Here is a bio piece from a friend of mine who has been closely associated with the University of Pittsburgh for many decades – as has his extended family. He wished to remain anonymous but I’ll say this – you’d recognize the last name immediately if you really know about the University… I remember my parents talking about them, and I wouldn’t doubt one or two had cocktails on a friday evening at our place back in the ’60s.
I can’t think of anything overwhelming me about Pitt other than in the mid 50’s, my older cousin, Sami, played Pitt soccer for Leo Bemis. Sami was a petroleum engineering student and mischievous as anything such as putting a Hersey chocolate bar on Bemis’ car seat as he drove the team to an away game. Anyhow, through Sami, I got to meet a lot of Pitt athletes such as Corky Cost, Corny Salvaterra, and other football players. I never was in contact with the basketball players but meeting some of the football players from the ’55 and ’56 bowl teams made me a follower of Pitt Panther football.
Neither my Mother nor Father were college graduates as both had helped build my father’s company. However, my Mother’s pride of her connections to the Oakland YWCA and the University of Pittsburgh was constantly a reminder of her esteem for Pitt. I’ve also had three relatives as professors at Pitt including heading departments.
For me, it was Pitt football and Duquesne basketball. Note that despite the heroics of Don Hennon, Duquesne was the Big Dog back then in basketball with Sihugo Green and the Rickett Brothers. Oh, how I listened to games on the radio no matter where I was and occasionally made it to Pitt Stadium.
When I was a high school junior, I had a foot operation at West Penn Hospital. Who was my roommate? It was Bill Linder, co-captain of the Pitt football team. What a thrill for me to have six and seven guys from the team visiting and joking with Bill and me. Fred Riddle the Pitt FB was hilarious. As a teenager back then, all these college guys in their Pitt letterman jackets joking and telling stories in my hospital room was a treat I never forgot.
Upon graduation for a Pittsburgh high school, I was accepted to Princeton but chose to go to Pitt. By the way, that first semester at Pitt led to me getting on an elevator in Schenley Hall with a guy in a letterman jacket with a flattop haircut and mammoth sized hands and head. Yep, it was Mike Ditka who I later in my professional career had opportunities to get to know and discuss Pitt.
Some of the Pitt guys I got to know were Paul Martha (went to Law School with Paul), Fred Mazurek, Ernie Borghetti (photo above title), Fred Cox, Kenny Lucas, Dale Stewart, and Eric Crabtree. Fred Hoaglin, the Pitt center, married my wife’s sorority sister. Those really were fun days.
Going to Pitt Stadium for a football game was so different from today’s game. A son of mine played for Clemson and let me tell you 84,000 screaming orange and white fans is like the SEC in every way. But at Pitt back in the 50’s and 60’s, it was very different. All the players were there to get college degrees in fields such as engineering, chemistry, physics, law, medicine, and dentistry.
The NFL was just getting by and nothing like today’s NFL. So, the chance to play in the NFL was an iffy situation as the money might not be as good as a starting lawyer or doctor. People went to the games after enjoying time on campus, eating in Oakland, meeting friends, and marching up Cardiac Hill to sit on those forsaken bench seats in the big bowl on the hill. What a view!!!
The band played, people cheered and all respected that the young guys on both sides of the field were respectful of each other and their institutions, even PSU. Clean fun, festive atmosphere, and a toughly played game were the draw. Sure, some had too much to drink, but walk out of a game, hell no.
Over the years, I was struck by how many Pitt and Steeler players I got to know despite being far from Pittsburgh. I can say in complete honesty, all were wonderful people, great sportsmen, and all loving their days at Pitt and in Pittsburgh.