Arnold High School players remember coach Marino
By George Guido
Published: Friday, Jan. 8, 2010
As a small high school, Arnold accomplished big things, particularly in sports.
No more was that the case than in 1965 when the Lions defeated a number of much-larger high schools en route to the WPIAL baseball title.
Arnold defeated Beaver Falls, 11-1, for the WPIAL title at Forbes Field on June 15, 1965.
The coach of that remarkable team, Jim Marino, died Tuesday of kidney failure at his home in Cheswick. He was 85.
"Coach really taught us a lot; he was a disciplinarian, but he was fair," said Chester Napierkowski, the starting first baseman in 1965. "We were in shape. His practices were tougher than we had in football and basketball."
"He was fiery, and we took his personality as players," said catcher John Mazur. "He taught us that discipline was the key to being successful in life."
In those days, there were no enrollment classifications. Arnold routinely beat much-larger schools such as New Kensington and Har-Brack.
Arnold played its home games at Valley Camp Field, then located behind the current site of North Side Packing. Players had to run from the high school on Alcoa Drive about six blocks to the field. Some would be buttoning their shirts and fastening their belts while running down the steep hill.
"We only had so many minutes after school to get down to the field," Napierkowski said. "You didn't want to be late with him in charge."
In those days, only section winners qualified for the playoffs. In 1965, Joe Unites pitched a no-hitter in the section clincher against Har-Brack. In the playoffs, the Lions beat Greensburg, 5-2, on a one-hitter by Jim Fantuzzo.
In the quarterfinals against North Hills, Unites was one strike away from a second no-hitter, but settled for a one-hitter and an 8-0 victory.
That set up a semifinal matchup against Gateway, a school with about five times the student population of Arnold. But it didn't matter. The Lions won, 3-1.
"We didn't think that (school) size made any difference," Mazur recalled. "He had us focused and ready to play."
In the finals, Arnold was a heavy underdog against Beaver Falls at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood — home of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time.
But Fantuzzo pitched the Lions to the big victory.
Marino was known for his intensity. In one game, he was ejected by the home plate umpire for arguing. Marino persisted, and the ump ordered him to go back to the team bus.
Marino persuaded the bus driver to pull behind the backstop, where Marino continued arguing with the beleaguered umpire.
After Arnold High School closed, Marino managed the Springdale American Legion Post 754 team while continuing as a teacher of world cultures and driver's education in the New Kensington-Arnold School District.
"After you graduated," Mazur said, "the things you learned from him began to sink in."
Napierkowski said he spoke with Marino at least once a month for 40 years.
"We were golfing one day and he told me I could call him 'Jimmy,'" Napierkowski said. "But I said I could never stop calling him coach."
The Valley News Dispatch occasionally will run obituary stories on notable local residents. They are news items and as such, no charge is applied. The subjects of these stories are solely the discretion of the editors.
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.