The rivalry began in the heart of the Cold War. In the late 1950s, while the nation liked Ike, the Mount Lebanon School District was becoming overwhelmed with students. Crowding had school-board members wanting to kick out some of the riff-raff. The board decided to no longer accept kids who lived in Upper St. Clair. The ostracized citizens decided to make their own high school, and the heated rivalry was on.
Last week, we took a look at some of the famous students who were products of Mount Lebo. This week we look at Mount Lebo’s ultimate rival, the Upper St. Clair Panthers. The Blue Devils may have produced more athletes, but arguably, USC has produced better ones. And baseball is the best example.
USC’s Sean Casey is nicknamed “The Mayor” for his congenial personality and penchant for talking to everybody. In addition to his shining personality and sense of humor, Casey could crush a baseball. He earned a spot in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame alongside players named Rose, Larkin, Morgan and Seaver. The Mayor began his career in Cleveland, but had a tough time breaking into a lineup that featured Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and David Justice. He was traded to Cincy, where over eight years he averaged over .300. The Pirates got him to start the 2006 season, and he continued to produce. A .296 average by July earned him the right to be immediately traded to Detroit. In return, the Bucs received legendary pitcher Brian Rogers. B-Rog, as he may have been known, hurled 10⅔ innings for the Bucs and allowed 11 runs in the process. The Mayor went on to play in the World Series that year, hitting .529, though his team lost to St. Louis. Lifetime, Casey hit .302 in the majors.
Other USC baseball standouts include Kevin Slowey (43 career wins with the Twins and Marlins) and Kevin Orie, currently employed in local radio, who bounced around the majors accumulating 253 hits and 22 homers in the pros.
Former Pittsburgh Penguin Ryan Malone attended USC and became the first Pittsburgh-born-and-raised NHL player. Malone started his career on a line with two Hall of Famers: Mark Recchi, who was just inducted, and Sidney Crosby, who will be. Malone bolted for Tampa at the beginning of the 2008-09 season, just after playing for the Pens in the Stanley Cup Finals the year before. Malone went on to score a respectable 370 points in his career. Dylan Reese, who tallied 17 NHL points, was also part of the school’s rapidly growing hockey program.
Upper St. Clair is a school that offers golf, forensic teams and barbershop quartets to go along with the plethora of blue ribbons, trophies and other awards it has won. But it churns out some tough guys as well. The football team is good, seemingly every year, and is perhaps most proud of Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. Lee has undergone numerous brutal injuries in the NFL but keeps plugging along. He played 15 games for Dallas last year, notching 93 tackles, and was named a first-team All Pro for the first time. Steelers offensive coordinator and former Chiefs coach Todd Haley was also a Panther. Steelers fans don’t care where you come from if they’re not happy with your performance. Haley has endured more than his share of criticism since arriving, but his teams have put up some pretty good numbers. There’s also Kirk Ferentz, the longest-tenured coach in Division 1 College Football. Ferentz is in charge of the Iowa Hawkeyes, with whom he has won 135 games and two Big Ten titles.
Overall, Upper St. Clair has the upper hand. Mount Lebo has never produced a baseball player as good as Sean Casey, a hockey player as good as Ryan Malone, or a football player as good as Sean Lee. Mount Lebanon has sent more people to Hollywood, but USC grad and standup comic Anthony Jeselnik is glad to make fun of them.