Hometown Sports and Notables

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KarenZ
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Hometown Sports and Notables

Postby KarenZ » Tue Aug 29, 2006 12:22 pm

Image

The billboard pictured above greets folks entering Troy Aikman’s hometown of Henryetta, OK. Small towns sure do like their celebrities…especially athletes….and more especially football players.

Southwestern Pennsylvania boasts a slew of professional athletes. More amazing is the number of professional athletes who hail from my little hometown of Monongahela, Pennsylvania – a town that sits along the river of the same name. Folks from Monongahela refer to the town as Mon City. When I was in junior high school the Monongahela School District merged with another community to become the Ringgold School District and eventually one big new Ringgold High School replaced the two separate high schools.

The football season kicks off this Friday night. Ringgold will be playing Indiana, PA at home. It’s going to be quite an exciting night. Ringgold High School stadium is being re-named after it’s most famous alumni – Joe Montana. That’s right. You heard me. Joe and me graduated from the same high school. ;) Joe lived on Park Avenue in Mon City. I lived the first 5 years of my life on Park Avenue, until my family made the big 4-block move to Fourth Street where I lived until I married. During the summer of ’73 when I worked as a mail carrier, I delivered the Montana’s mail. Joe was probably between his junior and senior years then. :)

This Friday night former San Francisco’s 49ers owner, Ed DeBartolo, Jr, will introduce Joe for the stadium’s re-naming ceremony. On Saturday the excitement continues when Joe and three other former professional athletes become the first inductees into the Ringgold Hall of Fame. They include Minnesota Vikings place kicker Fred Cox and baseball players Ken Griffey, Sr. and Stan “The Man” Musial. That’s a pretty impressive list of inductees.

An August 29, 1994 Sports Illustrated article told the story about another Mon City/Park Avenue athlete, Ryan Bucchianeri. The article, one of the longest narratives in SI history, is titled “A Time of Trial” and tells Ryan’s story of being a place kicker for Navy, six months after graduating from Ringgold High School. In the article, the author referred to Park Avenue as “surely one of the most extraordinary streets in small-town America” based on the incredible number of folks who grew up on the street and went on to do amazing things.

You’ll recognize many of their names:

One Extraordinary Street

I'm curious to hear about your hometown notables. :)

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

paddyinthepub
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Postby paddyinthepub » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:30 pm

Great topic Karen. That was some street to grow up on. Wow.

Okay, here's mine.

Born and raised in Houston, Tx. and long about my 11th year found myself living among some of the best friends and sandlot junkies a kid could ever hope for. There had to be a core group of at least a dozen or so kids who each and every day would be knocking on the door seeing if we were ready to play. We'd played well into the waning hours of sunlight and often into dark of night.

If it was football season, it was game on. Five on Five. Seven on Seven. Two on Two with an All Time QB. Mattered not the numbers, we had the time of our lives competing Sandlot Style. In Baseball Season, same thing. Kids from neighborhoods away would be riding their bikes, see our game going on, and ride home to get their gloves and join in. Seems the only sport we weren't high on was basketball.

But baseball was the one we really loved to play. Springtime, no better game. After school, before little league practice. All day on weekends. We'd even hang at the Ballpark after our little league games and play pickup games.

Our next door neighbors, The Swindells, were always up for sports. They, like most others in Houston at the time, were from somewheres else. I think they had moved in from Oklahoma. Their dad, Harold Swindell, was quite the young athlete and it seemed to rub off on the young uns. Harold played competition Fast Pitch Softball and we loved to watch him play. He somehow inspired his sons to follow their God Given talents in the sport of baseball.

My own Dad had coached my team the first year I played Little Leauge Baseball and my younger brother's teams from then on. Starting at age 6 and 7, back when they let the kids actually take the hill to pitch, young Corky Swindell would consistantly mow hitters down. He was just that good at such a young age. You'd scratch your head and wonder if maybe he wasn't destined for the BIG LEAGUES someday. And were talking 7. HE progressed from there to be quite the all around ballplayer. It was like watching Pete Rose play as a kid. He'd steal bases, switch hit, hit doubles and triples or beat out a bunt if necessary.

His sister was the first girl I ever kissed. Also the first girl to break my heart about a week after that first kiss. So much for marrying a girl who would someday have a major leauger for a brother. We were all of 12 years old.

Corky got his chance though. We had long since lost touch but throughout the years we'd bump into the family and get updates on his progress towards making it to THE SHOW. That's MLB for any who don't know.
Seems he was destined for the Farm Teams and Minors for his entire career though. Not sure where he landed after that. Probably something sports related.

His pip squeak lil brother, Greg, is another story altogether. My dad coached him for several years in Little League so I knew he was developing into quite the dominant left handed pitcher. He went on to have much success at the High School level. He was recruited to play baseball for the University Of Texas Longhorn Baseball Team. Also on the pitching staff was future Hall Of Famer Roger Clemens. They both had outstanding college careers and went on to play Major League Baseball. If I'm not mistaken, Greg Swindell may have been selected in the top 5 that year.

At any rate, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians, played close to 6 seasons before moving on to other teams. From the Indians he went on to play for the Cinncinnatti Reds for a year. Then he did something really, really remarkable. With Free Agency upon him and two offers on the table, my old friend said NO to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's offer of 21 Million a Year guaranteed for 4 seasons to come home and play for our hometown ASTROS. The deal was for 17 million a year for 4 years guranteed. I said he was a good ballplayer, I never said he was that smart. I guess when you start talkin numbers that high, what's an extra 16 million in the bank over 4 years?

His successes were moderate with the Houston Astros and he returned to the Cleveland Indians for a year. On to play for the Minnesota Twins for two years, The Boston Red Sox for one year before finishing up with a four year stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In all, a 17 year career in the Major Leagues. Not bad. He's retired now. He made it. WOW.

And I could of married his sister. :wink:

So that's my Hometown Hero story. :D

Play Ball.
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
paddy

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Postby KarenZ » Wed Aug 30, 2006 9:53 am

Cool story, Paddy. I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't heard of Greg Swindell, but then again, after Roberto Clemente, I sorta lost interest in baseball. Seriously.

Nice to hear that Greg decided "home" was more important than a few million. :)

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby paddyinthepub » Wed Aug 30, 2006 10:14 am

Yeah, I'm sorry you hadn't heard of Greg Swindell as well. It's one thing to make it to Big League sports, and quite another to become a household name. I have a neighbor now who has a son currently signed with the Florida Marlins as a pitcher and as far as I know he's been on a few teams only all in the farm system or minors if you will. Still waiting to hear that he's been called up. He was at the pool over the summer and graciously signed basesballs for my son and his buddies who were over the top excited when they found out who was poolside with them.

Speaking of staying "home", young Pat Devlin of Downingtown High School had quite the record setting year as Quarterback for the football team. The town was all abuzz about this kid, and we went out to watch him play a handful of times. He made it look so easy. He broke all previous passing records in the state of Pennsylvania on his way to a college scholarship. I wanna say the record he broke was previously held by Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino.

As to "home", Pat Devlin was all signed up and ready to attend the University of Miami, much to the chagrin of Penn State fans everywhere. Especially in his own family, all Penn State Alumni.

It all worked out in the end....something happened with the QB coach that recruited Pat Devlin....he was fired I think....and that was enough for Pat to decide to accept the obvious and make his family and Nittany Lion fans everywhere very, very happy.

So, we'll see. :wink:
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
paddy

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KarenZ
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Postby KarenZ » Wed Aug 30, 2006 10:21 am

We obviously need more billboards! :) I sure didn't know Troy Aikman was from Henryetta, OK until my first WoodyFest back in...I guess it was 2001. Henryetta is the next little town east of Okemah on I-40....also home of the (in)famous Super 8 Motel. ;)

KarenZ

paddyinthepub wrote:Yeah, I'm sorry you hadn't heard of Greg Swindell as well. It's one thing to make it to Big League sports, and quite another to become a household name.
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

emilyg
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Postby emilyg » Wed Aug 30, 2006 10:36 am

No sports hero in Okemah...we just say Troy Aikman was only 15 min away! :wink: I do remember getting his autograph as a kid at a basketball game in Okemah. I guess he was in town that weekend and there is nothing else to do but go to a high school sporting event!

paddyinthepub
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Postby paddyinthepub » Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:09 am

During the Championship Years of The Houston Rockets, my wife had a chance encounter with a future Hall Of Fame Center. The team prepared for the playoffs on Galveston Island.

Unaware the team was there, we just happpened to pull up in front of the Hotel Galvez , their home away from home. We parked behind a Silver Mercedes sedan..top of the line....impressive. It was unoccupied.

I ran inside for 15 minutes and upon my return to the car my darling girlfriend said with a grin:

" guess who's car that was parked in front of us???"

No idea, hon.

"Hakeem Olajuwon, and he gave me a big wave and smile as we made eye contact just before he got in his car and drove off."

Both my wife and Hakeem are from hometowns far far away from that Island, but it was the beach of my youth and it was big fun in the sun the day Hakeem Olajuwon made my sweetheart's day.

We followed the series religiously. Every time Olajuwon was introduced or interviewed on television, Pamela would impersonate the gentle giant's smile and wave to her that day.

Big fun. :D
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
paddy


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