First Butler Hall class fetes each other
Eagle Sports Editor
BUTLER TWP — The inaugural class of the Butler School District Athletic Hall of Fame proved to be first class.
The inductees, coaches Art Bernardi and Paul "Red" Uram, and former student athletes Matt Clement, Terry Hanratty, Eric Namesnik, David Pichler, Rich, Ron and Bill Saul, John Stuper, Leatha Dudeck Baker and Annessa Schnur, lauded each other rather than themselves Friday night.
The 12 were inducted during a reception in the high school cafeteria.
"What makes this cool for me is I remember collecting football cards of the Sauls and watching John Stuper pitch in the World Series," Clement said.
"Knowing they were people from Butler meant a lot to me as a kid."
Clement followed in Stuper's footsteps as a major-league pitcher. Both are involved in coaching now: Clement with Butler boys basketball and Stuper with Yale University baseball.
Schnur, a former Golden Tornado track standout, teaches in the Butler district and coaches the girls track team.
"There's been a lot of athletic success in this town," Schnur said. "When you're part of winning a WPIAL championship, you want to help other kids realize that feeling.
"I feel privileged to be put in that position."
Stuper said his Yale baseball players respected the fact he was being inducted into his hometown Hall of Fame, "but they had no idea what Butler was about."
When Stuper told his players he was being inducted along with former NFL players, another major-league pitcher and former Olympians, "they became interested in learning more about where I came from.
"I've never been from Pittsburgh — I'm from Butler and proud of it," Stuper said.
Schnur is the only inductee not already a member of the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame. She and all-time girls basketball scoring leader Dudeck Baker are the only women among the first class of inductees.
"I almost feel like I'm not worthy when I look at this group of people," Dudeck Baker said. "This is an incredible class."
Baker was a teammate of Wendy Brink, Butler's No. 2 all-time scorer, and the two became best friends.
"I had the best athletic upbringing. My three brothers were my toughest critics and Wendy drew a lot of the defensive attention away from me," Baker said.
Schnur recalled going to games and watching the pair play.
"Talk about role models. I wanted so much to be like them," she said.
Former Olympic diver David Pichler made the trip from Florida for his induction. Lisa Allen, sister of the late Eric Namesnik, an Olympic swimming silver medalist, accepted on her brother's behalf.
"My brother relished being a Butler athlete, but training to be an elite athlete was something he strived for," Allen said. "Eric would be so proud to be standing up here right now."
Namesnik and Pichler both trained in Boca Raton, Fla., late in their high school careers.
"That was a big national training center," Pichler said. "Butler has always been a big part of my life. I'm from here and I made an easy transition from gymnastics to diving here."
Stuper asked for a special round of applause for Namesnik and Pichler.
"Those guys got to wear USA across their chests," Stuper said. "The time, sacrifice and commitment it takes to do that is incredible."
Bernardi, now 82, pointed out that the Hall of Fame is being started during the 50th year of Butler High School's current location.
"This has been a dream of mine and this is an unbelievable group of people we're honoring," he said.
As for his own career, Bernardi said that "no one can do something like this by himself. You need other coaches and you need talented, dedicated young athletes.
"I got to do what I loved to do, got paid for it and had a wife who allowed me to do it. I'm truly blessed," Bernardi added.
Uram's gymnastics teams won 106 consecutive dual matches at Butler.
"We weren't the best coaching staff in the country, but we were a good bunch of people who cared about kids," Uram said. "It's not the ability to coach, it's the people working with you who make you successful.
"Butler people never forget where they came from and I'm one of them."
Nominations for the Butler School District Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2011 will be accepted until Dec. 31.
Nomination forms are available in the high school principal's office or by visiting goldentornadosports.net.
FIRST BUTLER SCHOOL DISTRICT ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME CLASS
• Matt Clement: 1993 Butler graduate who won 87 games in the major leagues with San Diego, Florida, Chicago Cubs and Boston; played key roles on WPIAL championship basketball and baseball teams, pitched in All-Star Game and won World Series ring with Red Sox
• Leatha Dudeck Baker: 1988 graduate who holds Butler girls basketball career records for scoring (1,630 points) and rebounding (more than 1,300); three-time WPIAL triple jump champion; went on to score 1,000 points at Clarion University
• Terry Hanratty: 1964 graduate who became an all-state quarterback, went on to become Heisman Trophy runner-up at Notre Dame and to play in NFL for Pittsburgh Steelers
• Eric Namesnik: Swam for Butler from 1984-87 and was state champion in 200-meter individual medley and 500-meter freestyle; was U.S. national champion eight times; went on to become All-American at University of Michigan and was Olympic silver medalist in 400-meter individual medley in 1992 and 1996
• David Pichler: 1987 graduate who won WPIAL and PIAA championships in diving; 17-time U.S. national champion; member of the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic diving team
• Rich Saul: 1966 graduate who excelled in football, basketball, track and field, was an All-American lineman at Michigan State University and was a six-time Pro Bowl player for the Los Angeles Rams
• Ron Saul: 1966 graduate who excelled in football, track and field, played college football at Michigan State and played for the Washington Redskins, winning a Super Bowl in 1982
• Bill Saul: 1958 graduate who excelled in football, basketball, track and field, played college football at Penn State, played NFL football for Baltimore Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, and became first player to wear a microphone during a game
• Annessa Schnur: 2000 graduate who played soccer and basketball, excelling in track and field, won 13 individual WPIAL medals and seven individual PIAA medals in track, played key role on four WPIAL championship girls track teams, ran track for University of Michigan
• John Stuper: 1975 graduate and a member of conference baseball championship team that year, became NAIA All-American at Point Park, pitched for St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, winning Game 6 of 1982 World Series for Cardinals, currently head baseball coach at Yale University
• Art Bernardi: head football coach at Butler from 1961-1985, winning 10 conference titles and compiling 179-64-7 career record; won WPIAL title in 1977 and was five-time WPIAL runner up
• Paul Uram: Assistant football coach from 1955-73; head gymnastics coach from 1955-68, winning 106 consecutive dual meets in gymnastics; served as assistant coach with Pittsburgh Steelers from 1973-81.