Maryland head coach Randy Edsall, who is a Susquehannock High School graduate, is on the guest list for York Area Sports Night. He led the Terrapins to a
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall, who is a Susquehannock High School graduate, is on the guest list for York Area Sports Night. He led the Terrapins to a bowl game this past season. (FILE PHOTO)

York Area Sports Night will mark a milestone this year.

The event will turn 50 on Thursday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center.

Baseball Hall of Famer and ex-United States Senator Jim Bunning will be there. So will football Hall of Famers Charley Taylor (Washington Redskins) and Charlie Sanders (Detroit Lions).

The guest list also includes York High graduate and Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, Susquehannock High School graduate and University of Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall, former Central York football standout and Penn State defensive lineman Kyle Baublitz, Penn State senior tight end Matt Lehman, Baltimore Ravens center and former Penn State player A.Q. Shipley and York Revolution manager Mark Mason.

Celebrities and Sports Night have been synonymous since the late Samuel Shipley came up with the idea for the show, which made its debut in 1964 at York High.

Some of the biggest names in sports made it to York over the years. The first show featured, among others, legendary track star and Olympic hero Jesse Owens and Baltimore Colts' stars Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore.

Baseball greats Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron and Brooks Robinson were Sports Night guests in later years.

For many years, current professional stars made appearances at Sports Night. The athletes in recent years have tended mainly to be retired.

Escalating appearance fees over the years forced the change.

Ronald Tombesi, a member of the Sports Night committee, said a headliner can still cost anywhere from $5,500 to $30,000. Tombesi said the work to put the event together begins in July.

The disappearance of current superstars from Sports Night is not all that's changed.

The panel discussions were eliminated, and so were demonstration sports (table tennis, fly casting, gymnastics, archery, etc.).

One thing that did remain is the autograph session and the chance for youngsters to meet players and coaches in person.

Penn State defensive lineman Kyle Baublitz will be a guest a York Area Sports Night. Baublitz has given up his final year of eligibility at PSU to pursue a
Penn State defensive lineman Kyle Baublitz will be a guest a York Area Sports Night. Baublitz has given up his final year of eligibility at PSU to pursue a career in teaching. (FILE PHOTO)

Celebrities will sign autographs from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday at Heritage Hills. The public is invited, and tickets cost $25.

There will also be a public celebrity reception and silent auction from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., also at Heritage Hills. The cost is $75 per ticket in advance and $100 at the door.

Sports Night certainly isn't what it used to be when the event drew large crowds to the old Central York High School in North York.

However, it's still around five decades after its debut.

And that, itself, is remarkable.

Dick VanOlinda is a sports reporter for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at dvanolinda@yorkdispatch.com.