of this honor, I got down on my knees in tears and thanked my Mom, who supported me. I’m very humbled by this.”

Joyner currently resides in Bloomfield. He has a daughter, Alexis, who is a graduate of Rutgers in New Brunswick and is currently attending graduate school at Pace University.

“I grew up in Nutley,” Joyner said. “Growing up, I was fortunate to be welcomed into the Nutley community and was able to play for one of the top teams in the state for four years.”

DiVincenzo-Root was a basketball and softball standout during her heyday. The daughter of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Kim resides in West Caldwell with her husband Randy, and their two children, Hailey (age 6) and Cameron (19 months).

“I was so shocked and so humbled by this,” DiVincenzo-Root said. “It’s such an amazing honor. I don’t really know how it all happened. I do know that it usually goes to older people. I didn’t expect this, that’s for sure.”

DiVincenzo-Root works now in the Essex County Improvement Authority, after spending 10 years as a teacher.

“I had a lot of good experiences with my teammates and my coaches,” said DiVincenzo-Root, who scored more than 1,600 points during her days in Nutley. “A lot of what I did had to do with my father. When I was in eighth grade, he pointed to the banner in the gym and said, ‘You’re going to do this.’ I thought he was crazy. My senior year, I had my picture taken with the ball near the banner. That’s my personal memory.”

DiVincenzo-Root said that she is excited to be presented next month by her former softball coach and current Nutley softball coach Luann Zullo.

“My family is going to be there as well supporting me,” said DiVincenzo-Root, who first went to Marist College to play basketball and ended up at Seton Hall to play softball. “I’m just so honored and so shocked.”

Tickets for the dinner are available by calling Jackie Searle at (973) 699-7780 or via e-mail at jsearle@icloud.com.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer