What we’re gonna do here is go back, way back, back into time.
Brooklyn, New York in the late 70’s and early 80’s to be exact. It was a different Brooklyn back then.
The Barclay’s on Flatbush and Atlantic? S.M.H.
My friends and I played outside in the streets from early morning to late into the night. Some nights we didn’t go home. We called it, “Breakin’ Night.”
Holy Name schoolyard was our favorite spot. The priests would kick us out at 10:00 PM. We played all sports. No such thing as specialization. Basketball was my favorite.
We rode the F-train to Coney Island and back (never paying our fare).
We hitched on the back of the 68 or 75 bus and rode our bikes all over New York City.
We broke balls.
We broke windows playing stickball (accidentally of course).
We didn’t have cell phones.
No one owned a gun. Not that I knew of anyway.
Our parents were not watching our every move.
We learned to be tough. You failed at something, you got back up.
We learned to fight our own battles. Sometimes.
We didn’t run home, tell mommy or daddy what happened.
Wait a minute, daddy? My dad left for good when I was six.
Mom didn’t blame the teacher when I failed a test nor did she complain to the coach if I came off the bench for the basketball team.
Best of all the friendships formed and nurtured were unbreakable. I loved the people I grew up with. They were loyal and cared about me.
Sure we argued with each other, we even had a fistfight or two. But the next day in the schoolyard we were teammates playing two-on-two.
Those were the days my friend.
A couple of years ago I had the chance to talk with Red Slavin about the disturbing incident back in June of 1977.
Whenever I see a brawl in baseball I think back to June of 1977.
Only this wasn’t your typical “Pitcher hitting batter,” dugouts empty-type fight.
On a warm sunny day at the Parade Grounds, there was a catholic youth organization baseball going on; a huge fight broke out between Holy Name and St. Finbar’s.
The players were 15 and 16 years old.
The Parade Grounds was the place to be. I witnessed so many great ball players come through there. I was lucky enough to play a few games on those fields when I was a kid.
Holy Name was handling St. Finbar’s pretty easy on this day. The coach for Holy Name was Joe Mussa (he later became Brother Joe). Holy Name had only lost one game the entire season. By the way, Mussa was my favorite teacher at H.N.S. – I had him in the 5th grade.
Holy Name’s team consisted of neighborhood guys; Kevin Maloney, Timmy Hardy, Gonzo Gonzalez, Donald Barbieri, Jose Bolono, Tommy Parker, Chris Bullock, Jody Stanizewski and Robert Price. I’m sure I’m leaving a few out.
From behind the chain-linked fence a fan from Holy Name began ribbing the Finbar players for their effort. At the conclusion of the game, some of the Finbar players had heard enough. They grabbed the antagonistic fan and began beating him up.
Seeing the fan getting attacked by the team, a Holy Name player ran over to help his friend. It’s what you did when you saw a friend getting beat up by a group.
A St. Finbar player wound up with a broken nose in the melee.
It was a mess.
One week later it got worse.
The scene was Dyker Field in Bensonhurst. Not too far from St. Finbar’s.
Only the opponent this day wasn’t Finbar’s, it was St. Bernadette.
During the course of the game tons of kids were making their way from the Golf Course towards the baseball field. They proceeded to walk through the left field fence. I don’t think they were here to watch the game. They had revenge on their mind.
Standing in the outfield, they resembled the “Baseball Fury” from the 1980’s film, “The Warriors.” You know, the wimps;
“I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a Popsicle,” My boy Ajax said.
Ajax was played by James Remar, a fine actor.
These clowns were at the game for the big payback.
The rowdy group of teens began shouting at the lonely left fielder for Holy Name.
Next thing you know they are going after him.
The entire Holy Name team seeing this, took off towards the outfield to try and help their teammate.
It was no use, Holy Name was outnumbered.
At one point, the rowdy group trapped Holy Name’s team in the dugout. After lots of yelling and screaming, they began throwing things at the scared baseball team.
“One guy took my cap so I went after him,” said Red Slavin.
The red-headed ninth avenue resident was a member of the team and within minutes was hit over the head with a baseball bat after retrieving his cap.
Red wasn’t about to let someone snatch his cap. A Holy Name baseball cap was Gold…
“I felt my left arm going crazy, then I blacked out.” He said.
Red was having a seizure.
An ambulance arrived and took him to Kings County hospital.
“I wasn’t hurt or anything. No pain, no headache.” Slavin admits.
Holy Name kids were built tough!
Also in the melee, Gonzo was whacked over the head with a bat. Luckily he had a helmet on. As a memento of that day ‘G’ still has the cracked helmet.
After the x-rays Red Slavin was diagnosed with a depressed skull fracture. He spent three days in the hospital.
Upon his discharge from the hospital Slavin went up to Bishop Ford to clean out his locker; the semester was over. Red had just completed his Freshman year. Brother Sullivan walked by and expected Slavin to take his History final.
“Brother, I have a 100 percent in History and I just spent three days in the hospital. Do I really have to take it?” Slavin pleaded.
Hearing this, Sullivan explained;
“Unless you want to attend summer school, yes, you have to take it.”
Slavin did as he was told and took the final. And being the outstanding student, Slavin aced it.
Back in the day teachers didn’t take any shit from the students.
Seven years ago right around this time, Michael Bundrick passed away.
“Bunny” was a good guy and a good basketball player. I loved him. He once had a classic line.
We can all agree that the Holy Name Summer league gave us some kind of drama each and every night of the week.
You had great players and not so great players.
Excellent teams and not so excellent teams.
You had your characters and you had your serious ball players.
You had your funny guys, that almost everyone liked and you had your schmucks whom not many people liked.
I used to love to watch Bunny play ball in the summer league. He was one of the taller guys in the neighborhood and by far one of the better inside scorers. If you knew Holy Name schoolyard you were aware of the baskets being held up by a pole. Bundrick was great at utilizing the pole to break free from his defender and shoot a sweet looking reverse lay-up.
One night during a game in the summer league Bundrick went up and grabbed the rim on an attempted lay-up. In the summer league, dunking was prohibited. You stayed off the rims. It was at this time when I heard one of the funniest lines ever at a basketball game in the schoolyard (and let me tell you, there have been many classic lines shouted out by some of the funniest guys to ever walk in the yard).
Danny Pisselli ran the league at the time was a master at discipline; he didn’t like anyone that disrespected the game or the rules; he was Roger Goodell before Roger Goodell.
After shouting to Bundrick to stay off the rim, Bunny replied;
“Danny, I’m sorry I slipped in the air.”
Here is my “Top 10 Coolest Dudes” in the neighborhood from back in the day:
1-John Corrar (“I can go for a slice, ya got wheels?”)
2-Gerard Trapp (Best basketball player to ever come out of Holy Name)
3-Jimmy, Michael and Georgie Rauthier (Tie) (Great trio of brothers)
4-Tom Brady (Old Buttercup)
5-Michael Bundrick (“I slipped in the air…”)
6-Joe Farrell (Fonz) (He once wore a white shoe lace for a headband)
7-Cadge (Awesome dude, always hanging out on the corner with his 10-speed bike)
8-John Powers (Duffer) (“Get outta here or you won’t get a piece of cake”)
9-Kenny Lawson ( I once saw him walking down Windsor Place wearing a Baltimore Orioles helmet)
10-Joe Sullivan (Breezily Bruin. ‘Ay muscle-head, get off the field’)
“What did you do there?”
In my teens I began to spend time over in the city, especially when I would play hooky from school. Hop the turnstile (or rush the gate) at 15th street-Prospect Park; catch the F-Train and ride to a place that seemed like a different world.
Here’s a story from the New York Post on Washington Square Park in the Village. Been there many times.