Connellsville man played on winning Pitt teams
Edward S. Spotts Sr. loved the competitive nature of sports.
As a young man, he set scoring and rebounding records playing basketball at South High School, Pittsburgh. His athletic prowess on the basketball court and football field earned him a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where he played on winning bowl teams in both sports.
Later in life, Spotts took up golf, sometimes turning in scores lower than his age as he continued to play into his 80s.
Despite his many accomplishments on the field, Spotts never let athletics overshadow family obligations.
“In his later years, he was diagnosed with a bone disease,” said Mr. Spotts’ grandson, Jeffry Witt, of Connellsville. “The doctors originally told him he shouldn’t do any sports, but he found a liking to golf. He was always careful and cautious, but when he turned 83, he had to make a hard decision, not to play anymore because he didn’t want to jeopardize taking care of Grandma.”
Mr. Spotts, of Connellsville, died Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002, in Mt. St. Macrina Manor, Uniontown. He was 86.
He compiled an impressive athletic record as a player and coach, showing talent early on when he led his high school basketball team to city and state championships.
Mr. Spotts went on to excel in college sports, where he is believed to have been the first person to play on bowl teams in different sports. He played for Pitt in college basketball’s Sugar Bowl in 1935, and later went on to help the university’s football team win the Rose Bowl in 1937 under legendary coach Jock Sutherland.
Mr. Spotts’ favorite professional athletic team was the Pittsburgh Pirates, said his daughter, Lynda S. Witt, of Connellsville. She said he rarely missed a game, attending either in person or listening in on the radio or television. In his retirement, he maintained a summer home in Bradenton, Fla., so he could follow the team during spring training there.
Jeffry Witt said Mr. Spotts once even had the chance to try out for the major league baseball team. Unfortunately, he missed out because he couldn’t muster trolley fare for the trip across town. Witt said his grandfather wasn’t all that disappointed at the lost opportunity because he had other priorities.
“At that time, he was getting ready to start a family, and (the Pirates) wasn’t something he wanted to do,” Witt said. “Family was more important.”
Mr. Spotts met his future wife, Helen E. Enany, on a blind date, Lynda Witt said. He had just returned home from a 42-month tour of duty with the Coast Guard during World War II, and Helen was a college graduate working as a teacher in Greensburg.
Lynda Witt said it was love at first sight for the couple, and they married less than a year later, in June 1946.
Mr. Spotts was also a teacher, having earned a bachelor’s degree from Pitt. He worked in the Connellsville school district, earning his master’s while teaching various courses at the high school until his retirement in 1980.
While teaching, Spotts also coached football, basketball and swimming.
Jeffry Witt said his grandfather never lost his zeal for coaching, focusing his efforts on his grandsons after retirement. He credits Spotts with helping mold him and his brother, Eric, into all-conference football players at Connellsville.
“It was like we had another coach in the stands,” Jeffry Witt said. “He would take us aside after the games and be very slow and methodical in explaining things, very thorough. He always had a vision of different things that a normal person couldn’t see on the field.”
Mr. Spotts’ interest in sports extended into the community as well. For a time, he was in charge of playground activities for the city of Connellsville.
William Coleman, of Connellsville, ran a similar program for the borough of South Connellsville. He said Spotts arranged an annual track meet between children from the two communities.
“It was very competitive,” Coleman said. “That’s the kind of coach you want.”
Mr. Spotts later officiated at basketball games, sometimes teaming up with former Connellsville head football coach Art Ruff. Longtime sports writer Jim Kriek, of Connellsville, said any time the two officiated together, everyone “knew that game was well-handled.”
Kriek also had the pleasure of playing golf with Mr. Spotts. He said Mr. Spotts could “hit the ball as long off the tees as anyone I ever saw, for a nonprofessional.”
Mr. Spotts is survived by his wife, Helen, of Connellsville; a son, Dr. Edward S. Spotts Jr. and wife, Jan, of Connellsville; two daughters, Lynda S. Witt and husband, Donald, of Connellsville, and Sally S. Rock and husband, C. Russell, of Fairfield, Calif.; and five grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Adam and Mary Spotts, and a brother, Sigmund Spotts.
Visitation is from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. today in the Paul G. Fink Funeral Home Inc., 418 N. Pittsburgh St., Connellsville, where a blessing service will be held at noon Wednesday. A funeral Mass will follow at 12:30 p.m. in St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, Dunbar.
Interment with full military rites will be in St. Joseph Cemetery, Connellsville.
The family requests memorial donations to St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church in Dunbar or Mt. St. Macrina, Uniontown.