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Columnist offers summer reminders for a winter day

| Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006

The recent death of former Major League pitching star Johnny Sain sparked some fond memories for John "Shell" Shelapinsky. of Fallowfield Township.

Shelapinsky, one of the best all-around athletes ever to compete in the Mid-Mo'Valley, was Sain's teammate when they served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

"We were on different Cabaniss Field teams but became teammates when the All-Star Traveling Team was put together," Shelapinsky, 90, recalled. "I was his catcher in a number of games and what a thrill that was. He had already been in the Majors and was, as his record showed later, quite a pitcher. We faced other stars such as Ted Williams several times in those games."

Sain, who died at age 89, enjoyed an All-Star career with the Boston Braves and New York Yankees.

"He was a real gentleman," Shelapinsky said. "I ran into him a few times at Forbes Field after we got out of the service and he was back with the Braves. He introduced me to Warren Spahn and both were friendly guys."

Meanwhile, another reader sent a copies of June 1955 issues of The Daily Independent to offer reminders of warmer weather on a December day. Baseball also dominated the Sports pages then. To wit:

n Charleroi defeated New Eagle, 4-2, in Mon Valley League action as Joe Kopach pitched steady four-hit ball and Stan Milchovich led the offensive attack with a single and triple in three at-bats. Hurler Jess Leach suffered his first loss after four straight wins.

n Manager Tony Mascetta's Monessen Ozarks nipped Donora, 7-5, for their seventh straight win in another Mon Valley League contest. Jack Shepler went the distance on the mound for the Ozarks and struck out seven. Leon "Pappy" Johnson had an explosive day at the plate with three hits (including a triple and double) and three runs batted in. Joe Mancini and Jim Carson had two hits apiece for the Ozarks.

n Blair Thomas pitched a one-hitter as Whitsett shut out Monessen CIO in the Mon Valley League. George Almasi spoiled Thomas' bid for a no-hitter with a single in the fourth inning. Sam Sergi, the former Bellmar High School standout, made his pitching debut for CIO and threw a nifty five-hitter. Dante DiVirgilio had two singles for Whitsett.

Elsewhere on the sports front, promoter Roy DeRocco was finalizing plans for an outdoor amateur boxing show at Memorial Stadium in Monessen. Hubert Maxwell, of Monessen, and George Pettiford, of Turtle Creek, were scheduled for the main event featuring two hard hitting 118-pounders. Pettiford had won a Pittsburgh Golden Gloves championship earlier in the year. Maxwell had to pull out of the Golden Gloves competition because of a back injury.

Other area fighters slated for action on the Memorial Stadium card were Bill Farmer, Joe Duche, Ted Smith and Tony Reid of the Monessen club and Buck Henry, Chuck Harvey, Don Corbin, Joe Allen, Mel Thrasher and Sam Sellars of Charleroi Hilltop Athletic Club. The Monessen boxers were trained by Swats Adamson and Dr. H.C. Maxwell. Veterans managers George Humphries and Bruno Pucci led the HTAC contingent.

Advertisements in The Daily Independent included the following:

n Lynnwood Super Market, 813 Fayette St., Belle Vernon, had sugar cured hams at 49-cents per pound and T-bone steaks for 69-cents per pound.

n Harold B. Cramer's Smart Men's Wear store at 523 Donner Ave., Monessen, featured Wonderon dacron-wood suits for $55 and Spider Spun dacron-rayon suits at $45.

n Elish & Company, 414 Fallowfield Ave., Charleroi, was touting a "Dream Bathroom in Color" for $595 completely installed. The firm also offered a "no money down, years to pay" plan and emphasized that estimates would be "cheerfully given."

n Bernard's Shoes, 529 Broad Ave., North Belle Vernon displayed Wolverine Pighides, the latest in footwear and made of "miracle leather." Bernard's a new pair of shoes free if the Pighides "dry out hard or stiff under normal drying conditions."

n LaRose Salon of Beauty in Monessen tempted the ladies with its Hairstyle of the Month, "The Tom Boy ... the new hariline for the summer."

Comic strips in the newspaper in June 1955 were The Phantom, Dixie Dugan, the ageless Mark Trail, Sherlock Holmes, Small World, Beetle Bailey, Ellsworth, Etta Kett and Sally's Sallies.

Television listings showed these among the favorites of viewers: Howdy Doody, Wild Bill Hickock, Rin Tin Tin, Ozzie and Harriet, June Froman, Tennesse Ernie Ford, News with Douglas Edwards, Bob Crosby, Strike It Rich, Gary Moore, My True Story and Arthur Godfrey and His Friends.

Elsewhere on the entertainment scene, the Four Lads were ending their engagement at the Twin Coaches, and the Fontaine Sisters were next on the bill at the Rostraver Township night spot. Meanwhile, the Stuart-Arnold Orchestra was ready to play at the Park Casino in Monessen.

(If you have memories to share or story ideas, please contact Ron Paglia at or c/o The Valley Independent, Eastgate 19, Monessen, PA 15062.)

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