Tuesday, June 15, 2021 | 9:11 PM
The Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame has enshrined and celebrated area athletic greats for 50 years, and now the signature plaques and photographs of past inductees have a permanent display in Tarentum.
The record of local sports history is housed in a gallery at the newly renovated G.C. Murphy Building on Corbet Street.
“We had 50 years worth of photos, plaques and other items stored in boxes,” hall of fame chairman Larry Lutz said.
“People would come by or call (committee member) George (Guido) and say that a family member or a friend is in the hall of fame and wondered if they could see something or learn something about them. There was nothing we could do. There was nothing, physically, to show them.”
A number of shadowboxes contain a photographic record of area sports history, and the class plaques are arranged in chronological order. Work on the gallery has continued for several weeks, and Lutz said there is more to be done before a planned grand opening in August.
He said the committee will invite past inductees to attend the event.
“There are so many in the Valley who have a connection with one of the inductees, whether it’s a family member, an in-law, a classmate, a teacher or a coach,” Lutz said.
The gallery is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays upon arrangement.
There will be extended hours Thursday and July 15 in connection with the Tarentum Night Market, set for the third Thursday of each month. Those interested in learning more about the gallery and the hall of fame in general can stop by and talk with committee members.
“Time is passing, and things are changing so quickly,” Lutz said. “We think it’s very important for these people to not be forgotten. It is a work in progress, but we are happy with what we have been able to do so far.”
Lutz said that in addition to the photo display, induction class plaques and other items, the hall of fame committee is planning to include an interactive digital catalog kiosk at the entrance to the gallery.
“You can learn where someone’s photograph is, and what year they were inducted so you can find them on their plaque,” Lutz said. “Someone will be able to click on a name and read a bio. For example, if someone doesn’t know who (New Kensington football standout) Willie Thrower was in the Valley, they can read about him and see some photos and learn that he was the first Black quarterback in the NFL.
“Also, if it is recent enough, you will be able to listen to an inductees’ acceptance speech from the banquet. We also hope to include highlight films when and where available.”
Lutz said the committee also is working on updating the hall of fame’s website at alle-kiski-hof.com.
Through the first half century, the hall of fame strictly has inducted individuals in honor of their athletic impacts. Lutz said there has been discussion about opening the hall of fame inductions to the memorable teams who made their marks on the AK Valley landscape.
The 50th class was inducted in 2019, and the hall has 366 members. The last two banquets were postponed because of the covid pandemic.
The AK Valley Hall of Fame was co-founded in 1970 by the late Bob Tatrn and then-Valley News Dispatch sports editor Bob Schank.
Guido, a committee member and area sports historian, said the hall of fame originally centered around high school football and basketball athletes who were named Players of the Game during WKPA Radio broadcasts. It then evolved into a mission to honor former athletes with the current ones.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .