Memories connect fans to powerful, sometimes historical sporting events. But over time, those recollections can become blurred or even be forgotten. Remembering who won last year’s World Series may be easy for avid baseball fans, but do most enthusiasts really remember the specifics of key performances, clutch home runs or that inning-ending double play? Probably not—that would take some research. That would take a person like Mt. Lebanon’s Jeff Linkowski, an author who spends endless hours crunching numbers and fact-finding in order to rekindle local and national sports memories.
“People have said I have a relentless quest for accuracy,” says Linkowski, who grew up on Roycroft Avenue admiring athletes and the sports in which they excelled.
At Mt. Lebanon High School, he gained the confidence to write about sports. “I specifically remember one of my [English] teachers Mr. [Harry] McCann telling me that I was a pretty good writer,” says Linkowski. Upon graduation in 1981, he took that initiative to the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied business management and communications. Pitt gained a special place in his heart and nearly 30 years later provided the subject for his first book, Building a Champion: Johnny Majors and the 1973-76 Pitt Panthers.
The book chronicles the era when Pitt’s football program was among the nation’s elite. Matt Cavanaugh, Robert Haygood, Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett and coach Johnny Majors were just part of the cast that brought a national championship home for the Panthers in 1976. “I love Pitt football,” said Linkowski. “I really liked Tony Dorsett when he played there. It is enjoyable to bring back those kinds of memories. With the current state of Pitt football, I think a lot of younger people might not know just how good [the teams] were back then.”
“I’m fascinated by history and finding out more about those who came before us,” said Linkowski who lives on Piper Drive with his wife, Suellen. He has four children (Dana 32, Dan, 30, Jordan, 21, and Jillian, 17) and three grandchildren. Sports writing is an avocation. Self-employed, he works in sales and marketing for an IRA record keeper and also maintains Internet marketing websites.
Linkowski’s interest in bringing the past to life led to the book that may be most familiar to Mt. Lebanonites: Mt. Lebanon Football: A Tradition of Excellence. Published in 2012, the book showcases the first 84 seasons of Blue Devil football that included two state crowns, seven WPIAL Championships and 20 conference titles. Former Mt. Lebanon head coach Art Walker, a member of the WPIAL Hall of Fame, wrote the foreword and there are illustrations by Mt. Lebanon artist Jim Mellett.
Linkowski wrote the book as a fundraiser for the Blue Devils Club. All proceeds go back to the football program through the club. “I don’t make a dime on it,” said Linkowski, who hopes to soon update the book so it includes the latest season and focuses on Mike Melnyk’s impact as new head coach.
Linkowski’s interest in sports extends beyond football. Baseball has always been a true love, and his childhood loyalty to Yankee pinstripes inspired his third book, The 1927 Yankees: Anatomy of the Greatest. A two-volume collection of what many experts call the greatest team in baseball history, the book takes the reader back in time to witness the feats of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, among others.
And Linkowski doesn’t just write about baseball, he’s part of the game. During the season, he makes key calls behind the plate and in the field as a college baseball umpire. His primary duties take him within a two-hour radius of the Pittsburgh area, as he works PSAC Division II college games. In addition, he annually travels to Florida for a week to call other NCAA games.
Currently, Linkowski is working on his fourth book, about the Oklahoma University football program with a focus on the Coach Barry Switzer years. Switzer has actually agreed to write the foreword for the book—impressive, since the book is still in process. “I simply put my ideas on paper and he agreed to be a part of it,” says Linkowski.
Linkowski hopes to get further involved in promoting Mt. Lebanon High School Football. Recently, he took the lead in organizing a Lebo football alumni party with Coach Melnyk and three former Blue Devils football coaches, Art Walker, Paul Kmec and Chris Haering. Held at Bado’s over the holidays, the reunion attracted more than 120 players and coaches from the various eras. “When people ask me to do something, I try to help,” Linkowski says. “Mt. Lebanon has the caliber of people and the friendliness that makes it a great place to live.”
Linkowski’s books may be purchased at www.lulu.com.