LOCAL ATHLETIC ROYALTY
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Local officials recently gathered to unveil the new Trade and Transit Centre II and Midtown Landing, which adds a host of new features to downtown Williamsport. The Sun-Gazette takes a closer look at the new facility and its features in a five-day series. Today we offer the third installment.)
The Williamsport Sports Walk is a tribute to some of the notable figures in local athletics, from the high school playing fields to professional sports.
Names of the athletes, coaches and other sports figures are stamped into city sidewalks, their very names emblazoned on plaques covering a two-block area.
A stroll along the Sports Walk, winding through the downtown from the newly built Trade and Transit Centre II at West Third and Laurel streets to City Hall, is a journey spanning the generations from the Depression era to the present.
The area sports icons were honored recently during a special ceremony after the ribbon-cutting for the new transit facility.
Some of the names, such as Mike Mussina and Gary Brown, perhaps are more familiar to younger sports fans of the area. Others, such as Larry Kelley and Sal Rosato, tap the memories of older residents.
Following is the honorary roll call of the local sports legends:
Gary Brown was a standout football player at Williamsport Area High School who later starred at Penn State University with the Nittany Lions. He later played in the National Football League, with the Houston Oilers, San Diego Chargers and New York Giants as a running back, twice rushing for more than
1,000 yards in a season. Over his pro career, he rushed for 4,300 yards. He now is a running backs coach with the Dallas Cowboys.
Larry Kelley was a star athlete at Williamsport High School who went on to Yale University, where he won college football’s Heisman Trophy in 1936 while playing end. Kelley was an All-Amercian and captain of the Yale team. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969. Kelley, later a teacher and alumni director at the Peddie School in Highstown, New Jersey, died at age 85 in 2000.
John “Jack” Losch played on the first Little League Baseball World Series championship team in 1947 as a member of the Maynard Midgets in Williamsport. But perhaps his biggest claim to athletic fame came on the gridiron at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American. Losch later was drafted into the National Football League by the Green Bay Packers, but played just one year. He served in the Air Force as a jet pilot. For 37 years, he was director of Fleet Services at General Motors. Losch died in 2004.
Sal “Tank” Rosato was a three-sport athlete at Williamsport High School in the late 1930s before going on to play football as a fullback at Villanova University. He resumed his football career following a three-year hitch with the Air Force in World War II, signing with the Washington Redskins of the National Football League in 1945. That year, he became the only Williamsport-born player to ever appear in an NFL championship game, carrying the ball six times. He played for three years in the NFL, rushing for 620 yards and four touchdowns. He died in 1959.
Dan Muthler made his mark on the mats, first while wrestling for Jersey Shore Area High School, where he captured two state championships. He won a state title at 133 pounds in 1970 and the next year at 138 pounds. He was named on the 1970-71 Wrestling USA Magazine’s High School All America Team and went on to wrestle for the Naval Academy, where he became an NCAA wrestling champion.
Mike Mussina never played on a World Series championship team, but his stellar major league pitching career speaks for itself. A three-sport star athlete at Montoursville Area High School, who later played baseball at Stanford University, he won 270 games in the American League, while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. He won 20 games in his final season at age 39 in 2008.
Ed Ott never played high school baseball. He starred on the gridiron and on the mats at Muncy High School before being drafted to play professional baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his eight-year major league career, including seven seasons with the Pirates, he hit .259. He also batted .333 in the 1979 World Series won by the Pirates in seven games over the Baltimore Orioles. He later served as a coach at the major league level and as a manager with Pirates’ Prince William minor-league team for two seasons and also as manager of the Allentown Ambassadors, an independent team.
The late Carl Stotz is synonymous with Little League Baseball. It was the Williamport native who formed the first Little League teams – Lycoming Dairy, Lundy Lumber and Jumbo Pretzel – in 1930. From those humble beginnings, the youth organization grew and spread throughout the world. Today, more than 2 million children play Little League Baseball.
Tom O’Malley starred on the baseball diamond at Montoursville Area High School before being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 16th round of the 1979 amateur draft. The left-handed hitting O’Malley played for nine seasons, compiling a lifetime batting average of .256. But it was in Japan where O’Malley became a star, hitting over .300 six straight seasons, including one batting title, he was a three-time All-Star and winning the Most Valuable Player Award in 1995. He later served as hitting coach for the Hanshin Tigers. He managed the independent Newark Bears from 1998 to 2001.
John Wilcox perhaps was the biggest name in local bowling circles a generation ago. The 885 series he rolled in 1972 stood as the best three-game set for left-handers for more than 20 years. For many years, he held the U.S. Bowling Congress record for most career 300, or “perfect,” games. In 1996, he won the USBC Open Championships all-events title and earned two gold medals in the Tournament of the Americas. Wilcox was president of John Wilcox’s Bowling Lanes, which operated in Mifflinburg for many years.
Frank Girardi served as the head football coach for the Lycoming College Warriors for 36 years, rolling up 257 wins, 13 conference championships and a trip to the Division III national championship. When he retired from coaching in 2007, Girardi was fifth among NCAA coaches in career wins and second among Division III coaches. He has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Ron “C.I.” Insinger is the state of Pennsylvania’s all-time winningest boys high school basketball coach with more than 800 victories. His Loyalsock High School Lancers teams have captured 12 PIAA District IV titles and 25 conference titles. Insinger has been named conference Coach of the Year 27 times. He also has 98 wins as a girls varsity coach and has operated basketball camps for many years.
John H. Bower has the distinction of founding the nation’s first Sunday School basketball league. The league, known as the Bower League, still is in operation. Over the years, thousands of youths have participated in the organization. Bower also helped organize the first Boy Scout troop in Lycoming County in 1921.
P.D. Mitchell was a leader in Williamsport’s black community, serving as executive director of the former Bethune-Douglass Community Center. He spearheaded efforts to organize numerous youth sports teams. He coached the first African-American bowling team in Lycoming County, which later was recognized by the American Bowling Congress.
Gary Chrisman’s distinctive broadcasting voice has been a part of the local sports scene for more than a generation. Chrisman, a University of Miami and Williamsport Area High School graduate, launched his broadcasting career in the 1970s. While his “Chrisman Morning Show” has been a staple of the local airwaves, he also has been at the microphone for countless area athletic events for more than 40 years, including high school football and basketball, but perhaps most notably, the Little League Baseball World Series. Chrisman was instrumental in developing Cable Sports Productions’ Game of the Week broadcasts.
Kelly Mazzante starred for her Montoursville Area High School girls basketball team before going on to play for Penn State, where she earned Kodak All-America honors three times – 2002, 2003 and 2004. She became the all-time leading scorer in the Big Ten Conference with 2,919 points in four seasons. Her Penn State No. 13 jersey was retired in 2004. She later played on two championship teams in the Women’s National Basketball Association before retiring in 2014.
Paul “Babe” Mayer has been an educator, coach, sports broadcaster and trainer. He was named the National Secondary School Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 1988. As a broadcaster, he has served as a sports analyst for WRAK Radio and has done weekly spots on Cable Sports Productions’ “Game of the Week.” He is a retired professor emeritus from Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Ken Sawyer has been a part of the local radio scene for many years, including many seasons behind the microphone for local sports. Over the years, he has called sporting events from high school football and basketball, Lycoming College football and the Little League World Series. In 2004, Sawyer received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association Roy Morgan Award for broadcast excellence. More than once, the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters named his broadcasts the Best Sports Play by Play of the Year. He received the Douglas Dickey Award as Humanitarian of the Year in 2002.
Bill “Lefty” Byham and his signature, “And that’s 30,” were part of his broadcasting signoffs for many years. A longtime teacher, Byham, had a short stint as a minor league pitcher. He was a familiar voice over the local radio airwaves for many years, hosting a sports talk show on WMPT and later broadcasting athletic events, including countless Little League Baseball World Series games. At 87, he still was calling games during the most recent Series. In 2002, the press section at Little League’s Volunteer Stadium was named in his honor.
The Williamsport Area High School Millionaires boys basketball team rolled up a 30-0 record in 1984 on its way to a state championship. The team was the school’s first championship squad. The team was led by head coach Pete White Sr. and assistants Lynn Datres and Larry Moore. Team members were Joe Bower, Victor Brace-Harvey, Seth Burch, Jeff Churba, Marc Graves, Mickey Lockwood, Jim Mextorf, Rik Niklaus, Dan Pagana, Scott Peterson and Pete White Jr.