Dick Lombardi was a baseball standout at the high school, college and professional level, but he is best remembered for his long association with the Greater Akron AA League, spanning five decades as a player, manager, sponsor and administrator, Lombardi began playing in the AA league when he was still in high school at St. Mary. He also played two seasons at The University of Akron, before signing a pro contract with the Chicago White Sox. His best season in the minor leagues was in 1956, when he led the Northern League with a .337 average and 31 home runs. He returned to Akron after his minor-league career ended and resumed playing in the AA league. He led the Black Label team to eight championships during a 9-year span in the 1960s. He blasted seven home runs in the 1962 Ohio Stan Musial Tournament. He was a charter inductee into the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Art Youngblood was an All-Portage County performer in basketball and football at Mantua High School, but he went on to collegiate prominence as a wrestler. After serving in the U.S. Marines, Youngblood became a 3-year letterman in wrestling at Kent State University from 1960-62. The 1960-61 squad was undefeated in eight matches. Youngblood, a heavyweight, finished third in the national AAU tournament in 1961and was runner-up in his weight class in the Mid-American Conference in 1960 and 1962. In ’62, he won the prestigious Interstate, Intercollegiate Individual Invitational Tournament in Cleveland. He also lettered two years in football at Kent. Youngblood founded the Ohio Flag Football Association and the United States Flag Football Association. The Summit County resident became a member of the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame executive committee in 1965 and served continuously until his death in 1990.
Persistence paid off for Marion Motley and for the Cleveland Browns. After starring at Canton McKinley High, South Carolina State, and University of Nevada and the Great Lakes Naval Station, Motley was turned down by Paul Brown for a tryout in the old All-America Football Conference with the Browns in 1946. The team already had enough running backs, the legendary coach said. Five weeks later, Brown changed his mind. It was a decision he never regretted. With the 6-foot-1, 238-pound Motley at fullback, the Browns captured four consecutive AAFC championships. Motley was voted to the all-league team three years in a row, 1947-49. Cleveland joined the National Football League in 1950 and neither the team nor Motley slowed down against the more established competition. Motley led the league in rushing with 810 yards and was named All-NFS as the Browns won the world championship. All totaled, the big full-back rushed for 4,720 yards in the NFL. He set a record of 17.09 yards a carry when he rushed for 188 yards in 11 attempts in a 1950 game against the Steelers. After his football career, Motley worked for several years in Summit County. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.
Jack Lengyel lettered in four sports in college – football, swimming, track and lacrosse. As a college coach, he expanded his versatility by leading teams in five sports – adding wrestling to his resume. And currently, Lengyel is in charge of 33 varsity teams as the athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. A 1957 graduate of the University of Akron, Lengyel got his first coaching job as a freshman football coach at his alma mater. His first job as a head football coach was in 1966 at the College of Wooster. He inherited a team that had been 0-9 the previous season and led the Fighting Scots to a 24-3 record in three years. In 1971, Lengyel went to Marshall University, where he faced the unenviable task of rebuilding a football program that had been wiped out by a fatal 1970 airplane crash. One of Lengyel’s most satisfying victories at Marshall was a 17-7 win over his alma mater in 1974.
Despite playing on losing squads at The University of Akron from 1950-52, Joe Mazzaferro became the first Zip football player to be named to the All-Ohio or All-Ohio Conference squads three consecutive seasons. Despite his slight size – 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Mazzaferro was a 2-way standout, starting at guard and linebacker, earning him the nickname of the Minerva Mauler. He was the team co-captain in 1951 and ’52 and was named outstanding lineman each season. Indicative of his stellar performance in a losing effort was a 1951 game against Kent State. Though the Zips lost 34-14, Mazzaferro made 21 tackles – a school record that still stands. He made 93 tackles that season, a record that stood until 1975. Mazzaferro also was a 3-year letterman in baseball at Akron U, batting .349 for his college career. He was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1976.
University of Akron football was a family affair for the Holians – Dave, Bob and Mike. Dave was the first of the three brothers to plat at Akron U and the first to be inducted into the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame. He was a 4-year starter between 1966 and ’69, playing middle guard and tackle on defense. During those four seasons, the Zips compiled a 26-10-2 record, earning their first postseason appearance (the Grantland Rice Bowl) with a 7-2-1 record in 1968 and equaling the school’s all-time best mark, 9-1, in 1969. Dave was the captain of the ’69 team, which was ranked third in the final Associated Press small-college poll, Akron U’s highest ranking ever. He was named the most valuable lineman on that team and received honorable mention on the AP’s small-college All-America team. Dave was inducted into the Akron U Hall of Fame in 1985.
Though he is in two other halls of fame for his prowess as an athlete, Al Francesconi was voted into the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame because of his skill as a basketball and football official. He refereed 27 years of high school and college basketball and 38 years of football, retiring from the latter sport in 1988. Ten times Francesconi officiated the Thanksgiving Day City Series football championship game. He also worked the 1976 Ohio Conference football championship and the 1983 Ohio high school football playoffs. Francesconi was an All-City basketball player at Buchtel High in Akron. He was a football and basketball standout at John Carroll University, inducted into the school’s sports hall of fame in 1989 for his years with the powerful Smith Sheriff’s in the Akron Class A League.
Edwin C. Walter
Football, Basketball 1990
They called him Funny, but he rarely gave opponents anything to laugh about. After starring at St. Vincent High School in Akron, Walter became an all-conference performer in basketball and football at Case Tech (now Case Western Reserve). As a 2-way performer at end in football, he earned All-Big Four and All-Ohio Conference honors in 1935 and ’36. He was the team captain as a senior in ’36. In basketball, Walter averaged 16 points for his career, again earning All-Big Four and All-Ohio Conference honors as a junior and senior. In a memorable 38-34 victory over Michigan State, Walter sank 18-of-19 free-throw attempts