This project revives a Jersey City based newsletter from the late '50s/early '60s, and is dedicated to John White, Bobby Rey and Badd Ladd - holding a spot at the bar for us at that big Joe Crine's in the sky.
(Jersey City) 8/28 - Tony Cafiero was so impressed when he saw the new Hyatt Regency Hotel on the waterfront of Jersey City that he became obsessed with bringing his Lincoln HS class back for another reunion just two years after they held a 48 year reunion at Newark Airport. Tony noted that former Jersey City classes had been staying away from this City and either holding their reunions out of town or shooting in and out to a restaurant here on the day of the reunion. As a life long resident of this town, Tony was proud of its rebirth and he wanted to share it with his old friends and classmates. Although some classmates could not make the long trek back again, there were others including Irene Seligman Ellis, Tony Volante and Holcombe Berggren who came in from the west coast after not being available for the last reunion party. Everyone was impressed with the changes in town and the beautiful setting. Those who were living in Hudson County or staying here a day early were treated to a Senior Citizens Boatride, Friday, on the Hudson River where they got a view of the developing waterfront as well as the NYC skyline and the sites of the lower New York Bay. The festivities continued that evening with a welcome cocktail party at the hotel and on Saturday afternoon the group did various things including visiting New York and Hoboken and riding the light rail. Saturday evening's dinner dance was the crowning event and on Sunday morning the reuning continued on with groups brunching at the hotel and other local in spots. Most of the revelers said their good byes and drifted out of town but Tony and Barbara Volante were having such a good time that they extended an extra day and joined with Holcombe and Jed and went to a Polish Festival in the afternoon and dinner at Casa Dante Sunday evening.
The Dickinson H.S. Class of June '54 held its 50th yr reunion on Saturday September 25th at the Hilton Hotel in Elizabeth NJ. One hundred guests attended, 61 of that number were classmates.
The celebration consisted of a cocktail hour where each person picked up a name tag containing their yearbook photo. (Oh what fun!) Some even carried their Gnomes to be signed again.
Dinner was preceded by a group picture taken by a professional photographer, and was followed by a Viennese table. An open bar was available all evening as was dancing to '50s music provided by a DJ. Several joke prizes were awarded during the course of the event, i.e.- the one who traveled the furthest (Califiornia); one with the most children (7) ; most grandchildren (17); married longest (48 yrs) etc..
Favors and booklets were distributed and deceased were honored with a moment of silence. The M.C. was the former class president, George Chelak who came in from Scottsdale, Arizona. Many of the group stayed overnight at the hotel and were treated to a buffet breakfast the next morning. After that it was "Good bye" again with the hopes that old acquaintances were renewed and new ones were begun.
The committee members - Angela and Joe Kiernan, Marie DiMatteo Williams, Madelyn and Raymond Bischoff and Robert and Frances Oppici - were thrilled and exhausted. Their 6 months of planning and preparation proved successful, but they were unable to answer the most asked question: "When is the next one?"
Ferris held their 50 year reunion at the Casino in the Park on October 23rd, but Ed Shara called for his Snyder pals to get together out of town last year. St Michael's held their 50th reunion in Pt Pleasant, St Als Academy had and additional party to their annual all class reunion in Spring Lake the women from '54 got together at Bernie Sweeney's other place - the Shore Casino and St Al's held their 50th in Eatontown on the same day as the Donovan's party. St Peter's Prep came together back in Jersey City with people coming in from all over the country for their big 50th. Lincoln HS's other class of '54 (Jan.) also held a reunion out of town earlier in the year.
In other reunions, Joe Hajcak and friends from Assumption held a 35th reunion and Rich and Barbara Kennedy did a late season reunion which was like a Ray Cash's lite (without the pool) at their Shore condo
(Sea Bright) 9/18 - This annual event has surely become the Queen of the Reunion circuit and no more was it evident then on this bleak threatening day when so many made their way to the little town of Sea Bright. These attendees were driven by the same words "We don't see each other often enough." that were uttered by Eddie Bowler when he conceived of these parties following the passing of his lifelong friend George Koffenberg. On entering the parking lot the place appeared deserted, but the menacing weather had driven the crowd inside which just tended to make the party more intimate. Within a few hours the crowd continued to come and eventually overflowed out into the patio area. There were regulars at the party and others who said that they had meant to come in the past but finally got around to it - and old connections were re-established while new connections were made. Kevin Crane finally got to meet his legendary hero, Ropey Thrunk and when one of the women who was attending for the first time told Jed that she used to live behind No. 11 school and Jed responded that she must have known Tina Meyer, the woman shot back - "It's me!!!" All of this prompted Marge McGovern McGovern to volunteer to provide name tags for next September's party.
Although it had been a year since PPD left us, his spiritual influence continued to be present. His dear Basia who had cared for him and been with him at the end, easing his last minutes, this year lost her own dad on September 27 (the anniversary of PPD's death). The Daily News ran a contest for stories about the most memorable Yankee - Red Sox incident with the prize being a "Who's Your Daddy" NY Yankee T shirt that had been taken off the market by the League after they deemed it to be too controversial. Jed recalled an incident that involved PPD and promised to send the "Daddy" shirt to Basia if he won. The next day's paper awarded Jed one of the shirts and the Sports Editor called to compliment him on his story (reprinted below), but he told Jed that he would have to mail the shirt to the Czech Republic himself.
MY DADDY - and the Red Sox vs. Yankee rivalry I shared my most memorable Yankee - Red Sox moment with MY DADDY. My daddy was a teacher/professor/engineer who always worked several jobs to support his family, but always made time to relate to his children. As the oldest male child, I got to reap the benefits of his love for baseball when he brought me to Yankee Stadium many times dating back to before I even understood the fine points of the game. As I learned the game of baseball I also found out that my dad had some favorite Yankees - namely DiMaggio and Rizzuto. By 1949 I had become almost as big a fan as he was and although we only saw one game in person that year (the Yanks vs. Cleveland) together, we listened to many on the radio. Near the conclusion of a tight pennant race between the Yanks and Red Sox, we rushed home from school and work to listen to a crucial game together in late September. The Yankees beat the Sox that day and the turning point of the game and the pennant race was a play where Phil Rizzuto squeezed home Joe D who was coming back from an injury to again lead the Yankees to the pennant. I had never seen my daddy so excited - his two favorite players combined on the most exciting play in the game to bring home another championship. We attended and watched games together in the later years but never had a closer relationship over baseball than that "Summer of '49". And when David Halberstram wrote a book with that title, I bought it as a present for my father's 80th birthday and had it autographed by Phil Rizzuto. I told Phil that I hoped my dad would live to see him make the Hall of Fame and happily that came to pass. My dad enjoyed reading the book and recalling that 1949 baseball season and especially that exciting squeeze play and, of course, he cherished The Scooter's personalized inscription. My daddy always respected the Red Sox as the powerful rival team that they were - last year when my dad was 94, I was reading Halberstram's book "The Teammates", to him. He was thoroughly enjoying the very touching story about 4 of the Red Sox of that era when he passed away just before we got to the final chapters. I know that this year MY DADDY has the best seats in the house and will be "watching over" his Yankees to help them in any way that he is able to again beat the Red Sox.
The JJ jinx continued as Don Kennedy and Gov. Jim McGreevey who had their photos in the previous issue have been affected. Don Kennedy's death was expected and the Governor actually suffered a political "death" and resigned from office. Some other recent passings included the parents of people who had been in previous issues - Basia Pawerova's father, Angie San Incencero's dad and Mike Coyne's mom.
FYI: There will be a memorial mass for Don Kennedy at Saint Peter's college on Monday January 24 at 5 o'clock. A reception will follow in the Pavonia Room. The peacocks play Siena at 7 in the Rec center. Anyone interested in attending can contact Fred Cranwell at 201-915-9162 or click on the link below to email Fred. The Don Kennedy Party photos were limited by space in the last issue so they are included on the link below as well as the Photo Tribute to Mayor Cunningham being posted on Joe Harkins' guest book site.
John Gomez of the Jersey City Landmarks Preservation Commission has been putting out a delightful column in the JERSEY JOURNAL every Wednesday. The columns touch on the remaining links to the City's past history and are well researched and include rarely historical photos. One recent article about the elevated trolley line that ran to Hoboken included a photo of the trestle bridge across Newark Ave. This view was different from all the later photos that appear in the Jersey City picture books because it did not have the additional supporting girders that were added around 1945 but the sagging that required those supports was already evident. By clicking at the link below you can access and read John's recent columns but to see the photos you will have to get the hard copy of the newspaper.
(Jersey City) 10/23 - As part of the USA TODAY's Make a Difference program, the folks at the Joan Doherty Lovero New Jersey Room at the Main Library called for volunteers to help with the cataloging and preserving of some recently discovered resources that had been inherited from the now defunct Jersey City Historical Society. Among the 5 dozen interested volunteers who donated their time and expertise to assist Cynthia Harris with this worthy project were John Gomez, Leon Yost, Mellissa Holloway, Dr. Carmella Karnoutsos, Kevin Crane, Joe Harkins and many others who thoroughly enjoyed their chore of dusting off and rediscovering the past.
Kultchure is back in dis town as Tom DeGise and Mariano Vega have begun a coffee house concert series that will open the beautiful Brennan Courthouse to the public's use every third Friday of the month. - - And Art Fedman and Jed have joined the Radioland Players and will be doing their first performance at Havana Bay Coffee -8:30 on Saturday Nov. 13th. - - Louie the barber Andreau is away in Greece to visit his metera for a few weeks. - Bill Donohue and Joe the Druggist Ferrara were in Roma at the same time last month. Joe took a sight seeing balloon trip to get a better view of the Eternal City.- - Cookie Cappelli did some touring herself while in UK to attend Oxford U - - Carol and Tony Taddeo stopped into Jersey City's Irish Fest while in town to attend the new winemaking school on Newark Ave. - - Ed Bowler made his annual trip to Key West to catch the Halloween parade of cross dressers, while Jed attended the original parade in Greenwich Village and marched in the parade as Mr. Five (his version of Mr. Six who dances in the Great Adventure commercials. - - Jed also danced around town in the costume to bring attention to Jerry Healy in his Jersey City Mayoral Campaign. - - Jugger and Melanie Donnelly planned to come to town for the Yankee v Cardinals World Series that never materialized. - - Crazy Tissy was blessed with her new grandson Mathew Ferro and she gets to change his diapers as he is living in the upstairs apartment of her Hoboken townhouse. The bad news for Tis was the horrible injury suffered by her nephew in Cheyenne where he became paralyzed when he suffered a freak accident while away at college. - - Bob Fodor was so impressed with the treatment and results of the heart procedure he received at St. Barnabas Hospital that he gave a little back by sponsoring a performing clown at their children's ward. - - Mary Ilvento had successful surgery for a cataract in one of her eyes to be followed soon by the other one. - - Andy Sydor had his eyes redone so that he will never need contacts or glasses again and now he can REALLY see the things he is describing as a guide on the Grey Line Guided tours. - - JJ readers Dorothy Woerner and Ed Eagan were featured in an article in Jersey City Magazine about the town's lifelong residents. - - Chis Lucas announces that besides his NYC Christmas tour he added a Fall foliage tour this year. He also announces the birth of his son Sean Edward. - - Captain Bill was the proud father of the bride Josie Ann. - - Jerry McGrellis and Basia Pawerova finally completed work for their Masters Degrees. - - Robbie finished up his summer by going to Yankee and Met games with Jed and his Little League coach John Brunn. - - Robbie also attended Billy Driscoll's basketball camp near Atlantic City and while there with him Jed got to visit with Jack Schaeffer and sister Yvonne and hubby Ken Albers. - - Dennis Carey, formerly of the Red Blazer, has opened a new joint on 42nd St called the Times Square Brewery - music 7 nights a week, all are invited. - - Danny Lamega's annual Christmas Benefit will be held at the Casino in the Park on Dec 12 and then Bernie Sweeney is honoring Danny for 50 years of performing with a party at the Casino in February - - Ben Schlossberg has gone into production on an album of his songs but already has a built in market at Howell Twsp HS whose championship chours performs on the album. Ben did a concert at the school and also performed his song "Asbury Park" at the Asbury Park City Council meeting. - - Ben's friend Steve Friedland aka Brute Force performed at the NYC coffee shop called the Housing Project - - Milestone birthdays as Dietra Wright (Jed's decent ex) will NOT be in Paris as planned for her 60th but instead will play host to sister Donna visiting Seattle. - - Meanwhile as hard as it was to believe that Peter Dimatteo was 50 last year it is almost inconceivable that Phyllis Del Re is going to hit the big 5 0 late in November.
References to professional sports in Jersey City generally conjure up thoughts of baseball - the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Jersey City Giants and their predecessors the Skeeters. But for eleven seasons the city was home to professional football clubs as well.
New York Giants owner John "Tim" Mara obtained a franchise for Jersey City in the American Football Association in 1938. The Jersey City Giants would be the New York Giants' farm team and compete with the other league teams in Danbury, Newark, Union City, Clifton, Paterson and Brooklyn. Most of Jersey City's roster was comprised of players cut by New York including Ken Strong, All American back with NYU, and "Dutch" Kline who shared the TCU backfield with "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh. The club had a remarkable first season. Forget their 8-1 record and league championship. The Jersey City Giants so dominated the league defensively that the seven points scored against them by the victorious Danbury Trojans were the only points Jersey City allowed in their two preseason and nine regular season games. The Giants drew well at the gate catching the attention of the National Football League. A report out of New York claimed the NFL was considering transferring its troubled Pittsburgh franchise elsewhere and that Roosevelt Stadium was an option.
The 1939 season saw the Giants open at 0-3-1 but beginning with a 30-0 rout of the Brooklyn Eagles at Ebbets Field the club clicked off seven straight victories, but only enough for a third place finish behind the Newark Tornadoes and Wilmington Clippers in the league's Southern Division. Marty Glickman, who's broadcasting career would span decades, played his only season for Jersey City at halfback and defensive back in 1939. 1940 brought the return of Ken Strong from the parent club and the return of the league championship to Jersey City
Tim Mara sold the club two weeks before the start of the 1941 season and began feeding players to the Paterson Panthers. The new Jersey City Giants ownership struck agreements with Cleveland and Detroit of the NFL but the top NFL cuts had already signed with other minor league clubs. A third American Football Association championship was not in the cards and the Giants dropped to 4-4-2. Following the 1941 season the league suspended operations pending the conclusion of the wars in Europe and the Pacific.
In 1946 the league reemerged with teams in Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, Long Island, Wilmington, Scranton, Bethlehem and Akron. Jersey City Giants' management reestablished the club's previous affiliation with the New York Giants receiving ten players including a top-flight quarterback in Jim Blumenstock.
Following a 28-7 exhibition loss to the New York Giants at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City returned to the form that brought it championships in 1938 and 1940. After winning their first five league ballgames the Giants faced the undefeated Bethlehem Bulldogs at Roosevelt Stadium. The Giants were down 10-0 well into the fourth quarter but the fans were about to be treated to a classic finish. With seven minutes left Blumenstock completed two passes to George Cheverko totaling 68 yards, the second resulting in a touchdown, to pull within 10-7. After the Giants held Bethlehem on the next series of downs, Jerry Niles was inserted at quarterback, replacing the injured Blumenstock. Niles, who would star for the New York Giants the following season, guided a four play scoring drive to put Jersey City on top for the first time. But the Bulldogs responded with their own touchdown drive to regain the lead 17-14. With 23 seconds remaining Niles returned and completed a pass to Johnny Lascari good for a 40 yard gain, leaving the Giants within field goal range. But coach Bill Owens would not settle for a tie at home. Niles next pass attempt was knocked down as time ran out but an off side penalty gave the Giants another shot. With no time on the clock Niles connected with Lascari in the end zone for the winning score sending the home crowd into an uproar. The Jersey Journal described the contest as "the most thrilling football game seen in these parts".
An estimated 2,500 Jersey City Giants loyalists traveled to Valley Stream and witnessed the Giants 14-10 defeat of the Long Island Indians. Following their only defeat of the season, to Paterson, the Giants crushed the Wilmington Clippers, Scranton Miners and Paterson Panthers to finish the regular season 9-1.
On December 8 Jersey City faced the Akron Bears, winners of the Western Conference, for the American Association championship at Roosevelt Stadium. The 20,600 fans in attendance roared as Bears quarterback, Owen Goodnight, fumbled the snap from center on an extra point attempt, handing the Giants a 14-13 victory. It was a bad day for Goodnight and Akron but a good one for Jersey City who captured their third league championship in five seasons. Each of the victorious Giants teammates received a $237.08 share of the playoff pool. Jersey City's fullback, Gordon Paschka, was honored as the leagues leading ground gainer.
With the exception of right end Marty O'Hagan, all of Jersey City's 1946 skill position starters found homes on NFL rosters the following season. In 1947 there was no speed in the Giants' backfield to take advantage of the strong offensive line and the club slipped to a 5-5 record and third place in the Eastern Division.
Though it was widely considered pro football's premier minor league circuit, inexplicably, attendance at American Football Conference games took a nosedive in 1947. Salaries had been driven up by bidding for players against pro football's other minor leagues as well as the NFL's rival All American Football Conference and red ink could be found league-wide. A local group, including Ed Franco, was negotiating to buy the franchise rather than see it fold but too few owners were interested in keeping the league afloat. Nonetheless, with three league championships in six seasons, it had been a nice run for Hudson County football fans.
Professional football returned to Roosevelt Stadium in 1963 when Jersey City joined the fledgling Atlantic Coast Football League, whose Saturday night schedule provided another quality product. The league's northern division contained clubs in Portland, Boston, Springfield, Providence, Ansonia and Mohawk Valley. Jersey City, Newark, Westchester, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh Valley, and Baltimore represented the southern division.
The team roster featured several local ballplayers including receiver Frank Melos (Emerson/Wagner), halfback Bobby Lisa (Demarest/St. Mary's of the Plains), halfback Jim Apple (Belleville/Upsala), and fullback Lou Rettino (St. Peter's Prep/Villanova). Rettino had been competing for a linebacker spot in the Green Bay Packers camp until an acute case of homesickness got the best of him.
The Jersey City Giants opened the season with what was arguably the most potent offensive backfield in the league - quarterback Bill Wojcicki, fullback Rettino, and halfbacks Lisa and Nick Cutro. The club won five of it's first six games including a doozie at Lynn, Massachusetts versus the Boston Sweepers in which the Giants overcame a 33-16 fourth quarter deficit to win, scoring 21 unanswered points.
[Note: Giants owner Sam Bartoletta provided fans with bus transportation to several of the away games and some friends and I took advantage. Upon boarding the bus taking us to the Sweepers game we noticed that the isle was blocked with tubs filled with Budweiser on ice and boxes filled with sandwiches (Actually, we didn't notice the sandwiches). The last seat on the left side of the bus was designated our makeshift rest room. One by one, when nature called, we would pee in an empty beer can and toss the contents out the window. En route, while I was standing next in line I noticed that the guy driving the car behind us had his windshield wipers going on that cloudless afternoon. That image has been etched in my memory for forty-one years.]
The Giants returned home to prepare for a match-up with the reigning ACFL champion Newark Bears at Newark's Schools Stadium. This was the first time pro teams from Newark and Jersey City had faced off since the 1949 International League baseball season. Despite beefing up the roster with defensive tackle Lorenzo Stafford (Dallas Cowboys) and defensive back Lee Riley (Green Bay Packers) the club took a 35-14 shellacking at the hands of the Bears. Johnny Amabile, head coach at Lincoln High School at the time and former St. Peter's Prep and Holy Cross quarterback, was next to join the Jersey City Giants roster helping the club win two of it's final three games, finishing with a respectable 7-3 record.
1964 saw several changes to the Giants. Nick Cutro replaced Johnny Dell Isola as head coach. The Giants, who had formed a working agreement with the New York Jets, received fullback Noble Milton from the parent club. Rounding out the starting backfield was Amabile at quarterback, and halfbacks Bobby Lisa and Willie Stinson. Harry Massey, former Lincoln High all-state tackle, joined the Giants defensive line.
After winning their opener Jersey City dropped an exciting 24-21 contest to the Newark Bears at Roosevelt Stadium before 10,500 raucous fans, wasting Amabile's 260-yard passing effort. Jersey City returned the favor two weeks later, though, defeating the Bears in Newark 10-7. Running back Bill Perkins (Snyder/Iowa) was assigned to Jersey City by the Jets and helped the Giants cruise past Harrisburg, Providence, Atlanta, Mohawk Valley and Hartford before being recalled. The Giants continued to dominate winning another five to complete a ten-game win streak but their final 11-3 tally left them in second place behind Newark in the ACFL's Southern Division.
Following the conclusion of the 1964 season Newark, Providence, Hartford and Richmond bolted the ACFL to join the Continental Football League. A revamped ACFL added teams in New Bedford and Holyoke, Ma, and Scranton, Pa. Owner Sam Bartoletta changed the club's name from Giants to Jets reflecting the club's arrangement with it's New York parent.
Running backs Bobby Lisa and Noble Milton returned to the 1965 squad and were joined in the Giants' backfield by two quality newcomers - signal caller Johnny DeNoia (Lehigh) and halfback Dave Hoppman (Iowa State). DeNoia beat out Buddy Gangemi (Dickinson/St. Mary's, Kansas.) and Charlie Cocuzza (Upsala) for the starting job. Defensive end Jim Toon was released by the parent Jets and helped bolster an already formidable defensive unit. Jersey City was 6-0 in mid-September when word arrived from Shea Stadium that the New York Jets intended to send quarterback John Huarte down to Jersey City. Huarte had won the Heisman trophy at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Jets along with Joe Namath. The Jersey Journal called the report "unconfirmed and unlikely". The paper was right. Besides, the Jersey City Jets had the ACFL's leading passer in DeNoia.
The club went 11-0 before losing a rain-plagued contest to the Mohawk Valley Indians 14-9 but revenge can be sweet as it was two weeks later. On the final day of the regular season, Jersey City crushed the Indians 63-0 on "Kids Night" at Roosevelt Stadium amassing 733 total yards of offense. That yardage and Denoia's 25th touchdown pass of the season set ACFL records.
The 12-2 Southern Division champs traveled to New Bedford to face the Sweepers for the ACFL championship. The Jets' only two losses during the season occurred during rainstorms and downpours in the New Bedford area turned their football field into a quagmire. The Jersey City Jets were not "mudders" and dropped their third game of the year in the sauce, a hard fought 13-9 decision to the Sweepers.
The Jersey City Jets could boast about their home-grown talent but the players provided them by the New York Jets helped mold the franchise into the class of the league, owning a 23-5 regular season record during the 1964 & 1965 campaigns. Perhaps the most talented of Sonny Werblin's gifts arrived in 1966 in the form of Bobby Schweickert, the All American quarterback/halfback from Virginia Tech. Versus the Scranton Miners, the versatile back rushed the ball nine times for 189 yards and completed 10 of 15 passes for 165 yards. At Waterbury he accumulated 113 yards rushing, 164 passing, and 46 receiving. He led the league in total rushing yardage with an astounding 9 yards per carry. DeNoia was once again the circuit's top passer despite sharing the duties with Schweickert and both were instrumental in the Jets compiling an 8-3-1 record. Two other contributors of note were leading receiver Rick Jackson and defensive back Randy Beverly who had nine interceptions.
The shifting of franchises from one city to another each season was becoming the rule rather than the exception and did not bode well for the league. Cracks in the ACFL's framework widened in 1966 when, on September 10, six hours prior to kickoff, the league commissioner notified Sam Bartoletta that the New Bedford Sweepers were not making the trip to Roosevelt Stadium for their scheduled contest with Jersey City. Based on advance sales and pre-game interest the largest crowd of the season had been expected and the Jersey City Police were summoned to turn around the thousands of cars arriving at Droyer's Point (My Dad and I were in one of them). The only explanation offered by Butch Songin, the Sweepers owner, was that the parent Boston Patriots had not provided his club the promised talent needed to compete for another championship. To make matters worse the Atlantic City Senators folded within two weeks of the incident followed by the Lowell Giants and the Rhode Island Broncos. On October 20 a completely undermanned team from a Baltimore area league substituted for the defunct Lowell Giants and were walloped by the Jets 65-0. The game was not nearly as close as the score would indicate.
All of this virtually destroyed the credibility the Jersey City Jets and the ACFL had been building with Hudson County fans. In a special promotion city and county merchants purchased 19,000 tickets for the season finale at Roosevelt Stadium but ninety percent of them went unused. It was time for minor league football and Jersey City to part ways...almost.
Jersey City's "last hurrah" in pro football terms occurred in 1970 after remnants of the Atlantic Coast Football League and the Continental Football League merged to form yet another version of the ACFL. Jersey City was provided with a franchise from the failed CFL - the Jersey Jays - who were 7-5 in 1969 and played to empty seats in Newark. Some of the more noteworthy players on the squad were quarterback Rick Cassata (Syracuse), halfback Mike Campbell (Lenoir-Ryne), fullback Pete Jilleba (Alabama), flanker Don Shanklin (Kansas), linebacker Milt Balkum (Cincinnati), and defensive tackle Rudy Sims (Florida). The Jays' NFL parent was the Cleveland Browns who provided eight players to the club. Jersey Jays management arranged several promotions including "Giveaway Night" for the Jays home opener. I wasn't there but they must have given away some nice stuff for 18,204 to show up.
After three games quarterback Rick Cassata was struggling and the Jays arranged to have veteran Bob Davis optioned to them from the New York Jets. The Jays, who started with a 1-4 record had their coming-out party at home versus the Richmond Saints to the tune of 56-21. Davis passed for six touchdowns and flanker Don Shanklin caught nine balls for 314 yards, both ACFL records. The Jays used the win to build momentum and, winning a 37-31 thriller at Indianapolis, evened their record at 4-4. Three games later, after Davis was recalled to the Jets, Cassata set a league record of his own completing 25 of 46 passes for 508 yards versus Hartford.
The Jersey Jays completed their only season in Jersey City 7 up and 5 down. No further minor league football records would be broken at Roosevelt Stadium. But the professional football teams that performed there were 87-34-4 and not one had a losing season. Not shabby. If the Jersey City Baseball Giants had been that successful they might still be playing in the ballpark demolished before its time.
When the first JEDSEY JOURNAL in more than 30 years came out in 1996, it carried a story of Fr. Tommy Carlton meeting Jed for the first time in an even longer period of time. The reported story was that one of the first things that Fr. Tom wanted to know form Jed was if he had heard anything from Walter Chuckabula. Walt could have been the greatest football player ever to play in Jersey City. The story was that he played his high school ball at one of those west Hudson County high schools and graduated at 16 and enlisted in the army for several years where his body matured, and he played service ball. He made a contact at the U of Illinois and after a year, where he starred on their freshman team, he had been granted an athletic scholarship only to be called back to Jersey City to get a construction job to support his mother's medical bills. In Jersey City he signed to play football with the Hudson Hornets semi-pro team, which was stacked with great talent and only needed a fine running back to put them over the top. As reported in the clippings above the Hornets were a juggernaut sparked by Chuckabula's great talent. The team was supposed to run through the season undefeated despite playing all of their games on foreign turf, because they did not have a home field of their own. Then following a big Jersey City street rally they would bus to some town in the outlands of New Jersey and win the championship game on some late game heroics by Chuckabula. That was the script that never came to fruition, because Charlie the Priest was running a beer party to fund his return to the seminary, and he got mad at Jed for slipping some party tickets Robert Mcloughlin and Ed Bowler whom he considered persona non grata. To punish Jed for this deed, Charlie went to Ed Grant at the JERSEY JOURNAL (who he had known at the from his days as a manager for the Prep teams) and told him that WALT CHUCKABULA was a figment of Jed's overactive imagination, and that all of the Hudson Hornet stories being fed to the JERSEY were bogus. The great Chuckabula scam was finished, and all the work and planning that had gone into it were lost. The construction of the team had been done by committee. The big twins, Karl and Anton Jucides, who played both ways on the line were taken right out of John White's sister's classroom register. The only two players whose names were based on real people were QB - Joe Greer (based on Joe Greer from Oratory and Elizabeth) and FB - jarring Jon Kwirk (based on John Quirk, a 98 pound asthmatic from Jersey City). By coincidence both John Quirk and Joe Greer are College department heads and will be reported on in our next issue. One night before the football season Ed Bowler was going to be late for a summer basketball league game at Audubon Park, and Jed agreed to fill in for him until he got there, but Jed told of his upcoming scheme and insisted on playing under the name of Walt Chuckabula. The other team ran off to an 8 - 0 lead to open the game, but Jed put back an offensive rebound over a cursing Don Brandes as both Jimmy McLaughlin and Robert McLoughlin shouted "Chuckabula" to make sure the scorer transmitted the name of what was to be a future legend for his first appearance on the sports pages of the JERSEY JOURNAL.
Tony Volante has fond recollections growing up in Jersey City and of playing gigs with his band, which was named "4 Sharps and a Flat", and then the five of them having to get in fist fights at the end of the night to collect the three dollars each they were contracted for. As a 17 year old Lincoln HS student, he was also able to join the Air National Guard at Newark Airport and kept up the connection until he received an Rotc commission coming out of Fordham. While on active duty all over the Country his units supported all the Cold War air lifts and when he retired from active duty he continued in the Air Guard and eventually mustered out with the rank of Brigadier General. Tony is retired and living with his wife Barbara in Port Hueneme California where he has entered local politics and serves on the town counsel and where he has previously served two terms as Mayor. He was flabbergasted to see the changes that have taken place back in Jersey City and like so many others he admits that his heart is still here.
It took a Holcombe Berggren visit back to the East Coast to recall this story, but on Election Day 1948, Jackie (Jed)Dimatteo was perhaps the only one in town to fall asleep with the knowledge that Truman had won the election.
With the day off from PS 17 Holcombe and Jackie had gone over to Salmon's on Gifford Ave to play - some time after lunch they were teasing little Georgie Mills and chased him into his alley way only to be confronted by his strapping brother Andy. Hoke and Jack went into reverse gear and ran out across Gifford but in his panic Jack never saw the huge Newman's Furniture van until it was too late. Hoke attested later that Jackie was knocked about 10 feet through the air and banged his head on a large tree in front of Kanegeiser's. Jack got up and tried to go home only to collapse. Dr. Kanengeiser came out of his office but there were no Good Samaritan laws yet, so he advised Jed to have his parents take him to a doctor for ex rays etc. Then Holcombe helped load Jack into the Newman's truck and guided the driver to the Dimatteo house on Belmont. Hoke recalled that later Jackie told him that he had used up one of his lives because if a truck runs you down you are supposed to be dead.
At home a doctor was called and said that x-rays could wait as it looked like Jack had a suffered a slight concussion and a sprained ankle - he prescribed a few aspirins and bed rest, so Jack took the pills and slept for 3 hours and into the early evening. When he awoke he felt better so he wanted to lie in bed and hear the evening radio programs all night, but to his dismay found that the regularly scheduled Tuesday night programs had all been replaced with boring election results. Besides that, the results were so one sided that they were already declaring a victory for Thomas Dewey and having slept for 3 hours it was impossible to fall back asleep to escape this boring repetition of the same figures and projected outcome. AND THEN - perhaps at around 11:30 the numbers started to change - by the time Jackie was able to nod off at around 1:30, the news reporters had switched the winner's tag to Truman. Jack stayed home from school on Wednesday but he was the only one waking up in Jersey City who was not surprised by the election results.
In the early 1940's Jeff/Geoff Hermes and I had not yet crossed paths but a spiritual bond was already being forged as we both received a board game called All Star Baseball for Christmas. The game bore the name of Ethan Allen which I used to think was a reference to the guy who ran around the Green Mountains like Vermont's version of Natty Bumpo. Then I come to find out he was a retired lifetime .300 hitter who actually invented the first attempt at a computer/fantasy baseball game. What he did was take the records of the players in each year's All Star game and translate those stats into discs which were proportionally segmented to represent actual performance of actual players. These discs were placed on a spinner and the number that came up represented what the batter did on that at bat. Babe Ruth had a bigger area designated as a home run compared to someone like Pee Wee Reese, so the outcomes were realistic although the influence of the pitchers was not a factor.
By the time we moved to Belmont Ave. I had received a second version of the game and had come in contact with other kids who liked this game - I most often played with the Joe and Charley Anton and one day when their little cousin Vito Mastromonico was visiting we held a four man tourney. Wally Berman and his brother also had the game and once on a summer stay in the Catskills I met a kid from the Bronx and either or both of us had our game with us and we played every day. Jeff/Geoff moved over from Kensington to Belmont a little before we arrived there. He had been involved here with Skippy Gunnip and Bobby Ploeger who each had the game.
By 1950 the we introduced the game to the neighborhood and everybody was not only playing but keeping voluminous records. Jeff/Geoff and I had been taught by our dads how to use slide rules to figure out batting averages and we shared this technique with the others. In '50 and '51 we played leagues and Jeff and I represented the American and National League and finished our seasons with a World Series. Dave Williams had the minor league players in his Pacific Coast League. During the year we may have traded a player or two between our own teams and between leagues but no player was allowed to be on more than one of our teams. Richie Cosgrove, Ed Ellis, Sean Anito, John Sullivan and many others were also keeping their own independent leagues and notebooks full of stats.
Years later, in college, Ed Ellis and I revisited the game and attempted to incorporate pitchers abilities etc. and we modified the game somewhat. Later Ed discovered Strat-O-Matic baseball which was a further attempt to give more realism but that game didn't have the charm of All Star Baseball. I had always felt that the management of teams and the calculating of various averages gave me a feel for life techniques, probability of outcomes and a general feel for numbers that transcended the little board game and when Robbie was about 7 or 8 and getting interested in baseball, I contacted the manufacturer only to find out that ASB had been discontinued. Recently I did find the game being manufactured again and offered for sale on the Internet and Jeff/Geoff noted that as collector's items these old games were fetching $150 for a game found in someone's attic that once cost $1.50. Robbie and I had started to play again, and I thought this was worth a story to recall our memories of 50 years ago, so I sent out a general email to those who I thought might be interested. Among the nostalgic responses there arrived the following surprise memo from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. He still plays the game and he has put us in touch with a group of guys who meet on the Internet to not only talk about the old days but to still play the game and develop new discs that span the minor leagues, the dead ball era and even the Japanese League. One of the guys even knows Ethan Allen who he quotes as saying "I can't believe what has happened. I originally designed this game for 8 to 10 year olds."
When Krys returned to Canada he had to go to the DMV to apply for a a new driver's license. He has to take an eye sight test. The examiner showed him a card with the letters
C Z J W I X N O S T A C Z
"Can you read this?" the examiner asked.
"Read it?" replied Krys, "I know the guy."
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