by Scott Kindberg
February 21, 2022
Worth The Wait
LAKEWOOD — Sarah Burnett’s first and most cherished childhood memory was when she “truly learned” to love basketball.
“I remember standing in the driveway, facing the basketball hoop and my mom opening the door to tell me it was dinner time,” she said during her induction speech at the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame’s 40th banquet Monday night at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. “I would say to her, ‘Just one more shot,’ and my dad would just smile, grab the rebound and pass it back to me.”
“One more shot,” she told a crowd of more than 250, really meant 10 makes in a row from five different spots on the court. Day after day.
Practice made perfect for the daughter of John and Michele Bogardus.
Burnett ended up becoming a basketball star, first at Fredonia High School and, later, at Daemen College. But despite her accomplishments on the hardwood, she suggested that her induction and that of 10 others last night, “is really not about recognizing our individual achievements.”
“Rather, it’s about recognizing the time and energy that has been invested into all of us as athletes,” she continued. “We were lucky enough — maybe with a little extra hard work — to be the individuals that excelled. But we must never forget, it was because someone, somewhere, always gave each of us ‘one more shot.'”
The other inductees were the late George L. Barone Jr., Andrew J. Creager, Christina M. Kebort, Michael A. Sirianni, Lewis G. Mack, Marc T. Tramuta, Randall G. Anderson, the late Larry E. Rodgers, the late Harry G. Carlson and the late Richard P. Shearman.
Following are excerpts of the remarks from the 10 remaining inductees.
- Barone: Barone, who spent 64 years coaching youth baseball, passed away on Jan. 20, 2021, but in his final days he wrote his induction speech, which was read by his daughter, Brooke.
In addition to thanking his family, his assistant coaches, the players in various leagues and the media, Barone also wrote the following, which his daughter found after his passing:
“I won’t be far away, for life goes on. Though you can’t see me or touch me, I will be near.”
Brooke concluded: “I believe wherever there is a ballfield in town, on a hot summer’s day, his statement will always hold true.”
- Creager: The Bemus Point native started swim lessons at the Jamestown Boys Club under the teaching of Tony LeVoie and, later, swam for the Jamestown High School team, coached by Bill Rollinger. LeVoie (Class of ’85) and Rollinger (Class of ’96) are also CSHOF inductees.
Learning from the best helped Creager set records at JHS, but he spent his senior year at a private high school in Florida where he lost only one event in dual-meet competition (to a future Olympic gold medalist) and ultimately earned three All-American certificates.
Heavily recruited, Creager accepted a scholarship at North Carolina State University where he competed all four years.
“My last race was at U.S. Short-Course Nationals in Chapel Hill (North Carolina) when I was 22 years old, 20 years after first climbing into the pool with Tony VeVoie. I swam my race, climbed out of the pool, hung up my swimsuit, and moved on to medical school.
“I still love the water.”
- Kebort: The accomplished martial artist and instructor began training when she was 5, tutored by her uncle.
He also introduced her to a quote that she still recalls decades later.
“Never give up, never surrender and never back down,” she said. “Put your heart into everything you do. Always be humble and respectful, because there is always someone better than you.”
The owner of many prestigious titles, Kebort gave thanks to God and to the CSHOF.
“This recognition helps me fulfill a promise to my uncle, parents and brother to make our family name memorable,” she said.
- Mack: The basketball star in the 1970s from northern Chautauqua County first made a name for himself at Silver Creek High School through his junior year and then he played his senior year at Dunkirk High for CSHOF inductee Mike Tramuta (Class of 2020).
Mack was just getting started.
His talents on the hardwood would take him to new heights, first at Jamestown Community College under Coach Nick Creola and then, ultimately, to Middle Tennessee State University under Jimmy Earle and John Ferguson.
“There are so many people I am grateful for and want to thank for their considerable contributions to the success I had,” he said, noting in particular family, former coaches and teammates, and friends.
“You are only as good as the people you play with,” he said.
- Tramuta: The Fredonia native, who joins his uncle, Mike Tramuta, and his cousins, Pete and Dave Criscione, in the CSHOF (Class of 2020, Class of ’94 and 2010 respectively), has had a long and distinguished career in baseball, as a player (at Fredonia Central School), in college (at St. Bonaventure University) and in the minor leagues); as a coach (at his college alma mater); and as a scout for the past quarter century, including the last seven years as the director of amateur scouting for the New York Mets.
“I’m very proud and honored that I get to do this job, as well as being a scout for the last 25 years,” he said. “Also, I have had the privilege of working with so many great people and great scouts, which has made me a part of drafting and signing close to 40 Major League players, with more coming, in the last 20-plus years.”
The son of Joseph and Janice, Tramuta was coached by his dad from Little League through high school.
“(Dad) is the only person that still thinks I should’ve played in the Big Leagues,” he said. “To my mom, who almost never missed a game I played, all the way from my Fredonia Little League days through college at St. Bonaventure. She was always there and always supportive, bundled up in the stands, wherever I was playing. Thank you to my Grandpa Valvo, who allowed me, a young kid, to break just about every window on his garage, without ever getting mad at me, as I practiced throwing a ball.”
- Anderson: A member of the CSHOF board of directors since 2005, including the past 11 years as its president, Anderson has been responsible for many initiatives that have allowed the organization to experience incredible growth during the last decade.
In addition, Anderson was a member of the race team for CSHOF inductee Dick Barton (Class of 2003) for 30 years, and was a successful girls soccer coach at Jamestown High School for 15 years.
“I did not earn this recognition by myself,” he said. “I have been fortunate, throughout my life, to be a part of outstanding teams, surrounded by talented individuals who have worked well together. By subordinating themselves to the goal of doing what is best for the entire group, they have achieved levels of successes greater than they could have earned by themselves.”
Anderson described his wife, Heidi; his son, Reed; his daughter-in-law, Maggie; and his grandchildren, Riley and Hazel, as the “best teammates I’ve ever had.”
And then Anderson offered some advice:
“Be kind and do good things,” he said.
- Rodgers: One of Chautauqua County’s most respected, most knowledgeable and longest-serving referees and umpires, Rodgers umpired baseball and softball for 39 years and officiated football for 36.
“Larry loved the rules and officiating all of these sports,” said Janet Rodgers, Larry’s widow. “He loved his fellow officials, coaches and players on the field. He loved the rules and would not waste an opportunity to walk through any scenario.
“The Friday night trips to games with guys, and finishing the evening at Miley’s with wings and football talk were two of his favorite things. Moving the salt and pepper shaker around the table to reenact plays with his in-season classroom and where he held court.
“Our son told me that he never met a person who didn’t have a story about his dad. Most of them involved a funny one-liner or a teaching moment. He was a rules expert, but his ability to connect with people is what made him special.”
- Sirianni: One of the finest Division III football coaches in the country, Sirianni has posted a 167-40 record in 19 seasons at Washington & Jefferson, an 81% winning percentage that ranks fifth among all active NCAA football coaches with at least 10 years of experience.
Although Sirianni comes from a coaching family– father Fran coached at Southwestern Central School, brother Jay won two state titles at SWCS and brother Nick is the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League — he may not have reached the heights he has in the profession if his mother, Amy, didn’t suggest that he look at Mount Union as a college choice.
“(Mount Union) opened up a door, thanks to my mom, and turned my life into what it is today, and probably turned Jay’s and Nick’s lives into what they are today,” Sirianni said.
He continued: “If you want to be happy for an hour, have a steak. If you want to be happy for a day, go golfing. … If you want to be happy for a week, go on a cruise. If you want to be happy for a month, buy a new car. If you want to be happy in life, look at yourself in a mirror and ask, ‘Would anyone really miss me if I wasn’t here? What type of influence did I have on people?'”
Who was Sirianni referring to?
“Look at who they’ve influenced?” he said. “Those great teams Jay coached at Southwestern, all the teams I’ve coached at W&J, and now … what they taught us is influencing the Philadelphia Eagles. To me, that’s incredible.”
- Carlson: Carlson spent 39 years at the University of Colorado, initially as the baseball coach and then as the athletic director and Dean of Men. When he retired from the school in 1965, the entire year was designated “Dean Harry Carlson Year.” It was the first time in the school’s history that a full year had been dedicated to just one man, “because in an age when ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ were just words, Harry Carlson made them a way of life for thousands of young men.”
CSHOF board member Gary Peters read the remarks by Carlson’s son, David, who was unable to attend the banquet.
“One of his greatest satisfactions over the years was developing an intramural program that reached out to the entire student body as an addition to the traditional intercollegiate sports of football, basketball and baseball,” Peters read from David’s prepared speech. “I know that my father would embrace the statement made by an earlier recipient of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, Justin Johnson (Class of 2020), who observed that, “In life, we will all face challenges of some kind, and sports helps prepare us. They allow us a space to practice for a future where the consequences are far greater than the results of a game.”
- Shearman: Shearman is the third CSHOF inductee to have won an Olympic gold medal (joining pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, Class of 2009, who accomplished that at the London Games in 2012, and women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, Class of 2010, who accomplished that at the Atlanta Games in 1996). Shearman earned his prize as the manager of the 1952 USA speedskating team at the Oslo Games,
Reading the remarks, prepared by Shearman’s daughter, Mary, CSHOF board member Kay Gould described stories of his varied sports interests, including sailing, skating, baseball, football and bobsledding.
“One day my mother called and told me that ABC’s ‘Wide World of Sports’ was televising a bobsled competition from Lake Placid. She suggested that I watch the show on the chance I might see Dad,” Gould read. “So I gathered my seven children around the TV and turned it on. And there was their grandfather.”
NOTES: The following high school football players received plaques for their accomplishments on the gridiron last fall: Jaylen, Butera, Jamestown, New York State Sportswriters Association Class A Co-Player of the Year; Ben Anderson, Jamestown, NYSSWA Class A first team; Aidan Kennedy, Southwestern, NYSSWA Class C first team; Nick Whitfield, Fredonia, NYSSWA Class C first team; Matt Lotter, NYSSWA Class C first team; and Justin Massing, Clymer/Sherman/Panama, NYSSWA Class D first team. … Mike Sayers of Lakewood was honored for earning a gold medal in the discus in the 65-70 age group at the 2021 Empire State Senior Games. … CSHOF inductee Fran Sirianni (Class of 2018), father of Mike, performed the invocation and benediction; Anderson provided remarks; and Johnson and Anderson presented plaques and rings to the inductees. … The Ramsay Riddell Legacy Award was presented to Andrew Dickson in recognition of his outstanding contribution to winter sports. … The number of CSHOF inductees now stands at 220.
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