The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

July 17, 2013

MIKE MASTOVICH| Hot times for two AAABA League teams


JOHNSTOWN — Baltimore legacy: Vincent J. Leone, one of the three Leone brothers who in 1952 founded the baseball program that now is Youse’s Maryland Orioles of Baltimore in the AAABA, died on Saturday. The AAABA Hall of Famer was 91.

In 1952, Vincent Leone and his brothers Dominic and Tony began sponsoring Leone’s Baseball, a franchise that evolved into one of the top amateur programs on the East Coast and produced many powerhouse Baltimore AAABA Tournament teams under the banners of Leone’s, Johnny’s Auto Sales, Corrigan’s Insurance and Youse’s.

From 1952 to 1972, the Leone brothers sponsored a franchise that produced future major league  stars such as Al Kaline and Reggie Jackson.

The Leones actually brought the Maryland State franchise to Johnstown during their first three tournaments from 1952 to 1955. In 1957, with Baltimore, Leone’s Cafe won a AAABA Tournament championship and put a trend into motion.

In 21 seasons, Leone’s teams collected 1,365 wins and 189 losses, an average of 68.2 wins a year.

Not surprisingly, Leone’s won four AAABA Tournament titles and finished as runner-up three times during that span, building the foundation for a franchise that has captured a tournament-best 28 championships.

The AAABA Hall of Fame inducted the Leone brothers in 2006. Vincent was the last surviving brother.

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Top bat: Wins have been scarce for first-year AAABA League franchise First Commonwealth Bank.

But manager Jim McMillen’s team has produced some solid individual performances.

Luke Trotz qualified as the league’s leading hitter this week with a .480 batting average, including one homer.

The Berkley Hills Renegades’ Jason Shirley had held the top spot and still is batting .458, but he missed the minimum cut of 55 at-bats. Shirley is 22-for-48.

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Packed house: Johnstown Oldtimers President George Arcurio III said 54 of 60 tables have been sold to the 20th annual AAABA Hall of Fame banquet on Aug. 3 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center.

“We’re nearing a sellout,” Arcurio said. “Once again, it’s shaping up to be a great event.”

Former Pittsburgh Pirates player, coach and manager Bill Virdon will be the featured speaker. Virdon played on the Pirates’ 1960 World Series championship team and was an coach on the 1971 World Series champs. In addition to the Pirates, Virdon managed the Yankees, Astros and Expos.

The Class of 2013 includes: Ross Kott (Johnstown); Joe Scaletta (Johnstown); Len DiForte (Chicago Metro); and twins John O’Brien and Ed O’Brien (South Amboy, N.J.).

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