After George Miller recovered a fumble in the end zone for the winning touchdown -- securing McKeesport High School's undefeated regular season back in 1947 -- he was given the game ball signed by his teammates.
Since then, the retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general has kept the memento with his other treasured keepsakes, like his military medals.
"It's more shriveled up than I am," he said of the pigskin.
The Natick, Mass., man brought the football to Pittsburgh for the 65th Reunion of the McKeesport High School Class of 1948.
The two-day event starts today and is highlighted Friday with the McKeesport versus Kiski Area football game at Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium, during which Mr. Miller will present the 1947 game ball to athletic director Charley Kiss.
"I'm getting old and won't be around forever, and think [the accomplishment] deserves recognition," he said. "Maybe this will inspire other kids."
Mr. Miller is one of 771 who graduated from McKeesport High School on June 1, 1948, in the aftermath of World War II.
"We had to be serious about our studies, our future was uncertain, and many of us were off to the military, as there was a draft," reunion organizer Ron Sandmeyer recalled.
Mr. Sandmeyer, of Haddonfield, N.J., is founder and chairman of the board of Sandmeyer Steel Co. in Philadelphia, and an inductee in the McKeesport High School Hall of Fame for his civic work.
Among the 72 registered to attend the reunion is retired Plum High School teacher Dan DiMucci, a member of the 1947 football team.
Many teammates kept in touch over the years because of their football experiences, Mr. DiMucci said.
Another teammate, Jack Bergman of West Mifflin -- a U.S. Steel management retiree -- recalled long lineups at the ticket gate to see games versus rivals like Glassport and Turtle Creek high schools.
"Friday night games drew 12,000 to the stadium," he recalled.
Mr. Sandmeyer said it is the transformative nature of a school reunion that fuels his return to his roots.
"We will all be like 18-year-olds, but with 65 years of experience," he said. Nonregistered class members can pay $35 at the door to attend today's noon to 4 p.m. kickoff reception at Youghiogheny Country Club.
Tickets to Friday's 7 p.m. football game are compliments of the school district.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published October 17, 2013 1:08 AM