The “Big 3” were former Uniontown Herald Standard sports editor Tod Trent, former Brownsville Telegraph sports editor Bob Petriello and the late Jim Kriek who was the sports editor of the Connellsville Courier for many years and later worked for the Herald Standard.
“The three of us we got along like brothers,” Petriello said. “One helped the other. We shared a lot a lot of information. It wasn’t cut throat, we really got along.”
Petriello was born January 19, 1921 and like many other frustrated athletes he became a sportswriter when he couldn’t compete actively in athletics.
“I never played,” Petriello said. “I was just the sports editor at Brownsville High School and the same way in college at California State.”
In high school as the editor of the paper he followed the Brownies and reported on the athletic teams.
“We were pretty good,” Petriello recalled. “Carl Aschman was the head football Coach and also the head basketball Coach for awhile. He had successful teams and then John Lester took over in basketball. The hoops teams were fair and always up in contention for the section title. Aschman had undefeated teams at Brownsville and then Earl Bruce took over. Brownsville was very successful in football throughout the 1940’s. There were some great athletes here.”
Petriello graduated from Brownsville High School in 1938 and then attended California State College and served as sports editor and later managing editor of the college newspaper the “Hammer & Tongs”.
“California was fair in athletics when I was in school,” Petriello said. “They weren’t great, they were always around the .500 mark in basketball and football.”
Petriello was hoping to make a career in the newspaper business.
“Well I was hoping to make it a career,” Petriello explained. “I was fortunate enough that the Brownsville Telegraph hired me to work during my senior year in college on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I didn’t have classes. I also worked in the evenings on the days that I had classes. Right after graduation I moved into a fulltime job with the paper. I started at the Telegraph in 1941.
“John Matta was the city editor and at one time was the sports editor and he started a column in 1927 “Red Peppers” which meant red hot news. I was the fifth one to take over the column. After Matta there was Don Renn, Don McCann and Lew Hays and then I took over the column.”
In 1943 Petriello celebrated New Year’s Day by being promoted to sports editor of the Telegraph.
“It was a small town newspaper and we didn’t have a big staff,” Petriello offered. “I started under Lew Hays and I got a call from the Washington Observer Reporter and they asked me if I was interested in writing sports? I was by myself and living with my mother and I didn’t want to go to Washington, PA and rent a room. I turned them down. Hays asked me if he could take the job and if I would call on his behalf? They gave him the job and I stepped into his position as sports editor.”
Petriello served as sports editor of the Telegraph for 45 years until the paper closed.
“I had the chance to watch some great athletes,” Petriello opined. “It was just unbelievable some of the athletes I got to watch. Many went on to college and some went on to play in the pros.”
He is hard pressed to pick out the best he ever saw, there were so many great ones.
“One of my favorites in baseball that was ahead of me was Pat Mullin,” Petriello stated. “Pat played at Redstone and he went on to become a great baseball player for the Detroit Tigers. I always enjoyed knowing him personally. One of the most interesting things was the five boys from Brownsville High School who wound up playing on Penn State’s 1947 Cotton Bowl team, Chuck and Joe Drazenovich, John Potsklan, John Simon and John “Shag” Wolosky. That was unusual; five graduates from Brownsville High School all starting on the same team at Penn State. I don’t think that would happen today.”
Petriello rubbed elbows with some great coaches during his tenure at the Telegraph.
“Earl Bruce and Carl Aschman at Brownsville were two of the best,” Petriello reported. “When I took over Bruce was the Head Coach at Brownsville and he was real enjoyable to talk to and get along with. Warner Fritsch followed in his footsteps and I liked him. I sort of got along with all the coaches.”
“I really enjoyed covering the high school teams, Brownsville, Redstone, Uniontown and the others. I enjoyed being close to the coaches and the players.”
Petriello helped a lot of the athletes that he covered and organized midget baseball leagues in Brownsville.
“I did help some of the players,” Petriello said. “One boy in particular was “Ace” Grooms, who I considered one of the greatest athletes to come out of Brownsville. He could play football, basketball and baseball. He became a boxer and won the heavyweight championship in the service. He was just a gifted athlete. I started the midget baseball program in 1950 and we’ve had some kids like Doug Dascenzo go on to play in the major leagues. I also started the Biddy Basketball League in 1959.”
He helped organize the Mon Valley Sportswriter’s Association in 1946 and served along the way as it’s president. He was instrumental in some of the great sports banquets held at the Twin Coaches. He was named to the selection committee of the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame when that organization was reorganized in the mid-1990’s.
“It was a thrill to have the banquet,” Petriello gushed. “Next to the Dapper Dan Banquet in Pittsburgh, the Mon Valley Sportswriters Banquet was in a class by itself, we had celebrities come in and speakers and we had a full crowd at the Twin Coaches and we had it there until it burned down and then we went to the Fairhope Fire Hall and had it there for a couple of years and then we disbanded. It has returned thanks to Steve Russell, who is the backbone of the banquet.”
Petriello was voted tax collector in Brownsville in 1968 while working at the Telegraph and still serves in that capacity.
The Brownsville Telegraph closed its doors in 1988.
“The paper was taken over by the Uniontown Morning Herald,” Petriello explained. “They asked me to come to Uniontown, but it was a night job and I was married and I didn’t feel like going up there and I decided not to go.”
Petriello, 88, was married to the former Patricia Wasil, who died in 1999. The couple had two daughters, Mrs. Kenneth (Lisa) Eisenberg of El Paso, TX and Mrs. Edward (Roberta Rae) Bosak of Woodbridge, VA.
In 1969 Petriello was elected into the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame. He has received numerous awards over the years including being cited in 1968 by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Dapper Dan Club for his interest and work in athletics. He also received the Greater Brownsville Area Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year Award in 2004.
“I’m very happy,” Petriello stated. “I couldn’t have picked something else if I had tried. I’m sorry my wife passed away, she was a joy to me. She was right with me in the press box when I covered the games. It has been a good life and I’m still going strong.”
George Von Benko’s “Memory Lane” columns appear in the Sunday editions of the Herald-Standard. He also hosts a sports talk show on WMBS-AM radio from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.