Pete Criscione made his mark in the sports circles of Chautauqua County as both a player and a coach on various levels.
Criscione was born in Dunkirk on August 25, 1938, and resided his entire life in Chautauqua County. Things began for Criscione on the athletic scene in 1949 when he was a member of the first Little League team from Dunkirk-Fredonia and was a starter on the all-star squad.
The next year he was a member of the first Pony League team in Dunkirk- Fredonia and again was on the all-star squad. Then in 1952, he performed on the first Dunkirk-Fredonia rookie team.
Al Stuhlmiller, himself a member of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, was Criscione's baseball coach at Dunkirk High School when the Marauders resumed the sport in 1955 after being without it since before World War II. Criscione was on championship squads under Stuhlmiller, not only in baseball, but also in basketball where he played four years from 1953-1956 and was a starter on Stuhlmiller's first title squad.
Criscione also played varsity football for three years from 1953-55 and was the leading rusher in 1954 and 1955. He also competed in track.
After graduation, Criscione went to Fredonia State where his stellar career continued. He was a four-year starter in baseball (1957-60) and never batted below .420. Additionally, he still holds the highest batting average for a season with a blistering .553 in 1958.
Criscione's senior season saw him captain the baseball, basketball and soccer teams. He was on the basketball squad all four seasons and was on the first Blue Devils' soccer team in 1959 when he was named to the all-state team. In 1960, he was again named all-state and was an honorable mention All-American.
Coaching-wise, Criscione has had plenty of experience on the high school level and, at one time, coached the jayvee soccer club at Fredonia State. Criscione was the junior varsity basketball coach at the now-defunct Dunkirk Industrial High School for two years (1961-62) and then handled the varsity there the following two seasons (1963-64).
From 1961-63, Criscione was a football assistant at Dunkirk High School and also in 1961 was the junior varsity baseball coach at North Collins. Criscione was the jayvee basketball coach at Fredonia Central School from 1964-75 and held the varsity basketball position in 1973 upon the passing of Roger Moore, who is also enshrined in the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
Criscione started the jayvee baseball program at Fredonia and headed that for seven years before becoming the varsity coach. By the time of his CSHoF induction he had 302 wins in 20 years. In 1993, he joined Denny Meszaros of Falconer and Stuhlmiller with more than 300 wins.
Criscione, the winningest baseball coach in Fredonia history, has won seven CCIAC crowns, five Section 6 Class B-1 titles, two Section 6 Class B crowns and a Far West Regional championship in 1985. The 27-2 record compiled that year is the best in Western New York history. Before state playoffs, a B-1/B-2 title was achieved in 1978.
Criscione's team in 1993 was 22-7 and lost in the Far West Championship game to Johnson City in heart-breaking fashion, preventing the Hillbillies from advancing to the New York State Tournament of the Utica area.
Criscione was the Section 6 baseball chairman for three years and by the time of induction had served 18 years as a CCIAC representative to Section 6. He had also been an assistant football coach for 13 years.
On the volunteer level, Criscione organized the Catholic Baseball League and served as its president and coached Holy Trinity. He coached the Dunkirk- Fredonia Rookies for 17 years and was president of the Grape Belt League for 12 years.
Additionally, he coached the 8-year-old soccer team in the Dunkirk-Fredonia community's first season and umpired in Dunkirk for three years. He also played softball in the Dunkirk and Fredonia leagues and baseball for Koch's in Jamestown and for the Dunkirk-Fredonia Rookies.
His brother, Dave, who played briefly with the Baltimore Orioles, retired as head coach of the Fredonia State baseball team following the 2002 spring season and was also an outstanding athlete at Dunkirk.
Criscione was inducted into the Fredonia State Hall of Fame in 1990
Pete Criscione was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.