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ObituaryNorth: Guy A. Guadagnino / Former North Hills baseball coach taught students

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

By Alisha Hipwell

When Guy A. Guadagnino, a longtime coach in the North Hills School District, was inducted into the North Hills Sports Hall of Fame, fellow coach Al Vacarro described him by using an Italian expression -- "uomo di rispetto" or "a man of respect."

"That encapsulated his character. ... He was a very honest man about everything and he handled himself always with dignity," said Vacarro, of McCandless.

During a career that spanned more than three decades, Mr. Guadagnino coached hundreds of players and built and maintained a winning tradition for athletic teams, particularly baseball, at the former West View High School and later at North Hills High School.

Mr. Guadagnino, of Hampton, formerly of Ross, died March 9 of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 82.

Born in a tiny Washington County mining community called Slovan, Mr. Guadagnino was one of nine children, two of whom died in infancy. His father eventually quit mining, became a baker and relocated the family to East Liberty, where Mr. Guadagnino grew up and attended Westinghouse High School.

He went on to play baseball for the University of Pittsburgh. He did not have a scholarship, so he scraped together the tuition by working as a baker and washing windows at the Cathedral of Learning.

Mr. Guadagnino, a catcher, played so well that, in 1941, the St. Louis Cardinals invited him to Forbes Field for a tryout. He impressed the scouts enough that they asked him to travel with the team during July. He stayed with the team three weeks and had one at-bat.

Longtime friend John Blackstock, a member of Mr. Guadagnino's 1958 high school baseball team, said his old coach left the Cardinals for two reasons. "He knew he had to finish part of his degree and he knew World War II was coming. ... He took the responsible route," said Blackstock of St. Louis, Mo.

Mr. Guadagnino served in the Army during World War II at Fort Knox in Kentucky. He suffered a broken wrist while in the service, ending any hope of a Major League career. When he returned home, he looked up an elementary school friend -- North Hills coaching legend Mario Martorelli -- who helped him land a job with the district as a coach and physical education teacher in 1946.

The two coached football together for years -- with Martorelli handling the line and Mr. Guadagnino the backfield. Over the years. "Mr. G," as the players liked to call him, also coached basketball, volleyball and golf for the district.

But it was as a baseball coach that he truly excelled. His teams, disciplined and well-schooled in the basics, but spiced up with some inventive plays, turned in consistently good performances year after year and were frequent section champs.

"He used to say, 'You can only run with the horses you've got,' but he got a lot out of those horses," said his son, Gary Guadagnino of Richland. "He knew what he wanted and he demanded it of them. They knew if they didn't do it, they were going to sit on the bench."

Blackstock said Mr. Guadagnino earned his players' respect because he always took the time to explain the why behind his instructions and because his behavior was always above reproach.

"He taught strong sportsmanship -- how to win with class and lose with dignity," Blackstock said.

Mr. Guadagnino retired in 1980. He was subsequently inducted into the North Hills Sports Hall of Fame. In recognition of his accomplishments, the district also named the baseball field after him. Since 1998, he had lived at Outlook Point, an assisted-living facility in Hampton.

In addition to his son, Mr. Guadagnino is survived by his wife, Willie A. "Billie" Guadagnino of Hampton; another son, Guy Guadagnino of Tulsa, Okla.; two daughters, Patricia Rell of Tulsa, Okla., and Rebecca Faye of Mechanicsburg; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. He was preceded in death by a son, Glenn Guadagnino.

A funeral was held Thursday in Schellhaas Funeral Home in West View. Interment followed in Mount Royal Cemetery in Shaler.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Parkinson's Disease Association, Pittsburgh Chapter, 420 E. North Ave., Suite 206, Pittsburgh 15212.

Alisha Hipwell is a free-lance writer.

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