Guido: Former Leechburg standout now a U.S. ambassador
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Former Leechburg student-athlete John Phillips is set to become U.S. ambassador to Italy and San Marino next week.
Phillips, a 1960 Leechburg graduate, had his appointment by President Obama confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 1. He'll begin his duties in Rome on Sept. 12.
Sunday, Phillips returned to Leechburg for a informal reception at the Marconi Club.
Phillips, 70, was the youngest of three brothers to play right end for the Blue Devils in the 1950s. Older brother Bill Phillips, 75, now lives in Northampton, Mass., while middle brother Ernie, 72, resides in Lansing, Mich.
There was a Phillips at right end for Leechburg for six consecutive years. Each Phillips brother wore No. 21.
One of John's biggest games came Oct. 17, 1959, at Dreshar Stadium when Leechburg locked horns with rival Tarentum.
The Redcats had taken a 12-6 lead early in the third period. But two plays after the Tarentum kickoff, Leechburg quarterback Jerry Mamros found Phillips at midfield, and the future ambassador raced into the end zone to complete a 65-yard pass play.
Larry Blake's point after gave the Blue Devils the lead for good in a 27-19 win.
The Blue Devils posted a 6-3 record that season.
Leechburg and the entire Kiski Valley was a great place to grow up, particularly during the post-World War II economic boom.
“Football Friday nights in all those steel towns was always a big deal,” Phillips said last week. “Everybody was working hard, the steel mills were running full blast, the coal mines were going. It was a prosperous area and very dynamic.”
Phillips' father, William, had a Ford dealership in Leechburg.
It's amazing how many people from the Kiski Valley in that era made it big.
For instance, Vandergrift native William Perry was the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the first Clinton Administration. Also, Joseph Cardinal Maida grew up in East Vandergrift and was Archbishop of the Detroit Diocese before serving in the Vatican.
Let's not forget Avonmore native Jill Corey who was married to former Pirates third baseman Don Hoak. Corey (nee: Norma Jean Speranza) was a singer who starred on NBC-TV's “Your Hit Parade” in the 1950s.
Joe McCain, fullback on Kiski Area's undefeated 1964 football team and first baseman on the 1966 WPIAL baseball champs, is a nationally-renowned oral surgeon.
Trib football coverage
The best way to get ready for a football Friday night is on sports.triblive.com.
The football preview show is heard on 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays.
I'll be a guest during the show that features Trib Total Media reporters discussing games they'll cover.
After the show, sports.triblive.com will feature a live audio broadcast.
Friday's feature game will be Fox Chapel at North Allegheny. Next week, Kittanning is at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Zurisko on the mend
One of the Alle-Kiski Valley's most respected game officials also is on the shelf for 2013. Springdale resident Damian Zurisko had open heart surgery just before the season got under way, sidelining him for the entire campaign. Friends indicate that Zurisko is recovering well.
George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.
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.
- Pirates analyst Kent Tekulve recovering after heart transplant
- Steelers veteran defenders want young teammates to step up
- Pitt football coach Chryst refutes analyst Wannstedt’s opinion
- New approach on offense has Pirates in playoff contention this season
- Wheel separation incidents can prove deadly; NTSB doesn’t track them
- Woman killed in crash on Birmingham Bridge
- Man found shot dead in Penn Hills
- Steelers’ Brown combats disruptive defensive ploys
- Woman killed after car hits tree in Norvelt
- Police investigate Hempfield fight
- Crosby appreciates his relationship with Penguins fans