50 years of excellence
WORLD'S OLDEST LOCAL HALL HAD HUMBLE START
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Benefit auction, ceremony slated for the weekend
The meetings proved to be the start of today's Mercer County Hall of Fame, which 50 years later is celebrating its golden anniversary as the oldest local hall of fame in the world.
An inductees reception and sports memorabilia auction is scheduled for Friday at the Radisson Hotel in Shenango Township.
That will be followed by the highlight of the weekend on Saturday when 10 former Mercer County athletic greats are inducted into the Hall before an overflow crowd of more than 500 guests.
They are Dr. Brian Generalovich, Jack Marin, Willie Somerset, Don Jones, Lou Fortuna, Jeff Persson, John Stevens, Bob Robbins, Bob ``Posey'' Rhoads and the late Jerry Woods
"Having Jack Marin a part of our gala, the county's only player to excel in the NBA - and we've had a lot of great players - is a treat just in itself."
After its humble beginnings in 1947, the group decided to become a permanent group in 1949 and named itself the Oldtimers Baseball Association.
After years of growth, which began to feature inductees into the group and annual dinners with major speakers, the group changed its name in 1961 to the Oldtimers Baseball and Athletic Association.
The change indicated the group's desire to recognize more than achievements in baseball.
In 1978, the organization renamed itself the Mercer County Hall of Fame, reflecting its mission to honor the achievements of all Mercer County residents in all sports and activities.
The organization has prided itself on community service, and for its 50th anniversary celebration, selected the Shenango Valley Children's Organ Transplant Fund as the beneficiary of a year of fund raising through various activities.
The main fund-raiser, Friday's sports memorabilia auction, has drawn the support of many of the country's leading players and coaches and former athletes, all of whom have graciously autographed items.
"Early on, we wanted to add to our long line of community service by picking a group that we would work for especially during our 50th," said Fortuna, a former Sharpsville High athletic great and president of the Hall.
"We decided to focus our attention toward children, and could think of no better group than the transplant fund. We're hoping the auction provides the exclamation point to our efforts."
The reception begins at 7:30 p.m., and the auction follows at 8:30. Guests for Friday night include popular Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare, former Pirates Bob Robertson, Elroy Face, Steve Blass, Nellie Briles and Chuck Tanner and former NBA standout Jamaal Keith Wilkes, who will be Saturday night's featured speaker.
With the help of Jim Leyland, former manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and honorary chairman of the celebrity auction, the Hall has an impressive list of items for auction under the direction of professional auctioneers K.E. Kepner of Hartford, Ohio, and Lloyd Braham of Grove City. Both have volunteered their services.
Some of the more than 60 signed items include:
For those not participating in bidding at the auction, there will be several other autographed items available in a "Chinese auction" -- a raffle format that gives everyone a chance to win.
Tickets for the reception and auction, which cost $10, are available from any board member or by calling either recording secretary Lynn Saternow at 342-7147 or treasurer Jim Raykie at 962-3226 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Any tickets remaining will be available at the door.