On Thursday evening, 850 guests attended the Post Gazette's 78th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Spirits ran high as guests flocked to take pictures with Steelers legends Franco Harris and "Mean" Joe Greene. Other local sports legends, such as former Pirate Manny Sanguillen and wrestler Bruno Sammartino, were in attendance as well.
The night was not only important to the many die-hard sports fans who came to see past and current greats, but the star-studded affair also greatly benefited Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. During dinner, bids were taken on live auction items, including two Steelers jerseys, one signed by Mr. Harris and the other by Mr. Greene, along with tickets to attend next year's Super Bowl. This package went for $6,400. The evening began with the introduction of Pittsburgh sports stars, both collegiate and pro, along with other sports luminaries. A roar of applause greeted them before everyone settled in to hear the heartfelt speeches given by honorees and those introducing them.
Dr. Freddie Fu, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UPMC, who introduced University of Pittsburgh head basketball coach Jamie Dixon, decided to forgo a speech and instead did an impression of Mr. Dixon. Dr. Fu stood at the podium, ran his fingers through his hair until it stood straight up, and looked at the crowd with wide eyes and frustration, poking a little fun at Mr. Dixon's on-court style during basketball games to the amusement of the audience.
University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who retires in August, was presented the Dr. Freddie Fu Sports Leadership Award by Mr. Dixon, and he gave an emotional speech about his time spent at Pitt and how he was grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of "the greatest sports city in America."
Standing out from the suits in a glittering blue dress was Patrice Matamoros, CEO of the Pittsburgh Marathon, who was honored for revamping security for the Pittsburgh Marathon after the Boston bombings.. Ms. Matamoros was presented with the Sportswoman of the Year Award by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who said, "Behind every successful organization is a great leader, like Patrice Matamoros."
Sportsman of the Year Award was presented to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle by relief pitcher Jason Grilli. Mr. Hurdle recalled a moment during the Pirates' record-breaking season when he was asked by a reporter if the Pirates could actually make it to the playoffs. His reply? "Abso-Bucking-lutely!" His off-handed quote appeared on T-shirts soon after, to Mr. Hurdle's delight.
Finally, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mr. Harris by Mr. Greene. Best known for the "Immaculate Reception" in his rookie year, Mr. Harris also has been actively involved in using his celebrity status to spotlight several worthy causes, including the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania.
Bill Hillgrove was emcee for the evening and Larry Richert served as auctioneer. Also in attendance was baseball broadcaster Roberto Clemente Jr., racing legend Chip Ganassi, Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II, Steelers alumni Louie Lipps, Rocky Bleier, J.T. Thomas and Andy Russell, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, Duquesne University women's forward Wumi Agunbiade, Northeast Conference Player of the Year and Robert Morris University women's forward Artemis Spanou, Dapper Dan Charities Youth Athlete of the Year Sam Fredland and Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson. The evening was sponsored in part by BNY Mellon, represented by Pennsylvania chairman Vince Sands. Also on hand were Tracey DeAngelo, president of Post-Gazette Charities and Dapper Dan Charities, PG president Joe Pepe and executive editor David Shribman.