For many, it was a just short trip. For others, the trek back home to their scholastic and athletic roots was a little farther.
No matter how far they had to travel, nearly 500 people welcomed three new members into their close-knit family Monday at the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, hosted for the first time by Proctor’s Theatre.
Joe Loudis, Pete Famiano and the late John Grabowski were the latest inductees, and they were surrounded by enough family and friends to make the reunion-like atmosphere one gala party.
“We’ve got 36 individuals and one team in our hall now,” said SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame committee co-chairman Bob Pezzano. “The criteria for induction is extremely varied. Some were standout athletes in high school, but others became outstanding athletes, coaches, etc., much later in life. There is quite a combination in this group, and we accept recommendations from anyone.”
Bringing the ceremony back home to Schenectady, after many years in Saratoga Springs, was a welcome change for both the inductees and their supporters.
“We did everything we could to make sure everyone would have a good time. We’re very excited about this,” said Proctor’s chief
executive officer Philip Morris. “For a lot of people, this is the first time they’ve seen all the changes we’ve done here. I think this atmosphere is more conducive to this kind of celebration, because the people can get up and walk around.”
The three new inductees brought a variety of skills and talents into their hall of fame family.
Loudis was not only a member of the 1954 Schenectady Little League World Series championship team, but he was also a standout baseball player, tennis player and cross country runner for Mont Pleasant High School. He later become one of the Capital Region’s most successful basketball coaches, and has 422 career wins. He is currently the coach at Mechanicville High School.
“This is one of the proudest days of my life,” said the 66-year-old Loudis. “I’ve had five or six successful segments in my athletic career, and this means more than almost everything because I was inducted by my peers.”
Grabowski, a graduate of the original Schenectady High School, played major league baseball for seven seasons, and was a member of the 1927 and 1928 World Series champion New York Yankees. He was a teammate of legendary players Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and even roomed with Ruth. A skilled defensive catcher, he hit .252 and drove in 86 runs in 282 career games.
He later became a minor league umpire, and died at age 46 following a fire at his Guilderland home in 1946.
“It’s funny how all of this came about,” said Grabowski’s grandaughter, Kris Orciuoli, who is an office manager for a business in East Greenbush. “I tried to get some information out back in February, and I followed it up a few weeks later. I found out that the committee was also looking to get in touch with me.
“I knew about my grandfather’s career because my mother told us about them. We are all very proud of him, even though we never got a chance to meet him because he died so young.”
Famiano, the director of golf and head pro at Crestmont Country Club in New Jersey for the last 34 years, was a New York State Junior Amateur champion and a member of the undefeated 1961 undefeated Linton High School golf team that won both the Section II and New York state championship. He later played for the University of Houston before splitting time as a head pro at Crestmont and a member of the South African Tour.
He also coached golf at Montclair State, and was inducted into the New Jersey PGA Hall of Fame. Among his numerous golf honors was being named the New Jersey PGA Senior Player of the Year three times.
“This is pretty exciting for me,” said the 64-year-old Famiano. “This ceremony belongs in Schenectady. I come back here quite often, because my mother still lives here on Mason Street. But this is more special for me because I grew up here, and this area still means something to me. It’s funny, because even though I come back here to see my mom a lot, when Bob [Pezzano] called me to tell me I was going in the Hall of Fame, all of a sudden, a lot of memories came back to me on my last trip here.
“I feel very lucky to be honored like this, and there are a lot of
people who helped me get here. I won’t forget them.”
Miami Heat president Pat Riley, who was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame over the weekend in Springfield, Mass., was also on hand to help celebrate with old friends. Riley, who played his high school basketball at Linton and went on to play his college ball for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky, had an excellent NBA playing
career before moving on to become a legendary coach.
“I knew and still know Pete Famiano quite well,” Riley said while surrounded by dozens of friends. “He was a year ahead of me at Linton. I used to go over and hang out with him and guys like Bobby Haggerty at the Muny golf course. I wasn’t a golfer. That was the only sport I really didn’t play in high school, but I knew those guys. Peter was a great player, and definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Riley, a 2000 inductee into the SCSD Hall of Fame, was asked why he continues to support this event with his presence every year.
“It’s my home. I was raised here,” he said. “I come back here often, and it’s where a lot of my friends still are. If I could have taken them all with me, I would have.”