U.P. Hall of Fame
HARRIS – So you want to be a broadcaster?
Take it from Iron Mountain’s Mike Caruso, better known as Mike Carr during his sterling 40-year radio career.
“Just be yourself,” an emotional Caruso said during his induction speech to the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. “Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Don’t try to impersonate somebody.”
The proud graduate of the Brown Institute of Minneapolis Broadcasting School, also known as “Moose” Caruso during his long-ball hitting baseball and fastpitch softball days, joined Terry Duval and eight others for the induction ceremony at the Island Resort & Casino.
Duval, of Escanaba and Kingsford, said he and his fellow Hall of Famers know the value of two words – thank you, and the sign of respect it brings.
“The words thank you are much appreciated in the world we live in today,” Duval said.
Duval had a noteworthy prep career at Kingsford High School before coming to Escanaba High School, where he spent three decades coaching football, wrestling and track teams, going 205-60 in 17 years as a head wrestling coach.
Duval cited numerous inspirations including Ray Mariucci, his prep wrestling coach while at Kingsford, who Duval said “taught me the human side of coaching.”
He said Jerry Cvengros, who hired Duval at Escanaba, “had a spirit of goodness about him,” and Dan Flynn, who preceded Duval as wrestling coach, told Duval “with proper motivation, you could make an ordinary kid, extraordinary.”
Duval mentioned Dick Berlinski as the finest U.P. athlete he’d ever seen, saying of him, “the taller the willow, the lower it bends and the great ones have that type of character.”
Berlinski, a football and track great, made a “signature” move in basketball.
“Dick would dribble to the free throw line, take off from the free throw line, do a hitch-kick and do a finger roll above the rim and into the basket,” marveled Duval.
Jon LeBrasseur compiled an extraordinary 850-11 record as girls varsity basketball coach at Sacred Heart High School in Muenster, Texas. His teams have won 14 state titles, including seven straight at one point (from 1998-2004).
His daughter, Kristen, scored 1,800 career points at Sacred Heart. She will graduate from SMU this month.
“She helped my coaching record,” LeBrasseur said with a smile and Texas accent.
LeBrasseur was a three-sport athlete at Big Bay de Noc High School and came from a very athletic family.
His dad, Dick, was a track star in the 100, 200 and broad jump. Despite Nahma without a football program, he got a letter from Biggie Munn to play football at Michigan State.
“What a thrill to be up here with so many outstanding coaches, athletes and writers,” LeBrasseur said. “Those (U.P.) residents have made an impact from coast to coast.”
He compared the U.P. to Meunster, “where a half day’s work is 12 hours.”
Escanaba’s Sharon Ruibal was an excellent track and basketball athlete at Escanaba from 1973-76 and later went on to earn three basketball letters at Northern Michigan University.
A pioneer in many things, Ruibal, known then as Sharon Schultz, played in the early days of girls high school sports before later becoming one of the first female sportswriters at the Green Bay Press Gazette.
She said the Upper Peninsula “was no place for wimps,” and talked of doing things the U.P. way.
The late Holly Jean (Anderson) McCullah of Laurium pitched two teams to U.P. fastpitch softball titles at age 14 before returning to the mound 18 years later after becoming the mother of nine children.
At the age of 32, she threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 in her first game back and was 46-3 over four seasons, helping Horner’s Hornets win the Class D state title in 1970.
McCullah was represented by her daughter June Pillatsch, who recalled that, “neighbors would always come by, ring the doorbell and ask if my mom could come out and play.”
McCullah died at age 57 in 1994 waiting for a lung transplant. A softball tournament in Calumet is now played annually in her honor.
(Keith Shelton of The Daily Press in Escanaba contributed to this story)