by Richard Robbins
In the lobby of the Uniontown Public Library, just off the main entrance, in a glass display case, sits a trophy – it was awarded in 1959 to the local team that won a national baseball championship.
How did it end up at the library? I will tell you in a moment, for it’s a tale all its own. But first, a little about the team and its singular victory.
It was a squad of 14- and 15-year-olds playing under the banner of Uniontown VFW Post 47, now defunct, which had its headquarters on West Main Street in a large rectangular building, a former vaudeville house and movie theater. (The building is still there, refurbished and looking spiffy.)
Having captured the state title, the team went on to win the national VFW Teener Championship in Hershey, Pennsylvania, by beating a New York team in the final game. The winning pitcher was a lefty who went on to make a name for himself at West Virginia University and in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, John Radosevich.
Radosevich threw to my brother Doug, the team catcher, who had the good fortune to double before scoring the winning run in the championship game, a glorious scoot home on a passed ball.
Others on the team included an outfielder-pitcher by the name of Bill Marovic; a tall 14-year old, Ron Sepic; a future FBI agent, third baseman Marshall Feldman; with a .600 average, the leading hitter in Hershey, Ed Homrock; southpaw pitcher Bill Vargo; the alliterative Wally Workman; a guy with a star-quality name, Sheridan McPherson; and Pete Clingan.
With boys from Leckrone and Ronco and other places, the team wasn’t strictly a Uniontown outfit. The club was put together by the men who ran Post 47. Runners-up for the state title the year before, the Post baseball aficionados were determined to bring home a winner in 1959. Not so coincidentally, the state tournament was played in Uniontown, at Bailey Park.
Winning evidently became a matter of pride for the combat veterans of World War II, members of the Greatest Generation.
A hiccup on the way to Hershey was averted during play in Uniontown with a hastily arranged team meeting on the second floor of Post 47. The boys got the word: if asked, give only your name, rank and serial number.
It probably helped that the other Posts with teams in the tournament were doing things just as artfully.
My dad took his youngest son (that would be me) to the championship games in Hershey. It was hot. The field, well manicured, was adjacent to the Hershey football stadium. Beyond left field, the Phildelphia Eagles were going through pre-season drills. No one seemed to care. There wasn’t an Eagles fan in sight, or none that I recall.
Following the final game in Hershey, the team was presented with a championship trophy.
Now let’s now go back just a few months: a friend, Bernie Quarrick, called. I had previously mentioned my concern that the trophy was missing. When Post 47 was shuttered I remember talking to Allen Q. Jones of Connellsville, then as now a VFW bigwig, about the trophy and a portrait of Gen. George Marshall that was displayed above the Post auditorium called Marshall Hall. Jones was unable to help.
Having recently spoken to county commissioner Vince Vicites, whose father, Joe Vicites, had been a national VFW commander, Bernie learned that some Post 47 artifacts were taken to the county Bridge Department, tucked a few hundred yards off the Uniontown-New Salem Road. Maybe the trophy was there, Bernie suggested.
I hastened out. A helpful Bridge Department staffer led me to a small room filled with VFW memorabilia: plaques, membership books, several old photos, trophies. In a corner, amidst the clutter, sat the championship trophy. It was beneath a table. Reaching it required some lifting: boxes, haphazardly placed, stood in the way. I stretched out my arm.
I called Vince at the courthouse. He was glad to hear I had found what I was looking for.
On the phone to Maria Sholtis of the library’s Pennsylvania Room, she assured me the library would be happy to display the trophy. Maria and later chief librarian Christy Fusco explained the library was vitally interested in keeping the past alive. Among other things, it is home to the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame. The walls and shelves of the Pennsylvania Room display a variety of artifacts and rotating exhibits, they pointed out.
Doug and his wife Rita saw to it that the trophy, along with that year’s state and regional championship trophies, were cleaned and polished.
The glass case at the library where they are displayed also contains photos of the minor league Uniontown Coal Barons and Frick “patch” league teams.
Richard Robbins lives in Uniontown and is the author of two books – Grand Salute: Stories of the World War II Generation and Our People. He can be reached at email@example.com.