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Penguins fans show their class

June 6, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
Some recent news items in sports worthy of comment while wondering who ordered the heat:

ITEM: Penguins lose Cup final.

If you’re a fan of sportsmanship and respect for opposition, as I am, Wednesday night brought a unique and impressive scene at the Mellon Arena.

Never mind that the Penguins lost 3-2 to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, thus clinching their elimination.

What happened afterward was a tribute to the class of Pittsburgh’s fans. Long after the clock struck 0:00 and long after the teams’ series-ending handshake — the best tradition in sports — the Penguins fans were still standing.

They chanted “let’s go Pens,” in a fitting sendoff to the terrific drive to the championship series, and they basked momentarily in the team’s very bright future.

Then they watched with some envy but more respect as the Red Wings skated around with the most hallowed trophy in all of sports and passed it from player to player.

It was quite a contrast from the empty Heinz Field setting when New England punched a couple of tickets to the Super Bowl earlier this decade.

Championships clinched on the road are surreal in the sense that they bring an eerie silence because about the only people celebrating are the visitors, but such scenarios also give the home crowd a chance to show its colors.

And Wednesday night, Penguins fans did just that.

ITEM: Williamsburg stages reunion.

The little community of Williamsburg never enjoyed a better year in high school sports than 1957-58 when the Blue Pirates went 9-0 in football, 24-1 in basketball (winning the PIAA Class C championship) and 8-3 in baseball.

Co-athletic directors Don and Debbie Appleman put together a reunion on May 24 that lured nearly 20 team members and another 60-plus from the community.

Among those in attendance were Galen Hall, Williamsburg’s most accomplished athlete and coach and Penn State’s current offensive coordinator, and 86-year-old native Sam Fonzi, who coached the Pirates in football and baseball.

The event featured memories, refreshments and fellowship in the old Williamsburg High School auditorium, or the ‘‘band box,’’ as the tiny gymnasium was known.

It stirred the kind of nostalgia that enhances a sports history and allows today’s young athletes to look up to those who contributed to it.

ITEM: Big Brown goes for Triple Crown.

It’s tough to pick against the prohibitive favorite in the Belmont Saturday so here’s hoping 20-1 shot Icabad Crane, ridden by Bellefonte’s Jeremy Rose, can duplicate a strong showing in the Preakness (third place) and hang with Big Brown.

Looking for less of a long shot? Keep an eye on Casino Drive, a 7-2 shot ridden by Edgar Prado, who was accused of trying to box in Big Brown at the Preakness.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or

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