Joe Merlo

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Multi-Sport Athlete/Coach

Gifted athletes, like many fine red wines, demonstrate character, maturity and fulfillment through their developmental stages. One such athlete, a Western New Yorker with a rich history and interesting diversity, is Joe Merlo.

From Buffalo Public School #52, he took his ”athlete of the year” award for basketball, softball and track to Lafayette High School, where he built a foundation for achievement in multiple sports. Voted All-High in basketball his senior year, he was the Yale Cup scoring champion, averaging 28 points, and set a high school scoring record for points in a single game with 54. While he played only one year on the football team, earning an All-City honorable mention, it was in baseball that Merlo savored notes of accomplishment. On the diamond he was an All-High shortstop his junior and senior years, batted .571 and .410 respectively, hit a 375-foot home run over the wall at Offermann Stadium, and was drafted and signed by the New York Giants in 1953. Among those in training camp with him in 1954 was Willie Mays.

Merlo played four years on the basketball team at Buffalo State College and was named an All-American and All-Western New York as a junior and senior. He was State’s MVP for four years and recognized as the outstanding athlete as a senior. The first 1,000-point scorer in Buffalo State College basketball history made a school record 30 straight free throws as a junior and totaled 1,322 points for his career.

After college Merlo played semi-professional softball for the Buffalo Hot Shots and enjoyed a 31-year career as a basketball and baseball coach, teacher and administrator at North Tonawanda High School. He remained active as an official in baseball, a basketball scorekeeper and an instructor at high school and college basketball clinics.

Merlo was inducted as a charter member of both the Lafayette High School and the Buffalo State College Sports halls of fame and was inducted into the Western New York Baseball and Western New York Softball halls of fame.

Few athletes, let alone fine wines, have had smoother finishes than Joe Merlo.