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Hall of Fame coach Don Colpoys passes away at 83

CANISIUS COLLEGE ATHLETICS


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Don Colpoys, a longtime baseball man who spent 25 seasons as the head coach of the Canisius College baseball program, passed away Thursday night at the age of 83.

Colpoys' baseball career spanned more than 60 years. His passion for the game, his numerous accomplishments on and off the diamond and the impact he made on the lives of countless young men in Western New York earned him a place in the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

"This is a sad day for Canisius College, our baseball program and the baseball community in Western New York," Canisius Director of Athletics Bill Maher said. "Don Colpoys will forever be one of the pillars in the history of Canisius baseball. His impact on the game of baseball in Buffalo, and the student-athletes he coached during his time leading our program goes far beyond the diamond. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Don's family and everyone who had the special opportunity to be
able to call him coach."

At the time of his retirement from Canisius in 2001, Colpoys had won a school-record 325 career games as the Golden Griffins' skipper. His best season at Canisius came in 1994, when the Blue and Gold posted 28 wins and secured the first MAAC regular-season championship in program history. He was honored as the MAAC North Coach of the Year at the end of that season, as well. The Griffs' 1994 roster featured pitcher Joe Mamott, who was taken in the sixth round of the 1994 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. Colpoys also guided the 1986 edition of the Griffs to the school's first postseason berth, as the team won the ECAC North title and participated in the ECAC Upstate Division I Baseball Tournament in Pawtucket, R.I.

Colpoys, who was inducted to the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, started his baseball playing career as catcher at Bishop Timon in Buffalo, where he earned First-Team All-Catholic honors. After his professional career in the St. Louis Cardinals organization was cut short by injury, he went on to play and coach for the Simon Pures from 1957-70. He was 46-0 in his first year as manager and his first four teams posted an incredible 168-16 record, including 63 consecutive wins.
 
Later on, he took the AAABA Al Maroone team to the national tournament three times in six years. Following that successful coaching run was a stint as a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies and the manager's job with Niagara Falls Pirates of the New York-Penn League. In winter of 1979, Colpoys learned that Jersey City of the Eastern League would not be able to host a team that season, and after working with former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin and an ownership group, that franchise was brought to Buffalo, marking the first time professional baseball was played in the city since 1970. Colpoys served as the Bisons' general manager from 1979-84.

Calling hours will be held on Monday, April 2, from 2-7 p.m., at Reddington Funeral Home, located at 657 Abbott Road in Buffalo. The funeral Mass will be held Tuesday, April 3 at 9:30 a.m., at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, located at 450 Abbott Road in Buffalo.

Expressions of Sympathy and Thoughts on Don Colpoys
"On behalf of Canisius College and the men who wore the uniform and played for Don, we are deeply saddened to hear of his passing. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wonderful wife Ellen and their extended family.

Coach had a heart the size of Fenway Park, home of his beloved Red Sox. He provided so many opportunities for young boys and men in Western New York to enjoy the sport he always loved.

He ran a Division I college athletic program the right way – with passion, hard work and integrity.

I'm sure, within no time, coach Colpoys will be giving Ted Williams hitting advice."
John Maddock - Associate Athletic Director, Canisius College
 
"I personally only had the fortune to meet Don a few short times as a young assistant coach.  From all I know and from what I have heard, coach Colpoys was truly a legend in the Western New York baseball community and especially at Canisius College.  His longevity and service to the College and to the Canisius baseball program paved the way for the growth and success that has been maintained at Canisius today.  Don was the foundation of the Canisius baseball program and will never be forgotten for all that he did for Canisius and the great game of baseball in Western New York.  He will be truly missed."
Matt Mazurek (Class of 2006) – Head Baseball Coach, Canisius College  
 
"Buffalo lost a baseball legend on MLB Opening Day.  All of us Griffs lost a legendary friend as well.  A great coach and person, who gave his time and resources because he loved baseball and his players.  Other than my own father, I can't think of someone I respected more.  RIP coach."  
Mark Notaro (Class of 1995)
 
"Coach Colpoys was a big influence in my life, and he still is. His knowledge of the game and his witty sayings will be missed, but never forgotten." 
Kevin Biata (Class of 1994)
 
"Not many people loved baseball and loved teaching the game like coach Colpoys.  He was as caring as he was tough. I was lucky enough to play for coach for four years and have so many great memories from that period in my life. Coach was a gentleman and a role model.  He taught me the game but he also greatly impacted who I am as a person. He was also a dear friend of my father and I take great comfort in knowing the two of them are together and most certainly talking baseball."       
Brian P. Hennessy (Class of 1997)
 
"I can only say that I loved playing for coach Colpoys. He was a master baseball manager who knew how to get the most out of each player. He treated everyone the same. He had his favorites, but they all got treated the same. His sayings were memorable, also. His favorite of mine was yelling at an opposing player after making a spectacular play "Check your other hand you'll find a ham sandwich!". He was special, tough as nails, but a heart of gold. We'll miss seeing him." 
John Boutet (Class of 1984)
 
"As a coach on the field - he was demanding and imposing, but taught you to play with toughness and guts.  As a coach off the field - he took the time to talk, explain, listen and you knew that he cared.  Don Colpoys will be missed, but never forgotten...the countless stories will always remain."
Ryan Hilton (Class of 1995)

"I transferred to Canisius at the start of my sophomore year.  I was immediately drawn to coach Colpoys, as I was a catcher just like he was.  We saw the game from the same perspective.
 
In practice, he would put a lot of pressure on his players, but when he saw you could play with the type of pressure he applied - he would back off - knowing the pressure he applied would not be as much as what you would see come game time. This prepared us for what we were about to face and made us all better for it.
 
All of that culminated in 1994 when we had our best year ever.  Stacked lineup from top to bottom; a clear rotation, fabulous bench players and a dominant closer. 
 
As the catcher on the team, I had the benefit of being by his side more than anybody else.  You just couldn't come away from being around coach Colpoys and feeling like you didn't learn something about the game of baseball.
 
Gonna miss that guy!"
 
RIP Kipper
Keith Applegate (Class of 1994)
 
"Heard the sad news about coach Colpoys passing, strange that I have been thinking about him lately; hope his family is doing as best as possible. Kipper was one of a kind, not only a great coach and baseball mind, but a role model and special human being. His dedication to the game, our school and his family remain with me all these years later. Our time as Griffins under coach has shaped my life and made me who I am today, and for that I am truly grateful ….. he will be missed."
Pete Gibbons (Class of 1995)
 
"Don was a great, great ambassador for baseball. He always kept me laughing during games with his one-liners. A good friend. Will miss him."
Tony Rossi – Head Baseball Coach, Siena College
 
"Don did much with little during his time a Canisius."
Mike Rappl – Former Canisius Softball Coach

Former players, friends and Canisius fans are invited to submit their memories of Don Colpoys to the Canisius athletic department by emailing thoughts to Canisius associate athletic director John Maddock at maddock@canisius.edu 

Please note, unless specifically mentioned in the email, all submissions will be posted on GoGriffs.com and the department's social media channels throughout the week.