UNION – Monday night, Nov. 25, is the night.
There have been many athletes over the years that have risen to the occasion to lead Union High School athletic teams to their ultimate goals.
Those distinctions were seeing the Farmers win numerous state and county championships and do it in a manner that made Union Township proud.
Now the most very elite of those athletes are being honored for their efforts in leading UHS teams to No. 1 rankings and much more.
Union High School has established an Athletic Hall of Fame to promote and to recognize the achievements of those exemplary student-athletes, coaches and teams that have brought honor to UHS and the community.
The first class – as selected by the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee – will be honored Monday night, Nov. 25, at Galloping Hill Caterers in Union.
The first class of the Union High School Athletic Hall of Fame includes:
Bob Mischak, (football), Class of 1950
Richard Oehrlein, (tennis, football, basketball), Class of 1960
Walter Oehrlein, (tennis, basketball), Class of 1961
Frank Costello, (track), Class of 1963
Al Santorini, (football, bowling, baseball), Class of 1966
Elliott Maddox, (soccer, basketball, baseball), Class of 1966
Larry Kubin, (football, baseball), Class of 1977
Tony Stewart, (football, track), Class of 1986
Mike Ferroni, (football, wrestling), Class of 1988
Tracy Young, (soccer, basketball, track), Class of 1983
Julie Brzezinski, (soccer, basketball, softball), Class of 1985
Kelly Kulick, (tennis, basketball, softball), Class of 1995
Laura Labonia, (field hockey, softball), Class of 1997
Walt Shallcross, (wrestling), 1949-50 to 1965-66
Gordon LeMatty, (baseball), 1959-1991
Lou Rettino, (football), 1977-1995
Eulace Peacock, (football, basketball, track), Class of 1933
Clinton Leon Moorman, (wrestling), Class of 1937
1974 Baseball: (25-5) Group 4 state champions
1984 Football: (11-0) North 2, Group 4 champions
1989 Softball: (22-3) Group 4 state champions
Dr. Gregory S. Gallick, MD
Bob Mischak was a star football player at Union for head coach Charles Walters in the late 1940s and then went on to star collegiately at Army. Mischak played one year in the NFL with the New York Giants in 1958 and then starred in the AFL for the New York Titans and Oakland Raiders. Mischak was team captain of the Titans – who later became the Jets – for the team’s first three seasons, 1960-1962, and was also the team’s first All-Pro, excelling at offensive guard. After his playing days he served as an assistant coach at Army and for the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. Mischak was an assistant coach on all three Raider teams that won the Super Bowl – the 1976, 1980 and 1983 squads.
Richard Oehrlein was Union’s co-valedictorian in 1960 and the state tennis champion at No. 1 singles in both in 1959 and 1960. Union began its tennis program in 1959 and in that season and the next in 1960 won the team state championship, with Oehrlein leading the way. Oehrlein is a 1964 graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, where he lettered three years in both tennis and squash and earned All-America status in the latter. He was inducted into the Army Sports Hall of Fame at West Point in 2006 for tennis and squash.
Walter Oehrlein was Union’s co-valedictorian in 1961 and the state tennis champion at No. 2 singles in 1959 and 1960 and at No. 1 singles in 1961. Oehrlein also excelled on the basketball court, earning All-State honors in 1961 while scoring a school-record 424 points. He was the first basketball player from Union to earn First Team All-County honors from the Newark Evening News. Oehrlein is a 1965 graduate of West Point and like his older brother Richard was also inducted into the Army Sports Hall of Fame at West Point in 2006 for tennis and squash.
Frank Costello was an accomplished track and field performer at UHS, excelling in the high jump in the early 1960s. He then starred at the University of Maryland where he was a two-time NCAA champion in the high jump in 1965, both indoor and outdoor. A four-time All-America selection at Maryland, Costello later coached the Terrapins men’s track and field team to six consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference indoor titles from 1975-1980 and five straight outdoor championships from 1975-1979.
Al Santorini, arguably the best pitcher to ever come out of UHS, was the winning pitcher in the 1965 Union County Tournament championship game – beating Westfield 10-2 – and the more famous 1966 Greater Newark Tournament title contest – beating a Richie Zisk-led Parsippany team 2-1. Santorini also has the distinction of being the Atlanta Braves’ first first-round draft pick in 1966, the year the team moved there from Milwaukee. Santorini pitched in the majors from 1968-1973, playing one game for the Braves in 1968 before moving on to the expansion San Diego Padres in 1969. He was with the Padres for three seasons (1969-1971) and the St. Louis Cardinals for three (1971-1973), traded from San Diego to St. Louis in 1971. Santorini’s stellar play for the Farmers helped Union post outstanding records of 24-4 in 1965 and 25-5 in 1966. Without him Union won only 15 games in 1967.
Elliott Maddox was another star player on Gordon LeMatty’s outstanding teams of the mid-1960s who, like Santorini, also made it to the big leagues. Maddox attended Burnett Junior High, where he played two years of baseball, and played shortstop and third base at UHS, earning First Team All-State honors in 1965 and 1966. Maddox also played for the American Legion All-Stars, coached by Edward “Buzzy” Fox, who won the Greater Metropolitan American Legion Tournament in 1965. At the University of Michigan he won the 1968 Big Ten Conference batting title with a .467 average. Scouted by Elizabeth’s Irving “Rabbit” Jacobson, Elliott was a first-round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers in 1968 and had minor league stints with Lakeland in the Florida State League, batting .314, and Rocky Mount in the Carolina League. He played outfield and infield with Rocky Mount again in 1969 and finished the season with 124 hits and a .301 batting average. Maddox played in the major leagues for 11 seasons from 1970-1980 for Detroit, Washington, Texas, the Yankees, Baltimore and the Mets. His best season was in 1974 when he finished eighth in the American League MVP voting after batting .303. That season first-year Yankee manager Bill Virdon moved Bobby Murcer to right field and inserted Maddox into center. Maddox was also the starting right fielder for the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1976 World Series vs. the Cincinnati Reds, hitting a triple in the game at Riverfront Stadium. In 1989, as U.S. Ambassador of Sports, Maddox visited Poland, where he initiated Little League baseball programs in four cities, including Warsaw and Wroclaw. He returned to the big leagues in the early 1990s as a coach for the Yankees under Buck Showalter.
Larry Kubin was an All-State football player at Union High School who went on to star collegiately at Penn State and then play in the NFL for the Washington Redskins, competing for legendary coaches Joe Paterno and Joe Gibbs. Kubin just missed playing for Lou Rettino, with his last year as a Farmer football player being 1976. “He was ridiculously good,” said former UHS line coach Fred Stengel, who coached Kubin in high school. “There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on the football field and do well.” Kubin, at linebacker, set a new record of 30 sacks at Penn State when he played for the Nittany Lions. A 1981 sixth round NFL draft pick of the Washington Redskins, Kubin played there from 1981-1984, making it to two Super Bowls and winning one. He also played for the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1985.
Tony Stewart was the first Union football player to rush for over 3,000 yards and was Union’s all-time career leading rusher until this past season when junior Jamauri Bogan eclipsed the mark. An All-America selection by USA Today, Parade, Bally and Street & Smith’s and a state Player of the Year at Union, Stewart rushed for 1,715 yards (9.1 average) and 29 touchdowns as a senior after gaining 1,445 yards rushing (9.7 average) and 23 TDs as a junior, both years leading the 1984 and 1985 Farmer teams to 11-0 records and North 2, Group 4 championships. At Iowa, Stewart was the first sophomore to rush for over 1,000 yards gaining 1,036 on 215 carries for a 4.8 average in 1988. Stewart played in the Rose Bowl and earned All Big-Ten honors for the Hawkeyes and finished with 2,562 yards on 532 attempts for a 4.8 career average. While he was an 11th round draft choice of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks in 1991, it was the Canadian Football League where Stewart would star professionally. He played with the Calgary Stampeders and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Doug Flutie for three seasons (1993-1995), rushing for 1,120 yards in 1994. He finished with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1996. Stewart had his UHS No. 41 uniform number retired in 2003.
Mike Ferroni followed Stewart to Iowa after an outstanding career as one of the state’s top football linemen in 1986, 1987 and 1988. He was First Team All-State as a senior and named a College Blue Chip All-America. Ferroni served as team captain his senior season of 1987, helping lead Union to its third 11-0 record, seventh N2, G4 championship and fourth in a row. Then in March of 1988 Ferroni won the NJSIAA Tournament’s heavyweight championship three months before graduation. He is Union’s last state champion wrestler. At Iowa, Ferroni was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection his final year in 1992 and was part of an offensive line that led the Big Ten in passing offense and ranked third in total offense. A letterman from 1989-1992, helping (along with Stewart) lead Iowa to the 1990 Big Ten title, Ferroni served as an honorary team captain in last November’s home game against Purdue.
Tracy Young was a four-year track and field standout at UHS, setting meet records in the conference high jump her junior and senior seasons of 1982 and 1983, in addition to being first in a meet record finish in the long jump her junior year. Young still holds the following Union individual records in the high jump at 5 feet, 8 inches and the long jump at 18 feet, 7 inches. She also had the record in the 400 meters until 2007 at 58.8 and in the 800 meters at 2:34.8 until 1989. Young is tied for sixth place on the All-Time Top performance list for the Meet of Champions and she also excelled in the Penn Relays, placing fourth in the high jump in 1982 and sixth in 1983. In 1981 as a sophomore, Young was the first UHS female to win a state title in any sport when she placed first in the Group 4 high jump event.
Julie Brzezinski lettered in three sports at UHS, four years of varsity soccer, one year of JV and two years of varsity basketball and three years of softball. Brzezinski was bussed up from Kawameeh Junior High School to play at UHS and was the only female to play at Kawameeh in 7th and 8th grade. In soccer, Brzezinski was Second Team All-State and First Team All-County her junior season of 1983 and First Team All-State and First Team All-County her senior season of 1984. In basketball, Brzezinski was Third Team All-County her junior and senior seasons. On the softball diamond, Brzezinski was also one of Union’s best, earning Third Team All-State honors her junior year and Second Team All-State honors her senior season, in addition to being named First Team All-County both years. Brzezinski ended her soccer career as the second all-time goal scorer in New Jersey with 116 and her senior year was named the Union County Female Scholar Athlete. In college at Furman University in Greenville, SC, Brzezinski started every game of her Division 1 college career at shortstop and finished with a .314 batting average and was her college’s career assist leader. Brzezinski was the softball coach at Campbell University from 1989-1997, leading the Division 1 school to conference titles in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and to the NCAA Regionals in 1995. She has been the softball coach at Division 1 Fairfield University since 1997 and was named MAAC Coach of the Year in 2002, 2004, 2011 and 2012. Brzezinski guided Fairfield to MAAC regular season championships in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2011 and has coached 18 All-Region players over the past 16 years. She is closing in on 700 career wins in Division 1.
Kelly Kulick can be looked up to as a present day Billy Jean King for what she has accomplished as a professional bowler, defeating top men and women players. You can have a Hall of Fame for Kulick alone based on what she has achieved in the sport so far. At UHS she was a standout softball player in addition to also competing in tennis and basketball. One Saturday morning her senior year during softball season she bowled a perfect 300 game and then later that afternoon helped the Farmers win a Union County Tournament game at home. She helped lead Union’s 1995 softball team to one of its best records ever at 28-2, with the Farmers winning the Union County Tournament championship for the fifth straight year and then capturing the North 2, Group 4 title. Among her many bowling accomplishments, including excelling in that sport at Morehead State, are six major professional titles and winning the Gold Medal at the 2012 World Singles Championship in Cyprus. Kulick was inducted into the New Jersey Sports Writers Hall of Fame in 2000. In May of this year Kulick was inducted into the Boys and Girls Club National Alumni Hall of Fame, the first bowler to be honored. Kulick has been a member of the club since age 4.
Laura Labonia was a sophomore on the 1995 softball team and fashioned a 27-2 pitching record that year en route to earning First Team All-State honors. She finished her four-year softball career with a 96-15 record, which at the time was second in state history for number of career wins. As a senior in 1997, Labonia was 23-6 and batted .522, earning Second Team All-State recognition. She struck out 186 batters in 172 innings and had a low 1.55 ERA. At the plate she had 59 hits of which eight were doubles, five triples and five home runs. She drove in 60 runs and struck out only twice in 113 at-bats. A hard-throwing right hander, Labonia went on to play softball in college at Kutztown University.
Walt Shallcross was the wrestling coach at Union from the 1949-50 season through the 1965-66 campaign. His overall record was an impressive 135-23 (.854), including undefeated seasons in 1953-54 (9-0), 1955-56 (10-0), 1957-58 (9-0), 1960-61 (9-0), 1963-64 (12-0) and 1964-65 (10-0). Also the athletic director at Union, Shallcross coached many state champions, including two-time champ Al Lilley (1960-141 and 1961-156), who went on to become the wrestling coach at Union. Of his 17 season at the helm of the Union wrestling team, Shallcross had only one losing season, his first year in 1949-50 when the Farmers were 3-4.
Gordon LeMatty’s 33-season (1959-1991) record as Union’s baseball coach was a state-best (for wins) 641-272-4 (.702) more than 20 years ago. LeMatty still ranks sixth all-time and second in Union County behind former Elizabeth coach Ray Korn. LeMatty, recognized with numerous coach of the year honors, never had a losing season at Union, with only two teams finishing at an even .500. “I was blessed to have many great players,” LeMatty said. LeMatty, who turned 80 in May, guided Union to Greater Newark Tournament championships in 1966 and 1970, to Union County Tournament titles in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1970, 1973 and 1975, to Central, Group 4 crowns in 1966 and 1968 and to Group 4 state championships in 1972 and 1974. Fifteen of his teams won 20 or more games, with the 1975 and 1984 squads winning the most with 28 each.
Lou Rettino also never had a losing year as Union’s football coach for 19 seasons from 1977-1995. His record at the helm of the Farmers was an outstanding 171-23-4 (.881) and included one of the greatest playoff records of all time in New Jersey, 22-5. “Lou was a leader of men. He challenged you. He was a great man,” said Ed Galisewski, UHS Class of 1979 who played on Rettino’s first state championship team in 1978. Rettino guided Union to the North 2, Group 4 playoffs 15 times, to the championship game 12 times and to the title 10 times. He had eight 10-win seasons and five 11-0 campaigns. “Success in football is one thing, but he was more and more taken with what you did after high school and where you were going to go with it. He was the whole package. I knew for generations to come that Lou would have an impact. Lou had a passion for learning and learning from us. He made it not the style to have a C-plus average. Our starting lineup was in the top 10 percentile of the class,” said Tommy Blazak, Class of 1980, who played on Rettino’s first two state championship teams in 1978 and 1979. Union was 42-2 from 1984-1987, which included four consecutive N2, G4 championships – the first two over Montclair and the second two vs. Roxbury. “My family couldn’t be more honored. My dad died 17 years ago. I can’t tell you how many times someone comes up to me and tells me a personal story about my dad. They remember it like it was yesterday. It makes me very proud to be his son,” Lou Rettino Jr. said. Rettino was named by The Star-Ledger as its Coach of the Decade for the 1980s. Rettino teams that finished No. 1 in the state in The Star-Ledger’s Top 20 Poll at season’s end included 1979 (shared with Madison), 1984, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1993. “Lou made such a difference in my life as a coach because I saw the world completely differently after working with him. He and I butted heads. I had my ideas and he had his ideas. His ideas worked. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have had the success that I had if it wasn’t for Lou,” said Fred Stengel, UHS Class of 1967, who was an assistant coach at Union from 1972-1987 before becoming the head coach at Bergen Catholic in 1988. “Lou helped Fred (Stengel) become one of the great coaches in the state of New Jersey and he helped me have a great experience as a coach at my (college) alma mater. He helped us all,” said Jim Benedict, who was also an assistant coach at Union with Stengel and who then went on to become the head coach at Summit, Westfield and Watchung Hills in addition to being an assistant coach at Rutgers. Rettino died March 22, 1996 at the age of 54 after a long and valiant battle with stomach cancer.
Eulace Peacock, in addition to being a Union High School star of the early 1930s, was one of track and field’s leading athletes in the decade before World War II and Jesse Owen’s major rival. He passed away in December of 1996 at the age of 82. As a freshman he jumped 20 feet in the running broad jump and as a sophomore he jumped 21 feet and ran the 100 yard dash in 10.4 seconds. As a junior Peacock jumped 22 feet and ran the 100-yard dash in 10.3 seconds. As a senior he set the NJSIAA record for the running broad jump at 24 feet, 4 inches and ran the 100 yard dash in 9.8 seconds. Peacock also played football and basketball and during his senior year of football in 1932 he scored 136 points as a halfback. He won about 500 medals for Union High in track. At Temple he excelled in track and was called, “the world’s fastest human,” by writer Bert Wilson. He won the National Pentathalon Championship in 1933 and 1934. Peacock defeated Owens seven out of 10 times in competition, including at an indoor meet in New York in 1934, which was the same year Peacock was undefeated at Temple. Peacock won the Penn Relays 100 meters in a record time of 10.5 seconds in 1934. He was inducted into the Temple University Hall of Fame in 1969.
Clinton Leon Moorman was inducted into the Region 3 Hall of Fame in 2012 at UHS, which is where he won state titles in 1935 as a sophomore at 95 pounds and in 1937 as a senior at 125. New Jersey began its state championships in 1934 and in 1935 Union High School, then located at Caldwell Avenue (Burnett Middle School) hosted the state tournament. In 1935 Moorman became the first Union wrestler to win a state championship and two years later he became Union’s first two-time champ. Moorman’s older brother, Walter, got him interested in wrestling after Walter wrestled in 1934 and participated in the first state tournament that season. Moorman’s parents moved to the area in the 1920s and were the first black family to move onto Oregon Street in the Vauxhall section of Union. Clinton Leon had seven brothers and sisters who all went to school in Union. In fact, three generations of Moormans attended school in Union from the 1930s to the 1980s.
The 1974 baseball team was the second in three years to capture the Group 4 state championship, fashioning a 25-5 record. Many of the outstanding players on this team, including Frank Araneo, also helped lead Union to a 28-3 finish in 1975, which included the Union County Tournament championship.
The 1984 football team was the first to win North 2, Group 4 undefeated and with a record of 11-0. Many of the stars on this squad, including Gary Mobley, also helped guide Union to another 11-0 finish and North 2, Group 4 title in 1985. The 1984 team concluded its season at home by defeating Montclair 34-13 in the North 2, Group 4 championship game at Cooke Memorial Field.
The 1989 softball team, led by pitcher Carrie Collins, is the only one to win a Group 4 state championship. The Farmers won the UCT crown the previous two years and in 1989 added the program’s only state title so far, finishing with a record of 22-3. The 1995 team (28-2) reached the Group 4 semifinals and the 2009 squad (27-5) the Group 4 final. George Hopkins was the head coach of the 1989 and 1995 teams, with Chris Flinn an assistant. Flinn was the head coach from 1996-2012. In the 1989 Group 4 championship game at Trenton State College in Ewing Township, Union defeated Middletown North 3-1. The Farmers scored all three of their runs in the top of the first inning with two outs. Leadoff batter Danielle Petkov singled and two outs later cleanup batter Danielle Shanley was walked. Dina Cutrina then singled to load the bases before Tricia Barber hit a long fly ball to left that fell for a three-run double. Collins gave up only one run with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and struck out two to earn the mound victory. It was only the fifth time that season that a team scored as many as three runs against Middletown North star pitcher Danielle Mitterando.
Dr. Gregory S. Gallick, MD – Orthopedic Surgery, Board Certified – has his practice in Union, located at 2780 Morris Ave Suite 2C. Dr. Gallick has often volunteered his time over the years to assist Union High School athletics and is honored as the first hall of fame’s class Special Contributor.
More details will soon follow pertaining to purchasing tickets to the first hall of fame dinner in November.