The Pittston Area Class of 1967, my graduating class, was a humble bunch.
There’s a reason for that.
The Pittston Area Class of 1968.
One would think the class a year younger would have lived in our shadow, especially since we were the very first graduating class in the history of Pittston Area. But the truth is, we kinda lived in theirs.
I told this last week to Sal Licata, president of the Class of ’68, and he said no, that wasn’t true. But I’m sure he was merely being gracious.
His classmate, Mike Sperazza, gave me a more honest response when I said pretty much the same thing to him a few days earlier.
“You’re right,” was his immediate answer.
He didn’t even think about it.
The PA Class of ’68 was filled with superstars. And as I chatted with Mike, an old friend whom I’ve known since he was 8 years old, I could not help but think he’s still a superstar. Maybe more so than ever.
We were at World of Brew on Laurel Street in Pittston. I was there for two reasons. One, I wanted to honor the place on its first anniversary. And two, I wanted to hear Mike Sperazza and his son, Eric, play and sing. The Sperazza Duo is one of the hottest musical acts around, second only perhaps to the Sperazza Band, with Eric’s wife and cousin joining in.
The common denominator is Mike Sperazza, as good looking and talented today as he was 50 years ago. And he still has all his hair.
As we talked at World of Brew on his break I felt every gal in the place staring at us. Well, at one of us anyway.
Mike was one of a gang of local kids who began attracting attention when they were 12 years old.
That was the summer of 1963 when, as Pittston Little League All Stars, they advanced to the state championships. They lost their first game and were eliminated. If it were today, however, they would have been allowed two losses. Which I believe never would have happened. The day after their defeat, Charlie Turco pitched a perfect game in the consolation match-up. Not a single runner reached first base.
Five years later, Turco, Sperrazza and most of their Little League teammates were in the PA Class of ’68. There were no female sports then and only three varsity sports. The Class of ’68 won the championship in all three.
Pittston Area started a golf team that year and they won that championship too. Mike Martin, a kid from Duryea who was an All Scholastic receiver on the football team, was the District 2 golf champion. I’m not sure anyone in my class had ever touched a club.
In writing about my class a few weeks ago leading up to our 50th anniversary reunion, I pointed out how the very first Pittston Area football team won its very first game and in doing so solidified the student body of the new school. Well, the team that came after us did a bit better. They won all of their games and the Big Eleven championship.
I was just a year older than they were but was writing sports for the local paper and so was on the sidelines for every game that season. Turco, the perfect game kid from ’63, was the quarterback. He was joined by fullback Charlie Graziano, the catcher from his Little League All Star team, and a bunch of gifted athletes from the previous season, including the aforementioned Mike Martin and Sal Licata.
At season’s end, Turco and Licata were named to the Pennsylvania Big 33 team, basically the 33 best high school players in the state. And halfback Eddie Booth was considered the best runner in the conference.
Even the student manager on that team, Bill Brogna, was a star, still considered the best student manager in the history of the school. Naturally.
As point guard on the basketball team, Turco was reunited with Little League teammates Lou Tribbett, Lou Loquasto and Billy Howley. They teamed up with previous rivals Paul Tylawsky, Art Kunigel and Rich Rava. The result? Another championship.
And while Martin went off with his golf clubs, most of the rest of his mates played baseball and brought home another title. Turco and Tribbet reprised their roles from Little League as pitchers and were joined on the mound by Tylawski, the All Star basketball player. Rava, a three-sport standout like many of his classmates, was behind the plate.
Sports stole the spotlight, as is often the case, but the PA Class of ’68 also shone in extra curricular activities and especially academics.
“Everybody remembers the sports trophies,” Licata said, “but I always point out Grace Ann Klimek and Susan Kaporch (maiden names) who became renowned doctors.”
When I think of Licata, I, of course, recall the All Star lineman, but I also remember visiting a friend at Temple University a few years later and him saying let’s go see Sal Licata. We found him in his room, which was more of a suite. He looked like he was running the place, the dorm for sure if not the whole school. I was not surprised.
Note: The Pittston Area Class of ’68 is planning its 50th anniversary reunion. The next committee meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at Tony’s Pizza in Pittston. All classmates are welcome.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online at pittstonprogress.com.