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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  July, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

Did you know I’ve written 20 of these “Did You Know” articles so far?

I’m frequently surprised whenever I discover the notable figures who’ve found their way to Fayette County over the years.

I decided to review some of those 20 articles and list those notable figures. (I sure hope you’ll allow me this tiny bit of self-indulgence)

Here goes.

My favorite discovery was that of the visit by John Philip Sousa to Uniontown in October of 1920 for a performance at the Penn Theatre. I mean that’s THE John Philip Sousa.

I get goose pimples just saying his name aloud.

There’ve been lots of world renowned athletes who’ve come to Fayette County for one reason or another.

Olympic champion Jesse Owens ran in an exhibition race in May of 1939 at Uniontown High School’s stadium.

Heavyweight champion Joe Louis played in an exhibition softball game at the same stadium in September of 1938.

Olympic champion, and later Hollywood’s Tarzan, Johnny Weismuller, swam in an exhibition race at the YMCA in downtown Uniontown in 1925.

In 1934, Mary, a 3,500 pound African rhinoceros, who’d co-starred with Weismuller in the movie “Tarzan and his Mate,” was brought to Uniontown as part of a publicity tour.

Local crowds gathered to see her in her pen in front of the State Theatre.
In October of 1938, a Pittsburgh Pirates football player (When the Steelers were still called the Pirates), who would later become a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Byron “Whizzer” White, came to the first night football game ever played in the area.
He was among the 5,000 fans who witnessed Uniontown High School’s football team beat Redstone 7-0.
In the spring of 1963, former heavyweight champion, Jersey Joe Walcott paid a visit to Brownsville and Uniontown.

In late August of 1947, future Baseball Hall of Famer, Whitey Ford, pitched during the second half of a double header at the Uniontown Speedway against the Uniontown Coal Barons.

Another future Baseball Hall of Famer, Stan Musial, led his Donora High School basketball team to a victory over Uniontown, at Lafayette Junior High School on February 11th, 1938.

Honus Wagner, who was actually voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame ahead of Babe Ruth, came to Uniontown a number of times.
He gave at least two speeches, and he donned baseball uniforms on at least three occasions.
In fact, in September of 1943, he brought with him another future Hall of Fame honoree, Dizzy Dean, who pitched in a game at South Union Stadium.

A man consider one of the greatest athletes in the nation’s history, Jim Thorpe, paid at least four visits to Fayette County during the 1920’s.
He played football in Brownsville. He played basketball in Uniontown and in Connellsville - and he attended a dance at the South Side Armory in Connellsville.

There were numerous visits to Fayette County by the famous Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the old Negro Leagues.

Therefore, there were frequent games featuring a number of Baseball Hall of Famers.

Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Smokey Joe Williams, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell were among the legendary players who played against local and national talent over four decades.
Branch Rickey, led the way in helping to break the “color line” in baseball by hiring Jackie Robinson. That was in 1945.

In 1951, when he was the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was the main speaker at a banquet honoring Uniontown High School’s undefeated football team that year.

Uniontown’s second undefeated football team that decade was in 1957. When that team was honored, it was Ohio State’s legendary football coach, Woody Hayes, who came to Uniontown and offered the keynote speech.

In December of 1972, future football Hall of Famer, Joe Montana led his Ringgold High School basketball team to victory over Uniontown’s Red Raiders in Uniontown.

The following spring, Montana returned as a baseball player, and was the winning pitcher against Laurel Highlands.
In May or 1960, Ted Marchibroda was one of the speakers at St. John’s Social Center in Uniontown. He was among the speakers at a banquet honoring the athletes of Perry-Lower Tyrone High School that year.

Marchibroda, who’d recently completed his playing days for the Pittsburgh Steelers, would later become the head coach for the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens.
In 1916, Louis Chevrolet (the developer of the car that bears his last name) won a big race at the Uniontown Speedway.

Two winners of U.S. Open golf Championships have lived, at least for a time, in Fayette County.

2003 U.S. Open winner, Jim Furyk, lived in Uniontown as a young man, while his father was a local golf pro.

But long before Furyk lived in the area, the 1935 U.S. Open Champion, Sam Parks was the golf pro at the Summit Hotel golf course.

Did you know (and I’m fairly certain you already did) there have been dozens of world class celebrities who’ve performed in the area? There have been, and I’ll review many of them in the near future.