The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

May 12, 2013

MIKE MASTOVICH: Junior put his stamp on tourney

JOHNSTOWN — This year, Junior won’t be on the Point Stadium field for the pregame hoopla associated with opening night of the 69th annual AAABA Tournament.

He won’t watch as dozens of Corvettes and hundreds of baseball players enter through the left-field gate with their respective teams from cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans, New Brunswick and Altoona.

Junior won’t be there offering advice, shaking hands or cracking jokes.

The August tournament won’t be the same in that regard.

But George Arcurio Jr.’s impact will be evident as long as the summer tradition continues in Johnstown and on outlying fields throughout the region.

“Junior really attempted to make Johnstown a major sports capital throughout the United States,” said George Arcurio III of his father, who died Thursday at age 83 after a lengthy illness.

Arcruio Jr. had served as president of the Johnstown Oldtimers for 28 tournaments from 1981 through 2008. He was president of the national AAABA board in 1994 and 1995.

Junior had plenty of help from a dedicated group at the national AAABA level. He had the tireless and efficient efforts of his son George III, as well as the rest of the Oldtimers, who work year-round to uphold a Johnstown tradition that has spanned multiple generations.

Most agree Junior was the man who led the AAABA Tournament through the good times as well as the economically challenging times, taking on one task after another with a no-nonsense, often colorful approach.

Junior’s health had been in decline for about a decade and more recently had restricted him to a low-profile role in the tournament he loved.

The good news is that when the tournament begins this year, Junior’s presence will be felt months after his death.

Because of Arcurio Jr., the next generation of AAABA leaders is stepping to the plate.

Just as the original group of Oldtimers and AAABA national organizers inspired Arcurio Jr., his legacy has motivated others.

“Growing up in Johnstown, the AAABA means so much to the area and the community and it’s all because of what Mr. Arcurio did to establish the tournament,” said Martella’s Pharmacy manager Chris Pfeil, 36. “Growing up, every kid dreams of playing in the tournament. Fortunately I was able to be involved in AAABA baseball and the last 16 years it’s been a huge part of my life.

“The small part the local league has played, I’m proud to be a part of that, and I believe Mr. Arcurio’s work gave me the opportunity.”

Arcurio Jr. fronted the Oldtimers and was a major player on the national committee for some of the AAABA Tournament’s milestone events.

In 1981, a two-bracket system – upper bracket and lower bracket – was incorporated in an effort to help the Johnstown franchise, which consists mostly of local and regional players, compete with programs that recruit on a national level.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the tournament welcomed outlying communities such as Lilly, Portage and Revloc into the mix as games were played in those locales on the first two days of the tournament.

The goal was to involve more areas in the tournament and increase interest that might result in better attendance on opening night and throughout the week at the Point.

In 1993, the AAABA national board voted to make Johns-town the permanent home of the AAABA Tournament.

A year later, one of Junior’s dreams came true as the AAABA Hall of Fame welcomed its first class, including Arcurio Jr., in conjunction with the 50th anniversary tournament. The hall eventually found a home in a building beyond the right field wall at the Point.

In 1996, Arcurio Jr. was instrumental in working a deal with Prime Sports KBL television network to have the opening game of the 52nd tournament televised live.

The list could extend well beyond the above-mentioned items.

“He was a very personable man. He committed pretty much his life to baseball,” said former New Orleans manager Joe Scheuermann, a AAABA Hall of Famer. “There are not many people like him. Now it’s up to people like me and the next generation to build on the tradition.”

George Arcurio III has carried the family banner for decades. He’s successfully juggled one task after another whether snow is on the ground in February or the temperature hits 90 degrees in August.

Arcurio III had a great teacher.

“The foundation has been set,” said Arcurio III, who also is a AAABA Hall of Famer. “It’s up to guys like me and the officers and board, with the help of the business community, to carry on the tradition. This will be the 69th tournament. We’ve been working hard already. Junior will be sadly missed this year.”

Junior won’t be forgotten, especially not when it’s time to play ball.

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