Steratore earned letters in four varsity sports at Washington High School – football and basketball for three years, track as a sophomore and baseball as a junior and senior.
“I played on an undefeated basketball team,” Steratore recalled. “We got beat in the WPIAL finals by Farrell. We went 23-1 in 1952. Our football team lost the last game of the year to Donora or we we’d have been in the playoffs. Our baseball team went to the semifinals of the WPIAL.”
He garnered All County honors at running back as a junior and a senior and when he graduated in 1952 he was highly recruited as a football player.
“Joe Paterno tried hard to recruit me,” Steratore offered. “He was an assistant at Penn State and spent two or three days a week at my house.”
Steratore enrolled at Duke, but changed his mind and instead opted to go to Pitt. No binding letter of intent rules allowed him to make the switch without sitting out a year.
He was a three-year letterman for the Panthers at running back and defensive back. He missed his senior season with a shoulder separation and missed out on playing in the 1956 Sugar Bowl.
Here is where fate stepped in and pushed him towards becoming a sports official.
“I hated officials,” Steratore explained. “I would get technical fouls routinely and I got thrown out of a game at the YMCA in Washington, PA and I wasn’t allowed in the YMCA for six months. I hated officials and would have never considered becoming an official.”
In 1954 Steratore’s officiating career began.
“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time,” Steratore stated. “I was attending a double header basketball game at Bentleyville at Sokol Hall; one of the officials for the second game couldn’t make it.
“Mike Kindamo asked me if I could fill in and take his place. I resisted and said it was the last thing I would ever do. Kindamo persisted and asked three times. I finally said yes and after awhile I thought it was cool and started to like it.
“We went in at halftime and Kindamo looked at me and said you really like it don’t you? I said don’t tell anybody, but I like it. That was the start of it. I took the test for basketball and became a certified official.”
Steratore started to work games in the YMCA, Church and grade school leagues, junior high, junior varsity and finally got into varsity officiating.
“I was recalled to the service for a year during the Berlin crisis ( he was in the reserves), then when I got out I had been working for Parke Davis as a medical sales representative and I accepted a transfer to Uniontown.
“I ran into Disey Simon and he told me to call him. He had an accident and couldn’t work, so I replaced him. I had six games - Thursday afternoon and night, Friday afternoon and night and Saturday afternoon and night.
“Disey was the greatest thing that could have happened to a young basketball and football official in Fayette County. Before I started working college ball, I worked 45-48 games a year with Disey.”
In 1962 Steratore moved into college basketball.
“My first college game was at California University of Pennsylvania,” Steratore remembers. “I did freshman and JV games, but my first major college game was between Pitt and West Virginia. I was sitting on the Pitt bench watching the action with my old football coach Bob Timmons, when two minutes into the game, varsity referee Sheriff Tiano pulled a hamstring.
“The referees came over to me and asked me to suit up. I pointed out that I had ties with Pitt, but they said it didn’t matter and WVU coach Bucky Waters was okay with it and so was Athletic Director
“I was introduced and got a standing ovation from the crowd, they were happy to see the game continue, but the first call I made they turned on me and booed.”
Steratore got good reviews from a number of coaches and started working more college games and then moved into various conferences including the ECAC, Eastern 8, the Atlantic 10 and the Big East.
Steratore went on to officiate Division One college football for 33 years and worked 25 years in college basketball. In football he worked six Army-Navy games and nine Bowl games including the Sugar Bowl. In basketball he officiated two NCAA Tournaments, two NIT’s and one NAIA National Championship. Steratore retired from Parke Davis in 2000 and after he stopped officiating was Commissioner of the Tri State Officials Association.
He crossed paths with many great college coaches.
“WVU’s Gale Catlett was the fairest of all the coaches I have had the opportunity to work for,” Steratore opined. “John Wooden (UCLA) was easy to work for. I had him at the Steel Bowl in Pittsburgh and at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
“Bucky Waters (ex WVU coach) was a class man, Red Manning (Duquesne) was one of my favorites, Mike Rice Sr. (Duquesne) I had a lot of fun with him.”
He had some favorites on the gridiron.
“I became good friends with Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden and both were class acts,” Steratore said.
Steratore worked over 1,000 high school games and has great memories.
“I enjoyed the “high school classics” and local legends like Abe Everhart and Lash Nesser and guys like Harold “Horse” Taylor,” Steratore said. “Great memories and great games.
Steratore, 78, is divorced and resides in Uniontown and takes great pride in two sons Gene Jr. and Tony who are both NFL officials and a third son Michael who is officiating college basketball. He has four daughters: Elizabeth, Mary Sue, Joni and Kristen.
Among the honors bestowed on Steratore: Washington High School Wall of fame, inducted into the Washington-Greene County and Western Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.