George Guido: Fox Chapel’s 1st football season among anniversaries to celebrate in A-K Valley

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Saturday, September 11, 2021 | 12:58 PM


All kinds of birthdays, anniversaries and milestones galore are part of the late summer and fall of 2021.

To start off, the greatest football season in A-K history was 75 years ago in 1946, when the area produced WPIAL champions in all three divisions. New Kensington won Class AA, Springdale Class A and East Deer Class B. If you count the Allegheny River as a political boundary, it is the only time three WPIAL champions came from geographically contiguous schools.

• This marks the 60th anniversary of Fox Chapel High School. The Foxes played their inaugural football season by taking over Aspinwall High School’s schedule and held its home games at Aspinwall Stadium until the new high school in O’Hara was built shortly thereafter.

Aspinwall Stadium, on the western side of the Highland Park Bridge, now is divided into two youth baseball fields.

Fox Chapel gets its name from German settler John Fox, who came to the area in 1831. His daughter, Eliza Fox Teats, donated land in her father’s name in 1892 to the Methodist Protestant Church to build a “chapel.”

The current site of Fox Chapel High School was once the first airport in the Pittsburgh region, Rodgers Field. Fabled aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart crash-landed her plane at Rodgers Field in 1929.

Fox Chapel won its first football game Oct. 6, 1961, a 7-6 decision over Pine-Richland.

Fox Chapel’s PIAA basketball title victory in 1977 was the first time an Alle-Kiski Valley school won a state hoops championship.

• Plum’s Mustangs Stadium opened 60 years ago and has been renovated several times since. The first game there Sept. 8, 1961, was a 34-6 loss to Arnold. Plum played at Pivik Field on Friday afternoons before that.

• The A-K Valley’s most beautiful sports venue, Oakmont’s Riverside Park, opened Sept. 23, 1961, when the Oakmont Oaks defeated Shady Side Academy, 25-6, under first-year coach Chuck Wagner.

• This also marks the 100th football season at Freeport High School. The school has won 563 games starting in 1922, way more than any other local school. Freeport reportedly is looking at observing the 100th football anniversary in 2022.

• Deer Lakes will play its 500th football game Sept. 24 when the Lancers host Valley. Deer Lakes went 6-3 in 1969, its inaugural season.

• This is the 50th anniversary of Kiski Area’s lone WPIAL title, a 16-8 win over Thomas Jefferson on Nov. 27, 1971. It was the first time the WPIAL had a playoff among undefeated teams. Up to then, only the two unbeaten teams with the most Gardner rating points engaged in a winner-take-all contest.

The “ping” turns 50

And let’s not forget the invention of the aluminum baseball bat 50 years ago at the ALCOA Technical Center in Upper Burrell.

John “Butch” Liput, better known now as the Burrell football public address announcer, led a team of seven metallurgists to produce an aluminum bat that would mimic a wooden bat.

The invention became necessary when a blight hit the Adirondack Mountain forests in upstate New York. The northern white ash trees that produced wooden bats were endangered.

The first bat was approved by Little League International because it satisfied weight and size requirements.

Butch’s son, the late Jimmy Liput, used the bat in a Little League game July 15, 1971 and hit four home runs, giving birth to an American tradition that soon aided youth, high school and college baseball programs.

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