Sports-minded O'Brien connects with Bridgeville audience
The Bridgeville Area Historical Society program meeting for April featured an entertaining presentation of local area sports history by sportswriter Jim O'Brien, who is an author and publisher of 23 books, most of which deal with sports in Western Pennsylvania.
He talked about his strong connection with the Bridgeville area. Bill “Woody” Wolf was his neighbor in Upper St. Clair and his close friend. Bill walked down Cook School Road from his home into Bridgeville and back each day; O'Brien reported that he frequently accompanied Bill on part of his walk.
He was familiar with Bill's pride in the 1949 Class B WPIAL championship football team and his efforts to locate and salvage the high school's sports trophies. Incidentally, these trophies are one of the main features of the society's exhibit that is focused on Bridgeville schools.
O'Brien was also a friend of Father Sam David and familiar with his athletic exploits and those of his son Joey. He reported that Sam's widow, Janet Deep David, credited her success as a wife and mother to her growing up with 13 brothers, on Baldwin Street.
The speaker mentioned other Bridgeville area sports figures — Lou Cimarolli, Suzy Semanick and Aldo “Buff” Donelli. I was pleased that he knew that “Donelli” is the answer to the sports trivia question, “Who is the only man to coach a Division I college football team and an NFL team concurrently?” In 1941 he coached Duquesne to an undefeated season, while leading the Steelers to five consecutive losses before being replaced by Walt Keisling.
O'Brien contributed several other trivia items. Armen Gilliam, of Bethel Park, who played 13 years for six different NBA teams between 1987 and 2000, earned more money as a professional athlete than any other Western Pennsylvania product. Incidentally, Upper St. Clair's Sean Casey, who played 12 years of major league baseball from 1997 to 2008, is a runner-up for top breadwinner.
He also mentioned the Hayes brothers from South Fayette, Jay and Jonathan, who currently are assistant coaches for the NFL Cincinnati Bengals. Their head coach is Marvin Lewis, himself a product of nearby McDonald. McDonald also was the birthplace of Marty Schottenheimer, whose NFL coaching record totaled 200.
O'Brien grew up in Hazelwood and is a graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School (1960) and the University of Pittsburgh (1964), with a degree in English. He has been a sportswriter with The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, The Miami News, The New York Post and The Pittsburgh Press, and a contributing columnist to The Sporting News, The Football News, Basketball Times and Basketball News. His career began as a 14-year-old sports writer for a Hazelwood paper. While covering a Golden Gloves tournament he asked Myron Cope for advice. Cope replied, “Sit down and start writing!”
Another Bridgeville-related story was O'Brien's visit to a fish fry at St. Agatha's Church, honoring a midget football league. He was accompanied by rookie Steeler running back Merril Hoge, who had just come to Pittsburgh from Boise, Idaho. Hoge remarked that “he knew football was important in Pittsburgh, but he was surprised to learn they had a special league for midgets.”
O'Brien was particularly complimentary about Troy Polamalu and Art Rooney. He said Polamalu spends much of his time visiting Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. As for Mr. Rooney, the speaker reported that he had an obsession for visiting funeral homes for anyone he had ever known. One of his associates had the assignment of going through the “Irish sports pages” (the obituary section) each morning and ringing up the names of everyone he knew.
Following the presentation, someone in the audience asked him who his all-time favorite sports personality was. He immediately replied, “Arnold Palmer,” then added “Bill Mazeroski, Mario Lemieux, Roberto Clemente and Sidney Crosby.” And the common denominator for all of them is that they didn't think they were any better than anyone else.
Coming right up
The next society program meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., May 28, in the Chartiers Room at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department. Historian Todd DePastino will discuss “The Great Depression and the 1932 March.” The public is invited.
Also, the next presentation in the “Bridgeville Remembered” series will be made at 7 p.m., May 16, in the Community Room at the Bridgeville Public Library. We will discuss the growth of Bridgeville between 1875 and 1890.
John Oyler, a columnist for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 412-343-1652 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Fayette High School backs out of federal lunch program
- Chartiers Valley hires architect, though no building plans set
- South Fayette officials vote to opt HS out of national lunch program
- No decision once again for massage-therapy business in Carnegie
- Money kept out of South Fayette school expansion talks
- Crossings work set to resume in South Fayette
- Carnegie residents point to project as flooding cause
- Hunt resigns from Carlynton School Board
- Around Town: Businesses open in Carnegie, Crafton, Bridgeville
- Rosslyn Farms’ appeal to switch districts denied again