Some local baseball history was celebrated last week when 33 men were inducted into the new Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame.
The ceremony, the first Hall of Fame induction for amateur baseball players, "gained so much attention that we had to move the site at the last minute from one location in Lackawanna to another to accommodate the crowd," said Pat Sullivan, Hall of Fame president.
Sullivan, who had a brief professional career after signing with the Washington Senators in 1961, said he and many of his "old" baseball buddies had become frustrated by the lack of an organized way to recognize players, scouts, managers, coaches and writers from the 1950s and early '60s who made amateur baseball a part of sports history.
"Softball had a hall of fame, so I thought, why not baseball," he had said last summer as the selection committee compiled its candidates from the ranks of players in the MUNY, Suburban and Classic leagues, plus umpires, administrative and executive personnel, sponsors and publicists.
Last Wednesday, the work bore fruit during ceremonies in the Col. JOhn B. Weber Post 898, Veterans of Foreign Wars. After the reading of congratulatory telegrams from George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, and from Tom LaSorda, longtime manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the inductees were announced:
Al Maroone, a Ford automobile dealer, sponsored MUNY and AAABA Baseball for 35 years. He was also a major sponsor and contributor to amateur basketball at all levels and his teams were perpetual winners in both sports.
Cy Williams, a lifelong South Buffalonian, was talent scout for the Detroit Tigers for 29 years and then served 13 more years with the Major League Scouting Bureau. He was inducted into the Buffalo Bisons Hall of Fame in 1995 and was named to the Mid-Atlantic Major League Baseball Scouts Association Hall of Fame in 1994.
Dick McCabe was a pitcher for the Boston Braves and the Chicago White Sox as well as the Buffalo Bisons. He started the Simon Pure baseball program while working for Simon Pure Brewery and was the team's general manager and manager.
Maury May was a sports writer for more than 40 years with The Buffalo News and spent much of his career covering the Suburban League. He covered spring organizational meetings with the league founder, the late Bob Stedler.
Mike Youra, a hard hitter, was a player with the most career home runs locally and is a legend in Black Rock-Riverside. He started in the game at age 13 and retired 45 years later. During his career, he played for 42 different teams and was with the AA Simon Pures when they won three straight MUNY titles.
Carmen Iannaccone is generally regarded as one of the best players in the MUNY League and was on the same team as his son, Marc, who went on to New Mexico State University.
Tommy Van Remmen was a smart right-handed pitcher who played 12 years in MUNY, including Simon Pures, Kicks, Senior Knights, 101's and Sterling. His top accomplishments included pitching a no-hitter in league play and a perfect game in an exhibition.
Ben Mankowski is a highly regarded player who played with Rome, N.Y., with the old Can-Can League and with St. Catharines as well as Curtiss-Wright in MUNY.
Dick Welker, who was signed with the Phillies after World War II, played from Class B to Triple-A with the Old Toronto Maple Leafs. He was player-manager with Kitchener in Inter-County League and with two Simon Pures MUNY AA title teams. He started with a championship team in News Midget League and was on the All-Star team. He also was a most-valuable-player nominee with Class A Eastern League in 1948.
Ted Wyatt spent 15 years with the Cheektowaga Travelers All-Star Team and played with the Cold Spring Seals and the old P&L Giants. He was All-High at Fosdick-Masten and played with the Fort Knox Army championship team.
Fred Postolese played MUNY ball and after military service was drafted by the Dodgers. He had a successful career in the minor leagues and was an All-Star in the South Atlantic League. After a knee injury, he returned to Buffalo and played for many years with Simon Pure.
Norman Postolese signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers after a career in MUNY baseball and played with Pulaski in the Appalachian League. In 1948, he batted .409 with 63 RBI's and was named to the All-Star team and Rookie of the Year. He also played Class A with Pueblo and Fort Worth. He had the second highest batting average in the Western League.
Jacque Austin batted more than .400 in 12 of his 15 years of baseball and as a pitcher had 18-plus strike-outs on three occasions. He won the AA MUNY title in 1949 and was named All-High in sports and received the E.J. Rose Sporting Goods trophy for the most homers in 1948-49.
Jim Lumadue was instrumental in the Simon Pures' winning 15 MUNY titles. He was a .340 lifetime MUNY hitter and played seven years of professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers system. Both he and Austin also have been inducted into the Riverside Hall of Fame.
Tommy Ryan, graduate of Bishop Timon High School in 1954, was an "honest to goodness" All-Catholic in four sports: baseball, football, basketball and track. He is considered by every knowledgeable sports fan to be Western New York's finest all-around athlete of all time. He went on to star with Holy Cross College baseball and basketball teams and played 10 years with the Simon Pures.
Steve Mandy from St. Francis High School played minor league ball for four years, returning home to play with the Cheektowaga Travelers. He also was captain of Lackawanna's Suburban League Champions.
Jim Ludtka was a fine local player who played professionally in the Baltimore Orioles organization before returning home to play many years with the Kenmore Knights and the 101s.
Jerry Brick, after a fine minor league career in the Detroit Tigers organization, came back to play for many years with a number of local teams, including the Eldredge Club and the Cheektowaga Travelers.
Bill Pilger was Orchard Park's "Mr. Baseball," playing shortstop and catcher for the Orchard Park Merchants. He won two all-around playoff titles in 1953 and '54 and five pennants.
Wally Waiss won the Ben Holtz Award as pitcher of the year in the Classic League with the Cheektowaga Travelers, with a 13-3 record. He played a total of 16 years. He also played with the Suburban League's Depew team and was on the Classic and Fort Benning Army All-Star teams.
Herb Niebergall coached and managed the Cheektowaga Travelers for 48 years. The Town of Cheektowaga named the Cheektowaga Town Park after him, putting a plaque bearing his name at the entrance. He started with the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a second baseman and played for the Washington Market Team in MUNY. He was also a scout for the Indians, Dodgers and Phillies.
Bob Plezia won the News Midget League playoff title in the 14-and-under division in 1956 and was a regular on Moe Drilling's Ryan High School Teams, winning the Catholic League title in 1959. He starred for the University at Buffalo's WNY Collegiate Conference champions and set a UB record of 15 pitching wins in 1963, when UB went to the NCAA Regional Tournament. He also pitched the 101's to the AA MUNY title in 1964.
Ed Tanner led the Franklinville Frankees to many all-around playoffs and league and divisional titles. He was equally adept at pitching and hitting and played for the Frankees for 22 years. He was named "The Player of the First Half Century" by the News Suburban Association in 1978.
Mark Sanderson, a pitcher from Lockport, pitched the Brauers of Lockport to The News' All-Around playoff title in 1964 and pitched for Valparaiso University in Indiana on a full baseball scholarship.
Marion Fricano was one of the the few Western New Yorkers to be associated with the late Connie Mack's legendary Philadelphia A's and had his greatest moments as a rookie pitcher with the A's in 1951 when he shut out the World Champion Yankees on one hit -- Yogi Berra's double in the eighth -- winning the game 1-0. He pitched and managed North Collins in the News Suburban Association before and after his pro career.
Harold Crabb, Arcade's perennial "Mr. Shortstop," was the team leader for most of his 26 years with the Arcade team in both the Southern and Central leagues. He managed and led the Arcade team to its only All-Around playoff title in the News Suburban Baseball Association in 1958.
Sam Gallineau managed the Lake Shore West Herrs to five News Association All-Around playoff titles in six years. He also was named to the Lake Shore All-Star team four times and managed four Lake Shore League All-Star teams.
Bob Smith was probably the greatest hitter in West Seneca history. He was instrumental in Gardenville Lumber's winning five straight all-around News Suburban playoff titles. He hit 20 homers in 1960, including play-offs. He hit four homers and had 10 RBI's against Morton's Corners and three homers and eight RBI's against Franklinville. He batted over .400 four years in a row.
Phil Smolinski, Boston's all-time hitting leader and captain, won five straight News Suburban Baseball playoff titles. A right-handed power hitter, he played for Springville High and then at UB, with most-valuable-player and top hitting honors. He played 18 years for Boston's perennial champions with team highs in batting average, home runs, RBI's and MVP's.
Clem Maue played MUNY ball for 10 years until signing a pro contract in 1933. He played for three years in the minor leagues, then returned home and resumed his MUNY career. In 1938 he signed with the Simon Pures and became the most prolific hitter of his era.
Lou De Poe, umpire, was chief of the Western New York Umpires Associated, managed Simon during World War II and also served as president of the MUNY League.
Herman Belter, one of the best-liked and most-respected umpires, toiled for more than 20 years in AAA and MUNY, the News Suburban and other amateur leagues. Belter played on the old Mel's Clothiers team and played and managed teams in the St. Stephen's Church Leagues.
Mike Kull was an umpire for 26 years in all amateur classifications, including MUNY, News Suburban, Cheektowaga Classic, high school, college and AAABA. He was chosen to umpire in the Softball World Series in San Diego in 1958.