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.

Image result for mike ditka, pittUpon 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.

73 thoughts on “A Way, Way Look Back…

  1. Thanks for taking me back to a time when it was a “college “ game. Pitt FB played mostly by local boys who were their to get an educationMy heart yearns to return to the past but never to happen. I remember being in Bio and Chem 101 and 102 with Stan Ostrowski, Dave Blandino . Dave Wannstedt was in either chem or bio as well Can see him in his Baldwin letterman’s jacket. Remember alumni honored for achievements in society… it was a college game .. still is but oh how it has morphed

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  2. Great story, and a great bygone era, that I never really got to know. Real student-athletes imagine that.

    My Mom’s doctor was Don Hennon, and he use to remark to her, that your son(me) knowing about him, even though I wasn’t even born when Hennon played, was remarkable. Dr. Hennon was one of the few doctors my Mother had, that she actually liked. His son Don Jr. played at North Allegheny several decades after me.

    College football has changed so much since then, it’s hardly recognizable. Very sad indeed.
    H2P
    VeV

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  3. In high school, Don Hennon led Wampum High to an undefeated 31-0 record and a state championship in 1955.

    Hennon played in college at the University of Pittsburgh from 1956 to 1959, where he led the Panthers to the 1957 and 1958 NCAA Basketball Tournament. While there he became a First Team Consensus All-American selection in 1958 and a Second Team Consensus All-American in 1959, while being named to the United Press International and Helms Foundation first teams that season

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    1. I grew up about 5 miles from Wampum and was schooled very early on how the smallest school in the state won a couple state titles under the coaching of L Butler Hennon (Don’s father). Of course, Don and the Allen brothers (Richie, Hank and Ron) were very helpful … all 3 would go on to be MLB players (I’m sure many of you will remember Dick Allen, ROY in 1964 and nearly won the the Triple Crown in early 70s while playing for another area guy, Chuck Tanner)

      In later years, I actually played volleyball in the old Wampum gymnasium … where it all happened.

      The last knew … Dr Hennnon still maintained an office at AGH, but that was about 11 years or so (I worked for WPAHS then.) He has to be arounf 80 right now

      wwb

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      1. Dick Allen should be in the baseball HOF. His stats are better than most in the HOF now. And he played in what many consider, the 2nd dead ball era, where pitchers ruled.

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  4. Why does the past seem to me to be (in many ways) exemplary and preferable? Just getting old, I guess. Whoever wrote the article, thanks for bringing me back to my parents’ days. – Hobie

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  5. I dated a beautiful girl from Wampum first week of freshman year. She dumped me for a big football player.

    Great to read about the good ole days, when college sports were played by actual students, without professional sports intentions.

    Some things in the past were better, most were not.

    His days were followed by the near bankruptcy of Pitt and some incredibly bad sports teams.

    It would be fun to read some Bios from the Jock Sutherland, Pop Warner, and Marshall Goldberg days.

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  6. Wow,
    This read brought back memories of listening to my dad – who talked about all these great players when I was growing up. Great memories,
    Thanks!

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  7. I remember Ditka, Cox, Joe Schmidt, Crabtree and Martha playing in the NFL, as well as Mazurek and Martha at Pitt …. but that is as far back as it goes for me.

    Of course, the big $$ has changed everything for college FB (and BB), and of course, not all for the better.

    Pitt has a great tradition and was a power thru much of the first half of 20th century as well as late 70s and early 80s. Trouble is that none of this means anything to the modern recruits …. their atention span goes back to about 2010.

    wwb

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  8. Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories. Met Freddie Mazurak, Martha and Johnny Mike.
    What nice respectful people they were to a young 10 year old..

    I got to room with Charlie Hall, Pitt Safety 70-71 for a summer. He died in a hotel room working in sales a while back….one of my great fears over my career in sales. Great guy….better women friends!

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  9. Thank you for the article it was great. It really does put you on a college campus and atmosphere that seems to be long gone. Letterman jackets and all. Pretty cool stuff.

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  10. Thank you to the author for taking the time to write this article. Always interesting to get perspectives about earlier eras of Pitt and Pitt football.

    The blaring music and other activities at Heinz certainly creates a different atmosphere than in the 50s and 60s. The only game I’ve been to in recent years that had a similar game-atmosphere to those old days was a game at ND. There, the focus was on the football game…

    Great to hear the names of those old Pitt players. Would love to have seen Ditka on the gridiron, but it may have been even more fascinating to see him on a basketball court…

    Go Pitt.

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  11. Amazing stories…

    Two more to be published this week and then I’m going to get back to writing about Pitt football again. Just as an aside I’m teaching a blogging class at Miller library down here in Howard County Maryland on June 11th from 1 to 3 in the afternoon.

    It’s going to be all about starting a new blog, targeting your audience, dealing with commenters who are trolls, and try to maximize your writing to readership strength.

    Not that we have many trolls on here. Seems like I’ve only had the ban one person and that was for stuff outside of the POV.

    And whoever comes on here and is super negative about the blog or Pitt… you guys seem to take care of them pretty well, but I do remind everybody that this is a open forum for everyone’s voice so I appreciate the fact that we listen and read and try to understand what other people have to say.

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  12. On another note, there is a Pitt Alumni Association function down here in Maryland on June 7th in the evening at Houlihan’s near Ellicott City, it’s in Elkridge actually.

    That’s going to be from 6 to 8 in the evening and you don’t have to be an actual Pitt alumni to attend; you can attend as a friend and just register as a friend which is what I did.

    But anyway it looks like there’s going to be a lot of people there and anyone in Maryland who is a Pitt fan… let’s get together that day and try to turn some other people on to the POV…

    Unless they hate the POV and in that case I’m going to have to get into a fight with them and I’ll end up in jail and Dan 72 is going to have to throw the bail.

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  13. MM.. I have a good friend, Jerry McGee, who played against Ditka. Jerry and his twin brother, Mike McGee (Outland Trophywinner) played for Duke. Jerry said Ditka was the toughest, meanest SOB he ever played against !

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  14. Reed, just an FYI, here is the definition of an alumnus: I believe both of us fall into the former student category.

    “a graduate or former student, especially a male one, of a particular school, college, or university.”

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  15. A POV fight, that caught my ear and then I looked in the mirror and sat back down. Here’s another thing. The family going through a rough stretch right now with a hearing coming up. Guess who’s not allowed to attend?

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  16. Another nice write up that brings back some fond memories of Pitt football on campus. Does anyone else think that playing in an on campus stadium would help Narduzzi and staff get some of those 4 stars we seem to not be getting?

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  17. Good question jrn but a better one would be……. Would a nice sparkling modern stadium that suits PITT bring more fans to the games and and create a college football game atmosphere? << That is what these good young players want to play in front of. There has to be a starting point here at sometime and sooner than later.

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  18. Thanks for the great memories of Pitt football in the 50s and 60s. Pitt must fall back on this tradition, even though the recruits don’t care, because some of the rich alums (like Dan 72) do still care enough to pony up some big dollars to keep the programs going. The demise of the Pitt Golden Panthers was a real hit to fund raising as well, still don’t know all the backstories why they pulled the plug on this valuable organization. It also makes for a good backdrop to study why Pitt athletics (except for a few short periods) has trended downward all these years. We should hope that the current Chancellor and AD would want to reverse this trend.

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  19. Ike – Syracuse, flippin Syracuse just approved $120M to upgrade the Dome and make it a better fan experience and for the players and recruits. Gents, that is $125M. That will open eyes of recruits. Kentucky recently (2015-16) put $130M in stadium upgrades and within the last year Kroger sponsored the stadium for $1.85M per year for 12 years.

    2015 – 2017:

    Colorado State – $220M 42,000 seat stadium
    Florida Atlantic $70M 29,000 – 55,000
    Houston $128M 40,000
    Central Florida $57M 45,000
    Georgia State – $52.8M 23,000 seats
    UMass – $20M 17,000 seats
    Abilene Christian – $30M 12,000 seats
    E. Tenn St. – $27M – 10,000 seats
    USF – on the way! . $240M in 2022 dollars 40,000 seats
    Temple – on the way!
    Tulane $75M 30,000 seats
    Pitt – No Football Commitment.

    Build a nice multi-use stadium on campus at Pitt. You can even add a conference center with 200 beds and sell that place out every flipping weekend a game is in town. LOST $ OPPORTUNITY currently. Business School can run it and have interns, yadda yadda….Or you can just say we can never do that and have your program be run by the folks at Heinz Stadium and let the downtown hoteliers prosper and the downtown establishments. It’s only money. Again, love sharing practice facilities with the Steelers, but not the stadium. It is Steelers stadium, not Pitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I could not agree with you more Huff. It would be money well spent as well.. We helped to bring back PITT script we can help bring back PITT Stadium! The cries are not unnoticed.

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  21. Excuse my ignorance dear writer. Thank you for a terrific article. I appreciated the stroll back through time as I do with all of these spectacular pieces. I have an inkling of the mystery writer’s identity, ala Soupy Sales from back in the day. Enter and sign in please….

    Thank you again. Drats, my manners are going…….Sister Maria would have taken the paddle to me had she known that I put my personal post before an acknowledgment and thanks for a job well done. Thank you kind sir!

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  22. The sad fact is that Pitt could have rehabbed the stadium for a not too excessive amount years ago. Replacing the bleacher seats with regular seats would have probably reduced the capacity by 15,000 or so and gave us a good chance to nearly sell out many a game with that number of seats. Playing the PSU’s and ND’s of the world could have always been moved to Heinz to draw the extra crowds for those games in which seats would have been in greater demand.

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  23. Wasn’t there a plan floated (before the decision to move to Heinz) .to build a basketball arena adjacent to the stadium on land occupied by the parking lot which sat across the street and above the press box side of the stadium. Vaguely remember (or dreamed) a drawing of a facility connecting into Pitt Stadium. ????

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    1. Yes – the OC lot which is in front of the Cost Center was the place for Pitt’s new basketball arena. Pitt took the easy way out.

      Pitt stadium had gotten too costly to maintain. But, The cost to renovate the stadium would have been cost prohibitive. Pitt stadium needed razed for a modern stadium to work. The entire inside needed to be gutted for seats. You would have needed to move the stands closer to the field to eliminate the track. The space underneath the stands wasnt sufficient to support modern restrooms, concessions, and athletic offices. Heating/Cooling, plumbing and electrical would have been nightmares to retrofit and install as new.

      The cost for new stadiums (50k capacity) on campus these days is around $300M (see Minnesota, a stadium that was designed well (not cheap) on land already owned). The cost 20 years ago probably would have cost around the same as today due to demo and union labor costs. So if Pitt could have raised $150M for the down payment via donations and if they could have floated a bond around $100M, the project could have been feasible. I’m also accounting for $50M in naming rights, and corporate sponsorship’s that could help defray costs.

      But the AD didnt want to launch a major fundraising campaign. There was little interest in Pitt football at the time. And Steve wasnt a very good fundraiser to begin with. Therefore, Pitt chose the path of least resistance and the razing allowed them to clear room for the Pete. Because Pitt was now a basketball school.

      So Pitt leases Heinz today and does share (not sure if 100%) in the parking and concessions. But generates no revenue from suite licenses, naming rights, and sponsorship’s from what I understand. Its in a stadium only used by Pitt for 6 days a year. Its too large for Pitt’s needs. And it doesnt feel like Pitt’s stadium.

      The Victory Heights initiative could help bring a football venue, a multi purpose rec center, back to campus. A new venue thats far more than just a football stadium.

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  24. FWIW Reed, it was an excellent suggestion to have us send our Pitt fan bio/stories … I really enjoyed them.

    As you suggested, it was an excellent filler until we start reading about all these commits coming our way beginning June 10th.

    wwb

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  25. Good call wwb…..

    BigB, nice video, I can see you and the wonderful Mrs Jeanie B dancing the night away to that song……………

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  26. txpanther, as an aside I read a column by Dejan K that stated the Pirates receive zero $ from parking since the lots are either city or privately owned. I imagine the same goes for Pitt and the Stillers.

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  27. Then pitt is missing out.

    Not sure what pitt pays for the lease. But the lease is considered short term debt. And the university monitors their debt load. If pitt owned their venue, there would be long term debt albeit at a very Low interest rate and minimal annual maintenance on a new facility.

    But 100 percent of the monies generated would be theirs to keep. Food and drink sales, merchandise, parking, facility rentals and lease arrangements, seat and suite licenses, advertising and sponsorships, naming rights.

    And in a facility on campus that could be used year round by multiple programs, businesses, the university, the community.

    Really should be part of the victory heights plan. The space exists. The opportunity is knocking. The football team frankly needs it more than the gymnastics team. But the programs who use Fitzgerald can still get their 3000 seat venue as well. Build a wing to this multi rec center that I suggest be partially domed with flexibility for full enclosure.

    Tex

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  28. But can pitt reach within and raise $250 million over the course of five years via donations. $50 million per year. That’s our future annual check from the ACC.

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  29. PITT is out of their element on the north shore. They are an afterthought and will always get the last bits on the table. I give the Pirates credit for changing their game start for the psu game though. PITT will never get any consideration from the Steelers. Build your own stadium PITT!!

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  30. All these schools are renovating their stadiums to get ahead of the times. Yet the Rooneys fail to do anything for Pitt’s interests.

    http://www.syracuse.com/expo/erry-2018/05/b3c78bd47a2667/how_does_carrier_dome_renonvat.html

    How difficult would it be to change the color of some seats, put Pitt script at the 50 that wasnt painted on by Carrick Elementary, paint Panthers and Pitt in the endzones, hang some flags and banners inside and outside the stadium, paint ACC logos on the field, replace the ketchup bottle with a panther for gameday.

    Tex

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    1. Lacrosse is another sport thats great for both boys and girls
      But we need an AD to raise the money for the scholies
      They could play on the soccer field until the new football venue is built
      Is Pitt competitive tonight against NC in baseball at least?

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  31. Enjoyed the article about Pitt in the 50s.I relate as a 60 grad.Somebody said they would have liked to see Ditka on the BB court. I have and he was the same Mike you got on the football field 110% all the way.We used to cheer “we want the Hammer” when some of our more spindley players like Fridley got beat up by opponents.The coach would finally send in Ditka and Mike always ended the rough stuff on Fridley. Even if an opponent left the game with a bloody nose a la Carnegie Tech. The “60” football team was not national championship , that was Syracuse who beat Pitt 39-0 in the rain but Pitt had a lot of quality wins and some near wins that year including over undefeated ND and PS teams, a tough UCLA team as well as Duke and Boston College. Thanks for jump starting the memories.H2P

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    1. Pitt just got screwed by the home plate umpire on a batter interference call on a steal,that had an overthrow. No way was it interference and would have had the lead runner on 3rd with one out

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  32. UNC 4, Pitt 3
    6th inning
    Mind you UNC is ranked #1 in the ACC and a top 10 team
    Pitt has been blown out in every game against them this year

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  33. This last, above post: “A way, way look back….” was my era at PITT ! (I keep forgetting how old I am) It brings back feelings, favors, and old memories. At some point, the writer and I were probably walking past each other on campus. This was probably the pinnacle period for our beloved University. Our professional schools were tops and I believe as a University we were rated in the top 40’s.

    While football was important as part of the PITT college experience, ACADEMICS were first. The 1963 football team was known as the team of “professionals” for the professionals it turned out in the various fields of Dentistry, Law. Business, Medicine, Engineering, and whatever. I had a fraternity brother who was the Chief Justice of the Pa. Supreme Court, and another who is/was head of the Department of Neurology at a major state university in the West. There are sport fields at PITT named after classmates. It seems all the PITT people I run into of that era were successful. The undergraduates were smart! Frankly, PITT was tough academically for me.

    After a year at Florida State, from a hospital bed in Brooklyn, I watched PITT beat Miami on a Statue of Liberty play. The next Fall (1962) I was a transfer student at PITT sitting in the Tuck Shop next booth over was Paul Martha. Rick Leeson was walking around too. We were a small school undergraduate wise, and most of us spent our time in the Cathedral. All students were treated the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Narduzzi needs to talk with the Baseball coach. Baseball of all teams can beat Carolina while the football team cannot.
    Huge upset and Impressive win
    To the semi finals

    Liked by 1 person

  35. More proof, if you don’t think you can win you won’t. If you have the guts and fortitude, you at least have given yourself the chance to. ike

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  36. Excellent morning news…H2P baseball. Looks like the next game is vs Duke / L’Ville winner Saturday? My dad told me he saw Ditka crash through the outfield fence at Leslie Park in Lawrenceville. Anyone know if Iron Mike played baseball or was my dad messing with me?

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    1. I don’t know, good story though. I played at Leslie Park against 6th Ward I believe, many times over.
      I bet ya Ditka played baseball, we all played all 3 sports. Or most everyone I knew. Pitched a 1 hitter against 6th Ward I believe around 1971 or 1972.

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  37. Played baseball in the Federation League is what I meant. The Lawrenceville Tigers played there and my dad was a former player and went to watch many games there.

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  38. Someone commented that the Pitt baseball coach is on the hot seat and would get the axe from Heather. Does this upset save his job?

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    1. My guess that prediction is from an ex-baseballer who now lives in TX and would fire half of Pitt’s current coaches ….. and would also get rid of a large handful of POVers beginning with me

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