East Boros HOF inductees celebrated at annual banquet
Melanie Morgan-Miller grew up on the same Monroeville street as Joanne Boyle and was a big fan of Boyle's athletic exploits, including those on the basketball court and on the track.
When a photo of Boyle high jumping was published in a newspaper, Morgan-Miller went to Boyle's house and asked her to autograph the photo.
Because of athletes such as Boyle, Morgan-Miller said, she was inspired to work hard and dedicate herself, both in and out of the classroom. She went on to become a multitime WPIAL and PIAA swimming champion and claimed conference and national honors at the University of Florida.
Morgan-Miller and Boyle were reunited last Thursday at Edgewood Country Club, as the Gateway graduates joined six other local athletic greats in the Class of 2012 of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, East Boros Chapter.
“I am very thankful for the dedication and support of so many people — from my family to (high school) coach (Larry) Petrillo,” said Morgan-Miller, who now coaches youth swimming in the Bridgeville area.
Plum three-sport star and longtime high school and college football coach Joe Naunchik; Plum and Lehigh University wrestling standout Brian Cipollone; and local, national and international running champion Cheryl Gatons were recognized.
Also honored in the Class of 2012 were successful high school, collegiate and international baseball player Tony Lonero; former pro baseball pitcher Tom McGough; and girls sports pioneer and collegiate athletic administrator Carol Sprague.
“The support from many people along the way has been important because (wins) don't come easily,” said Boyle, who has enjoyed a successful college basketball head coaching career at Richmond, California and Virginia.
Boyle, who played college basketball at Duke and later coached in the Blue Devils program, has led five teams (one at Richmond and four at Cal) to the NCAA Tournament.
The Class of 2012 adds to the list of more than 300 inductees since the hall of fame's first induction in 1978.
More than 30 former inductees were on hand to celebrate this year's class.
Lonero, who won a WPIAL baseball championship at Penn Hills, played baseball in college at LSU and did the same professionally in Italy.
He played on the Italian team in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, but he hasn't stopped being active and has participated in several long-distance cycling races.
“(The battle with MS) has made me want to live every day as much as I can,” Lonero said.
“I've faced a lot of obstacles, but I keep fighting. Positive experiences, like putting money in the bank, help with all challenges.”
Gatons, a Plum High School graduate, placed second in the women's division at the Pittsburgh Marathon in 1996 and 1998
She also placed second at the 1997 National Marathon Championship and earned a spot on the U.S. world marathon team.
She lost her husband, a cross country coach, to a heart attack in 2006, and her father also died that year.
“Running has brought me a lot of great memories, and I've met a lot of great people,” Gatons said.
“Running has made me feel alive. I know my father and husband are cheering me on to run the greatest race — the race of life.”
Naunchik, also a Plum graduate, said that the banquet was, “a night of many thanks,” and that he didn't get to the status of hall-of- famer on his achievements by himself.
He credited people such as John and Pat Ratesic, his football coaching colleagues during his years at his alma mater, for their support along his journey.
Naunchik accepted a football scholarship to Arizona State, but he left early to sign a baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He played three years of minor-league baseball in the Pirates organization before starting his football coaching career.
That career included a successful stint as an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh.
“When you look at the (banquet) book (and see the inductees list), it's a who's who of great western Pennsylvania athletes,” said Naunchik, who took four schools — Plum, Valley, Hempfield and Fox Chapel — to the WPIAL football playoffs.
McGough enjoyed a seven-year baseball career in the Cleveland Indians organization.
He threw a no-hitter on Mother's Day in 1975 while playing for San Antonio in the Class AA Texas League.
“It is an honor to be recognized for a dream,” McGough said. “This is an extension of that dream.”
In addition to celebrating the current induction class, the hall of fame also honored the memory of two hall-of-fame inductees and a dedicated hall-of-fame volunteer who died since the 2011 ceremony 12 months ago.
Rudy Celigoi, a 1949 North Braddock-Scott graduate, died Sept. 29.
He was the captain of his high school football team and later was a three-year football starter at Rutgers University.
The 1984 East Boros inductee returned to the area to teach and coach, and as an administrator, he was part of the group that put together the Woodland Hills School District in 1981.
Michael Caroccia, a 2009 East Boros inductee, died June 21.
The lifelong resident of East Pittsburgh was considered one of the greatest bowlers ever in western Pennsylvania.
Caroccia was inducted into the Greater Pittsburgh Ten Pin Bowling Association and the Pennsylvania State Bowling Hall of Fame.
Rita Baltrus, a volunteer and committee member for the East Boros chapter for several years, died July 2.
One of her four children — Alan — was a 1994 East Boros inductee, and her brother, William Bradley, was a 1986 East Boros inductee.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.