Obituary: Frank J. Basilone | Coach devoted life to young players
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Frank Basilone was such an outstanding football player, he was recruited by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1945, but he was unable to sign with the team because he had to help support his family in the wake of his father's death.
That didn't stop Mr. Basilone, of Springdale, from devoting much of the rest of his life to playing and coaching sports and mentoring young baseball players and coaching his three sons into attaining sports scholarships to college.
Mr. Basilone, 88, died Friday at Family Hospice Canterbury Center from heart valve problems, said his son, Tim, of Springdale.
Mr. Basilone spent 35 years working for Duquesne Light, retiring as a supervisor.
But his avocation was playing semi-professional sports and then coaching and helping to coach American Legion baseball and high school football and affecting the lives of hundreds of young athletes from the 1960s until about 1995, according to his son.
Mr. Basilone was a fullback on the Duquesne University football team when he was called to serve in the Army during World War II. His military service was cut short because his father died, and as the eldest son, he returned home to help support the family.
But he continued to play sports, largely in semi-professional and community leagues.
Don "Simmy" Simoncic, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1967 and 1968, was coached in American Legion baseball by Mr. Basilone, who he said taught him the skills that got him onto the Pirates farm team from which he was called up.
Mr. Simoncic said Mr. Basilone was a tough coach and that not all of his players liked to be pushed to limits that Mr. Basilone pushed.
"Some guys didn't like to be pushed like that. But if you listened to him, he could make you do things you didn't think you could do," Mr. Basilone said.
David Breth, who coached American Legion baseball alongside Mr. Basilone in the 1970s described his colleague as "a real tough guy. He was one of the 'They don't make them like that anymore,' guys" Mr. Breth said. "He expected the kids to work hard. He was a well-disciplined guy and he taught fundamental baseball."
Chuck Wagner, the longtime football coach at Springdale High School, said Mr. Basilone offered his services as a volunteer coach for him. Mr. Wagner said he was honored to have his help after watching Mr. Basilone play sports and coach for years.
As a youngster, Mr. Wagner watched Mr. Basilone play baseball in semi-professional leagues.
"He had great speed and when he got on base everyone would wait for him to try to steal As a kid we would go nuts waiting for him to steal. He was one of those guys who came in head first," Mr. Wagner said.
Tim Basilone said his father was also a tough coach on him and his two brothers, but all three earned athletic scholarships to college.
"On Sunday mornings he would pitch to us for countless hours," Tim Basilone said.
A great joy of his Frank Basilone's life was when a grandson, Brett, received a baseball scholarship to Notre Dame two years ago.
Mr. Basilone was a member of St. Alphonsus Church in Springdale where he often served at weekday Mass. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars in Springdale and the Alle-Kiski Sports Hall of Fame and American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame.
In addition to his son, Tim, Mr. Basilone is survived by sons Frank of Wheeling, W.Va., and James of Springdale; six grandchildren, a step-grandson, a great-granddaughter, and a sister Marion Basilone Orris of Cheswick.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Charles B. Jarvie Funeral Home, Springdale Borough. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. in St. Alphonsus Church.
First Published August 20, 2012 12:00 am