Guess Who's Up At Bat

Submitted by Marguerite Howard.


News-Register - - Wheeling, W. Va.
Sunday, August 26, 1979


The Budroys of 1950, winners of the Wheeling Twilight League championship, pictured on the old Hitchman Field in South Benwood. Front row, left to right, Frog Garcia, Mike McChesky, Tony Chieffalo, Frank Padlow, Emil Gongola, Sam Vucelich, Mickey Briglia, Anthony Gongola and Vic Gongola. Second row, left to right, John Howard, Norm Grennan, Mitch Vucelich, Stan Chincheck, Al Zimmerman, Roy Filben-manager, Ed Zimla, Dick Gordon-score keeper, and Chester Zimla. Not pictured was Hal Cox, known for his submarine pitch.

     The Ohio Valley has long been known for its fine athletes, and many of the better sportsmen have gone on to compete on a national level in their field---notably the Neikro brothers of major league baseball fame.

     But the various baseball leagues in the area have not been without great players and managers. In the 1950’s, one of the best semi-pro baseball leagues around was the Wheeling Twilight League. The championship was won that year by the Budroys, a team organized in McMechen in 1947 by Rob Filben and Bud Slonaker.

     One of the members of that championship team was Tony Chieffalo, now director of District 6 civic affairs for the West Virginia Department of Highways.

     Other members of the 1950 championship team were Mickey Briglia, Stan Chinchuck, Ed and Chester Zimla, Lou “Frog” Garcia, Mike McChesky, Frank Padlow, Sam and Mitch Vucelich, Emil, Anthony and Vic Gongola, John Howard, Norm Grennan, Al Zimmerman, Hal Cox, Dick Gordon and manager Roy Filben.

     Chieffalo played center field when he was a senior at Union High School in Benwood in 1946. The high school team was beaten in the semi-finals that year by Wellsburg High School and Al Fedak.

      While Chieffalo played for the Budroys the whole Twilight League was loaded with outstanding players. Some of the other teams in the League were the Elm Grove Civics, Warwood Redbirds, Bernhardt’s, Bridgeport Eagles, Cave Club, Polish Athletics, the Pepsi Cola team out of Moundsville, and ex-congressman Francis Love’s team, the Loves.

      “Back then it was a tough league,” Chieffalo said. “Semi-pro then was more than semi-pro today.”

     “The Elm Grove Civics were usually the top team, with people like Ernie Ewing, Bob Castilow, and Frank and Joe Figaretti,” he said.

     Some of the Twilight League players went on to join minor league teams. From the Budroys, Anthony Gongola and Stan Chinchuck later went to play on the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm team; Martin Mason and Emil Gongola played for the Cleveland farm team; and Pete Gongola played Triple A baseball.

     Other players in the league included John Chuchiak, DOH county supervisor for Brooke County; John Carenbauer, Wheeling City councilman; Henry Marockie, superintendent for Ohio County schools; Red Staufer; Andy Chuchiak; Bob Milliken and Chuck Biehl. Milliken went on to pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in the 1952 World Series; Biehl went to the Washington Senators; and Andy Chuchiak went to the minor leagues, Chieffalo said.

     Eddie and Chester Zimla both played in the league. Eddie runs Rudy and Eddie’s Bar in McMechen, and Chester is a distance runner, according to Chieffalo.

     League player Gene Freese went to the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis teams; the late Harold Vitalie, who used to coach the Wheeling Legion team, played Triple A ball; Chester Sokol, now head of the Ohio County Office of Emergency Preparedness, played minor league ball; and everyone knows where Phil Neikro is. He started playing in the Twilight League for the Cave Club, Chieffalo said.

      Pete Gongola played some minor league ball with Chuck Tanner, present manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

      “Our league was more than just semi-pro,” Cheiffalo said. “Some of those players could play with the pros now, especially with the expansion of the major leagues.”

      The Budroys also used to play at the West Virginia State Penitentiary on Sundays, Chieffalo said, and one time Honus Wagner brought all his all-stars down to the pen from Pittsburgh to play the Budroys.”

      “Our whole team went up to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. It was a thrill for me just to be there. I knew I’d never make it, but they thought a lot of Stan Chinchuck, Micky Briglia and Sam Vucelich,” Cheiffalo said. “They didn’t pick any of us, but the Cardinals got Chinchuck and Anthony Gongola.”

      “I wasn’t known for my hitting, Chieffalo said, just my fielding.”

      The fields used by the Twilight League were at 26th Street and 47th Street in Wheeling, the Bridge Park on Wheeling Island, Garden Park in Warwood, the East End Field in Moundsville, and the old Hitchman Field in South Benwood, “well known for its coal dust infield,” Chieffalo said.

      Chieffalo was one of the coaches for the Moundsville American Legion baseball this year. But baseball is not the only sport he likes.

      He coached grade school basketball for a while at Union Elementary School. One of his players was Bob Butts, who went on to become a fullback for the Ohio State University football team. He also coached the DOH basketball team, and has managed the DOH slow-pitch softball team.

      Chieffalo spent 15 years working with the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Explorers.

      He lives in Benwood with his wife, Betty. They have three children and four grandchildren.