POV Podcast: Aliquippa and Pitt; Part 1

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I mentioned before that I had been reading a great book titled Playing Through the Whistle by S. L. Price.  I want to share some passages from it along with my thoughts that I had while reading this.

We all know of Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett’s (Hopewell) great football careers at Pitt but what was the town they came from like?  That isn’t something most college football fans care much about because it is their living in the moment that matters… “What has he done for my school’s football team?” is the most common thought.

Well, “You are where you came from” is an old saying but one I think is dead-on true.  I left Pittsburgh (I grew up in Shadyside) when I was 22 years old back in 1978, but I always think of myself as a Pittsburgher first and foremost – even though I have lived away from the city for 38 years.  I believe the same hometown sentiment holds true with most people from Pittsburgh and the surrounding communities. 

Once when underway on a long sea voyage a bunch of other Coast Guardsmen and I were sitting around the ship’s mess deck talking about various and sundry things  and someone mentioned that New York and Pittsburgh were the only cities where others who are from there make sure to mention that fact in their first sentences when talking with you.

Well hell boys and girls, I’m from Pittsburgh and I have found that to be the case…as it should be.  It is a different place altogether and is, in essence, two cities; Steel and Post-Steel.But you can pick out the Pittsburghers from others by their strong actions and then sometimes by the way they talk.

This book tracks and explains the blast furnace that was Aliquippa football which molded and spit out some of the most talented and tough boys and men that have ever existed in America. 

While our backgrounds might not be the same as these kids who grew up in Aliquippa – mine sure isn’t – I do believe that each and every one of us was taught by teachers, friends and family that we had generations of Pittsburgh role models who took task to hand and showed the country, and indeed the world, what value the Steel City and its inhabitants inherently hold.

Enjoy the stories… and tell some of your own in the comments section.

90 thoughts on “POV Podcast: Aliquippa and Pitt; Part 1

  1. Nice piece Reed. Have a good time away.

    Couple notes: Dorsett graduated 73, same year as me…..and many others I’m sure. Also in the class at my school was a QB and a Tailback that both went on to play at psu. The year before psu recruited a lineman from our school. By the time they were seniors they were all starters. One was the center, one was the qb and the other the running back. Yes, there were plays when a Gbg Salem alum snapped the ball to a Gbg Salem alum who handed the ball to a GBG alum.
    Argent to Andress to Taylor.

    Taylor and Dorsett were the two top backs in the state their senior years. Duane Taylor picked psu and PITT landed Dorsett. Taylor became the first player to play as a true freshman at psu in their history. Only a few short years before it became legal to play true freshman but joe refused until Taylor came along.

    Like being proud of being from Pittsburgh the people from around the surrounding area are also proud of exactly were we come from as a general rule.

    Sadly or not so, psu had the first of many horrible seasons that year.

    Yes I’m bored tonight

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  2. Reed — Enjoyed listening to your POV Podcast.

    BTW, I was at Pitt for the Dave Hart / Carl Depasqua era. So you’re correct that the younger Pitt fans of today who are so disappointed in a 6-6 season would have struggled mightily with the Pitt teams I had to root for… In my 4 years at Pitt, the Panthers went 1-9, 1-9, 4-6, and 5-5 — and I still went to every home football game! (Amazing that just six seasons later the Panthers would go undefeated and win the NC.)

    Some player names from that era that pop into my head — Skip Orzalak (WR); Ralph Cindrich (LB); Lloyd Weston (DT); Denny Ferris (RB); Joe McCain (RB); John Simpson (OG); Doc Medich (TE) and Davy Havern (QB). Ralph Cindrich and Lloyd Weston were big local recruits who were going to help turn Pitt around. Cindrich had problems with injuries for what seemed like his whole career.

    Pitt Stadium had a sign at the goal line back then that said “Paydirt — No Visitors,” but it didn’t do much good. If I remember correctly the 1970 team was 5-0 and after that 5th victory, fans were throwing oranges onto the field to signify the Orange Bowl – but then Pitt didn’t win another game that season. Talk about a let down!

    Appreciate your work on the blog…

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  3. I finished the book last week. It is amazing that some of the kids made it out of there especially after the Ditka years.
    When you look back at how many of our towns have the same story it is sad.
    I can remember as a small kid, growing up in an industrial town in the area, looking at the pictures in the barbershop of the high school players. I really wanted to be there some day, but that era was gone by the time my turn came. I think today that the photos are on wanted posters and only a very lucky few get out.
    While the region as a whole has made a good transition. The “mill towns” have paid a terrible price. I can Rember going off to college thinking how my buddies who went to work were making so much money I would never catch up. Thank god my parents did not want to hear about quitting school,and getting a good job.

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  4. Pittsburgh easily could have pulled a modern-day Detroit and folded after the Big Steel left but there was honest foresight and true community / political / business and Old Money support to pull the city through.

    And look at Pittsburgh now – it is truly a beautiful city in many ways. The arts scene is amazing, the education and cultural stuff is great – sports are plentiful and the historic preservation (Oakland especially) has been top-notch.

    I get the PGH City Paper and read the P-G every day and it looks like there is something going on culturally every day of the week – and some are either free or very low cost. I’d get an apartment near Oakland and just immerse myself in everything the city has to offer.

    But I’ll tell you all something – I do pretty much that here in MD also but I meet so many people who say they are “bored” and “there is nothing to do…” and the bald fact is they are too lazy to do a small bit of research and get their asses off the couch in the evenings.

    I have to get up and out of the house for at least 2-3 hours per day since I’m not working, sometimes all day even.

    My wife calls me her “Free Range Husband”.

    Glad you liked this piece – a longer one for Thursday evening I think.

    Like

  5. Oct. 18, 2016

    PITTSBURGH—Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt Panthers continued to garner individual accolades this afternoon with the unveiling of two more Midseason All-America teams by SI.com and CBSSports.com.
    
    Three Pitt players were named Midseason All-Americans by SI.com: sophomore wide receiver/return specialist Quadree Henderson, senior offensive guard Dorian Johnson and senior defensive end Ejuan Price.
    
    Henderson and Price were also honored by CBSSports.com. The pair previously was recognized on the Sporting News Midseason All-America squad.                                             
    
    Henderson (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. du Pont) has earned his Midseason All-America accolades as a return specialist. The sophomore has two kickoff return touchdowns this year and three over his last eight games. He is the only FBS player with multiple kickoff return TDs in 2016.
    
    Henderson tops the ACC and ranks second nationally in combined kick return yardage (687). He is averaging an impressive 35.9 yards per kickoff return (third in FBS and first in ACC) and 12.4 yards per punt return (12 in FBS and fifth in ACC). The versatile Henderson has also been a threat in the pass and run games. His 172.86 all-purpose yards per game rank seventh in the country and second in the ACC.
    
    Price (Rankin, Pa./Woodland Hills) is arguably the most disruptive defensive lineman in college football. He leads the country in quarterback sacks per game (1.29 avg.) and ranks third in tackles for loss per game (1.9 avg.). Price tops the ACC in both categories and is a frontrunner for the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year honor.
    
    Half of Price’s 26 tackles this season have been for a loss. He has compiled 13 TFLs, nine sacks, nine QB hurries and three forced fumbles on the year. Price has also established himself among the most prolific pass rushers in school history. He has 25.5 career sacks to rank sixth all-time at Pitt. That total places him third among the NCAA’s active career leaders.
    
    Johnson (Belle Vernon, Pa./Belle Vernon Area) has been a spearhead on the Panthers’ offensive front. A starter at left guard in 33 consecutive contests, he has helped the Pitt offense earn top 25 national rankings in time of possession (seventh, 34:48 avg.), fewest sacks allowed (eighth, 0.71 per game), red zone offense (15th, 93.5%, 29 of 31), rushing (19th, 239.1 yards per game) and scoring (25th, 38.4 points per game).
    
    Johnson has established himself as a leading candidate for the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, annually presented to the most outstanding blocker in the ACC by a vote of each school’s head coach or defensive coordinator.
    
    Following an open date this week, the Panthers (5-2, 2-1 ACC) will return to action on Thursday, Oct. 27, when they host Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1) at Heinz Field for a nationally televised ESPN game at 7 p.m.
    

    PITT MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICA SELECTIONS

    Quadree Henderson—Return Specialist

    CBSSports.com
    SI.com (first team)
    Sporting News

    Ejuan Price—Defensive End

    CBSSports.com
    SI.com (second team)
    Sporting News

    Dorian Johnson—Offensive Guard

    SI.com (first team)

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  6. MajorMajors,

    Your memory is pretty good. I was there too. However, Pitt was 5-1, not 5-0. Lost opener to UCLA.

    Years later I got to hear Dave Hart relate a story about one of his captains, OL Ed Whittaker. Easy Ed. After hearing from coaches ad naseum that games are won and lost in the pits, Hart confronted Easy Ed during a blowout that Pitt was losing. Hart said “Whittaker, where did I say games were lost?” Easy Ed replied, “At Pitt, sir”.

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  7. I grew up on the other side of the state (Coatesville, PA), but two of my best friend’s from my Pitt days are from Quip and another is from Ambridge. I spent many a weekend on one side or the other of the Aliquippa-Ambridge Bridge and never felt more welcomed and cared for by so many people who had no idea who I was and didn’t care where I was from. #H2P and #H2Pittsburgh

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  8. I see MajorsMajor mentioned Doc Medich in his posting above. Doc is also an Aliquippa alum who turned out to be quite different from the typical native … he became a doctor and a major league pitcher.

    Two others who were raised in Aliquippa who made names for themselves were “Pistol Pete” Maravich and Henry Mancini. Maravich was not born there but lived there in his late elementary and junior high years when his dad, Press, was the basketball coach.

    Mancini was born in the Little Italy section of Cleveland but moved to Aliquippa as an infant, and graduated there.

    Of course, all 3 of the above lived in Aliquippa, as did Ditka, before the steel mills began to close, and it was a thriving town .. just like the rest of the Beaver Valley.

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  9. Here are some more – pretty amazing actually for such a small town:

    Notable people

    Paul Posluszny, NFL player
    Gust Avrakotos, Central Intelligence Agency operative
    Jonathan Baldwin, NFL player
    Tommie Campbell, NFL player
    Daniel Chamovitz, noted biologist and author of What a Plant Knows
    Mike Ditka, Pro Football Hall of Fame player and coach
    Tony Dorsett, Pro Football Hall of Fame player
    Kevin Budkey, Comedian, designer, entrepreneur
    Kenny Easterday, star of the Canadian movie "Kenny" (1988)
    Ivor Parry Evans, base commander, Walker AFB
    Sean Gilbert, NFL player
    Frank Gnup, Canadian football player and coach
    Nate Guenin, National Hockey League player
    Frank Hribar, NFL player
    Ty Law, NFL player
    Joe Letteri, award-winning visual imaging artist
    Henry Mancini, Grammy and Oscar-winning music composer (Moon River and The Pink Panther    Theme),    born in Cleveland, raised in Aliquippa
    Pete Maravich, Basketball Hall of Fame player
    Press Maravich, basketball coach
    Demetria Martinez, poet and author
    Felicia Mason, author
    Doc Medich, Major League Baseball pitcher
    Darrelle Revis, NFL player
    Curt Singer, NFL player
    Jesse Steinfeld, Surgeon General of the United States
    Pete Suder, Major League Baseball player
    

    OK – driving south in a few minutes. I’ll have something up by Thursday evening.

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  10. Thanks for the POV Podcast Reed. As a Pittsburgh boy now living in Allentown PA I had a great Pittsburgh moment last night when I got to meet Dan Marino, have my picture taken with him and have him autograph my Pitt hat. We had a chance to talk for a few minutes(he was in Allentown for a ribbon cutting for Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza restaurant in which he is part owner). As soon as I showed him by Pitt hat he started to smile and told me he loves the new Pitt script and thinks Narduzzi is the real deal. Told him I remember going down to West Virginia and watching him play when he was a freshman and he said” I think we played at the old West Virginia stadium”. I told him he was correct and that when Pitt was backed up on their own goal line and he took the snap and was in the end zone and he looked so calm and composed and threw a bullet to one of our receivers. He laughed and I could see the fire in his eyes as if he were ready to put the Pitt helmet on and go into battle. Another check mark on my bucket list H2P!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. Ike,
    I’m thinking Dorsett graduated HS in 72 (the year I did). I say that because he started all 4 years at Pitt and won the NC and Heisman in 1976. Hence, he played at Pitt 73, 74,75,and 76,
    Also, thanks Reed for the podcast, brought back many memories of that era.

    Like

  12. FYI – he graduated from Hopewell High in ’73, last FB season in HS was ’72. Dorsett, like Rushel Shell, lived in Alliquippa but played at neighboring Hopewell … not transfers, just the way the districts were set up. Hopewell HS 1st year of existence was 69 and took part of Aliquippa.

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  13. Thanks guys (Ike,wbb)!!
    For some reason I was wrongly thinking that the college football season extends thru the next calendar year. But I realize now that TD graduated HS in 73 and he played his first year at Pitt also in the 73 season, not the “73-74” season.

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  14. Worked up and down the Beaver Valley in the late 1980’s. Some of the towns fared better than others. Ambridge and Beaver had pretty nice main streets, Beaver especially. While others didn’t have much to offer, and in fact their ‘main streets’ had fallen into total disrepair, like Aliquippa. Beaver Falls, Freedom and Monaca were slightly better. Use to stop in a couple Riverside restaurants in the Bridgewater part of Beaver, that were pretty nice. Can’t remember their names, there was also this ‘Curb Service’ burger joint.

    There was also this really nice restaurant on Route 68 in the early 2000’s, that was in one of the old River Locks buildings down around Industry, Pa on the Ohio River. Happened in there the day President Bush was on a campaign swing thru Industry, so traffic was tied up all around. The restaurant/bar was supposed to be haunted. Can’t remember the name of that place either. But we didn’t see any ghosts. 😦

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  15. I don’t know if I have ever adequately expressed my DEEP APPRECIATION to Reed and all of his (our)commentators on the POV. Many of us are retired old farts or close to being old farts and it gives us a place to go and share our thoughts and lives with each other. Much like the many old guys across our great land who meet every morning at donut shops, cafes, and restaurants to shoot the breeze together and belong to something. The POV is meeting a need in my life and I’m very thankful to be a part of it. #H2P
    Pittman4ever

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  16. Hey wwb, good link. Per that ESPN article.

    “The reaction to Pitt’s throwbacks, which looked something like the threads Tony Dorsett wore in the mid-1970’s (as well as a certain fictional team of Panthers), was so positive, it left many wondering why the Panthers don’t switch to the look full time.”

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  17. yea, that looks like the place.. I knew the owners but they couldn’t swing it, and the wife got real sick … so they closed a handful of years ago. Now, it may be re-opened by someone else … not sure. Haven’t been in that area in ages.

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  18. ~ wwb
    It has to be 16 years since I was at that place, right around this time (mid to late Oct), since W was campaigning in 2000. Was only up there for a brief period from the Carolinas, since my Mom was ill.

    The curb service place in Bridgewater could have been this place.
    http://www.jerryscurbservice.com/menu.html

    And I think one of the restaurants in Bridgewater could have been Kelly’s.

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  19. NFL and even college sports attendance is dropping. TV ratings are also down a little.
    Young people are attracted to interactive games and activities. Not sure how the ratings were for the Olympics. Seems to me technology may have some ideas such as virtual reality experiences for sports games. But times are changing just like what happened economically to the many towns we know in PA and across the nation. Johnstown was my hometown. But I had to leave because there was very little future there.

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  20. Thanks for the wwb/pittman for the clarification. I was all ready to come back on here and apologize as I thought I had in right but somehow got it all wrong. I just figured it was the old fart syndrome again. 🙂

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  21. The throwbacks were great and I’ll take what they give us but I’m with Reed. Those are NOT the right colors. If anyone thinks those uniforms looked great would love the mustard gold and deeper blue. just saying.

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  22. also love my man Reed. This has become my go to relief station. Anyone else think that maybe Reed’s wife put her foot down and got a few days getaway because he’s been spending too much time playing with his new toy. (PittPOV)

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  23. Frank MD, overall TV ratings for college FB are hard to determine. On my TV, from noon thru midnight, I always have a choice of at least a half dozen games to watch … and much of time more than that. Whereas, my usual fare for NFL are the Browns at 1 pm and Cowboys at 4.

    In college FB alone on Primetime Saturday, you may have Ohio St on one network, Notre Dame on another, and Oklahoma, Clemson or USC on a third. Thus, no one game may be a ratings leader but overall, there may be really high viewership

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  24. BTW Reed, I really like the older pictures you post here. Any old fart like me who enjoys older pictures should check out the Post Gazette “The Digs” … which is a large photo gallery of the Pittsburgh area from the early 1900s thru 1970s .. usually with a little story behind them.

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  25. From that espn article wwb linked earlier concerning Throwbacks.

    “Miami would like to be restored to the place in the championship conversation it held in the 1980s, so perhaps the throwback uniforms were wishful thinking. As with Pitt, the Hurricanes might want to consider a full-time switch.”

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  26. I got you on that Emel. I’ll take them all day and every week! Home and away. Although if the colors remain the same they could tweak them a little bit next year.

    and………I just hate the blue helmets and white pants on the new uniforms.

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  27. Emel,
    I totally agree with you that the throwback uniforms for this years Homecoming (that are close to what Alex Van Pelt wore) are DEFINITELY better than this years actual uniforms. I hope they WEAR THEM!!!

    Like

  28. WVCC has played five average opponents (many teams have six games under their belts at this point). WVCC has yet to play the meat of their schedule: Baylor, TCU, Texas, OK, OK St, Iowa St etc. IMO, they won’t be top 10 for long. Time will tell. I think that Pitt would give them all that they could handle.

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  29. PM4ever…a lot of us feel the same about the POV and Blather- I know I do…It’s a happy place in my life where I go several times a day to read, relax and join in the the conversation..real fans with real knowledge.. a connection to the past and a link to the future of PITT football..I really appreciate Reed’s work but also a lot of others who can post articles, videos and actually do statistical analysis to back a POV- Thanks for all you do-all of you.
    Through the POV and Blather I have been able to meet several of the posters over the past 2 years-new friends to meet and have a beer and BS with and hope to meet more while I am on this side of the mid-field logo Can’t beat it..so Hail to PITT every loyal son..
    UPitt..you going to Clemson game

    Like

  30. FWIW … two more mid-season A-A Teams came out today. CBSports has both Price and Henderson (KR) listed, while ESPN doesn’t list either but hasDorian Johnson at OG

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  31. FWIW per ESPN

    The reaction to Pitt’s throwbacks, which looked something like the threads Tony Dorsett wore in the mid-1970s (as well as a certain fictional team of Panthers), was so positive, it left many wondering why the Panthers don’t switch to the look full time.

    Like

  32. Dr. Tom – yesterday you were stressed out by Pitt’s lack of Dline recruits. Well it’s actually not too bad –

    Carson Van Lynn from OH is listed as OL but has verballed to Pitt as a DL at 6’7″ 255lbs

    And, these 3 recruits have Pitt in their top three:

    Ty Garbutt from VA – 4* DE
    Donovan Jeter from PA – 4* DE
    Jaylon Twyman from DC – 3* DT

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  33. Garbutt is a VT lean but does like PITT a lot.
    Jeter doesn’t want to play for a crappy team. (don’t have a clue what that means)
    Twyman looks like a Michigan lean but they have D-lineman already committed.

    My prediction? PITT gets two of these guys and maybe all three! BOOM!

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  34. Emel – I worked at Westinghouse in Beaver back in the 80’s. In addition to Jerry’s, I enjoyed tipping a few at The Riverside Saloon and Thursday’s. Then there was the Wooden Angel – the part in Beaver was dry and the part in Bridgewater had one of the most impressive wine cellars around. I happened to pass through there this past Spring and Beaver has retained all of its charm. Westinghouse and Michael Baker are long gone from the area but the town has really done well. Unfortunately, the same is not true of othe towns along the river.

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  35. There is still hope …. Pitt can get Reeves, Jeter and Wade (the local remaining 4-stars)

    Last I heard, Reeves (TE from Steubenville) announcement is upcoming. Wade and Jeter to announce in December.

    Like

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