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Many have had hand in taking care of Belle Vernon stadium

SUBMITTED - District Magisterial Judge Jesse Cramer (right) and Mayor James V. Bitonti of Belle Vernon were among those enjoying the festivities at the dedication of Manzini Field at Brewer Stadium in 2008.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>SUBMITTED</em></div>District Magisterial Judge Jesse Cramer (right) and Mayor James V. Bitonti of Belle Vernon were among those enjoying the festivities at the dedication of Manzini Field at Brewer Stadium in 2008.
SUBMITTED - Lou Comadena, a standout runner and linebacker with the 1959 Bellmar High School football team, is among the hundreds of players who have performed at the stadium during its long history.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>SUBMITTED</em></div>Lou Comadena, a standout runner and linebacker with the 1959 Bellmar High School football team, is among the hundreds of players who have performed at the stadium during its long history.

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A familiar team effort has prevailed throughout the history of the spacious athletic stadium in Belle Vernon Borough — among those who serve as caretakers as well as the teams playing on the field.

The field was renamed Brewer Stadium in memory and honor of the late William L. “Bill” Brewer, who was active in community programs for many years before his untimely death in 1973. He was a coach with the Belle Vernon Midget teams as well as a volunteer caretaker at the field.

Rededication of Brewer Stadium was held Sunday, May 5, 1985, as part of Vernon Baseball's season openers celebration. The festivities called attention to community efforts to rebuild the concession stand and make general repairs to the playing field.

Mayors Frank Ferreri of Belle Vernon and Joseph Tintori of North Belle Vernon led a long list of municipal officials at the event.

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Homer Osborne of Grant Street, Belle Vernon. Osborne received the honor because of his lifetime devotion to nearly all Belle Vernon athletic events and his love of sports. Those attending the opening day ceremonies emphasized that Osborne was a regular at sports events at Brewer Stadium.

Recognition also was given to those who helped rebuild the concession stand. They included Mark Frederick, Rich Miller, Jesse Cramer, Ed Stasko, Bo Byron, Mike Scheponik, Bob Sowers, Jeff Walters, Stoney Jackson, Tom Davies, Tom Murt, Jerry Stasicha, Ray Cathers, Mike Wassilchalk, Carl Smith, Ray Frederick, Larry Bujdos, Terry Brunazzi and John Habel.

Ralph Jennings donated the electricity used during the event, while John Zunic served as master of ceremonies. Others involved in the program were field commissioner Mark Frederick and equipment manager Marty Dietz.

Vernon Baseball Booster officers taking part were president Al Sandusky, vice president Ed Stasko, secretary Sharon Miller, treasurer Sharon Zunic and board members Paul Adametz, Bernie Koliscak, Marty Dietz, Ray Cathers and Bob Berish.

The Manzini Field designation was added in July 2008 to recognize Bap Manzini, longtime coach (football, baseball, track) and teacher at Bellmar High School. Manzini, who later enjoyed success as head football coach at Thomas Jefferson High School, was a resident of the Belle Vernon area for many years before his death on May 9, 2008.

Cramer was instrumental in having the field named for Manzini, making the request to Belle Vernon Borough Council, which approved the idea.

Not only did Manzini care for his players in his own way, he cared for the field that now bears his name, Cramer told The Valley Independent in 2008.

“He used to cut the grass and water the field,” Cramer said.

Others who played for Manzini have recalled that the stadium was like “a second home” to Manzini.

“It seemed as thought he was always there during football season,” said Norm Luce, a junior lineman on the unbeaten 1963 Bellmar team..

Luce, who lives in Delaware, Ohio, said in a 2011 interview that he remembers walking from Bellmar High School on Graham Street to Bellmar Stadium for practice.

“That was a long haul, but there were no excuses for being late for practice,” he said. “And inevitably Bap, who finished classes when we did, would already be on the field waiting for us. To this day I don't know how he got there so fast. But there he was smiling and saying, ‘Why do you guys look so tired?' Then we'd run the steps leading to the press box, do laps and start practice. Bap was tough, but we were better because of those lessons about discipline and responsibility.”

Formal dedication ceremonies of Manzini Field took place in August 2008.

In addition to serving as home for high school and youth football teams, the stadium has been used by the school district for junior high and junior varsity games during repairs to the high school facility, community days for borough residents, baseball and softball tournament, Punt, Pass & Kick competitions, pet parades, jacks tournaments, clinics for coaches and sports officials, marching band festivals and myriad other recreational activities. It also serves as a walking and general recreation area for all residents of the community.

When Belle Vernon Borough celebrated its sesquicentennial in 1963, a rodeo was held at the field.

The Pennsylvania Mustangs of the North American Football League, a short-lived professional circuit, used the stadium for tryouts and preseason practices in 1965. The Mustangs played their home games at Charleroi High School Stadium before moving to Washington, Pa., at the end of the season.

“Throughout its long and storied history the field has served thousands of area residents and served them well,” Cramer said.

“People of all ages have availed themselves of the facilities. Fans have watched young people who would continue on to all walks of life — professional athletes, community leaders, teachers, businessmen and women, doctors, nurses, coaches and other professions too numerous to mention. The stadium has been, and continues to be, a vital and viable part of Belle Vernon and beyond.”

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.

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