George Guido: Mid-1900s were heyday for A-K Valley baseball

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 11:12 PM

The 105th WPIAL baseball tournament got underway Tuesday amid threatening skies throughout the region.

Winners in six classifications will be crowned May 29 and May 30 at Washington Wild Things Park.

Early on, schools from what eventually became the Pittsburgh City League dominated WPIAL baseball.

Allegheny High School from the North Side won seven of the first nine WPIAL championships, Fifth Avenue High School the other two.

Allegheny High School actually represented what was once its own city. Allegheny was its own municipality and had its own police force, school system, etc.

Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny in 1907, and the high school eventually was consolidated with other high schools.

The first Alle-Kiski Valley high school to win a WPIAL baseball title was Springdale in 1939.

In fact, Springdale has won four titles, more than any other local school.

A-K Valley schools once were dominant in the days when there was a single classification.

Between 1948-74, local schools won 12 titles: Vandergrift in 1948-49, Franklin Township in '51, Springdale in '54, Har-Brack in '56, Freeport in '57-58, Arnold in '65, Kiski Area in '66, Kittanning in '67, Highlands in '71 and Burrell in '74.

Two other schools, Ken High in '55 and Freeport in '59, were runners-up.

On to the PIAAs

The PIAA tournament begins June 4. Schools will have to win three games to get to the state finals June 14-15 at Penn State.

In baseball, three WPIAL schools will make the PIAA playoffs in all classes except 6A, where only the two finalists will qualify.

In softball, there will be three WPIAL entries in all classes except 2A, where all four semifinalists will get in.

In the classes where there are three entries, a consolation game will have to be played between the two semifinal losers to determine the third WPIAL team. Sometimes, those consolation games are the most competitive of the entire tournament since the loser knows its season is done.

Knox dies

Sewickley native and NFL coaching great Chuck Knox died Saturday at 86.

Knox began his football rise as a player for the former Sewickley High School several years before its 1956 merger with Leetsdale to form Quaker Valley.

After graduating from Juniata in Huntingdon, Knox became coach at Ellwood City. His NFL coaching career began as an offensive line coach with the Jets in 1963 where, a year later, he convinced Jets coach Weeb Eubank to draft Beaver Falls native Joe Namath from Alabama.

He was the coach for the Rams, Seahawks and Bills and compiled a 186-147-1 record with the three teams, reaching the playoffs 11 times.

Knox had two high stadiums named after him.

The original Quaker Valley field along Route 65 in Sewickley was named Chuck Knox Stadium. A number of A-K Valley teams played there in the late 1970s when Quaker Valley was an Allegheny Conference member.

When the school district built its present field in Leetsdale, the name Chuck Knox Stadium was transferred to the new field.

During the Steelers Mania days of the 1970s, it was comical to see how mad Steelers fans got when NBC's malaprop-prone announcer Curt Gowdy would say “there's Steelers coach Chuck Knox” when Chuck Noll would appear on the screen.

Then fans really got infuriated moments later when the network would pan the stands and Gowdy would say “there's the Steelers fans waving their dirty towels.”

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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