WPIAL inducts 2014 Hall of Fame class
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Don Yannessa heard the complaints and listened with the patience of a good coach and administrator.
In the end, though, he did things his way, and that's what helped him win 249 games as a football coach at Aliquippa, Baldwin and Ambridge.
Those victories — and a stubborn adherence to what he believed was right — got him inducted Friday night into the WPIAL Hall of Fame.
A sellout crowd of 599 attended the induction ceremonies for the Class of 2014 at the Green Tree Doubletree.
After winning 142 games and four WPIAL championships at Aliquippa, Yannessa became coach and athletic director at Baldwin in 1989, taking over a team that never had been to the playoffs. In his first year, he guided Baldwin to its first winning season in nine years (6-4).
Two years later, Baldwin was in the playoffs, traveling to North Hills' Martorelli Stadium where the Highlanders upset the Indians and quarterback/safety Eric Kasperowicz, himself inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday.
To this day, the victory stands as the only playoff triumph in Baldwin history.
The next week, Baldwin lost to McKeesport, 20-14, on future Steelers defensive back Mike Logan's interception off Yannessa's bold reverse pass, called in the shadow of the goal line.
“I did something stupid,” Yannessa said. “I tried to go for it all.”
Asked to identify the player who threw the pass, Yannessa said: “His name is Grant Wagner, and I love him to this day.”
But it was his work as Baldwin athletic director that continues to make Yannessa smile.
During Yannessa's first year at the school, he struck up a friendship, forged through respect, with girls volleyball coach Paul Hindes.
Hindes, a Hall of Famer whose team also was inducted Friday, was a tough coach — not unlike Yannessa.
Yannessa said some parents believed Hindes was too demanding, but he always had Yannessa's support.
“People like (Hindes) who are doing a great job, making kids as good as they can be, and doing it within the framework of the rules, and without abusing anybody,” Yannessa said, “those people are going to be protected by Don Yannessa.
“I didn't care if it was parents, school board members, administrators. Those guys were going to be untouchable. I got away with it for 14 years.”
Today, Yannessa lives in Center, Beaver County. “And I do whatever I want. (On Thursday), I played golf, poorly.
“But I had dinner and I drank good wine. I'm having fun every day.”
The other inductees Friday included:
• Dante Calabria (Blackhawk, 1992): Scored 2,252 career points, including 66 3-pointers as a senior when he averaged 27 points and eight rebounds.
• Ralph Cindrich (Avella, 1967): WPIAL champion wrestler and all-state in football. Played four seasons in the NFL and is a nationally known sports lawyer.
• Shannon Davis (Sacred Heart, 1989): Named a Parade All-American three times and led Sacred Heart to a state basketball title in 1989, the year the school closed.
• Tom Sankovich (Connellsville): Started the baseball program in 1971 and won the first of four WPIAL titles two years later. He retired in 1990 after winning 422 games.
• 1960 Beavers Falls football team: Led by Joe Namath, finished the season undefeated and outscored nine opponents 305-63.
• Kelly Deep Panucci (Moon, 1987): Part of tennis doubles teams that won four WPIAL and PIAA championships.
• Beth Friday (Upper St. Clair, 1999): Had 17 shutouts as a soccer goalkeeper, and a 21-point scoring average in basketball in 1998-99.
• Mike Vernillo (Fort Cherry, 2000): Graduated as the WPIAL's all-time leading rusher with 7,646 yards.
• Bob Jacoby (Bishop Canevin): Worked 70 seasons at Canevin as football (40) and softball (30) coach.
• Dave Meloni (Springdale): Led soccer team on a 72-game winning streak from 1968-72.
• 1989 Baldwin girls volleyball team: First unit had a 118-2 record while winning a state title.
• Larry Maggi (wrestling): Official has worked matches since 1971.
• Jon Vallina (contributor): A member of the WPIAL Board of Control for 12 years and former chairman of the golf committee.
• Arnold Galiffa (Donora): Won 12 letters in football, basketball, baseball and track before graduating in 1945. Given the Heritage Award.
• Bill Suit (Shaler): Retired principal who died in December after a six-year battle with sarcoma cancer. Named Courage Award winner.
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