Friday, January 23, 2009

Steelerettes Were 1st NFL Cheerleaders 

Posted by Sasha at 2:23 PM ET

Stephanie Watson, Reporting
Jan 22, 2009
[video report]

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ―A group of ladies has cheered on the Steelers for 48 years.

But they also made history sharing the field with them in 1961 as the first professional cheerleading squad.

We had a live band at the time on the field and that was Bennie Benack so he started playing music. And we started to dance," recalls former Steelerette Valerie Miller. "It was either 'Hello Dolly' or 'The Stripper' or we started cheering or we went out and built a pyramid."

While some things have changed, others haven't.

"The Browns used to throw things at us," says Patty Wolf.

Memory lane is paved with old uniforms and photos.

"Mary Ann Wolfe Barrington is in the front and myself, Bonnie Botti Galla. And my uniform I donated to the Heinz History Sports Center my mega phone and hat," Bonnie Botti Galla said.

Of all their memories, one sticks out.

"The day Y.A. Tittle was injured. I was very close to him. When we saw him kneeling their in pain and took off his helmet. And you could see the pain in his eyes and the blood. To me, I will never forget that when you saw a legend injured," Miller said.

It's these memories and friendships that kept the sisterhood of the Steelerettes strong, entertaining crowds from the sidelines at Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium even after they were dissolved in 1970.

And they owe much of it to the longest Steelerette who they lost six months ago to cancer.

"Diane Battiste Zinkham, a graduate of Sto-Rox, was a cheerleader in 1963, cheered for 4 years and then stayed on as the manager and adviser," says Miller. "And she is the one that really kept us going out on the field and she knew what to do at all times. She was an outstanding woman."

The Steelers to this day is one of just seven NFL teams with no cheerleaders.

"I think we're one of a kind. We're unique and as we talked before we're the first," adds Miller. "That's something no one can ever take that away from us. And just the memories and friends are the most important aspect of it all."

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