Bridgeville History Center exhibit features coach's scrapbook from 1931
By John Oyler
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
We have finally managed to pull together the constituents for an exhibit at the Bridgeville History Center focused on sports in the local area. It follows a very well received exhibit on Bridgeville Area Schools, an exhibit that established a model for its successors.
Much of the material being displayed is from the Bridgeville Area Historical Society's archives; it has been re-arranged to make it accessible to the general public. The society hopes that exhibits of this type will encourage visitors to take advantage of the large number of items the society has archived.
A particularly valuable source of material being displayed can be found in a collection of scrapbooks. The society is extremely fortunate to have acquired a scrapbook Coach Neil Brown kept when he was in Bridgeville. Coach Brown came here in 1931 following graduation from Grove City College and served as an assistant coach until taking over as head coach for football and basketball in 1933.
Brown left Bridgeville after the 1942 basketball season for the head coaching assignment at the new Har-Brack Union High School. After six successful years there, he went to Clairton High School, producing many outstanding teams there before retiring. The Clairton football stadium is named in his honor.
His scrapbook is especially valuable since the number of local sports fans who remember that era is rapidly dwindling. It is fascinating to read about Smiles Perkins and Perry Hackley, “the Touchdown Twins,” and of the basketball exploits of Tay Malarkey and his teammates. Brown's football teams in 1940 and 1941 were outstanding, probably the equal of the three championship teams in the decade that followed.
My brother's scrapbooks from the late 1940s and early 1950s provide an excellent record of Bridgeville High School sports in those years; a scrapbook kept by Ray Witsel does an equally effective job of the years following them. The exhibit also includes copies of the pages in a scrapbook kept by Sam David's family, chronicling his impressive career playing basketball and baseball at many levels.
A number of prominent local figures are remembered with individual posters, including Sam David. One features Buff Donelli's remarkable career, including the fact that he is the only person to coach an NFL team (the Steelers) and a college team (Duquesne) concurrently. Huck O'Neil's career included stops at BHS, Duquesne, Notre Dame, the Steelers, the Calgary Stampeders, the Montreal Alouettes, and the New York Titans; it is the subject of a poster.
Another poster features Coach Bob Hast and his remarkable record at BHS. He came here in 1947 after playing football at Duquesne and Columbia, inherited a team that had lost all of its games the previous year, and ran off a winning streak of 25 games, including two WPIAL championships. Paul Danilo's National Soccer Hall of Fame career and Suzy Semanick's Olympic ice dancing exploits also are memorialized by posters.
During much of my early career as a sports fan I was influenced by Bill Winstein's sports cartoons in the Pittsburgh Press. A poster dedicated to him presents numerous examples of his work, including a marvelous depiction of the stars of the 1949 championship team — Lou Cimarolli, Ken Beadling, and Anthony Capozzoli.
There are posters commemorating the three championship high school football teams – 1942, 1948, and 1949 – each including formal team pictures of all the players on the teams. A very interesting poster records the scores of all the games that Bridgeville High School played, from 1921 through 1959. Compiled by sports statistician Roger Saylor, the tabulation also includes his power rating for each team.
There is a poster dedicated to soccer stars including Olympian Burke Jones, Dave Kasper, and the three BHS 1950 graduates who played for strong Penn State teams — Bob Harris, Bill Norcik, and Emil Borra. Another poster recognizes BHS alumni who played football for a variety of college teams.
The exhibit was planned and implemented by a committee of my “Octogenarian Brunch Club” associates — Dale Deblander, Russ Kovach, my brother Joe, and me. We hope that it achieves two objectives.
First, that visitors to the exhibit recognize that the items being displayed are a small fraction of the sports heritage of this area, and that they take advantage of the center's resources to learn more about individual topics. Second, we hope the exhibit will motivate visitors to loan or donate relevant items to the display. The history center is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
John Oyler is a columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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