Athletic greats celebrated at East Boros HOF induction
Ken Karish and Matt Morgan were part of successful high school football teams at Gateway and Plum, respectively.
Twenty-six years separated Karish, who was a member of the Gators 1972 WPIAL championship team, and Morgan, who helped the Mustangs achieve success in the late 1990s.
Last Thursday, however, Karish and Morgan were on the same team at the same time as two members of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, East Boros Chapter, Class of 2013.
The group, which also included local athletic greats Paul Alexander, Mick Janosko, Scott McEwen, Marty Scarano, Dan Thompson and the Gombos brothers basketball family, were inducted and celebrated at an banquet at Edgewood Country Club.
“This is a special honor,” said Morgan, who starred at Pitt, played in the NFL and now is the head football coach at Plum.
“I hope to have one of the players I coach one day be on this stage being inducted into this hall of fame.”
Karish cited the 1993 ESPY speech of the late basketball coach Jim Valvano who, while accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, spoke of special everyday moments.
Karish, who also starred in football at the University of Kentucky, added getting goosebumps to Valvano's desires to laugh, think and have emotions moved to tears each day.
He said he got goosebumps through the honor of being included in the East Boros Sports Hall of Fame and inducted in front of teammates and coaches from the 1972 Gateway football squad.
Karish, along with the other inductees, recalled how their athletic journeys were not possible without the strong support of friends and family.
The Gombos brothers traveling basketball team wowed crowds in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Playing against teams from all over the area in charity games, the squad compiled a record of 14-2 with its only losses coming to a state-championship high school team and a semi-pro team.
Brothers Eddie and Tom were in attendance, along with family members of deceased brothers Paul, John, George and Robert.
“This is a thrill,” Tom said.
“It is something special. I miss my brothers, but I know they are looking down today and smiling. We enjoyed playing basketball together, win or lose.”
Eddie passed on some advice to the several hundred at the banquet: “It is never too late to do something your future self can be proud of.”
Alexander played several sports at Churchill High School, but broadcasting sports on radio and television is where his career flourished. The Monroeville resident has been a part of big moments in college and professional sports over the past three decades.
“I am certainly not up here (on the dais) as an athlete,” Alexander said. “But I tried hard when I played, and it's unbelievable what sports means to me. I've failed, succeeded and learned a lot. I've loved the pursuit of being the best I could be.”
Janosko developed his love of baseball while at East Allegheny High School in the early to mid 1980s, and the journey eventually led him to a coaching career in the sport.
He has become the winningest coach in the history of St. Vincent College baseball, and he won his 300th game at the school in April.
“I am humbled to join such a special group of people,” Janosko said.
McEwen, also an East Allegheny graduate, grew in the sport of football, and that has led him to a pro career as a national scout with the NFL's Detroit Lions.
“It's been a great run in football,” McEwen said.
“I've loved every minute of it. Doing something you love — it doesn't get any better than that.”
Scarano, the athletic director at the University of New Hampshire, was a multi-sport athlete at Plum High School. He credited his local upbringing with giving him the ability to be a successful college administrator.
“The lessons I learned from here I took with me,” Scarano said. “It all starts at home. I grew up in wonderful settings. I am blessed to make a career in sports.”
Thompson, an avid fan of golf since he caddied at Edgewood Country Club at age 12, came home to the area and shot a 69 at Irwin Country Club the day of the banquet.
The high school and college golf standout later served as a successful volleyball and golf coach in Florida. He retired from teaching and coaching in September.
“I fell in love with the game of golf, and now, I get to play every day since I retired,” Thompson said.
Last week's induction was the 36th such event since the hall of fame began in 1978.
More than 40 past inductees or representatives of hall of famers were in attendances.
The hall of fame recognized the memory of two past inductees — John Catone, Class of 1995, and Jack “Beans” Hyland, Class of 1987 - who died since last year's banquet.
Catone, a Monroeville resident, graduated from Rankin High School and was a high school physical education teacher and coach for more than three decades at Westinghouse Memorial High School in Wilmerding.
He also was a board member for the East Boros Sports Hall of Fame.
Hyland graduated from Scott High School in North Braddock where he lettered in football, baseball and basketball. He later started four years at quarterback at Slippery Rock University and eventually became a teacher and coach for a number of sports at several high schools.
The East Boros Sports Hall of Fame now is online. To read about past induction classes, view photos and learn more about the hall of fame, visit paeastborosshof.com.
Nominations currently are being accepted for the Class of 2014. The new East Boros website has the criteria and other information on how to submit a nomination.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.