Late Donora star earns WPIAL Hall of Fame nod, Heritage Award
The late Donora multisport star Arnold “Pope” Galiffa will be just the fourth member of the Mid-Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame to join the WPIAL Hall of Fame. He will receive the Heritage Award, which is given to an individual who made an impact many years ago. This marks the third straight year the Heritage Award will be bestowed upon a Mon Valley athletic standout.
Galiffa, inducted into the MMVASHOF in 1955, is one of 15 individuals comprising the WPIAL's eighth annual class.
He joins the late Stan Musial (2009) and previous Heritage Award recipients, the late Robert “Red” Worrell (2012) and Lou “Bimbo” Cecconi (2013) as Mon Valley and WPIAL Hall of Famers.
Donora's 1945 undefeated football team was part of the 2008 WPIAL Hall of Fame Class.
A football, basketball, track and baseball standout who earned 12 varsity letters, Galiffa was the starting quarterback and defensive back on the Dragons' 1944 WPIAL Class AAA championship football team and a starter on the 1945 basketball team, which also won the WPIAL Class AAA title. Donora became the first school to win WPIAL football and basketball titles in the same year.
He continued his academic and athletic careers at Army, where he earned 11 varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball. He was the starting quarterback and basketball team captain. He was a first baseman and pitcher on the baseball team.
A lieutenant, he received the Bronze Star for valor in combat during the Korean War.
Galiffa played two years each in both the National Football League and the Canadian Football League.
During his days at West Point, Galiffa appeared on the cover of Life Magazine's May 2, 1949, issue. He received the AAA trophy as the cadet who rendered the most valuable service to the military academy.
When he died of cancer in September 1978, the citizens of Donora named a street in his honor—Galiffa Drive. He is also a member of the College Football and Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fames.
“The MMVASHOF is most appreciative of the WPIAL Heritage award being given to the Mon Valley's own Arnold Galiffa,” said Stephen V. Russell, MMVASHOF general chairman and local sports historian and author. “As a high school athlete no one has touched his all-around athletic excellence in four sports.”
The eighth annual WPIAL Hall of Fame banquet and induction ceremony will take place on Friday, June 6, at the Greentree Doubletree Hotel, Doubletree Drive, Green Tree.
Athletes inducted into the 2014 class include: Beth Friday Bovay of Upper St. Clair High School (basketball), Dante Calabria of Blackhawk High School (basketball), Ralph Cindrich of Avella High School (wrestling), Shannon Davis of Sacred Heart High School (basketball), Eric Kasperowicz of North Hills High School (football), Kelly Deep Panucci of Moon Area High School (tennis) and Mike Vernillo of Fort Cherry High School (football).
Four coaches being inducted are: Bob Jacoby of Bishop Canevin High School (football and softball), Dave Meloni of Springdale High School (soccer), Tom Sankovich of Connellsville High School (baseball) and Don Yanessa of Aliquippa, Baldwin and Ambridge high schools (football).
Inexplicably not a member of the Fayette County Hall of Fame, Sankovich coached the Falcons for 20 years, compiling a brilliant 422-105 cumulative record (.801 winning percentage) from 1971 through 1990. He coached Connellsville to four WPIAL championships and the 1989 PIAA title. The Fayette County Hall of Fame honored that team in 2011.
Contest officials honored are Washington Country Commissioner Lawrence O. Maggi (wrestling and football) and Jon Vallina, a retired WPIAL Board of Control member.
The WPIAL's Courage Award 2014 recipient is late Bill Suit, principal of Shaler Area High School. This award was established in 2009 and initially given to Freedom High School's John Challis, whose battle against cancer became a national inspirational story. Challis died in 2008.
This year's Hall of Fame teams are Baldwin High School's 1989 PIAA Class AAA champion girls' volleyball team and Beaver Falls High School's 1960 WPIAL champion football team, which was quarterbacked by Joe Namath.
Tickets may be purchased using the reservation form from the WPIAL website (www.wpial.com). Tickets are $50 per person and must be purchased in advance prior to May 30. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
For additional information, contact Jim Collins, WPIAL Hall of Fame committee chairman at 412-921-7181.
Bruce Wald is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.