The Post-Journal

Sports Hall of Fame Honors Four of Its ‘Hometown Pros’

Dale Hawerchuk, a man known for his pin-point passes on the ice, was right on the mark as an after-dinner speaker at the 13th annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet Monday night at the Holiday Inn in Jamestown.

“I’m sure all the backgrounds of the inductees are similar to pro athletes,” the Buffalo Sabres leading scorer told a capacity crowd. “Maybe they didn’t go on to great pro careers, but they’re still pros in your town.”

And those “hometown pros” – Pete Criscione, Dan O’Neill, the late Lory Lodestro and Cindy Reinhoudt – were honored for their contributions in their respective sports with their induction into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.

Criscione was enshrined for his accomplishments as an athlete and a coach; O’Neill as a golfer; Lodestro as a baseball pitcher and youth volunteer; and Reinhoudt as a shot and discuss thrower and powerlifter.

For Criscione – a standout athlete at Dunkirk High School and Fredonia State, and also a fine coach for more than 30 years at Fredonia Central School – last night’s experience was like growing up all over again.

“I didn’t get here. I got lucky,” said the modest Criscione , who has won 302 games as Fredonia’s baseball coach. “I’ve been surrounded by very good people and you don’t win 302 games without some good athletes. But what gives me the greatest pleasure is the guys I’ve had make it.”

Criscione noted that nine former players are playing collegiate baseball.

“I am very proud,“ he said.

O’Neill, an All-American at Penn State and a one-time member of the PGA Tour, said his selection made him think about the group of nine area businessmen who sponsored him during his tenure on the mini and PGA tours in the mid-1970s.

They were very generous and I’d like to thank them, O’Neil said.
The Moon Brook Country Club head pro said that group included his father, J. Robert O’Neill, Joe Caprino, Jerry Hall, Paul Bush, Jim Keim, Don Zeolle, the late Bud McFadden, Lou Milettelo and the late Jack Nolan.

“I felt it’s not possible for most athletes to get what they get and accomplish what they accomplish without the help of a lot of people,” O’Neil said.

Lucian Lodestro representing his late father, Lory, recalled how his dad “always felt that sports were supposed to be fun.”

From a successful minor-league career in the International League to hitting fungos at 81 to the kids at the Babe Ruth field in Falconer, the elder Lodstro loved baseball and working to help the younger generation.

“Every person he met, he always had something good (to say) about them,” Lucian Lodestro said. “He always looked for the good side of a kid.”

While Lodestro paid tribute to his dad, Reinhoudt – she joins her husband Don (class of 1983) as an inductee – thanked, among others, her brother, Patrick Wyatt, and her husband for helping her to become an internationally recognized track and field athlete, as well as power lifter.

Reinhoudt also said she was happy to see opportunities opening for women, which have allowed them to attend college and compete in athletics.

While the spotlight shown brightest on the four inductees, the banquet also featured several other speakers, including Mike Billoni, vice president of Rich Baseball operations; Buffalo Bisons outfielder, Tim Leiper; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback D.J. Johnson and Hawerchuk.

Billoni, who will be overseeing the operation of the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League, said the organization plans to unveil the team logo March 4. He also said the countdown to the start of the Jammers’ inaugural season has begun already.

“Every game is an event and with only 38 games there will probably be two events (each game),” he said.

Leiper, who batted .327 for the Bisons last season, concurred; “Coming to the ballpark is going be a better experience than you’ve ever had before.”

Johnson, a starting cornerback with the Steelers, said nobody expected him to make it either at the University of Kentucky or with the Steelers. But, in both instances, he put mind over matter and succeeded at both levels.

“Coming out, I wasn’t looked on very highly,” Johnson said. “But,” I said, “I know I can play with these guys if they give me a chance.” After two or three days (at training camp), I knew I was going to make it.

“Remember the mind, remember to discipline yourself. No one ever said it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be tough. You can’t candy-coat it. Tough it up for a little while and things will work out.”

John Gurtler, the television voice of the Buffalo Sabres, was the master of ceremonies and Chip Johnson, president of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame board of directors was the banquet chairman.

Johnson presented a check for $1,000 from the Hall of Fame to city historian B. Dolores Thompson, who was representing the Jamestown Historical Marker Committee. The money will be used to purchase an historical marker that will be placed at College Stadium recognizing the importance of baseball in Jamestown through the years.

Also recognized at the banquet were Sherman’s Nolan Swanson, the New York State Public High School Athletic, Association Class C cross-country champion; Mike Sirianni of West Ellicott, a member of the NCAA Division III national champion Mount Union College football team; and Fredonia basketball star Mike Heary, who is the county’s all-time leading scorer.

Other participants in the program were the Rev. William T Lowery, Jr. pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Jamestown, who gave the benediction; Gary Kindberg, who sang our national anthem and Todd Peterson and Scott Kindberg, who introduced the inductees.

Johnson also observed a moment of silence in memory of Wally Carlson, a Hall of Fame board member who died Monday morning.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.