‘They will always be the Frankies to me’

As I think back to my fondest memories of sporting events, I always return to those of Saint Francis basketball.

Growing up in Hollidaysburg, we lived down the street from a local dentist, Dr. Skip Hughes, who was also a full-time basketball coach at Saint Francis.

Before the days of the NCAA Tournament, Hughes led the “Frankies” of Saint Francis, along with Maurice Stokes, to the big NIT tournament in New York.

I always dreamed of spending a week in New York at the NIT and watching the Frankies play as it was amazing that a small school could compete with the major universities.

While in elementary school, we had teams play at halftime of the Frankies’ games at their home court, the Jaffa Mosque — yes, the Jaffa Mosque (now Jaffa Shrine Center).

While in high school, we looked forward to going to see the Frankies play the big-name schools of the time: Saint Bonaventure, Niagara, Duquesne, Kentucky Wesleyan, Saint Vincent and many more.

It was not unusual to see home games played with a full house at the Mosque and be able to talk to friends at halftime about the first half while eating a great hot dog.

I still remember watching one of the greatest games played at the Mosque with the Frankies’ Sandy Williams vs. the Duquesne Dukes and their All-American, Willie Somerset.

Both players scored over 30 points, and if I remember correctly, the Frankies came out on the short end.

After the games on Saturday evenings, we would go to the YMCA dance in Hollidaysburg and talk about how the Frankies did that night instead of who we wanted to danced with.

After graduation, I went away to college at Kent State in Ohio. I never missed a home Kent State game, but my fond feelings always stayed with Saint Francis. I’m sure I drove my roommates crazy talking about the Frankies.

In 1976, after a number of years away, I returned to my hometown, and one of the first things I did was buy season tickets at Saint Francis.

By this time, they were called the Red Flash, but they will always be the Frankies to me. Even though I was upset they moved the games “up the mountain,” my wife and I drove in the winter weather to sit in an arena that sometimes only had 300 people at a game.

The Stokes Club served dinner before the game, and we had lively conversation with other fans.

I am no longer able to go to the games, but it is great to see them on TV every now and then.

I have attended other college basketball games like Kent State, Alabama and Penn State, but nothing feels like Saint Francis, and I love calling them my favorite team.

Byron Lasser resides in Hollidaysburg. He is a frequent contributor to Voice of the Fan.


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