By Steve Svetovich
Those are the best two words to describe being inducted into the Northeastern Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame as a recipient of the media award at Fiorellli’s last month.
Since the induction ceremony was postponed from 2020, this scribe had well more than a year to prepare a speech.
And as the 10th and final speaker, the nerves were apparent.
But the speech went well as this scribe touched on 40 years of writing and interviews while thanking the major supporters and influences.
This column is not about me or the speech, but a thank you to those who were helpful influences throughout the years.
What I want to do in this column is simply thank all of those who helped along the way. Many were mentioned in the speech.
First there are my dad and late mom.
As a youngster, after reading books about Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in the Robert Morris Elementary School library, I wanted to play baseball.
I knew nothing about the game.
My mom took me to the Green Ridge Little League for a tryout. When I was about to turn back, she told me to “take a chance” and then drove away. Soon after, I fell in love with baseball. From that point on, I knew writing about it could be a reasonable goal.
In later years, she worked the stands with my sister at the Green Ridge Teener League. She encouraged me in my writing career and was one of my biggest supporters.
My dad is probably the only one who has read all of my stories. And I know there are about 7,000 of them. He is my biggest fan. He always made sure there was a nice supper on the table for me. Even if it meant there was less for him. He continues to read my stories with great interest.
Then there was my first baseball coach, the late Bill Kandle, and my Little League coach, the late Frank Coupland, who taught me how to play the game and to love sports.
Then there was the late Tony Miele, my Green Ridge Teener League coach, who brought this bench warmer back for one more game just for a chance to shine. He played me the whole game, which ended with this scribe getting the winning hit. Then he brought me back as a coach. No wonder he is also in this Hall of Fame.
Then there was Sandra Buzas, my eighth grade English teacher at North Scranton Junior High School, who gave me a journal and told me to write. I haven’t stopped since.
Then there is the late John McCormick, the former Scranton Times sports editor and past president of this Hall of Fame, who knew my love of sports and brought me to the Scranton Red Soxx of the ACBL where I worked as team statistician and official scorer under the great Gary Ruby, Jerry Valonis and late Bill Howerton. What a group to learn from!
McCormick didn’t stop there. He got me involved keeping the score books during games for the Scranton Tavern League and used me as a stringer covering football games for the Scranton Times.
Then there was my late junior high school English teacher Father Joseph Quinn, S.J., who took a sincere interest in me as a person and not just as a student.
Then there was former Scranton Times columnist Joseph X. Flannery, who taught me the basics of good journalism at the University of Scranton and followed my career thereafter. And there was the late novelist Gilbert Sorrentino who taught me so much about writing when he lectured one semester at the University of Scranton on a grant.
Then there was Nat Zinicola who provided me the opportunity to write 15 years for his Pennsylvania Athlete publication. We covered all high school sports throughout Northeastern and Central PA.
Then there was Danny Ziobro who gave me a job in the Central Supply Unit of Mercy Hospital when I was 22 and desperately needed full time work while freelance writing and pursuing a writing career. He doesn’t realize what he did for me. I was so grateful. Work is a privilege.
Then there was the late Bill Hoppel, 34 years my senior, but a Mercy Hospital co-worker who served as a mentor, teaching me so much about life and the working world. He persuaded me to interview Notre Dame Four Horseman Jim Crowley who was a patient at the hospital. The recorded interview was published in several newspapers and put my name on the map.
Then there was the late Pete Gray, the only one-armed position player in MLB history, who allowed me to interview him on the back porch of his Nanticoke home. The recorded interview led to a UPI award and can now be heard forever at the National Baseball Hall of Fame or on the World Wide Web. Thank you, Pete Gray.
Then there were the reporters and editors at The Scranton Tribune who taught me how to be a good reporter and honed my writing skills. Those reporters and editors in particular were the late Doug Miele, the late Ray Flanagan, Joe Pesavento, Dunmore’s Guy Valvano, Lew Marcus and Maureen Garcia-Pons. What a great experience that was. There were others, but those six took the most interest.
Then there was John Hart who took me on with The Dunmorean almost 32 years ago. He and his wife Maureen have allowed me free rein to continue with my craft. I am extremely grateful to John and Maureen for allowing me to do what I love for so many years and counting. Without them, there would be no platform. Special thanks to John and Maureen Hart.
Then there are my lifelong friends who have always stood by my side. Namely: Tom Reese, John Reap, Jim Decker, Bob and Kathy White, Jim Gregorowicz, Andy Gregorowicz, John Gregorowicz, the late Bill Hoppel, Jeannie Hoppel, Mike Booth, Steve Gall, Ted “T.C.” Christy, Brian Bosley, Paul “Saki” Wysocki, Tom “Duggie” Duggan, Andy Debawalski, Patti Lennox Vanston, Ned “Doc” Sweeney and the late Pat O’Malley.
Then there is my brother George and sister Denise who have my back and are always there for me.
Then there are my two sons, Dylan and Ryan, my biggest supporters. They are my true legacy in life. They served as my presenters at the Induction ceremony. And without their mom, Beth, I would not have them. Thank you, Beth.
Finally, there are Bob Walsh, president; Jerry Valonis, vice president; Judy Igoe Carr, secretary; Tom “Doc” Dougherty, treasurer, and Rich Revta, committee member, who provided me with this honor.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was a great night.