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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.