The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame has a new home.
After 14 years being housed on the campus of UConn-Stamford, the Fairfield County Sports Commission showed off their new digs at Chelsea Piers in Stamford as they formally announced the Class of 2019 Friday morning.
The space will also serve as the location of the FCIAC Hall of Fame, which previously was without a home.
In the ceremony Friday, The Fairfield County Sports Commission announced seven inductees who will be honored at the Commission’s 15th anniversary Sports Night awards dinner, Monday, Oct. 21 at the Stamford Marriott at 6 p.m.
For just the third time, the Commission will honor seven individuals rather than six due to a tie in the voting.
In October, the Commission will induct Charlie Morton (Redding) and Heather Daly-Donofrio (Fairfield) into the Jackie Robinson Professional Wing; Pat Dufficy (Trumbull), Roger Haggerty (Stamford) and Pete Tucci Jr. (Norwalk) into the James O’Rourke Amateur Wing and Jack Casagrande (Norwalk) and Guy Whitten (Wilton) into the J. Walter Kennedy Community Service Wing.
Daly-Donofrio, Tucci and Haggerty attended Friday’s event with long-time Norwalk Hour sports writer George Albano speaking on behalf of the late Casagrande.
Prior to announcing the new class, the wall for the FCIAC Hall of Fame was revealed by past commissioner John Kuczo and current commissioner Dave Schultz.
“We are very grateful to be here,” FCIAC Commissioner Dave Schultz said. “For years these plaques would sit in Ralph King’s or my basement for 364 days a year. Now they have a home and we are grateful to Chelsea Piers and to the Fairfield County Sports Commission.”
Morton played at Joel Barlow in high school and was drafted by Atlanta in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft, making his pro debut in June 2008 with a victory.
Morton has played in 12 seasons in the majors with Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Houston and currently with Tampa where is he is 8-2 this season with a 2.43 ERA.
Including his current 2019 statistics, Morton has a record of 83-83 and started 233 games.
In 2017, Morton helped lead the Astros to a World Series title, winning Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 7 of the World Series.
in 2018, he had his best professional season, going 15-3 record with a 3.13 ERA and 201Ks in 30 starts, being named to the American League All-Star team.
One day an announcement came on the loudspeaker at Roger Ludlowe High School, seeking girls to join the golf team.
Daly-Donofrio, thinking it was an easy way to pick up a varsity letter, signed up and the rest is history.
“I am very fortunate that Roger Ludlowe had girls golf. I think we were one of only four teams at the time,” Daly-Donofrio said. “I had never picked up a golf club before. From Ludlowe I went to Yale and from there to the LPGA Tour. Without that program at Roger Ludlowe I wouldn’t be here with you today and my life would have been a lot different. You don’t play sports for the accolades but his is certainly very nice. It is an honor to go into the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame with an amazing group of athletes.”
After high school, she played four years of golf at Yale where she was later the head coach and then an assistant from 1997-2003
Daly-Donofrio became a golf professional in 1993 and went on to a nearly 12-year career on the LPGA tour beginning in 1998.
She won two tournaments (2001, First Union Betsy King Classic, 2004 The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions) and had nine top-10 finishes before retiring during the 2009 season with career earnings of over $1.1 million.
She was the LPGA Tour Executive Committee for four years, two of those as president.
Daly-Donofrio has been working for the LPGA for nearly 10 years and is currently the Chief Communications and Tour Operations Officer.
Dufficy went to college on a basketball scholarship but soon turned her full attention towards softball, becoming one the sports all-time greatest players.
At Trumbull, Dufficy was a standout softball and basketball player, being named all-state in basketball after her senior season in 1979.
She went to South Carolina on a basketball scholarship but would end up as the first softball All-American in school history.
During that time, Dufficy had already started her amateur career with the Brakettes in 1977 and each year she built a legacy of success over a 19-year career with the Stratford-based team.
She played on 10 national championship teams, was the MVP of the Major National Tournament in 1983 and an 11-time All-American at three different positions with a .347 career batting average.
She is a member of both the National (2005) and Connecticut (2006) Softball Hall of Fames.
Dufficy still holds a myriad spots records in the Brakettes’ record book, including most games (1,112) and virtually all of the offensive team marks including hits and RBIs.
Haggerty was a three-sport star at Stamford Catholic before playing baseball in college and the minors.
As a quarterback/defensive back in football he earned All-FCIAC honors for three seasons, was a four-time all-FCIAC selection in hockey and twice years in baseball.
He was named an all-state defensive back in football and was a two-time all-state in both hockey and baseball.
“When they called I assumed they were running out of guys to honor,” Haggerty joked. “This is a great honor. There are so many great athletes from this area and in this hall of fame. I just wish my father could see this. He would be overwhelmed if he was here today.”
At Providence College, he played hockey as a freshman before switching to play three years of varsity baseball for the Friars.
As a baseball player at Providence, he was a third-team All-American third baseman, Big East Player of Year in 1986 and the career slugging percentage leader at Providence (.652), as well as second in career home runs (35) and fourth all-time in RBIs (146).
He was elected to Providence’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. After his collegiate career, Haggerty was an undrafted free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox organization, playing for four years (1986-89) in the minors. He played in 340 games, hit 21 HRs and had 132 RBIs.
Tucci is one of the top baseball prospects to come out of Fairfield County, ever.
After playing for his father, Pete Tucci Sr., at Norwalk, where as a senior he led the Bears in 1993 to a 25-1 season, FCIAC championship and a spot in the state finals.
In that state championship, unbeaten Norwalk fell to fellow unbeaten Cheshire.
Tucci earned a scholarship to play baseball at Providence College.
In his three seasons with the Friars he developed into one of the top power hitters in the collegiate ranks and was invited to play in the Cape Cod League after his sophomore season.
In 1996, he was First-team All-Big East and a third-team All-American.
Tucci is still in Providence’s top 10 in eight major offensive categories including third in HRs (31) and fourth in RBIs.
“Each year at Providence I would look in the record books and see Roger’s (Haggerty) name on every list and I just tried to catch up to him,” Tucci said. “Since I was six-years-old I wanted to play Major League Baseball. The way I kept getting better was to always look at what I didn’t accomplish rather than looking at what I had already accomplished. That helped me to always improve. This really is an honor and I was not expecting this, at all.”
After college, Tucci was a first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1996 MLB draft as the 31st overall selection. As an outfielder he was the organization’s 1998 Minor League Player of the Year hitting .318 with 30 HRs and 112 RBIs, reaching AA.
He was then traded to the San Diego Padres and was placed on their 40-man roster. Just after spring training of 1999 he suffered a career-altering injury with broken bones in his hand that he never fully recovered from and he retired in 2001 after six years and 622 games in the minors with 84 HRs.
He now owns Tucci Lumber Bat Company making baseball bats and other equipment for MLB players.
Speaking about Casagrande, Albano said the long-time McMahon coach would have been thrilled to enter the hall of fame.
“He loved Fairfield County and loved the FCIAC,” Albano said. “He took so much pride in his own school but he also took so much pride in other schools from the FCIAC. Being inducted would have put a big smile on his face. Jack would be so proud to go into this hall of fame with so many of his friends.”
Casagrande’s name adorns the McMahon football field for a reason.
Casagrande was a teacher and coach at the school from its inception in 1960.
After starting his coaching career in 1959 at rival Norwalk, running the basketball team, his first head coaching job at McMahon came the next year when he became the school’s first basketball coach, holding the job until 1964.
He also started the track and field program, which he guided until 1974.
His 27-year football coaching career began as an assistant for 14 years, followed by 13 seasons as head coach, posting a 78-45-5 record and the Senators’ first two FCIAC titles in 1978 and 1985.
Casagrande topped that success as wrestling coach for 22 years with a 211-105-4 mark, four FCIAC championships and two state titles in 1977 and 1979.
After stepping down from his 34-year teaching career in 1994, the football stadium was named after him in 1995.
He was elected to both the CHSCA (1990) and FCIAC (2000) Halls of Fame.
He died in 2010 at the age of 73.
There are just a few names mentioned when talking about the history of lacrosse in Connecticut.
Guy Whitten’s name is always at or near the top of that list.
As one of the founding fathers of the sport in Connecticut, the longtime Wilton coach set the foundation for what became one of the country’s top locations for youth and scholastic lacrosse.
In 26 years at the helm for the Warriors, from 1969 to 1995, he racked up 410 victories and an 84% winning percentage.
During that time, he won 17 state titles, including the first eight ever played, and 11 FCIAC championships
He received the National High School Coaches Association coach of the year in 1997 and was inducted into that organization’s Hall of Fame in 2006.
He is also enshrined in halls of fame for both Wilton and the FCIAC.
Whitten also found time be an assistant coach for six years for the Wilton girls’ program in its infancy.
He took on the world stage as head coach for the U-19 USA national team and won the world title in 1988 in Australia.
In 2001, the lacrosse field was dedicated in his name.