A Pennsport resident will have his baseball prowess honored with enshrinement in his alma mater’s sports Hall of Fame.
When Joe Aliano received a call from West Catholic High School earlier this month, he believed at first that his alma mater would be placing him in its scholastic Hall of Fame.
“I definitely misheard the voice because there’s no way that would be the case,” the gregarious 70-year-old said Tuesday from his home on the 100 block of McClellan Street.
Though he has come to strengthen his intellect through numerous endeavors, the Pennsport resident will have to settle for having his brawn and not his brain acknowledged, as the secondary site will honor his baseball contributions Saturday at Essington’s Clarion Hotel.
“I was in disbelief,” Aliano said when learning he would join six alumni and one administrator in the athletic wing. “I feel so humbled because a lot of great athletes have come out of West, so I’ll be happy to share my night with family, classmates and former co-workers and sample some of the social DNA that binds us all.”
The lone baseball inductee, Aliano began bolstering the Burrs in 1958 as a member of their first team and would don his uniform for three seasons as an outfielder and a first baseman. The summer before his senior campaign yielded the American Legion’s Southern section championship, which he used to craft a fine swan song as team captain, earning All-Catholic distinction in the process.
“Competing always motivated me,” Aliano, who spent the first four years of his life in South Philly before his family moved to Southwest Philly, said of his diamond determination, which he earnestly began to show as a 13-year-old Fairmount Park league slugger playing against older competitors.
With lusty batting averages and power as proof of his prowess, he received an offer to play for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which also became his employer, following high school. Handling every position for two years, he helped the unit to gain respectability and a championship game appearance. Though he would not capture a title during that period, he would win the heart of Carol Geiger, a Brooklyn native whom he married in ’64.
“She’s definitely the center of our family,” Aliano said of his spouse, with whom he has three children. “I’m so grateful for her.”
Eager for novelty, he opened a luncheonette in Grays Ferry one year into their union. When that venture grew burdensome in ’68, he began a 25-year stint with US Airways, the lion’s share of that as a union employee representative.
“I always have a bunch of ideas, so when I was with them, I was also thinking of a way to bring another sport, golf, to the forefront,” Aliano said.
Then residing in Malvern, he set himself to trying to improve players’ links experiences by working on securing patents for a shoe and a bag. He received an insert patent in ’93 and a sole one four years later by which time he and his bride had moved to their current location.
“It was an interesting stretch,” Aliano said of his shoe stage, during which he met golf icon Arnold Palmer and successfully showed that his products could lower one’s scores.
His bag-bartering days coincided with his first venture and after fully testing and developing the ’95-patented Piggyback Speed Bag, comprised of two distinct portions for receiving and retaining clubs when one uses a cart, he incorporated his company under the name Classic Finish Golf in the late ’90s. He spent seven years selling the invention throughout the United States and abroad, headquartering operations on the 2500 block of South Broad Street.
“Golf is another pastime I began honing in my youth, so I wanted to see what I could do to broaden its appeal and meet equally passionate people,” Aliano, who retired in 2009, said.
Set to celebrate his birthday next week, he finds himself fortunate to have had so many athletic, interpersonal and professional opportunities. When he stands before the crowd at the Clarion Hotel, he will look to convey that gratitude.
“It’s great to be a part of history, and a night like this upcoming one is going to be my moment to give thanks for the present,” Aliano said.
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
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