Robert "Rip" Haley (2010)

Over the years Fayette County has been blessed with many athletes who excelled at more than one sport. One of the best, who played three sports, was former South Union High School star Robert “Rip” Haley.


Haley blazed a path on the gridiron, the hardwood and the baseball diamond in the late 1940’s.

He was a part of some competitive Blue Devil football squads. In 1945 his sophomore season South Union posted a 6-2-1 record. In 1946 they finished 4-6; the highlight was a 27-7 victory over Uniontown. During Haley’s senior campaign the Blue Devils went 2-7.

“Beating Uniontown in 1946 was a highlight,” Haley recalled. “We also beat North Union a couple of times and that was the main rival, although once we started playing Uniontown and we didn’t play them all the time, they very quickly became a big rival. We had two coaches during my time at South Union. The first three years it was Bill Hoak, and Bill was not a member of the faculty. As I recall he drove a Doctor Pepper truck. Then my senior year Joe Loncaric came out of the Army and took a job on the faculty and was our coach.”

Haley saw plenty of playing time for South Union and proved to be a very productive player.

“I actually played a lot as a freshman in 1944,” Haley stated. “I was the second string quarterback to my brother Jim “Hack” Haley and a couple of games he was injured and I played the whole game and I don’t think I missed a game my freshman year. It was unusual for me to get that much playing time as a freshman. I remember when my brother got injured and the first game I started and played the full game was against German Township and at that time was very good. My brother and I were very good friends, and it was a healthy relationship.

“The T formation was just coming into vogue and my freshman year was the first time it was used at South Union. To be truthful I would have much preferred playing tailback in a single wing because as a passer, I liked to move around a lot, and I enjoyed running the ball. I considered myself more of a runner than a passer even though we threw the ball a lot. My size is the same that it is now; I was about 5-10 and 160 pounds.”

Haley was blessed with a pretty good supporting cast at South Union.

“I think we had some very talented guys,” Haley offered. “Willie Wiltrout was a running back who went on to West Virginia, Joe Marcus was our center and played both ways and he was a terrific player. Bill “Buster” McBride was also a very talented athlete in all three sports that we played at that time.”

Haley still remembers the rivalry with North Union vividly.

“When the jointure between North and South took place,” Haley said. “My brother Eddie who was living in Uniontown called me and said the two schools have joined. The first thing that went through my mind was “if it was today I would have gotten to play with Joe Zimmovan instead of against him, because he was a force I’ll tell you.”

In football Haley was Honorable Mention All WPIAL Class A in 1946 and was All Fayette County his junior and senior seasons.

“Back in those days you really didn’t think about honors, at least I didn’t. I was Honorable Mention All WPIAL and I don’t recall ever knowing that.”

Haley ranks number two on South Union’s All Time scoring list for basketball behind Chuck Davis. He garnered All Section honors in basketball for three years.

“I am surprised that I’m on that list,” Haley stated. “Back in those days there were not a lot of games where you scored a lot of points, if you scored 10 points it was pretty good.”

South Union had some good basketball teams in the Haley era. In 1945; they won the section and lost to Ligonier in the playoffs. In 1946 the Blue Devils won Section 22 with a 15-5 record and fell to Centerville 52-47 in the WPIAL playoffs. In 1947 the highlight of the season was handing Uniontown their only loss, beating the Red Raiders 36-31.

“I liked basketball very much, but it is such a different game today, I did a lot of driving for baskets,” Haley said. “We were coached my freshman and sophomore years by PK Dills. He was a history teacher. Marty Fagler came back from the service, and he was our coach my junior and senior years in baseball as well as basketball. He was a tremendous coach and really brought a dimension to the game, and he taught me so much.”

Haley did well in football and basketball, but he loved baseball.

“I preferred baseball over the other sports,” Haley explained. “Some of the schools didn’t have high school baseball. There was some great baseball in the county. I played American Legion ball for a number of years and then played semi pro ball, and we drew a lot of people in those days. It was a tremendous area for baseball, it was much, much different than today. South Union was very good in baseball, and I think we won our section in both my junior and senior years.”

When Haley graduated from South Union in 1947, he had his mind set on going to West Point.

“At the time I was going to receive an appointment to West Point,” Haley reported. “I went up to West Point and I failed the physical, I had albumin in my urine and that caused me to be turned down. They wanted me to go to a prep school, and they said with a special diet they thought it could be cleared up in a year. I came home and my dad who worked in the mines was not home yet, and I wanted to talk to him. He came home and we were out in the back yard talking about it and my mother came to the door and said assistant Coach Al Kelly from Cornell was on the phone. He asked me to come up, and I visited and it was a good fit and my grades were good enough that I got in and the rest is history.”

Haley had an outstanding football and baseball career for the Big Red. Cornell flourished on the gridiron posting records of 8-1 in 1948, 8-1 in 1949 and 7-2 in 1950.

“Actually it’s the last time that Cornell was nationally ranked,” Haley explained. “Shortly after that the Ivy League was formed in 1956.”
As a halfback, he was a regular on defense in 1948, 1949 and 1950. A good punt returner, he led the team as a junior in pass interceptions, grabbing five for 110 yards and returned two for touchdowns (still a school record). He was the regular quarterback and safety on the 1947 freshman team. He was a third baseman in baseball and led Cornell in the Eastern Intercollegiate League with a .375 average in 1949 and ranked fifth in 1950. He captained the baseball team as a senior. Haley was named Cornell’s outstanding athlete in 1951 and was inducted into the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981.

Haley had a brief fling with professional baseball after he graduated in 1951.

“I did play one year of professional baseball,” Haley said. “This will date it I signed with the Boston Braves and I signed a contract with their top farm club Denver, but I got sent to Evansville in the Three I League, where the third baseman had broken his leg. I only played one year and then went into the Army during the Korean War in 1951, and I served two years. When I came out I was 24 and decided to give up baseball.”

Haley went on to a very productive professional career, first with Frick Gallagher Manufacturing Co. for five years. He then worked for Wall & Co. as a manufacturer’s representative. He came back to Cornell and took a job in fund raising in 1963. He went to Clarkson University for four and a half years. He then became a vice president at Johns Hopkins for 16 years. He retired from a fulltime job in 1995 and became a part time consultant for the fund raising firm Grenzebach Glier and Associates.

Haley, 81, and his wife of 55 years the former Pat Driscoll of Connellsville reside in Ithaca, NY. They have two grown children Chis, 45, and Catherine, 43.


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