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Tuesday July 29 2014
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From the age of 15, George Von Benko began his career in sports radio and several decades later became a prominent figure in western Pennsylvania sports.

Von Benko compiled a weekly column into a series of books profiling athletes in western Pennsylvania. The second volume of his book "Memory Lane" will be released in late June. 


The first volume, released in June of 2011, highlighted athletes from Von Benko’s back yard in Fayette County, while the second volume casts a wider net featuring those from Westmoreland, Greene and Washington Counties.


This volume covers a wide range of athletes including Olympians, Heisman Trophy winners and NFL Hall of Famers. Additionally volume two will include three teams, one of which is the 1965 Uniontown WPIAL Champion football team.


Other notable players featured in the second volume include Russ Grimm, Ray Stephens and Fran Boniar.


Currently the offensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Grimm starred as an offensive lineman at Pitt before his accomplishments with the Washington Redskins—as part of the ‘Hogs’—earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.


Stephens is the younger brother of Sandy Stephens, one of the first African-Americans to quarterback at a major college. Ray’s story highlights the challenges he faced following in the footsteps of his older brother as a quarterback at the University of Minnesota.


Boniar was a baseball player from South Union High School and played minor league baseball in the 1950’s. He batted over .400 twice during his minor league career, which was unheard of in the minor leagues, but he never played in the majors.


Von Benko ultimately wants his books to share feel-good stories at a time where negative stories have taken a forefront. He wants kids of all generations to hear parts of history that have been forgotten by time or accomplishments that have been placed on the back burner.


“You always want to know those athletes that laid the trail for you,” Von Benko said, “’Memory Lane’ is socially relevant and a good lesson for young athletes. Some of the things they are going through, others have gone through before them and they have overcome those obstacles to go on to do great things.”


Currently, Von Benko says he has enough content to fill six or seven volumes. Aside from the second volume of "Memory Lane," he is working on another book to be released at the end of December. This book, entitled "Sports Talk," will feature transcribed recordings of athletes throughout the country interviewed by Von Benko. Unlike "Memory Lane," which focuses solely on western Pennsylvania, Sports Talk will have national appeal. It will be structured as a question and answer with a photo and brief biography about the featured athlete.


George Von Benko’s book Memory Lane will be available in late June through www.fayettecountysportshalloffame.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and all eight Bradley’s Book Outlets in western Pennsylvania.

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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