Hillgrove to be inducted in Minor Pro Football Hall
Friday, May 14, 2010
By Colin Dunlap, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Before Bill Hillgrove became the voice of Pitt basketball and football, long before he did play-by-play for Steelers games, he could be heard doing games for the Pittsburgh Ironmen -- a local semiprofessional football team -- in the mid-1960s.

"What stuck out to me was that anyone who played that sport was doing so because they truly loved it," Hillgrove said. "Those guys put their job at risk, their health at risk, a lot at risk, just for the sake of going out there and playing something they loved. For what all those guys have done, they will always have a special place in my heart, and I admire them."

For what he did, Hillgrove -- along with three others -- will be recognized Saturday.

Hillgrove and former players Charles Lazar III (Pittsburgh WolfPAK), Brian Giachetti (Pittsburgh Colts) and Peter Naputano (Pittsburgh Ironmen) will be inducted into the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Strip District.

The ceremony will be conducted in the venue's Great Hall and is free with a regular paid admission to the center.

In addition to Hillgrove and the three former players, the ceremony also will recognize the commitment made to Minor Pro Football by Robert W. Butts, Robert P. Ravenstahl Jr., Ted Deitrick, Dr. Henkie Tan and Dr. Ron Shapiro.

To further accentuate the type of commitment given by semipro players, Hillgrove recalled a story about a chance encounter with a few.

"I was driving up Interstate 79 one time and I went past a pickup truck and there were three guys in the bed of the truck, riding in the bed of the pickup truck as it was speeding up the highway," he said. "I recognized one of the guys, it was Mike Bulino. I talked to him later and asked where he was going when I saw him that day on I-79 and he said he was going to Buffalo, riding up there with those guys to play for the [Pittsburgh] Colts. Can you imagine that?

"Talk about a dedication to the game. That says a lot about these guys, guys who just wanted to continue to play football, who wanted to continue to compete because they loved it."