Johnstown will have two representatives in the AAABA Hall of Fame Class of 2010 next month.
Both men played in the early years of the tournament and each helped make history.
Tony Joseph, who still manages in the local AAABA League, and former pitcher Ray Rizzo will be inducted into the hall for their contributions as members of the Johnstown franchise. They will join Maryland State administrator Charles Blackburn in the class.
Former members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 1960 World Series championship team Vern Law and Dick Groat will be the featured speakers at the Aug. 7 banquet at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center.
Joseph manages Principle Development in the local AAABA League. He took the role on an interim basis at the end of the 2006 regular season, then assumed the job full-time in 2007. Previously Joseph managed the former Varsity Shop , Whalley’s and Franco’s franchises in the Johnstown Junior League in the 1980s and 1990s. He started managing in 1964 and made it to the AAABA Tournament with Kiwanis Club. Three years later, Joseph took a record-breaking Kiwanis team into the 1967 AAABA Tournament. He managed Kiwanis from 1964-71.
One of the more colorful and bluntly outspoken managers in league history, Joseph perhaps is best remembered for his role on the AAABA Tournament national runner-up Hahn Packing team in 1956. He was a third baseman and pitcher on a Hahn team that advanced to the final round before losing to Washington D.C. in what still is one of the most-talked-about AAABA games in local lore.
Like Joseph, Rizzo also made a huge impact early in the AAABA Tournament.
A right-handed pitcher, Rizzo played in the third AAABA Tournament as a pick-up with Johnstown’s 1947 Prospect AC team. He was only 15 at the time. Rizzo returned to the tournament as a pick-up with Kiwanis in 1948 and as a member of Lincoln Street Garage in 1950.
As a 16-year-old, Rizzo pitched a 3-0 shutout over Pittsburgh in 1948 on a 1-2 Johnstown team.
In 1950, he shut out Binghamton 6-0 in a Thursday morning game and was the winner in Lincoln Street Garage’s 15-1 victory over Maryland State on a Friday night. In that second game, Rizzo retired the first 13 batters and faced only 34 in the game while allowing an unearned run.
That lone run prevented Rizzo from becoming the first pitcher in tournament history to throw three consecutive shutouts, including the one he tossed in 1948.
As if that was not impressive enough, Rizzo started Saturday afternoon against Washington D.C. and threw another complete game. This time he was on the wrong end of a no-hitter thrown by Washington lefty Hugh Waln – the first no-no in tourney history. Lincoln Street lost that game 1-0 and finished 3-2 in the tournament.
Regional flavor: There will be three AAABA Regional Tournaments held from July 31 through Aug. 3.
The Zanesville Regional will include Livonia, Lansing and Youngstown as well as the host team.
Schenectady and Brooklyn will join host New Brunswick in a regional.
Altoona will welcome new franchise Miami, Fla., to the Altoona Regional.
Pirates speak: The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to their record-extending 18th consecutive losing season. But at least the AAABA Hall of Fame banquet has provided area baseball fans an opportunity to recall the Pirates’ glory years.
Past featured speakers at the banquet have been members of the Pirates World Series championship teams of 1960, 1971 and 1979.
Law and Groat played on the 1960 team that upset the highly-touted New York Yankees of Mantle and Maris fame.
Last year, Kent Tekulve and Grant Jackson teamed up for a Q&A. The duo pitched in the Game 7 series-clinching win over the Baltimore Orioles in 1979.
Bob Friend, a pitcher on the 1960 team, spoke in 2008.
Manny Sanguillen, the popular catcher on both the 1971 and ’79 teams, was at the podium in 2007.
The list goes on: Al Oliver (2006), Tekulve (2005), Chuck Tanner (2004), Bob Robertson (2003), Elroy Face (2002), Jim Rooker (1999), Groat (1998) and Nelson Briles (1997) all were part of the Pirates glory years. Slugger Frank Thomas (1996) also is a former Pirate who spoke at the banquet, though he played before the World Series years.
Tournament officers: Zanesville’s Bob Wolfe will be national chairman of the AAABA Tournament, which begins on Aug. 9. Altoona’s John Austin and Zanesville’s Jim Wright are committee members who will assist Wolfe in his duties. George Arcurio III is the president of the Johnstown Oldtimers, sponsor of the tournament.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.