Gateway Class of 1974
Gateway Sports Hall of Fame Founder
After all these years, Tony Petrocelli continues to have passion and dedication to the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame. He respects and thanks all of the athletes and coaches that have been involved with the hall of fame from the beginning. His late father, Tony, worked for the school district as a custodian for many years. His father exposed him to Gateway Athletics from the inside and outside from a very young age. He knew all of the coaches long before he even entered junior high school.
He has been humbled by his nomination and selection into the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame. When he started the hall, it was not his goal or intention to be included as a future inductee. He very much appreciates the fact that his fellow committee members think enough of him to bestow him this honor. Anyone who knows Tony personally understands his passion and dedication to the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame.
Why a Gateway Sports Hall of Fame and why 1999? Tony has been associated with Gateway Sports since he was a young boy in the 1960’s. Born in 1956, he is not much older than Gateway itself. Through the years, individual athletes with credentials second to none have continued to graduate from Gateway High School. Tony continually opened local newspapers and read about other high schools’ halls of fame and their outstanding athletes. It didn’t make sense to him that Gateway did not have its own hall of fame. He felt that our special athletes and coaches needed to be honored. Gateway has had a richer athletic tradition than so many other schools. He was very proud of his alma mater and felt the time was now. He decided to take action. When the school board first approved construction of the new sports complex and Gateway was nearing it’s 40th anniversary, Tony felt the timing was absolutely perfect. He had pitched his idea to his friend Greg Nemec, who was on the school board at that time. This was in the 1995-1997 era. When Paul Holzshu was hired as the new athlectic director, he was invited to participate and help get moving on the project. These three former Gators were the initial executive committee and the co-founders. The initial meetings were brainstorming sessions mostly discussing who would be invited to sit on the committees as these committee members would ultimately be responsible for the coaches and athletes to be inducted into our hall of fame. Of course all of the participants were to be either Gateway graduates or former coaches, teachers and others related to Gateway Sports. Vic Maccarelli and Dick Bane were chosen as chairmen of the selection and nominating committees and continue those roles today. Tony, along with his wife Marcy, coordinate the actual banquet from start to finish and everything in between. Marcy deserves much of the credit and Tony shares his induction with her. She has been at his side since their high school days. She is most definitely an integral part of the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame. We should all be grateful that she has been able to keep Tony straight through all these hall of fame years.
Although we’re here to honor Tony for his dedication to the Gateway Sports Hall Of Fame, his outstanding athletic career at Gateway must also be put forth. Tony was basically your average Gateway Team Sport Participant. As a ninth grader at South Junior High, he, along with Hall of Famer Tom Toman, made the boys varsity baseball team. He actually had enough playing time to letter his freshman year. The following year, his sophomore season, Tony was the starting second baseman on the varsity team. He and Hall of Famer Alan Baltrus, the Gator shortstop, made an outstanding double play combination. His junior year he was named co-captain of the team and kept the job for two seasons. Tony was an outstanding line drive hitter that batted first or second in the line up his junior and senior years. In the first three games his senior year, Tony had nine hits his first thirteen at bats. In 44 varsity baseball games, Tony maintained a better than .333 career batting average. His biggest regret is that in the four years that he lettered in baseball, his Gator teams could not win the section title. He had and still has nothing but utmost respect for his Gateway Coaches Herb Michaels and Joe Filipowski. Tony attended tryouts for the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates and found out that the competition at the next level was a little out of his league.
Anyone that really knows Tony understands his passion for Gateway Football. From ninth to twelfth grade, Tony was a part of football teams that had a combined record of 34 Wins 2 Losses And One Tie: 2 WPIAL Section Titles, 1 WPIAL Championship and 1 PIAA Championship, 1 trip to Three Rivers Stadium, 2 trips to Pitt Stadium and 1 snowy trip to Johnstown. Not bad for a 5’5” 135 lb’er from Pitcairn. In 1972, the year that the Gators won the WPIAL and PIAA Championships, Tony was a full time special teams player. In 1973, Tony had many duties. He alternated at Wing Back, played Wide Receiver and Split End, returned punts and kickoffs and Pete often valued his opinion during games as to what would and could work offensively. In his three year career at Gateway, Tony scored four touchdowns and just missed a fifth. He had two rushing touchdowns, he caught one pass for touchdown and returned one kickoff for touchdown. The fifth could have been a punt return, but Tony cut the wrong way and got tackled from behind in the open field. His longest run from scrimmage came in 1973 in the snow bowl against Penn Hills at Johnstown, in the 4th quarter, when he took a pitch from Bob Devine and followed Dale Bittner 40 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the five yard line closing the victory for the Gators. Coach Klipa often said that, pound for pound, Tony was one of the best. On the 1972 championship team, Tony teamed with Hall of Famers and good friends Mark O’Toole, Alan Balturs, and Tom Toman. Tony expects other great athletes from the 1972 Championship Football team to be inducted into the hall in the near future. Most people know the affection he feels about his high school football Coaches Antimarino, Klipa and Betts. Tony really misses the information that Coach Klipa was able to provide regarding most of the football related inductions.
Tony’s ultimate goal as it relates to the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame is to have continued participation by committee members and inducted athletes and coaches so that the hall and annual banquet will continue many years into the future. Tony has witnessed first hand many individuals showing much emotion upon entering our hall. Membership into the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame is a great honor and should be treated as such. He is committed, during his lifetime, to maintain the integrity of the hall.
As he started to reflect on the hall, it finally made sense to him why he really pushed for a hall of fame. It actually was his teachers and coaches. He wanted to give them back a little and show his appreciation, not just for him, but anyone who had contact with them. These men were very influential. Below are his sports and classes and the men who coached or taught those sports and classes. What luck it was to be at the right place at the right time in Gateway Sports History.
Junior High Phys Ed – Statnick
Ninth Grade Football – Statnick And Gratton
Ninth Grade Volleyball – Sandor
Ninth Grade Civics And Wrestling – Bane
Ninth Grade Character Development – Holden
Ninth Grade Basketball – Holden (Actually Was Cut – Still Not Happy)
Tenth Grade Health And Swimming – Furrie
Tenth Grade Football – Hanley
Varsity Baseball – Michaels And Filipowski
High School Phys Ed – Antimarino And Betts
Varsity Football – Antimarino, Klipa, Betts, Moody, Hanley
Eight Hall of Famers: These men had a tremendous impact on Tony. He is only one of thousands of student athletes that were associated with these men. What an impact they had. These men should be extremely proud of, not only a former athlete and student named Tony Petrocelli, but the thousands of “Tonys” out there that they helped mold into fine young men and women and ultimately responsible adults.
Today, Tony owns and operates a successful accounting and tax practice in Monroeville along with Marcy and their two children, Lisa and Michael. He is an avid golfer who scored his first hole in one in 2005. He volunteers much of his time and efforts toward Gateway Athletics. He maintains clerical duties for varsity football, basketball and baseball in addition to his hall of fame duties.
In 1999, the first year for HOF inductions, Tony, along with his good friend John Washington, were asked by Coach David Ruby to speak to the varsity football team about Gateway Football Traditions. After the first night, the Gators were so enthusiastic that they asked them to come again the following week and this began a new Thursday night tradition for those Gators. These meetings were simply positive. The two of them invited numerous alumni and coaches to participate and, during that first year, the Gators qualified for the post season playoffs for the first time in twelve years. Among the weekly participates were Coach Pete Antimarino, Coach Steve Klipa, God Rest His Soul, Mark O’Toole, Tommy Kalkstein, a weekly regular, and Current Head Football Coach Terry Smith. The first time Tony and John heard Coach Smith talk to the 1999 Gators, they were convinced that Terry was the type of person that needed to get involved with the football program. He became Head Coach in 2002, and, as they predicted, began to turn the football program around.
We asked Tony about his most vivid memory of Gateway Athletics and he remembered one from football and one from baseball.
“ Not only was there a snow storm in 1973 at Johnstown, but it was very windy. I can still shut my eyes and once again see the opening kickoff coming right towards me. Kris DeJeet and I seemed closer together for this kickoff than normal. I vividly remember calling for the ball. The wind actually blows the ball towards Kris, he accepts the kickoff, and I followed him seventy five yards to the end zone. What a great start. Gateway 22 Penn Hills 6 in one of the most remembered Gateway games of all time.”
“ To this day, I still regret not winning a section title. My senior year, we had a very good baseball team. Myself, Tom Toman, Ed Haberle, Jim Ross, Mike Filosemi, Pat Sheehy, Dale Bittner, just to name a few. We’re at Penn Trafford playing for the section, last of the seventh leading 3-2, two outs, man on second; Here is the last ten seconds of the game. Infield error, ball rolls to the outfield, man scores from second to tie the game, batter goes from home to second, outfielder trys to throw out the first man that scored, batter has reached second, the ball from the outfielder alludes the catcher and goes out of play, the original batter is entitled to the base he was going to plus one, he was on his way to third and was awarded home, game over.
Can you believe it? When I played for Pitcairn Colts, PT could never beat us. When I got to Gateway, we could not beat PT. Extremely unhappy.”