Bring on the 2022 class: Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame announces new inductees with 2020 class induction this weekend
Inductions: 2020 class to be inducted Sunday, 2022 class on May 14, 2022; both at Island Resort & Casino in Harris
ESCANABA — The Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame is catching up after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic that has lasted nearly a year and a half.
With the hall of fame inducting its 2020 class on Sunday, the group announced its Class of 2022 within the past several days. No class was announced for this year as the group gets the pre-pandemic-announced class its just due this weekend.
A trio of legendary veterans who are now deceased are among 10 inductees for 2022, along with four living area residents — state high school basketball championship coach Tom Russo of Negaunee, all-state football players Mike DellAngelo of Ishpeming and John Pistulka of Manistique, and former basketball ace Chris Nance of Newberry.
This group is scheduled to be inducted on May 14 at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris, located about 15 miles west of Escanaba. This is the same location that this weekend’s induction takes place.
The three deceased inductees are 1930s University of Michigan hockey goalie John Jewell of Laurium, hockey pioneer Sam Kokko of Sault Ste. Marie and minor league and independent baseball player Vernon “Moose” Johnson of Crystal Falls.
The balance of the inductees are longtime radio broadcaster and coach Jerry Root of Escanaba, former Wakefield baseball standout and basketball coach Dale Hongisto of Gladstone and longtime hockey standout Bruce “Cukie” Coppo of Calumet.
The 2020 class eagerly awaiting induction includes area residents Jerry Racine of Ishpeming, Al Mitchell of Marquette and Jennifer (Kangas) Brody of L’Anse.
The other inductees are John Barnes of Escanaba, Todd Dagenais of Escanaba, Julie (Heldt) Wonders of Iron Mountain, William Mannisto of Houghton, the late Dewey Lane of Wakefield, the late Victor Turosky of Iron River and the late Mickey Valesano of Wakefield.
Here is a short sketch of the 2022 inductees:
Tom Russo — He spent 24 years coaching varsity basketball teams at four schools and directed Negaunee to the 2000 Class C state championship, compiling a 319-210 career record. He directed Ishpeming in 1989 and Negaunee in 1999 to U.P. Class C Team of the Year honors and brought both schools to state championship games.
His basketball teams won six regional championships and seven Mid-Peninsula Conference titles. He was special mention state basketball coach of the year in 2000. Russo was Negaunee’s freshman football coach in 2002, when the varsity Miners won the Class C state football title.
Mike DellAngelo — He led Ishpeming to the Class C state football title in 1975 as the Hematites snapped Hudson’s state-record 72-game win streak in the finals. He ran for 4,267 yards as a three-year starting tailback and won seven U.P. individual track gold medals as a four-year member of the track team.
He was also a four-year basketball player, then played on Northern Michigan University’s football team and ran for 1,093 yards and caught 82 passes for 762 yards. He has also served as a varsity assistant football coach for 30 years, assisted in track and coached freshman basketball and Little League baseball.
John Pistulka — He was a first-team all-state football pick at Manistique and a three-sport letterman. He was U.P. lineman of the year in 1977 and was honorable mention prep football All-American. And he is in Manistique’s 1,000-point basketball club.
Pistulka was recruited as a tight end by more than 50 schools but chose to play basketball for three seasons at Lake Superior State, setting the Lakers’ single-season rebound record in the 1982-83 season and was fifth nationally in NCAA Division II. He was the team’s MVP and unanimous all-GLIAC first team selection in 1982-83 and averaged 18.5 points and 13.3 rebounds at LSSU.
He had a free-agent football tryout with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and played in the first NFL game in Europe (the Global Cup) in 1983. After graduation, he dabbled in American Wrestling Association professional wrestling.
Chris Nance — She was a three-sport star at Newberry, establishing 20 school records that include 1,277 career points in basketball. The 1991 NHS graduate was part of Newberry’s three-time U.P. Class C track champions while earning all-state laurels in three events.
Nance, who later coached basketball at her prep alma mater, received a scholarship to play basketball at Lake Superior State University, but while knee injuries limited her, she played four years there and is still in the Lakers’ all-time top 10 in a number of statistical categories, including No. 6 in career scoring.
John Jewell — He was the goalie when the Michigan hockey team won the Big Ten championship in the 1933-34 season. A Wolverines’ co-captain along with past UPSHF inductee John Sherf, Jewell had a 28-12-4 record as U-M goalie with seven shutouts. His goals against average was 1.84.
He played every minute of every game until late in his senior season when surgery for an appendectomy sidelined him for one game. He is in U-M’s Dekers Hall of Fame with Sherf and former president Gerald Ford.
Sam Kokko — He tried out for the 1932 U.S. Olympic hockey team and coached hockey teams with legendary Taffy Abel of Sault Ste. Marie. He played and coached for various teams from 1909-51. He died in 1992 at age 93.
He helped Ironwood win the senior hockey McNaughton Cup in 1929, then helped Hancock win three straight McNaughton Cups from 1930-32.
Vernon “Moose” Johnson — He played integrated baseball with Hall of Famers that included Leroy “Satchel” Paige, participating in minor league and independent baseball for many years as he was renowned as a slugger.
Playing for a black team that visited Crystal Falls, Johnson was the winning pitcher and hit a home run in a 1-0 victory. He batted .469 for a black team in one lengthy stretch, playing with Paige and Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe. That team won the National Semi-Pro championship in what is now called the National Baseball Congress Championship. He died in 1965.
Jerry Root — He will begin his 48th year this fall as a U.P. play-by-play radio broadcaster in football, basketball, baseball and softball. He has also coached girls basketball, boys and girls cross country, and boys track.
His North Central cross country teams won four U.P. titles and his track teams claimed two U.P. titles, despite the track teams never having a practice facility. He was instrumental in building one of the finest cross country courses in the U.P. He also coached at Cedarville and was a sportswriter for the Cedarville Weekly Wave and hosted coaches’ radio shows in Sault Ste. Marie and Escanaba.
Dale Hongisto — Recently named athletic director at Gladstone High School, he was a four-sport star at Wakefield, where he earned 17 varsity letters. He earned five gold medals at the U.P. track finals and was the Gogebic Range’s offensive football player of the year in 1984.
He also was a Mid-American Conference all-star catcher and designated hitter at Western Michigan University. Hongisto spent 15 years coaching basketball at Gladstone, including seven years as boys varsity coach and two years as a girls assistant coach.
He won 13 Gibson Cup titles as a player and coach and coached the Calumet Wolverines to the national championship in 2003 and three runner-up finishes. He was also an assistant coach at Finlandia University for two years.
Dennis Grall is the executive secretary of the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame and the former sports editor of the Daily Press of Escanaba.