HOLLIDAYSBURG - "We are Fam-a-lee" was the theme song of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates during their World Series run. Had the song been around earlier, the 1966-67 Bishop Guilfoyle High School boys basketball team could have used it.
The Marauders were then - and still are - fam-a-lee.
The '66-67 Marauders, who won the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association state championship, are being inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame this weekend. The team took center stage Friday night during the inductees reception at the Scotch Valley Country Club.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Former Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic basketball coach Bill Gaffey speaks during Friday’s inductee reception.
"This is special since it's been a long time," coach Bill Gaffey said. "These guys were not only good players, but good people.
"When James Franklin was interviewed for the Penn State position, he said 'your plays work better, if you have good players.' We had good players and they were good people, and that makes a big difference," Gaffey said.
Gaffey, who has lived in the Harrisburg area for several years, coached high school basketball 39 years, with stops in Auburn, N.Y., Johnstown, St. Marys and Susquehanna Township, but he's always had a special spot for Bishop Guilfoyle.
"It was the catalyst that started my career," he said. "To win a state championship in my third year of coaching helped my resume along the way for a long time," he added with a chuckle.
Even after he left BG, Gaffey kept in touch with his former Marauder players.
"I used to meet Billy Adams at the [Hershey] Arena every year when he was with the BG girls [as an assistant coach] at the state championship games," Gaffey recalled. "He and Pat Shute came up to Auburn when I first went there. Tom Turchetta came to Harrisburg and took me to a Big 33 Game and Tim Sigrist and Jim Georgiana came up to St. Marys for a tournament."
Gaffey also maintained ties with his coaches.
"Tony Labriola and I have been friends for years," Gaffey said. "Al and Angie Pacifico used to visit us in St. Marys and Big John Riley and his wife visited us in Auburn, so a lot of Altoona people kept in touch."
Although many players no longer live in Altoona, most of them are in town for the weekend. Shute, who passed away, was represented by his sister. Adams, who has had health problems was not in attendance, but was represented by his daughters.
In his remarks, Gaffey recounted several of the team's big victories, including the state semifinal overtime win over Pittsburgh Canevin at the Pitt Fieldhouse, the state final win over Shamokin Lourdes and an upset of St. John's of Washington at the Jaffa Mosque.
"There's no better memory for me than playing at the Jaffa Mosque," said Jon Sonefelt. "St. Francis, Norm VanLier, Rice and Dean Meminger. What a wonderful experience for a kid growing up.
"It gave you that experience as a 17- or 18-year-old and developed you for the rest of your life," noted Sonefelt, director of labor relations for 30 years at Armstrong Industries in Lancaster.
"Ours was a fairytale story - a great team, great coach, great talent and great competition," Sonefelt said. "We had a lot of individual contributors, we all did our own special thing and contributed in our own special way, but what was unique was we brought it together as a team and believed we could do what we set out to do."
A key member of the BG basketball team, Tim Sigrist was a quarterback and earned a scholarship to Notre Dame. A retired school teacher, Sigrist is now a drug and alcohol counselor in Rochester, N.Y.
"It doesn't seem like yesterday," Sigrist said, "but a couple things I learned then I still hold onto today. Guys like John Riley, Tony Labriola, Bill Gaffey and Al Pacificio, and I know I'm missing some, they taught us sacrifice and team play and I still use that today.
"It's a pleasure to be here," Sigrist continued. "There are only two times you get this kind of treatment- winning the championship and coming back for this. When would you ever get this kind of acclaim?"
The 16th induction dinner will be held tonight at the Blair County Convention Center with James Franklin, Penn State's new football coach as the special guest and speaker.
In addition to the '66-67 BG basketball team, the 2014 honorees include boxer Tom Wilt, distance runner Dave Patterson, wrestler Jason Kutz, and tennis player Karen Gallagher. Basketball-baseball standout Len Zandy will be inducted posthumously along with the community service winner Harold (Bud) Grazier, founder of the Bellwood Youth Football League.
Dave Andrews, who served 19 years as the Hall of Fame president, also will be honored.