Hall of Fame announces Class of 2012

By John Goralski
Sports Writer

For more than a century, Eleanor DellaVecchia followed her beloved Yankees as they collected 27 World Series titles, but family and friends find it more than just a coincidence that the Bronx Bombers haven’t won a single title since she passed away in 2009.
If it wasn’t for fans, sports couldn’t exist. Without their cheers, there’d be no home field advantage. That’s why members of the Southington Sports Hall of Fame committee decided to recognize the efforts of the town’s biggest supporters. This is the third time that the committee will honor the town’s best athletes, coaches, media members, and boosters, but this will be the first time that they’ll give a special honor to a Southington fan.
As much as DellaVecchia loved her Yankees, she loved her Knights even more. This fall, the committee will honor the town’s biggest supporter with a special letter of recognition.
“We have some committee members that are 15 years out of high school and others that are over 50 years out of high school, and each one of us seems to have a story about how we used to see her on the sidelines,” said Southington Sports Hall of Fame Chairman Dennis J. Stanek, Jr. “She used to love to watch sports—all sports across the board in every season—so we wanted to recognize the fact that we appreciate the support that our fans have given us over the years. And we want that recognition to be public.”
DellaVecchia was born in Southington in 1908, passed away at the age of 101, and followed athletics until the very end. She was a Blue Knight fan before they were even called the Blue Knights. She was a fixture at sporting events from basketball to
soccer to wrestling. She was an avid fan during her childrens’ varsity careers but cheered just as loudly for her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, and their neighbors. She was a fixture in the crowd when she had no relatives playing the game, and at her funeral donations were made to the Eleanor DellaVecchia SHS Athletic Scholarship fund.
There was no question that she would be the first recipient for this special award.
“We thought it would be a great way to recognize somebody outside the normal scope of a hall of fame,” said Stanek. “She was an unabashed fan—a true fan—that supported both men and women’s sports through thick and thin. She supported teams in good seasons and bad seasons. She wasn’t one of those people that only came when a team made a run at a title. I can remember her back in the 1980s. She would come out to see field hockey when that was a new sport. She was everywhere.”
DellaVecchia will join a list of eleven former athletes, a coach, a booster, two teams, and a posthumous inductee when the committee inducts its third class to the Southington Sports Hall of Fame. The list of athletes includes Jen Gombotz-Mikowski, Tracy Ciosek-Beloin, Rob Thomson, Andy Meade, Frazer Pehmoller, Bill Lee, Dave Majeski, Chris Allen, Rick Black, Joe Llodra, Peter Gulli, and the late Phil D’Agostino. Joe LaPorte will be recognized for his off-field contributions. Former Southington High School softball coach Joe Piazza will be inducted along with his 1987 championship team, and the undefeated 1954 football team will become the second gridiron program to be entered into the hall of fame.
Stanek said that this group stacks up well with the last two classes.
“It might have been even more difficult to pare down the field this year because there are still so many deserving people, but we went through each sport and looked through the statistics to find those athletes, coaches, boosters, and media members that are on the upper crust of local sports,” he said. “Because teams like football have a much longer history than other sports like volleyball, we’re still playing catch-up with some of the athletes from the last 50 years, and that proves to be quite challenging.”
The class will be inducted on Thursday, Nov. 8 at an award dinner at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. Tickets cost $50. Contact Jim Verderame at (860) 628-7335 for tickets to the event.
“This is a great thing and a great asset to the town,” said Stanek. “I’ve heard the comment many times that this is something that’s long overdue with the rich history and tradition that we’ve had over the decades. We have people that have contributed in all aspects to our town’s success. From starting athletes to coaches or trainers or fans, many people have contributed to Southington sports.”
Even the fans.

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