The summer is upon us. I figured now was the perfect time to write about the summer basketball league back in the day in the boys schoolyard.
In the next few days I will touch on some of my favorite teams.
As a kid hanging out in the yard, you looked up to the older guys. I always had my favorites and guys I didn’t like. One day it could be Gerard Trapp, another day it could be Cadge. Without a father at home, it was easy for me to cling to one of these guys. Ray Collurra’s team (also known as ‘Parkside’) was probably my favorite. Besides Collurra there was Alan Lang, Albert Esposito, Patrick Byrnes, Buddy Thompson, Ray Goffio, Michael Rauthier, Michael Bundrick and one year they had Billy Gallagher who was a very tough guard.
They also had a player whose name escapes me at the moment but we called him“Bumble Bee.” We called him that because one time he wore an outfit that resembled the colors of, well a Bumble Bee; black and yellow. (Nicknames were given to everyone, but that’s for another blog entry)
I used to love how Collurra’s team would get pumped up before the game by yelling and screaming in a big circle. I’m sure their intention was to get juiced up and possibly intimidate the opponent. The yard would be rocking right before tip-off!
Byrnes was a great rebounder, he threw great outlet passes to start the break too. Byrnes always played with a lot of energy, he also was very underrated, competed hard, and loved to talk about his team and their accomplishments.
Bundrick (A.K.A., Bunny) was another tough player who could score inside. Bunny had a classic line once when Danny Piselli, who was officiating the game told him to stay off the rim after an attempted dunk; Bunny’s response,“Danny I slipped in the air.”
Lang and Esposito were two outstanding guards that I enjoyed watching. I recall how ‘Espo’ used to shoot his free-throws by bending way down at the knees. He had a lot of energy and could be found during the day always looking to work on his game in the yard. Lang was a quick point guard who could get by his man and pull up on a dime for his jumper from the top of the key. He was one of my favorite players of all-time from the summer league. Lang might’ve been the first person in the schoolyard to take an interest in my game as a young kid. We used to talk about moves and how to get by the defender during the day (He displayed a lot of confidence, almost cocky and was probably the first person I saw wear an earring, white cons, khaki’s, pant leg rolled half way up and a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth while he played in the yard.)
Their games against Farrell’s were all-out wars. There would be a buzz in the neighborhood days leading up to the game. I loved when they played the last game of the night, under the lights. The yard would be packed. The fences surrounding the yard would be two, sometimes three deep.
The games would go back and forth. Regardless of who won, you saw great basketball.
Wish I was old enough at the time to hang out with those guys after the games and hear what they talked about well into the night. I had heard they used to hang out late afterwards discussing the game.
(Part 2 of 4)
This is the second installment on Jack Kelly; his memories of playing football down Farragut Road.
Gerard Trapp, who played QB for Farrell’s had this to say about Jack as a player:
“Jack was an excellent pass rusher. He was smart with a lot of heart. I will always remember Farrell’s vs McBears championship game. Jackie breaks past left side guard makes a tag on me that put me on my butt, head knocked against cement and put me out of game on first series of plays.”
Before Jack switched over to play with his friends at McBears, I asked Jack about that tough decision:
Container Diaries: What made you stay with Farrell’s when your friends from seventh avenue out together a team?
Jack Kelly: In 1979 McBears formed a football team by the 7th avenue guys but I stayed on Farrell’s that year and didn’t join the team until the next year. John Devaney and Mike Marona were great to play for and the guys I played with were the best on the field and off. I didn’t want to leave Farrell’s. I enjoyed playing with those guys they were good friends. They were also good teammates, every one of them. But after the year was done I knew it was my last year on Farrell’s. Heck, how often do get to play with your brother?
I would like to mention that the year I left Farrell’s they won the championship. The guys on Farrell’s playfully reminded me of that every day. They knew I loved being on Farrell’s so they knew it killed me every time they reminded.
Container Diaries: What was it like being a member of McBears, now facing your former team, Farrell’s?
Jack Kelly: As a member of McBears the games against Farrell’s were great to play in and prep for. The neighborhood was buzzing the whole week before the game, it was a rivalry like no other. I remember my first game against Farrell’s which ended 6-6. After Farrell’s scored a touchdown in the first half we scored three safeties in the second to tie the game. That was the closest we came to beating them, that is until the 1982 Championship game when we came out on top 19-7.
Some people on 9th avenue still won’t accept it but I have the Championship Trophy sitting in my house if they would like to see it!
As I get older and there are more years behind me then ahead I find myself more often looking back on those days and I begin to smile thinking of old friends.
7th avenue, Baseball, Basketball, Boreum Hill, Brownsville, Car Service, Carl Manco, Carroll Gardens, Central Michigan University, Cobble Hill, Football, Gerard Trapp, GPA, Jimmy Fallon, John Jay, Kevin Fallon, Manuel Training, New York City, Park Slope, Red Hook, Sport Prospect, Sunset Park
I love the history of sports.
Matter of fact, as a non-traditional, undergraduate student at Central Michigan University I scored a 3.5 GPA in my History of Sport class.
The history of basketball is closer to my heart; baseball and football come in at 2nd and 3rd.
Many people from our neighborhood played on the sports teams at John Jay High School located on 7th avenue. Shoot, some readers of the blog went to the school when it was called, ‘Manuel Training’.
Back in the day John Jay students walked to school, caught the bus or hopped on the train. Some kids even pulled up in front of school in a Car Service!
The red-brick building with safety gates covering the windows is located smack dab in the middle of Park Slope, Brooklyn. Across the street and up the block from the school you see multi-million-dollar brownstones, celebrity moms pushing expensive strollers and close by is one of the best elementary schools in New York City.
Over the years, John Jay was a school of last resort for transfer students or who were on the verge of dropping out. It was also a school for students who were considered to be discipline problems and could not or did not get into other schools.
I spent a very short time at Jay. I actually had 2 different stints there. But I did have some positive experiences during my tenure. Jay was a tough environment, you had to pass through school security and metal detectors at the doors. I had classmates from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boreum Hill, Sunset Park, Bed-Stuy and Brownsville. There was distractions everywhere, hence the nickname, ‘Jungle Jay’. Despite troubled students roaming the halls and hanging on the street corners, the school also produced outstanding students.
The other day my buddy Carl Manco from Sport Prospect mentioned a former basketball player from Jay that went on to play at Fordham University. He called him a “poor man’s Ernie Grunfeld”. What a great compliment. Knicks fans only remember Ernie towards the end of his career in a Knick uni but the Forest Hills graduate was a great player in college at Tennessee.
Actually, Carl and I discussed this sensational player weeks ago but his name somehow escaped us. You have to realize that Carl and I go way back when it comes to basketball but we were stumped. We reached out to as many people as possible to see if anyone remembered this player who was the main man at Jay during the 1970’s. No one remembered.
Matter of fact he was so good, he was the only player from Jay who was ever named 1st team all-city PSAL.
Thanks to Gerard Trapp for giving up the name or Carl and I would still be searching.
Kevin Fallon was the guy we were thinking of, with some extensive research, we found out he is the first cousin of comedian Jimmy Fallon. The hooping Fallon lived in Sunset Park but he was well-known around the schoolyards of Brooklyn.
When I think of basketball players of the past from the neighborhood who balled at Jay I think of Jackie Ryan, Patty Brynes, Michael Bundrick, John Corrar, Ron Hardy (East 5th street) and yours truly. Yes, this red-headed jump-shooting guard suited up for 7 games as a member of the varsity team.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the coaches at Jay that were also memorable. The football guys (John Boyle and Vincent Carbonaro) to Pete Coakley, our basketball coach. And of course, Coach Rizzo, who coached the Indians baseball team to the city championship in the early 80’s.
The past should never be forgotten, especially the positive past.
Great image sent in by Sal M from the Class of 1971. (Click on the image for the enlargement)
This is an unbelievable picture!
You have some of the best human beings to walk the face of the earth pictured here!
It’s too bad two of them are no longer with us in Joe Farrell and George Brossard.
You have Rich Ferraiolo, Tommy Smith, Jimmy Rauthier, Tommy Barrett, and Vinny Pisselli (Is he still working at MSG?)
Which brings me to this; if you could invite five people to hang out this Saturday, where would it be and whom would it be with?
First, we would start out bright and early, like 8AM in the schoolyard playing ball. We would start with a game of horse and then play some knockout. We would also include a game of taps. And of course we would go three-on-three half-court.
At lunchtime we would go up to Henry’s for a sandwich and an Iced Tea.
We’d then walk across 9th avenue over to Prospect Park and hang out on the Parkside kicking it about basketball and life. We’d tell stories about our past, our kids and of course Holy Name.
After we digest the food we’d head back to the yard for some more ball. We’d go hard on the court. We’d shoot jumpers, drive to the hole and of course, finish up with a game of Horse.
At dinner time we would head over to Joe’s Pizza on Prospect and 9th for a couple of slices. We’d grab a booth in the back while Joe would scream out to us, “How many slices you want?”
After the pizza we would head back to the yard for some more ball.
As soon as it got dark, or Monsignor Downing kicked us out, (whichever came first) we’d say good-night and head home.
My five would be Danny Pisselli, Gerard Trapp, Glenn Thomas, Jimmy Rauthier and Mary Kawas.
(The neighborhood tour continues…)
I had the same routine every time I went to the boys schoolyard.
Walk down the two flights of stairs in our apartment above Bob’s Hardware Store, basketball under my scrawny arm. (I got yelled at for dribbling in the hallway once) So I made sure to pick up my dribble while in the building; totally going against the old adage, ‘never pick up your dribble’.
Standing idle on the corner of 9th avenue and Windsor Place, but working on my ‘handle’ facing the convent waiting for the red light to turn green I would cross the two-way avenue and head down Windsor towards Howard Place. (Did I ever tell you about the time Mrs. Deere grabbed me when I tried to walk against the red light?)
Arriving to the other side safely, I always picked up my pace and pushed the dribble out in front of me down Windsor. I’d hang a hard right onto the small block they called Howard Place which was sandwiched between Windsor and Prospect avenue. (I’m going to have to do some researching and find out why it was called Howard and whatnot)
Isn’t it ironic that Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt filmed a movie on the corner of Howard and Windsor called, ‘As Good As It Gets’.
Anyways, as I dribbled up the block always working on my left hand, I could hear the birds chirping in the trees, people talking or arguing across the street on their front porches and even observing some of the kids out on the street playing ball or riding their bikes.
Howard Place had a line of homes on one side of the block; the other side being Holy Name school of course. I’d say there were approximately 30 houses on the block, give or take one.
Thanks to Brownstoner.com I located a photo of Howard Place.
I always thought it would be cool to live on Howard because you could always see who was in the yard. Also, the front porches seemed like a great spot to hang out and shoot the breeze.
The first family I recall on the block were the Corrigans; They lived closer to Windsor. They were a good wholesome family. Excellent athletes and overall down to earth ‘peeps’.
You also had the Rutter’s and Cottingham’s a few doors up going towards Prospect Avenue.
Who could forget Mr. Zoli the mysterious resident at 19 Howard.
Often times, I recall trying to avoid a bunch of the neighborhood guys playing poker right on the sidewalk outside the school; that’s right, there’d be a bunch of fella’s tossing coins in the pot, raising or seeing their neighbor.
This group took up most of the sidewalk, formed in a large circle. You either walked around them in the street or you stopped and watched the current game until the hand was complete and some lucky soul was pulling in the cash with both arms from the winning pot, while the losers moaned and groaned, slapping their losing hand to the concrete. I enjoyed watching the game, I had a desire to learn the game.
The Trapp’s were probably the most popular family on the block, for many reasons of course. Mainly though, it was their red hair (nah just kidding).
It was basically their involvement in basketball in the neighborhood, the most popular sport…(Go ahead, try to debate that one, pundits)
If you didn’t have a basketball with you, which at times I didn’t, you had free reigns to go down the Trapp’s basement stairs and grab one. When you were done playing you walked back to their house and tossed it back!
Gerard, who I deeply admired growing up was the best. He was a six-foot-five guard who could do it all. He was a star at All Hallows High School (GT, care to share the story 40 years later why you went so far away to attend high school?) He then went on to play at Villanova before transferring back home to St. Francis College.
His brother Bobby (Also an All Hallows alum) was also a very good player until back problems hampered his progress.
Not only were Gerard and Bob excellent basketball players, they were ‘salt of the earth’ people.
To this day I speak with both of them via email.
I hear their sister Betty was a pretty good player too.
The Dixon’s, Molloy’s and Rower’s were also very nice families on Howard Place. I grew up with all the boys from those families, and became pretty close with Kevin Molloy. We were classmates at Holy Name and also teammates. We spent many a nights hanging out doing what most teens do.
What I miss also from those days on Howard Place was playing whiffle ball with the legendary Tommy Hoch.
This guy was the best!
We’d choose up sides and have a blast. Home plate would be in front of his house. Someone would pitch from the opposite sidewalk and the balls would be flying over the black, gated fence across the street. At times the white, light plastic ball would often get stuck in the tree
Last but not least, Howard Place was where the boys schoolyard stood. There were three full courts surrounded by a chain linked fence. The games in the yard were legendary. Summer league, three-on-three contests, taps and of course stick ball.
During rain-delays in the Summer League people would scamper across the street and wait out Mother Nature taking refuge on the front porches.
It was magical.
Sure there are schoolyards scattered around the city that are populated by kids, but there was nothing like the boys school yard at Holy Name located on a wonderful street, Howard Place.