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As a kid growing up in Center Township, I had a fascination with the newspaper. I used to look forward to my parents receiving the Beaver County Times every morning. I even remember when the Times started a Saturday edition. I craved to read about Beaver County sports. It was one of the things I looked forward to the most, especially in the fall and winter. I couldn’t wait to open up the paper to read who scored the winning touchdown or who dropped the most points in an intense Beaver County basketball game. One of my favorites as kid, and even more so as I grew into adulthood, was Mike Bires. Bires decided to call it quits with the Times after 40 illustrious years in the newspaper industry, and he is going to be sorely missed on the local sports scene.
Back in the day, the Times had a wonderful sports staff, and it included guys like Mike Prisuta, John Perrotto, Jim Equels, Bill Allmann, Ed Rose, Rich Emert, and Bill Utterback, just to name a few. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago Mark Madden was writing guest columns for our local paper. It’s a shame kids growing up today will never know what it was like to open up and read story after story, with pictures to boot. One of my favorite things as a kid was getting the Wednesday paper and completing my picks for “Beat the Experts.” I loved seeing who everyone had winning and losing, and Bires almost never picked against his beloved alma mater, Hopewell.
With all due respect to everyone in the newsroom, Bires was the star of the Times. He was and still is a household name, just like his former colleague and renown baseball columnist, the aforementioned Perrotto. You knew when you saw a Mike Bires by-line, you were going to read a story from one of the most reputable people in sports journalism in western Pennsylvania.
Bires had a remarkable run at the Times. He covered Pitt basketball and the Big East in its heyday, the likes of which we will never see again. He was the Steelers beat reporter for several years before transitioning to the scholastic beat. In my opinion, it was the final eight or so years of his career at the Times that was his best.
We as Beaver Countians love our high school sports. We live and die with every first down, three point basket, last minute goal, and home run. It’s in our DNA. Beaver County’s rich history of high school athletics is the fabric of this place we call home. It’s what a lot of us hang our hat on, even to this day. Bires’ years of covering high school athletics led to so many athletes gaining their deserved recognition. By writing about so many interesting teams, coaches, athletes, and games, Bires essentially became the keeper of Beaver County sports. He carried the torch. Even to this day, I always enjoyed reading his scholastic notebook column with news and notes from around the county. I will miss that, and I hope his protege, Andrew Chiappiazzi, a fine journalist in his own right, continues the work of Bires. I’m confident he will.
With all that being said, Mike Bires is an even better man than he is a journalist. He’s an almost larger-than-life figure who has gone by the nickname “O.J.” since high school. I was at the Beaver County Sports Hall of Fame banquet when Bires was enshrined, now forever among the legends this county has produced. His speech that night embodied who he is: a classy, humble, faithful, respectful man and journalist, who is now going to enjoy retirement by leaving an industry that stands on its last leg. He is loved and adored by his friends and family, which speaks to the type of person Mike is. From all of us who grew up reading your work, as kids and now as adults, thank you, Mike!