MEADOW LANDS – The picture on Page 47 of the banquet program shows an amazing moment from an historic time in the United States.
The photo shows President George W. Bush, dressed in a dark suit, accepting a signed game ball from the quarterback of the Navy team before the game against Army in 2001.
Presenting the football to the leader of the free world was Ed Malinowski, a senior co-captain and graduate of Chartiers-Houston High School.
That game came at a patriotic moment in our country, just three months after the attacks of 9/11 and in one of the first instances fans had a chance to show their appreciation to the servicemen and women.
“I didn’t know (meeting the President) was going to happen until maybe a few minutes prior,” said Malinowski Friday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton, where he was part of the induction ceremonies for the Washington-Greene Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
“They pulled me out in the hallway at (Veterans Stadium) and I got to meet him. One of the things I noticed about him was that he was a lot taller than I thought. No. 2, he had on the nicest cowboy boots I’d ever seen. He asked me where I was from and I said Pittsburgh. He said, ‘Ah, that’s a good town.’ He went into the locker room, said a few words, then I handed him the ball and he walked away. It was a special moment for me.”
Malinowski joined former NFL coaching great Marty Schottenheimer; Ray Kemp, another Fort Cherry graduate who played football at Pitt; Andy Migyanko, a standout wrestler at Trinity who competed at West Virginia; Frank Mosier, a Trinity graduate and two-time NAIA wrestling champion from Moorhead State; Leon Pagac, a Centerville High School graduate who played nearly two decades of professional football; Brian Pelkey, a Washington graduate who played football at Kent State; Dan Petrola, director of the Brownson House for more than three decades; Albert Sabol, a Beth-Center graduate who played football for the Coast Guard Academy; Ron Skiles, an Ellsworth High School graduate who played on the PGA tour; Joe Throckmorton, a standout wrestler and coach at Waynesburg High School; Chad Williamson, a Trinity graduate who played football at Lafayette College; and Mark Wise, a multi-sport athlete at Wash High before moving on to Penn State for football.
The 1961 Fort Cherry High School basketball team that won the state title was honored as the Team of Yesteryear.
Not only did Malinowski get to present the football to President Bush but he also got to make the call on the coin toss – heads – at midfield to start the 102nd edition in this historic series.
“It was the closest that we, as mere mortals, would ever get to playing in the Super Bowl,” said Malinowski. “The atmosphere is electric. It really doesn’t matter what the records are of the teams. It’s an opportunity to showcase the service academies. It’s fantastic, one of the highlights of my life.”
Reports on the game, a 26-17 win by Army, revealed that Malinowski’s mother, Marilyn, would clutch a dime between her fingers to bring her son good luck. She used this tradition not just for the football game but also on Malinowski’s two tours of duties, one each to Fallujah and Haditha in Iraq as a United States Marine. When word spread about Marilyn Malinowski’s good luck tradition, students, teachers and administrators at Chartiers-Houston would bring her “found” dimes around the building.
It must have worked because Malinowski returned safely from three tours of duty before leaving the Marine Corps after six years..
Malinowski works in the defense industry as a contractor in Pittsburgh for WESCO Distribution. He also is an assistant varsity football coach at Pine-Richland High School, in charge of wide receivers and special teams. He tries to get back for the Army-Navy game, which has been played for 117 seasons, when possible.
“The Army-Navy game is always going to be that deal where we play them on that day and we’re competing against one another,” he said, “then we are all one team once the game is over in the Armed Forces of the United States.”