The great eight
LAKEWOOD?- The 33rd annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner on Monday night had plenty of speakers, but it almost left the main speaker, Sharon Robinson, speechless.
The daughter of baseball hall-of-famer Jackie Robinson was impressed with the sellout event at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club that honored eight inductees.
”I had no idea what I was coming to tonight,” she said. ”What a special night.”
In addition to the eight inductees being honored, there were also 30 of Chautauqua County’s top athletes and teams recognized for achieving national championships, all-American status, state championships or all-state first-team status in their respective sports. A majority of them were high school athletes.
”You’ve done this amazing job,” Robinson said to the CSHOF committee. ”You’ve embraced the young people and you’ve embraced the older people. I’m so blessed to be a part of this.”
And referring to some of the inductees’ comments, she said, ”I listen to you all and it kind of reminded me of my family.”
The first inductee to be honored and join the Hall of Fame family was Vince Calarco, who graduated in 1942 from Westfield Central School where he earned 15 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He sponsored, played and coached basketball, football, softball and baseball teams for many years and later officiated and in 2006 received an IAABO award for 50 years of service as a basketball official.
Calarco was stunned to be honored by a crowd of 400 people.
”I want to all to know you’re in my heart and you always will be,” he said.
The late Geza Farkas was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1932, and became interested in gymnastics as boy and was eventually selected by the Hungarian Olympic team.
Farkas was 25th in all-around at the 1952 Oslo Olympics and was 15th in all-around at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He led Hungary to a bronze medal at Melbourne and refused to carry the Communist flag. After arriving in the United States in 1956, Farkas coached gymnastics at Kent State and later moved to Jamestown in 1960. In 1996, while coaching gymnastics at the Lakewood YMCA, Farkas was chosen the YMCA National Coach of the Year.
His presenter, Chuck Jambliter, said, ”I started coaching gymnastics because of him.”
Miki Farkas accepted his late father’s plaque and ring from CSHOF president Randy Anderson and said, ”This is a very proud moment for my family and I.”
He added, ”He was a great ambassador for the sport of gymnastics.”
Even though his father was born in Hungary and first lived in Ohio when he arrived in the United States, Miki said, ”He was proud of this community and called it home.”
Jamestown native Dan Lunetta has been involved in two World Series as the director the minor league operations for the Detroit Tigers, but he said being inducted into his local hall of fame was just as special.
”I’ve just come to the realization of being inducted tonight is right up there with winning a World Series,” he said. ”This is home. It always has been and always will be.”
Lunetta began his baseball career as a groundskeeper at College Stadium (now Diethrick Park) in 1979 and became the general manager of Jamestown Expos a year later. That began his administrative baseball career which is nearing 35 years. Along the way, Lunetta has served as the director of team travel for the Montreal Expos and the Cincinnati Reds.
After serving a year as the general manager for the Rochester Red Wings in 1990, Lunetta joined the front office of the Florida Marlins in 1991 and served in various capacities, including director of minor league administration, farm director and director of baseball administration. Highlighting his tenure there was a World Series championship in 1997. In 2002, he became a special assistant to the general manager of the Montreal Expos.
Since 2004, he has been director of minor league operations for the Tigers.
Because of the length of the major-league season, Lunetta thanked his wife, Jhoanna.
”She’s put up with a lot,”Lunetta said. ”I’m sharing this honor with you.”
But Jhoanna said, ”I consider myself extremely blessed to be along for the ride.”
Silver Creek resident Cindy Miller didn’t take up golf until she was 15, but eventually became the captain of the Miami (Fla.) University golf team that won national championships in 1977 and 1978. In 1978 she was selected as an All-American.
Miller, who won the New York State Amateur Tournament in 1978 and the Lake Chabot Women’s Open on the Women’s Professional Golf Tour in 1979 and played on the LPGA Tour from 1979-1982.
In 2010, Miller was named the LPGA Teacher of the Year and has been among the top teachers in 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012.
She also participated in the Golf Channel’s Big Break III, Ladies Only and Big Break VII and the Reunion.
”I was a little shocked,” Miller said was her reaction to the news she was being inducted. ”This is a miracle I’m up here.”
As for taking up golf, Miller said, ”I started playing because I started to get chubby.”
She also noted, ”I think I was trying to get away from something.”
Even now as one of the top teaching professionals in the country, Miller is still trying to improve her own game. Miller had been asked when she knew she had it and her reply was, ”I don’t know if I’ve ever had it.”
Inductee Al Muck, also from the North County, joked, ”In one lesson, Cindy turned my lousy game to almost mediocre.”
But there were plenty of other games in which Muck excelled. The 1962 Forestville High School graduate was an outstanding athlete in baseball, basketball and football.
Muck credited his later brother, Jim, with a lot of his success.
”Jim never met a ball he didn’t like,” Muck said. ”I thank him for passing on his love of sports to me.”
Muck signed a pro baseball contract with Kansas City A’s and played in their minor league system from 1962 through 1965.
”Kansas City is where they played before they got good,” he said of the A’s.
Muck pitched competitively for the Jamestown Oldtimers, refereed hockey, basketball and football and was a founding member and a member of the board of directors for the Northern Chautauqua County Youth Hockey Association.
They’re not just a bunch of old guys,” he said about the Oldtimers. ”Our main purpose is to support youth baseball (through contributions).”
The late Tom Prechtl was born in Dunkirk in 1935 and attended Fredonia Central School where he was a multi-year letter winner in basketball, football, track and baseball. He played basketball at Niagara University from 1954-1957 where his teammates were Larry Costello, Hubie Brown and Frank Layden.
After college, Prechtl played basketball in many leagues and on traveling teams. In addition to coaching at Panama Central School, Jamestown High School and Jamestown Community College, Prechtl taught elementary school for more than 30 years in Jamestown and Chautauqua, and volunteered countless hours of excavating expertise to create playgrounds and athletic fields.
”Hard working, passionate, caring, humble,” Mark Prechtl was the way described his father. ”He used those traits as an athlete, teacher, coach, father, grandfather and friend. He set an example for those of us around him.”
He added, ”He was a great communicator.”
And Mark noted that his father being 6-foot-6 didn’t hurt.
”People listened to him,” he said.
Tom Priester was a 1958 graduate of North East (Pa.) High School, where he participated in basketball and track. He was a soccer player at Slippery Rock, he graduated in 1962. He took a teaching position at Southwestern where he also coached cross country, track and field, volleyball, bowling and tennis.
”I think you’ve coached about every sport at Southwestern,” said his presenter, Cal Cerderquist, a past inductee who was a member of Priester’s first track team at Southwestern.
”Once you respect your students, they will respect you,” Priester said was his philosophy for teaching and coaching.
Priester has officiated national and international track & field meets, including the U.S. Olympic Trials. He also officiated high school track and field since 1975, has been USATF official since 1985 and has received multiple awards for teaching, coaching and officiating excellence.
Priester praised his wife, Sue, for putting up with all his time away from home coaching and then officiating.
”I got the better, she got the worse,” he said referring to wedding vows.
He said to his wife, ”You go into the hall of fame with me tonight.”
The final inductee honored was Jack Wigley, a 1952 graduate of Southwestern where he was the salutatorian and performed superbly in football, basketball, baseball, track and field, and volleyball. He still holds the Southwestern long jump record of 22 feet, 2 inches.
Childhood friend Roger MacTavish pointed out, ”I’ve always believed Jack was one of the best athletes to come out of Chautauqua County.”
In 1953, Wigley signed a pro baseball contact with the New York Giants and played in their minor league system through1955.
After a stint in the service, Wigley attended UCLA and then coached at La Jolia Country Day School in the San Diego area, where he claimed four girls basketball conference championships, two boys basketball titles, two softball titles and a tennis title.
”I know Jack would appreciate it,” his wife, Carolyn said about his induction.
And she noted a motto for the Wigleys was, ”That family that plays together stays together.”
The 30 athletes and teams that were honored were introduced by banquet chairman Chip Johnson and they included:
Jake Sisson, Jamestown: Class AA football all-state first-team
Stephen Carlson, Jamestown: Class AA football all-state first-team
Tanner Hoose, Southwestern: Class C football all-state first-team
Matt McCarthy, Fredonia: Class C football all-state first-team
Hope Pietrocarlo, Maple Grove: State Class D cross country champion and Class D all-state first-team
Fredonia Central School: State Class B baseball champions
Nick Hart, Fredonia: State Class B baseball layer of the year
Vince Gullo, Fredonia: State Class B baseball coach of the year
Tyler Swanson, Pine Valley: Class D baseball all-state first-team
Frewsburg Central school: State Class C softball champions
Sam Mott, Frewsburg: Class C softball all-state first-team
Jon Blanchard, Frewsburg: State Class C softball coach of the year
Ryanne Dugan, Forestville: Class D softball all-state first-team
Zed Williams, Silver Creek: Class C basketball all-state first-team
Christina Walter, Maple Grove: State Division 2 100-meter champion
Jordan Powers, Chautauqua Striders: All-American 17-18 2,000-meter steeplechase
McKenna Maycock, Chautauqua Striders: All-American 15-16 heptathlon and 400-meter hurdles
Mackenzie Swartzman, Chautauqua Striders: All-American 13-14 1,500 meters
Jamestown Lakers: State 18 & under hockey champions
Jamestown Community College women’s swim team: NJCAA Academic Team of the Year
Drew Chaddock, Jamestown Community College: All-American NJCAA Division III golf
Jake Yartz, Jamestown Community College: All-American NJCAA Division III golf
Spencer Lefort, Fredonia State: All-American NCAA Division III heptathlon
Erin Kling, California University of Pennsylvania: Academic All-American NCAA Division II Academic All-American track
Lauren Turner, Cornell: All-American NCAA sailing
Dalton Becker, Cassadaga Valley: State sub-junior singles trapshooting champion
Tiffany Decker, Busti: State Lady 1 Doubles, Lady High All-Around and Lady 1 state trapshooting champion and ATA All-American
Bill Petransky, Frewsburg: IBO Masters Class world archery champion
Bill Kiendl, Bemus Point: IBO Senior Hunter Class archery champion
Nick Kahanic, Falconer: Highland Games North American and World Amateur champion
Rev. Roy Ferguson of the Busti Church of God gave the invocation and benediction. the national anthem was sung by Amanda Barton.