Carbon County Area Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Banquet

2015 - Hall of Fame Coaldale Inductees:

James "Blue" Bonner, Mike Frendak, Jack Evans

Carbon County Area Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame Banquet

Coaldale Inductees: James "Blue" Bonner, Mike Frendak, Jack Evans

Date: Sunday, May 24, 2015

Place: Memorial Hall in Jim Thorpe

Photos Submitted by Bill Scutta

Jack Evans

Jack earned three varsity letters in football including one as a thirteen-year-old freshman. Illness sidelined him in his sophomore year. When he returned to football as a junior, he was a stellar running back, kicker, and punter for the Coaldale Tigers under Coach Geno Poli. In his senior year, he amassed approximately 1,000 all-purpose yards. This resulted in his finishing tied for third place in individual scoring in the Valley in 1961. Recognition of his excellence on the gridiron is evidenced by his selection to play in the Schuylkill County Dream Game. Also, he earned 2 letters in Track and led the Track team in individual scoring as a senior. Unfortunately, a chronic asthma condition prevented him from reaching his dream of playing college football.

Jack also excelled in baseball and played on championship teams in both the Tamaqua and Coaldale programs. In his final year of organized ball in Coaldale, he distinguished himself by leading the league in several hitting and pitching categories.

Most of his adult life was spent in the Lehigh Valley where he was heavily involved in various sports. He was a member of the East Penn Football Chapter of the PIAA and worked numerous league and conference championship games. In addition he served on the Executive Committee of the Chapter and was a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials and the ECAC working in the Mid-Atlantic region. Jack spent nine years as a Football Official Observer for the PIAA.

In 1975, along with two friends, he formed the Lehigh Valley Ice Hockey Club and served as its President while simultaneously serving as Vice President of the Delaware Valley Hockey League. He was also a Board Member of the Atlantic Region of the US Amateur Hockey Association. In addition, he was named the first General Manager of Eastern Pennsylvania in the inaugural Keystone Games held at Penn State.

Jack was the Manager of the West End Legion baseball team in Allentown for seven years and his 1982 squad won the Lehigh Valley League Playoff title. The Coplay team of the Tri-County league, under Jack’s management, captured the league title in his first season. He was offered the Manager’s job of Lehigh Township in the Blue Mountain League but turned it down to take on the administrative role as President of the Tri-County League for nine years and served as Commissioner of the Lehigh Valley Legion League for ten years.

Currently he is a member of the North Carolina High School AA and continues to officiate football games in the greater Charlotte area and is a member of the Metrolina Football Officials Association and has worked State playoff games. He returned to college football as an off-field official in the MEAC, a Division 1 FCS Conference.

Jack’s energy and enthusiasm for both athletic and civic pursuits is evidenced by his involvement in numerous areas. A partial list of his activities include: Board member of the Lehigh Valley National Football Foundation, Treasurer of the Lehigh Valley Lung Association, Lehigh Valley Leadership, Charlotte Touchdown Club, and membership in College Football Officiating, LLC.

Mike Frendak

As a 60-Minute Man with the Coaldale Football Tigers and three semi-pro football teams, Mike Frendak truly displayed his toughness, athleticism, and intellect on the gridiron. Later, as a coach and administrator for various football, basketball, and baseball organizations in the Panther Valley, he successfully helped to develop those same attributes in the young athletes under his guidance.

During his three season span from 1944-1946, Mike started on offense at left guard, on defense at nose guard and linebacker, and as kicker for the special teams unit under Coaldale’s legendary Coach Tom Raymer. In the 1946 season, Mike helped to propel the Tigers to a respectable 8-win record, including shutouts against Atlantic City, Mahanoy City, and Hazle Township – culminating with a thrilling 7-6 victory over arch-rival Lansford. Following his senior year, he was honored with a berth in the “Dream Game,” playing on the Southern Division team of the 26-team Eastern Conference.

During a 5-year semi-pro football career, Mike started at center, linebacker, and long-snapper for the Lansford Blue Devils (1947), Tamaqua Indians (1948-49-50), and Ashland Miners (1951). While with the Lansford Blue Devils, he teamed up with other Coaldale Hall-of-Famers John “Teeler” Jabbo, Joe Shanosky, and Ed Palkovich.

Mike served as coach and assistant coach for the girls and boys basketball teams at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Coaldale, St. Michael’s in Lansford, Panther Valley Junior High, and Panther Valley High. During the 1985-86 season, he assisted Coach Rich Davidyock in leading the Panther Valley Boys’ Basketball team to an extraordinary 29-2 record while earning a spot in the Eastern Finals of the PIAA State Championship playoffs.

He also coached a Panther Valley Knee-High football team to four consecutive undefeated seasons, served as umpire for the Lansford Little League and served on its committees to build the present-day baseball complex on the east end of Lansford, and provided assistance to Coach Geno Poli during his successful 33-10 football tenure at Coaldale in the early 1960s.

Outside of the sports realm, Mike served our country during the Korean War as a member of the US Navy’s famed Seabees and later became a Food Safety Inspector/Supervisor for the state of Pennsylvania. Since retiring in 1990, he has continued to serve as a Food Safety Consultant with the Hazleton Health Department.

James Joseph "Blue" Bonner (1891-1964)

James "Blue" Bonner, one of the most feared and talented football players ever to grace the Coaldale, Pennsylvania, gridiron, "could run like coal coming down a chute and was twice as hard to stop." So said Blue's legendary Coaldale Big Green coach, James H. "Casey" Gildea.

Formed 103 years ago in 1912, the Coaldale Big Green, one of the most successful football teams in anthracite coal region history, was led by a bevy of stars, but none was more colorful or powerful than halfback/fullback “Blue” Bonner. Winning the Curran Cup, which was emblematic of anthracite coal region football supremacy, in 1921, 1922, and 1923, "Blue" and the Big Green helped to pioneer what is today's National Football League.

“Blue” Bonner was the Big Green's best ball carrier whose favorite weapon was a hip movement that sent would-be tacklers flying. He was once rated as one of "the very best men playing football in the country" by Robert W. Maxwell, the namesake of today’s Maxwell Award which is given to the best football player in the United States. Coach Gildea also once said: “Given a college education and the coaching college football men receive, Blue's name would rank with that of Jim Thorpe and a few others as the greatest backs of all time.”

A journalist, Joe Devire, who covered the Big Green games in 1924 said of Bonner, “He is the most colorful player in independent football circles, built like a warrior, one of the most feared athletes on the gridiron. Bonner never went to a college, but he has played against stars of great colleges and has shown them things about football that they never knew existed."

According to Gildea, "Blue hit men so hard that they just didn't get up. He seldom used his hands to tackle, but used his hips and body, just like he blocked. When he ran the ball, his legs went up and down like pistons, almost touching his chin…Usually, whenever Bonner was absent from the lineup, the Big Green lost.”

The few remaining sports news articles of games played way back then herald Blue’s exploits:

--“Famous Coaldale team, with Blue Bonner, registers easy win 42-0…With Blue Bonner back in the lineup, Coaldale worked in stone-crushed fashion sweeping Chester before it in every play…The work of Melley, Herring and Bonner’s end running featured the game.” (10/1/1923)

--“Frankford awaits Coaldale Invasion. Blue Bonner in lineup. Blue Bonner, 37 years old and still the daddy of them all among the football heroes upstate, is playing a wonderful game again for Coaldale this year. Blue seems rougher and faster than ever, and is certain to prove a problem for the home team.” (10/30/1923)

--"Blue Bonner, the star halfback of Coaldale, upheld his reputation of a great line-plunger by his big gains (in 14-14 tie with Shenandoah)." (1/11/1921)

--“Coaldale defeats Gilberton Eleven 13-7…Coaldale made it six more in the second quarter on pretty end runs by Blue Bonner and Giltner, one of Bonner’s end runs being for 25 yards…(Later) Bonner hurled his bulk against the line for an 18-yard gain and a first down.” (12/9/1921)

--“Blue Bonner’s eleven rode roughshod over Conshohocken 52-0 today…Coaldale outclassed the visitors, scoring at will.” (10/6/1924)

--“Coaldale defeats all-star aggregation…Bonner played a great game both on offense and defense, a 25 yard run being one of the features he contributed to the excitement…it was not until Bonner intercepted a forward (pass) and ran 35 yards to a touchdown that the game was on ice.” (12/11/1920)

--“Coaldale victor in season wind-up (over Pottsville Maroons 14-10)…The fourth period touchdown was due to Blue Bonner’s rampageous plunge through the left flank of Pottsville’s line.” (12/11/1922)

According to Casey Gildea, “In private life Blue was just as popular as (he was) on the football field.” Casey related an incident to prove his point: “During a Big Green game at Atlantic City, an opponent named Whitey Thomas landed a punch which broke Blue Bonner’s nose. Years later Whitey was in a hospital with cancer and told his wife that one of the things in his life that he always regretted was that he never got to apologize to Bonner. Blue heard about it and not long after he was at Whitey’s bedside. He said Whitey actually did him a favor because his nose had been broken before and he was always bothered by loose cartilage. The fresh break cleaned out the cartilage, Blue said, and the nose never bothered him again. Whitey later told his wife that the best tonic he had while in the hospital was the visit from Blue Bonner.”

“Blue” Bonner—a rampageous running back, built like a warrior, as powerful and as hard to stop as coal coming down a chute, the daddy among football heroes, feared by opponents, compared favorably to the great Jim Thorpe, called the most colorful player in independent football circles, and as popular in private life as he was on the gridiron—is truly a Coaldale superstar and legend.