THE STORIED HISTORY OF THE AWARD
THAT MADE SPORTS HISTORY.
The backstory on The Hickok Belt™,
the crown jewel of the sports world.
The Hickok Belt™ Award was conceived as a way to honor Ray and Alan Hickok’s father, Stephen Rae Hickok, an avid sportsman and the entrepreneurial innovator behind the Hickok Manufacturing Company, once the largest and most respected maker of men’s belts and accessories in the world.
The ultimate sports prize, the Hickok Belt™ was awarded annually to the top professional athlete of all sports, as voted on by a panel of 300 sportswriters across the country. For one night each year, Rochester, New York was the center of the sports world, as the top names in sports flocked to the gala Hickok Belt™ awards banquet.
Efforts to revive the Belt failed, until Tony Liccione, president of the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame, acquired the Hickok Belt™ trademarks and put the wheels in motion to begin a new era for the Crown Jewel of the Sports World. On October 16th 2011, past Hickok winners will gather with some of today’s top stars at a banquet at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, to celebrate past winners. And begin the countdown to October 2012, when the first Hickok Belt™ winner in 36 years will be named.
Want to know more? Click on the links below for more in-depth Hickok Belt history.
1950 Phil Rizzuto
Worth $90,000 - $140,000 in
today’s dollars, the Belt was a
true work of art.
FROM BRAINCHILD TO REALITY.
How the ultimate tribute became the ultimate award.
Five years after their father, Stephen Rae’s death, Ray and Alan Hickok came up with the idea of honoring his memory in the form of a belt to be awarded to the middleweight boxing champion of the world. The awarding of trophy belts to fighters dated back to mid-nineteenth century England. Given their father’s two passions—sports and belts, the idea made perfect sense. To give this new belt legitimacy, Ray and Alan teamed up with New York City boxing promoter Murray Goodman. In order to keep the belt, which would be designed and manufactured by Hickok, it was decided that the champion would have to successfully defend his title once.
On June 16, 1949, the new belt was presented to Jake LaMotta, who won a brutal fight against Frenchman Marcel Cerdan. But LaMotta was so enamored of the belt that he refused to part with it, despite being reminded that he couldn’t keep it until he made a successful title defense.
Even former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis couldn’t convince LaMotta to return the belt. As it turned out, the Hickoks’ faced an even bigger problem, a lawsuit threatened by Ring magazine for infringing on their historic rights dating back to the 1920’s to present championship belts in all weight classifications.
Clearly the Hickoks would have to go back to the drawing board for a way to honor their father. Together with Goodman, they decided to create the ultimate sports prize, awarded annually to the top professional athlete in all of sports, chosen by a panel of 300 sportswriters and sportscasters from across the country. And the Hickok Belt™ Award was born. The first Hickok Belt™ was awarded to Phil Rizzuto at the Rochester Press-Radio Club charity banquet in 1950.
THE COMPANY BEHIND THE BELT.
The innovative manufacturer.
A classic American Dream story: Stephen Rae Hickok, an entrepreneurial innovator, built the Hickok Manufacturing Company from a mere $300 investment in a small jewelry plating business on Water Street, in downtown Rochester, NY. This quickly grew into a multimillion-dollar business, and later became the largest and most respected maker of men’s belts and accessories in the world.
In Stephen Rae’s continued efforts to promote his company, he combined innovative marketing with gigantic advertising spreads in National magazines and newspapers across the United States to endorse his full line of men’s accessories, including belts, wallets, suspenders, and jewelry. It was once mentioned that if a year’s worth of Hickok manufactured belts were laid down end-to-end, it would stretch from Rochester to Moscow. To this day, Hickok is believed to be the force behind helping American men be more jewelry conscious.
Described as a rugged individualist, Stephen Rae had a passion for hunting, fishing, the great outdoors, and embarking on safaris across North America. Therefore, is only natural that animals and cowboys were the inspiration for so many of his belts and buckles.
Following Stephen Rae’s unexpected death on December 20, 1945, (the day before his 65th birthday) his sons, Ray and Alan took over operation of the company. Five years later, they honored their father in the most benefitting way possibly—creating the ultimate sports prize, the Hickok Belt™. This was awarded annually to the top professional athlete selected from all sports the years of 1950 to 1976.
MORE THAN A BELT, A WORK OF ART.
The jewel of the sports world in more ways than one.
As you would expect from an award of such significance, the Hickok Belt™ itself was impressively ornate. With an immaculate 4 1/3-carat South African diamond encrusted on an eighteen-carat gold buckle featuring a classic ancient Grecian athlete, the belt was originally valued at $10,000 and $15,000.
A belt of this caliber is now worth $90,000 to $140,000. In the initial manufacturing process, it took jewelers at the old Hickok Manufacturing Company of Rochester, NY more than 250 man-hours to produce.
ROCHESTER, THE CENTER OF
THE SPORTS WORLD.
One night each year, all eyes were on the city on Lake Ontario.
Given the National scope of the Hickok Belt™ Award, Murray Goodman encouraged the Hickoks to have an award dinner in New York City. But they insisted it be presented in Rochester, their hometown. And they believed the children’s charity banquet started by the Rochester Press-Radio Club in 1950 would be the ideal showcase for the award. While Rochester was a mid-sized city and travel to and from there could be difficult, especially during the winter months, the Hickoks got their wish.
To make getting to Rochester easier, Goodman suggested holding the Hickok dinner the day after the Baseball Writers Association of America dinner in New York City each winter. As many of the top baseball players and sportswriters and sportscasters would be in the Big Apple already, it would be easy to put them on an overnight train upstate following the dinner. It wasn’t until the last seven years the award was given that rising costs forced the banquet to be moved to larger cities, like New York, Chicago and finally Washington, D.C.