James Blake, Earl Lavery, Don Cook gain Hall of Fame

The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame announced its new class of inductees on June 26, naming six prominent sports figures into its three wings.
The Hall of Fame, which is overseen by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc., will honor the newly elected Hall of Famers with an induction ceremony at the Commission’s 9th annual Sports Night awards dinner, Monday, Oct. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.
With the six new inductees, the Hall of Fame has now recognized 58 county sports legends.
Two Hall of Famers were selected in each of the three HOF Wings: Jackie Robinson Professional, James O’Rourke Amateur and J. Walter Kennedy Community Service.
In the professional category, the new inductees are James Blake (Fairfield) and Mark Hirschbeck (Stratford).
The amateur wing selections are the late Allyson Rioux (Stamford) and Dennis Paglialunga (New Canaan).
Community service winners are Don Cook (Fairfield) and Earl Lavery (Fairfield)
With the naming of Mark Hirschbeck, he joins his brother John to become the first brother tandem in the FC Sports HOF. John was inducted in 2010.
Blake, who is still active as a professional tennis player and is playing at Wimbledon this week, turned pro in 1999.
Since that time he has won 10 ATP singles titles, his first in 2002.
In 2006, his career skyrocketed with five tour victories and he reached his top world ranking at #4.
Blake played seven years on the U.S. Davis cup team and helped lead the squad to the 2007 championship.
The Fairfield High graduate is currently ranked 87th in the world and has close to $8 million in career earnings.
Hirschbeck was a Major League Baseball umpire for 16 years from 1988-2003.
When the Stratford native made his big league debut, he joined his brother John to become the first brothers to umpire together in baseball history.
He worked in     the National League from 1988-1999, and then in both leagues from 2000 until his retirement after seven games in 2003 due to a hip injury.
Hirschbeck earned two World Series assignments (1998 & 2001),  six post-season appearances and umpired the 1993 and 2000 All-Star Games.
Rioux was one of the greatest female athletes to come out of Stamford and the county.
A three-sport standout in softball, basketball and field hockey at Westhill High from 1976-79, she then focused on softball and made a name for herself as one of the nation’s top players.
After an outstanding collegiate career with one season at Rhode Island before transferring to the University of Massachusetts, where she was a second-team All-American shortstop her senior year, Rioux joined the Raybestos Brakettes.
She spent 10 years with the Brakettes as a second baseman, winning five nationals titles and finishing runner-up four times. She was the MVP of the 1985 National tourney.
When she passed away in 1989 at the age of 27, she was 8th in career games played and in the Top 20 in hits.
Rioux is a member of the National Softball Hall of Fame (2009), CT ASA Hall of Fame (1989) and the UMass Athletic HOF (2002).
Paglialunga was also a three-sport scholastic star in baseball, football and basketball at New Canaan High.
He was a two-time all-FCIAC running back who led the conference in scoring in both 1973 & ‘74, rushed for over 2,700 yards (second all-time in school history), is the career leader in carries with 557 and scored 35 touchdowns.
In baseball, he played all four years with a career .382 average and earned all-state and all-FCIAC honors.
He was a four-year starter at third base for the University of New Haven, where he is still among the school’s all-time leaders in games, hits and average.
The Chargers reached the NCAA tourney in all four of his seasons (1976-79) and three of those advanced to the Division II College World Series. Paglialunga was inducted into the UNH Hall of Fame in 1988.
Cook dedicated 50 years to college athletics and was a fixture in the county for most of those years.
He was the baseball coach at Fairfield University, his alma mater, for 19 years and the athletic director from 1971-86.
After moving upstate to the University of Hartford where he was AD from 1986-92, he returned to the town of Fairfield as the athletic director at Sacred Heart.
Cook guided the Pioneers into Division I and expanded the athletic program from 12 to 31 varsity teams before retiring after 20 years this month.
He was awarded a Gold Key in 1999 and is a member of the Northeast Conference (NEC) Hall of Fame.
Lavery was one of the state’s storied high school football coaches at Fairfield Prep from 1968-1992.
During that time he never had a losing season, won 230 games, which at the time he retired was a state record and is now seventh all-time in Connecticut, and his .801 winning percentage is also seventh best.
He won three state titles, coached four undefeated teams and won 15 MBIAC titles.
Lavery, who was an assistant football coach at Prep for nine years before becoming head man, also served as the Jesuits’ athletic director from 1970-72 and had short stints coaching golf and track.
“Duke” was elected to the CT High School Coaches Hall of Fame (1991) and won a Gold Key from the CT Sports Writers Alliance in 1996.
With Fairfield having three honorees, it is the second time one com

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