Old School vs. New School
It is an unlikely battle for the title of the Shores Greatest Sports Personality over the last 50 years. From the original field of 64, we are down to a pair of iconic figures who represent not only different sports but different eras. One is from Ocean County, the other from Monmouth County and between now and 11:59 pm on Monday, April 16 voters will decide who wins the coveted title.
Todd Frazier is a well-known sports figure throughout the United States and especially in his hometown of Toms River. He burst onto the scene in the summer of 1998 when as a 12-year old he led Toms River East to the Little League World Series championship. That was only the beginning for Frazier, who had a record-setting career at Toms River High School South and Rutgers University before being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007.
After three years in the minors, Frazier made his debut with the Reds during the 2011 season and played 41 games with them. The following year he was the regular third baseman in Cincinnati and batted .273 with 19 home runs on his way to being named the MLB Players Associations National League Rookie of the Year. Frazier was selected to the All-Star Game in both 2014 & 15 and also participated in the Home Run Derby both years, winning it in 2015 on his home field.
Frazier was traded to the Chicago White Sox following the 2015 season and the following year achieved career highs with 40 homers and 98 RBI’s. After spending the first half of 2017 in Chicago he was dealt to the Yankees where the “Toddfather” helped lead them to within a game of the World Series. Frazier, who still lives in Toms River then became a free agent and wanting to stay close to home signed a 2-year deal with the Mets and his strong clubhouse presence, leadership and enthusiasm have helped them get off to a surprisingly fast start.
Phil Villapiano is not nearly as well-known as Frazier unless you are over the age of 55 or one of the many members of “Raider Nation.” The 69-year old Ocean Township High School graduate was a standout linebacker for the Raiders and a key part of their Super Bowl winning team in the 1976-77 season. Villapiano was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year at Bowling Green and a second-round draft pick of the Raiders in 1971. He was the league’s Rookie of the Year, and a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his nine years in Oakland before finishing his career by playing four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Just last month he was named to the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame and Phil is currently being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Senior Committee.
Villapiano is well known for his engaging personality and sense of humor but he’s also someone who has a strong sense of community. He has helped raise millions of dollars in the battle against ALS and Muscular Dystrophy and was a leader in helping people and businesses that suffered losses during Superstorm Sandy.
Villapiano’s surprising run to the finals has been fueled by support from Raider fans from throughout the country.
Sponsored by Sonny’s Recycling of Waretown the winner will receive a specially designed trophy from Ocean Trophies of Lanoka Harbor.
Vote for the final matchup now. Voting is capped at once per hour per IP address.
Take a closer look at the Final Four:
From the time he caught America’s eyes in the Little League World Series to his moments on baseball’s biggest stage as a Major Leaguer, Toms River’s Todd Frazier is without question one of the Shore Conference’s all-time greats.
It all began in the 1998 Little League World Series when Frazier led the Toms River East American All-Star team to the New Jersey state title and then the U.S. East Regional championship to send the team to Williamsport. The TRE American All-Stars were nicknamed the “Beasts of the East” and went undefeated in the tournament with Frazier, a shortstop and pitcher, leading the way. In the world championship game Frazier went 4-for-4 with a leadoff home run and was also the winning pitcher, recording the final championship-clinching strikeout in a 12-9 win over Japan’s Kashima Little League. It was in that moment a legend was born.
Frazier attended Toms River High School South where he led the Indians to consecutive NJSIAA Group III state titles in 2002 and 2003 and was a multiple-time All-State selection. He was initially drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 37th round of the 2004 MLB June Amateur Draft, but instead went on to a record-setting career at Rutgers University before embarking on a professional career. In 2007 Frazier was the Big East Player of the Year and a Rivals.com All-American selection and at the time of his graduation finished in the top six all-time in every major single-season offensive category at Rutgers other than triples., including the top marks in runs scored (87), walks (62), doubles (24) and total bases (187). The Cincinnati Reds selected Frazier with the 34th overall pick in the first round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
The 32-year old Frazier is currently the third baseman for the New York Mets in his eight MLB season. Frazier played for the Reds from 2011-2015 and was a two-time All-Star. In 2015 he hit 35 home runs, drove in 89 runs and won the Home Run Derby during All-Star weekend. Frazier then joined the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and slugged a career-high 40 home runs with a career-best 98 RBI. He was traded to the New York Yankees midway through the 2017 season and became a fan favorite and clubhouse leader who helped the Yankees reach the American League Championship Series. He finished 2017 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI.
Frazier signed with the Mets in the offseason. He has 175 home runs, 501 RBI, 489 runs scored, 822 hits and a .245 batting average across an eight-year major league career.
A standout linebacker at Asbury Park High School and later Ocean Township High School, Villapiano enjoyed a 13-year NFL career in which he was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl champion.
Villapiano began his career at Asbury Park and moved to Ocean Township High School when the school opened in 1965. He played his college football at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and was a Mid-America Conference Player of the Year.
The Oakland Raiders drafted Villapiano with the 45th overall pick in the second round of the 1971 NFL Draft, beginning a successful career with the Silver and Black that made Villapiano one of the most beloved Raiders of his era. He burst onto the scene in 1971 to start all 14 games and win AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He would start 83 of 84 games from 1971 to 1976, making the Pro Bowl from 1973 to 1976.
The most memorable moment of Villapiano’s career came in Super Bowl XI when his thunderous goal line hit on Minnesota Vikings running back Brent McClanahan forced a fumble and sent the Raiders on their way to the Super Bowl title. The NFL did not officially keep statistics for tackles until 1994, but
Villapiano was considered one of the fastest linebackers of his era who also played with a physicality that defined the Raiders. He had 11 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries during his career. He concluded his career playing two seasons for the Buffalo Bills in 1980 and 1981.
Villapiano currently resides in Rumson and has three children, Andrea, Phil and Michael, with his late wife Susan. Michael quarterbacked Rumson to the 2010 Central Jersey Group II state sectional title, the first in program history, and played collegiately at Brown University.