by Chuck Korbar
Retirement from baseball coaching
"I'm so proud of the tradition we have here at the high school, and the young men who have played for us," said Dunkirk High School baseball coach Al Stuhlmiller. "Stu" has retired from coaching baseball after a banner career that has included 360 team victories and countless team and individual honors.
But the main word in his closing statement is tradition. It's a word every high school coach would like to use before he turns in his locker key.
Al Stuhlmiller can use it proudly.
Baseball tradition at Dunkrk High has included 360 victories and 145 losses; 15 CCIAC Divisiion 1 titles; 10 Section VI championships and three super-sectional titles.
The state championship tournament is in its third so for a quarter of a century Stuhlmiller-coached teams never had the opportunity to advance beyond the Section VI playoffs.
Tradition includes players who have gone on to pro baseball, headed by catcher Dave Criscione, who made it all the way to the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles.
Others were catcher Mike Criscione, shortstop Dave Wisniewski and first baseman Louie Ramos.
And tradition means former athletes now in the coaching ranks.
Stu's first team, in 1956, won the Section VI championship, and a fixture on that team, Pete Criscione, has come on to be his coaching arch-rival at Fredonia Central.
There was the super-sectional a few years ago that drew a crowd of 3,000 to Fredonia State College to watch the Hillbillies nip Dunkirk in the late innings, 2-1, in what Stuhlmiller calls "one of the best games ever played in western New York."
And others are now in the coaching ranks, like Bill Walters, Stu's assistant for 14 years being recommended for the job; Lorrie Corsi, Bob Wisniewski, Jeff Kubera, Mark Balzer and Tom Karnes.
Al Stuhlmiller was honored by the American Association of Baseball Coaches as "Coach of the Year" for 1977 and by Section VI in 1980.
He has coached basketball (17 years, three league championships) and football and will still coach bowling.
At 55, Al Stuhlmiller will remain athletic director at Dunkirk High, a position he's held since 1959-60, but he'll "play more golf and spend more time with the family."
He took his Dunkirk High teams to a tournament in Port Chester for two straight years and did well. "This showed baseball in western New York was as good as anywhere in the state," he noted.
It was one more accolade for a program steeped in tradition.