The Red Moustache Manuscripts

The Red Moustache Manuscripts contains vignettes chronicling over a half century of adventures. Some of the stories are amusingly funny while others can be seriously enlightening. So come in and enjoy a truly unique experience!

On Their Sleeves: Part Nine


Vincent Ferrini, Derek Little, and Jack Cosgrove would all add their names to the list of outstanding athletes produced in Norton, Massachusetts…


Born in Ware, Massachusetts on February 1, 1933, Vincent G. Ferrini, Jr. was two school years ahead of his best friend “Jackie” Cosgrove. After spending the first several years of his life in Barry Plains, MA (21 miles north of Worcester) and then two years in York, PA, at age ten Vinny and his family returned to Norton, MA, the town that had been home to his mother, Angela Rich Ferrini. “Junior”, as he was called as a youngster, entered the Norton school system in the 5th grade where he met his sweetheart and future wife, Dixie Lee Dodge.

Vinny’s father owned and operated the General Welding Company from a garage located behind their house at 145 West Main Street which was in close proximity to the Reynolds Apartments where the Cosgrove's lived. An only child, Jackie looked up to Vinny and treated him like an older brother. Vinny had one sister, Alicia, who was five years older than him and with no other siblings, he spent a lot of time with Jackie, treating him as a younger brother. Their love of baseball and basketball kept the two boys busy seven days a week, from dawn till dusk. Along with Derek Little, another neighborhood kid who was one year ahead of Jackie, the three honed their athletic skills by playing sports until long after they were late for dinner.

During the winter of 1945, Vinny, Derek and Jackie regularly skated across the Norton Reservoir. The usual order was Vinny, who was the oldest (12) and the fastest skater, then Derek, with young Jackie in the back. They would begin off West Main Street, skating until they passed a small Island and came to the road (Route 140), where, with their skates still on they would cross the paved roadway by DaGuiar’s Package Store and then continue across the frozen reservoir. On this day, the three boys were on their way to visit Dixie Lee who lived on the reservoir in the Norton Grove section of town…

The first half of the journey across the reservoir was going well. Using long powerful strokes and a consistent, rhythmical stride, “The Three Caballeros” were maintaining an incredible pace, Derek and Jackie doing their best to stay in Vinny’s slipstream. Then, without warning, Vinny and Derek hit a channel that ran perpendicular to the direction they were skating and the thin ice above it immediately collapsed beneath them, dropping the two boys like lead weights into the icy-cold reservoir. Derek was able to pull himself up, but Vinny’s water-soaked, wool Mackinaw jacket prevented him from effectively reaching for solid ice. Jackie, who had been a good distance behind his two older friends, was able to avoid the same fate, but was quickly overwhelmed when he discovered what had happened. Just when it looked as though this event may have catastrophic results, fifteen year old Eddie “Sonny” Hesford, who had gotten off to a late start, caught up with his friends. Sensing a problem, he quickly pushed his right foot forward, turned his ankle, and by pushing his toe and knee inward and heel to the side, he was able to come to a grinding halt, spraying a thick mist of ice dust in front of him. Jackie quickly skated to the shore of the Island 100 feet away and returned with the four foot stick that Sonny used to pull Vinny to safety.

Cold and wet, Vinny stood on solid ground shivering, overcome by a sudden sense of malaise, concerned about what his father’s reaction would be when he found out that the new shoes he stashed in the pockets of his wool Mackinaw had sunk to the bottom of the reservoir…

Vinny displayed a great deal of athletic ability in junior high, enough that high school Principal and baseball coach Charlie Randall would take him out of class early to play baseball, much to the chagrin of Vinny’s eighth grade teachers. Vinny was a slick-fielding shortstop with the bat to match.

It was on the first day of Vinny’s freshman year in high school (September 1947) that after driving Alicia back to Rhode Island State College, alone in her car and less than a mile from her home, Angela Ferrini fell asleep at the wheel. Just 36 years old, she died in the crash leaving Vinny brokenhearted, a feeling that would remain with him throughout his entire life. Alicia left college to help out at home, but no longer having the watchful eyes of his mother to look after him, Vinny let his grades slip. Using sports as an outlet for his sorrow, he continued to excel at baseball and basketball.

Although he was only 5’2” tall as a freshman, his quickness and skill more than made up for his lack of height and Vinny played junior varsity basketball for Joe Dzenwagis, his favorite coach. Vinny had a great freshman year and was asked to join the varsity squad for the last game of the season, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed.

In February of 1949, at the age of 16 and in his junior year, Vinny developed double pneumonia (pleurisy) and after initially being hospitalized with what was believed to be a life-threatening illness, he made a remarkable recovery, returning to the basketball team after missing only two games.

During Vinny’s brief absence his best friend Jackie Cosgrove filled in for him. It was after a bedside visit that included an inspirational pep talk, that the freshman guard scored 17 points in the annual alumni game. During the regular season Vinny averaged 12 points per game for a strong Norton Tiger team that finished 2nd in the Mayflower League, establishing themselves as legitimate contenders.

In the spring of 1949, Vinny Ferrini, Derek Little, and Jackie Cosgrove (The Three Caballeros) would have their first opportunity to play high school baseball together…

On Their Sleeves: Part Eight

John Edward Cosgrove Sr. wed Margaret Mary McGuire in 1932 and two years later on August 8th, John Edward Jr. was born at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, MA. Born with infantile paralysis (polio) in his left leg, during Jack’s early years he and his mother took the train from Attleboro, where they lived in a two-family apartment in the center of town, to the Children’s Hospital in Boston twice weekly for therapy. While being treated there one doctor told Jack’s parents that he would never walk without a noticeable limp…

A determined mother, Margaret enrolled her only child in dance lessons hoping to improve his motor skills and rid him of polio. By age 4, young Jack was taking tap, jazz, and ballet. By age 5, he was able to shed the brace he had had strapped to his leg since birth and at a recital at the Attleboro Music Theater seven years later, he danced and sang "The Merry, Merry Month of May" to the applause of a packed house. Young Jack's clean bill of health would open doors for him to follow in the footsteps of his father, an extremely talented athlete in his day.

Ed “Duke” Cosgrove, as his father was known, captained five varsity teams before graduating from Hyde Park High School in 1928. Although his ability in baseball, football, hockey, track, and competitive diving would have provided him with plenty of career opportunities, his love for art made his final decision easy. Immediately after high school he took a job at Grover Cronin’s Department Store as the Assistant Display Department Manager requiring him to travel daily from Attleboro to Waltham, which back then meant a four-hour commute involving a train, a bus, and a trolley. He regularly organized the annual Easter Bunny Parade and rode in the lead float every year. Jack still displays his father’s oil paintings on the walls of his modest two-story home in Sharon, describing his father as “a brilliant man who was incredibly talented”.

As Duke’s job situation improved he moved his family from downtown Attleboro into a more spacious apartment in the bordering town of Norton. With a large back yard it became easier for Duke to teach his son the skills he needed to participate in athletics.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Jack became a talented athlete, excelling in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Along with his two closest childhood friends, Vinny Ferrini and Derek Little, the “Three Caballeros” were formed and the Norton Tigers, as the high school team was originally known, had a core group of players very capable of competing for baseball and basketball championships in the Mayflower Division of the South Shore League. (Avon, Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Sumner High of Holbrook, Norton, Howard High of West Bridgewater, and Wrentham)

There had been some very lean athletic years in Norton High School prior to 1950, between the time Harry Gardner left the school to “step up in the field of pedagogy” and Principal Charlie Randall’s “frantic fight to keep baseball alive” by “raking and scraping every dollar available”. A good portion of the dollars used to save high school baseball in Norton came out of Coach Randall’s own pocket and as a result of his efforts Norton produced some outstanding ballplayers during that time. The list includes Charlie Flaherty (Attleboro Twilight League), Lee Harper (semi-pro baseball in Rhode Island, Attleboro Twilight League), Alf Hewins, Lefty Beudreau, Alton Tully, Harry Keene, George Radnor, and Hank Wetherell.

Vincent Ferrini, Derek Little, and Jack Cosgrove would each add their names to the list of outstanding athletes produced in Norton, Massachusetts…

On Their Sleeves: Part Seven

Before the cows at Little’s Field watched their first game of football they watched the local kids play sandlot baseball on a diamond Mr. C cut out in a patch of high grass that had been left to grow wild  in the far corner of their pasture. It was no secret that baseball was Mr. C’s first passion. He was once an incredible baseball player; a pitcher who could play every position on the field (except catcher) and bat in the top part of any lineup.

By definition, “Sandlot Ball is a North American adolescent game that generally follows the basic rules of baseball. More specific rules can be set for games and may vary each time the game is played. These rules are usually agreed upon before the game begins by teams of young boys or girls usually from the same neighborhood. The word sandlot refers to the makeshift field, which could be nothing more than an empty piece of land in the area composed of grass, dirt, or sand that is big enough to facilitate the game. Objects used in playing the game can be improvised to take the place of bases, balls, or bats if they are unavailable.”

When Jackie and his neighborhood friends entered junior high they outgrew the clearing in the wooded area at the end of Winslow Road where Stonybrook Road connected, so Mr. C took out his small gas mower and made a larger makeshift baseball field for them in the cow pasture. Word quickly spread of the new field and kids began showing up to play “sandlot ball”. Gradually the equipment improved and the game more closely resembled organized baseball.

When school let out and summer vacation officially started, Mr. C began spending more time teaching the kids the skills they needed to play organized baseball. It was during the second year at Little’s Field that the sandlot kids had developed their skills enough to play competitive baseball. That season Mr. C set up games against teams from Hyde Park where he once played club baseball and had developed lasting friendships.

According to one former baseball player, pitcher Steve Pokorski, “We traveled to Hyde Park to play baseball and were involved in some very competitive games there. Even though some of us were still in junior high, I remember at least one bench clearing brawl-” Mr. C never condoned violence in athletics, but always fielded spirited teams. 

After I became a ‘member in good standing’ of the Sharon Red Devils in 1967, I was asked if I wanted to play summer baseball for Mr. C. I was decent defensive catcher, capable of blocking balls in the dirt and protecting home plate like a football player. I jumped at the opportunity.

Joel Peckham Sr. was an All-American catcher at Tufts University before he moved to Sharon from Winchester, Massachusetts where he had been a standout high school baseball, basketball, and football player. After a chance meeting with Mr. C at one of the fields, the two talked baseball for longer than they had time for and at some point during their conversation before they headed home, Joel agreed to be Mr. C’s assistant. In his mid-to-late twenties at the time, Mr. Peckham was a great help to all of us, including Mr. C. The two coaches worked incredibly well together and that made us a better baseball team.

We had a blast barnstorming around the state that summer, usually in Mr. C’s station wagon, which functioned as a dugout on wheels. It was before seatbelts became law and so we were able to squeeze the entire team into one vehicle. It was a team made up of mostly football players, but in those days it could easily have been said the football team was made up of mostly baseball players. We all played several different sports and Mr. C coached football, hockey and baseball. The key ingredient to playing on any of Mr. C’s teams was desire. He knew if you had it, and if you did, he always had a spot on his roster for you. Where my own skill lacked, my desire carried me (with Mr. C’s help). 

On game day Mr. C would load his small walk-behind mower into the station wagon and go cut grass, insuring our fields always looked good. Some of us showed up early to help push the mower and we enjoyed every minute of it. When Mr. C unrolled some four-foot high chicken wire and set up a home run fence at one of the fields at the East Elementary School, we were thrilled. Mr. C genuinely cared about us and we knew it and we appreciated it. He made our athletic experiences meaningful while keeping us focused, off the streets and out of trouble.

It was during a 'father and son game' in the summer of 1968 that one weak-hitting catcher drove one beyond the chicken wire off Mr. C. He hadn’t hung one either, but rather threw the straight fastball I was hoping for (OK, it might have been an off-speed pitch). I was jumping for joy as I rounded the bases and judging from the smile on Mr. C’s face, he was as happy as I was. That was the only home run I’d ever hit…  


On Their Sleeves: Part Six

The Norton Mavericks traveled to Killington, Vermont in early July of 2004 to play baseball on one of the most beautiful little league diamonds I had ever seen. Bordered by tree-covered mountains on all sides, with fresh white lime baselines contrasting against the manicured purple clay of an infield that was surrounded by thick, deep green perennial ryegrass, and with a brilliant yellow sun beaming in the clear blue sky above, the red, white and blue of the stars and stripes waving nonchalantly just beyond the fence in center field; it couldn’t have been more perfect. It was after we removed our caps, while standing still and listening to the National Anthem that suddenly it all appeared surreal, and in that flash of great clarity I was momentarily overwhelmed- This field was a healthy slice of baseball heaven begging our indulgence.

Up 6-0 in the final game of the three day tournament, and with victory clearly in sight, our ace, 13-year-old Brandon Paulhus, was working on a no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth with two outs and two strikes on Killington’s last hope, Nick Bent. He decided to throw a changeup, the only one he threw all game. Up to that point his 68 mile per hour fastball released from 46 feet away had been unhittable. Bent made Paulhus pay for his poor decision and took him deep for Killington’s only hit and run of the game.

Before we left Vermont with the trophy and bragging rights, I told Killington's Coach Ray Foley that we would be hosting a "Tournament of Champions" later that summer, in early August.  He definitely wanted in. In a friendly but competitive way, we looked forward to facing each other again…

Two players from our tournament team were unable to participate in the “Tournament of Champions” and had to be replaced. While many of the kids vying for the spots had similar skill sets, I was more concerned with desire than ability when making my final decision. I chose Ryan Fleming and Teddy Francis. They were both unable to play in the first tournament; Ryan traveled to the Carolinas on a family vacation and Teddy broke his thumb.

Ryan and Teddy desperately wanted to play in the “Tournament of Champions”- I could see it in their eyes…

On Their Sleeves: Part Five

1967 was the first year the Sharon Red Devils played football at the Ames Street Playground and were part of the South Shore Pop Warner League. The two years prior (’65&’66) were a bit make-shift, and the then neighborhood team played at Little’s Field- “Where it all began”.

Little’s Field was on North Main Street less than a mile before Cobb’s Corner and abutted the backyard of Mr. C’s single story ranch home on Winslow Road. The field was actually a cow pasture owned by Little’s Farm and with Mrs. Little’s permission it became a football field, cow dung and all. The ground was baron in spots, rocky, and not nearly flat; there were mounds everywhere. During the football season the cows were led off the playing field for practices and games and kept behind wire fencing at the far end zone where their snorts and moo sounds could still be heard. 

Mr. C built a single wooden goalpost in his backyard from some scrap lumber and carried it over and installed it in the end zone nearest the street, facing away from the ever curious cows, which according to Mr. C, would have been a big distraction to the young kickers. 

One of the original players, middle linebacker Bobby Marvelli (Teddy’s older brother) remembers “We didn’t have uniforms that first year. We wore our own helmets, shoulder pads, and dungaree pants. Most of us played in sneakers and some even wore loafers. When Jack got us matching football jerseys we were ecstatic, but when visiting teams stepped out of their buses and saw the conditions they made fun of us and our field. That first year most of the scrimmages ended with us getting beaten badly.”

The ’65-‘66 teams had some tremendous athletes on their rosters. In addition to Bobby and Teddy Marvelli there was Kevin MacKinnon, Ronny White, Eddie D’Angelo, Joey Powers, Eddie and Johnny Rockett, Carl McDougall, Larry Russell, Rich Weinberg, Earl Pitt, Dougie Ferguson, Chris Canton, Bobby Brownell, Jackie and Michael Cosgrove, Wayne Delaney, Joey and Tommy Kourafas, Joe McMahon, Joey Cochrane, Steve Cullen, Wally Gorman, Kip Adams, Terry Cronin, and Mick Thibideau. Most of the players lived in close proximity to Little’s Field and weekday afternoons you could see small groups of players, helmets and shoulder pads on, wearing grass-stained dungarees, peddling their 20-inch single speed banana-bikes to practice. Once there they would slide themselves back on their banana seats and pull hard on their ape hanger style handlebars, riding wheelies around the field until practice began. It was all “Norman Rockwell” kind of stuff and these kids were living it--

Mr. C made frequent stops at Little’s Field in the 18 wheeler he drove for the Whiting Milk Company. According to Jackie “Usually the old man was stopping by to drop off the "damaged" cartons, one's that he couldn't stock in stores but we kids could drink. I think he deliberately damaged the chocolate…” But one day in particular the milkman delivered for the kids big-time. Jackie remembers “The day I'll never forget...The Whiting's Milk Co. Truck, an 18 wheeler coming down the dirt road, kicking up dust as we watched and waited.  He opens up the truck and it’s full of football equipment from Hyde Park Sporting Goods.” Inside there were helmets, pants, and other assorted gear necessary to field a legitimate football team.

In 1966 they opened the season away, in full uniform against Belmont, an established program with 10 years of Pop Warner experience. In a shocker, Sharon won 30-6 surprising the Belmont team and their fans. They won four games that year, but hung in there with quite a few teams, proving they deserved to be considered for a spot in the South Shore League.  

In ’67 they got that chance. The expectations were high that year and Mr. C’s commitment to the program was obvious. First the move to Ames Street, then the installation of steel goal posts, followed by new uniforms and the name “Red Devils”.

According to Mr. C there were those who didn’t like the name initially and actually warned of the logos satanic implications. Its origin was actually innocent enough. While watching a practice Earl Pitt Sr. made a comment about the kids being “little devils”, a reference to them being “mischievous”. Mr. C liked it and since he already owned red jerseys, the team would be called the Red Devils.

In the ’67 opener at Dedham, the Red Devils had a 12-7 lead late in the game. Jackie Cosgrove recalls “We opened in '67 against the Dedham Dynamos, a powerhouse program, and lost late in the game 14-12 because some knucklehead safety bit up on a halfback pass and got scorched.  That knucklehead was me!  I remember Johnny Rockett going for a very long touchdown run in that game.  We led late in the game and then the Head Coach's son let the team down. I was crushed!”

The team was disappointed, but not crushed. No one held Jackie responsible for the loss. The loss was good for the team; it brought us closer and made us all realize that we were up against some pretty good competition and that we had to be on our game for four quarters to win. After the game we all “huddled up” and listened while Mr. C pointed out all the positive things we had done in that loss and then without pause, he began discussing the next game and the preparation needed to win it.

In the end, 1967 was a very good year for the Sharon Red Devils who finished 7-3 in the South Shore League and 9-3 overall. That season Johnny Rockett proved difficult to tackle and was a threat to score anytime he carried the ball. Teddy Marvelli established himself as a great middle linebacker and a team leader who didn’t mind going helmet-to-helmet with anybody who wasn’t doing their job. As expected, Larry Russell sent members of the opposing teams hobbling to the sidelines. Dougie Ferguson caught a bunch of Jackie’s passes for first downs, Kevin Delaney ran past the coverage and caught the bombs, and Earl Pitt Jr. played a solid fullback. But most of all, Jackie Cosgrove showed the kind of poise usually found in much older quarterbacks. We all knew then that he was a very special talent…

The ’67 Red Devils needed a little more experience to beat top-tier teams like Dedham and Wellesley and challenge for the South Shore championship. Because it was the only football game in town (there was no high school football in Sharon back then) and blue laws in effect at the time prevented stores from opening on Sundays, an unusual amount of people came out to watch us play Pop Warner football at the Ames Street Playground.

As more people heard about what Mr. C was doing, more and more kids wanted to play football in the town of Sharon, Massachusetts.

On Their Sleeves: Part Four

The first time I went to the Lions Field in Norton was in the spring of 1996 with my first-born son Michael, who was eight years old at the time. He had an Instructional League baseball game scheduled there. We drove up and down Dean St. looking for the field. After several unsuccessful runs we saw cars pulling into a dirt parking lot and we decided to pull in too. Sure enough, the field was just over the hill and down in a hollow where it couldn’t be seen from the street. I immediately liked it.

Unlike traditional little league fields where parents sat on bleachers either on the first or third base side depending on which dugout their child was in, at the Lions Field all the parents sat together on a hill located on the third base side, which with all the spectators seated became a grass covered amphitheatre of sorts. The field itself was unkempt, but I looked past that and saw a “diamond in the rough”, even back then. Next to the field along the first base side, behind a slightly rusted five foot high section of chain link fence and beyond some wild greenery and tall trees, was a sheep farm. The smell and the sounds at the field were similar to what you’d expect at a petting zoo. Some people were bothered by it, but not me. I embraced it.

When I started the Norton Summer League in 2002 I got permission from the town to use the Lions Field. I mowed it once a week, raked the infield, and cleaned up all the trash on a regular basis. When Everett Leonard Field became unavailable for our “Tournament of Champions” in 2004, the decision was easy. Move it to the Lions Field.

In addition to all the ground renovations we did in preparation for the tournament (new infield, bases, mound, foul poles), we still needed water and electricity. I went next door to talk with the owner of the sheep farm. I introduced myself and asked if I could use the hose connection on the barn and some electricity. The owner, a small woman in her late fifties with silver hair, immediately told me that the sheep weren’t ordinary sheep, they were “prize sheep” bred for show and that she controlled the environment they lived in during the summer months with air conditioning and couldn’t risk sharing electric or water.

My father once rented a booth at a 4-H club fair where we sold boiled sweet corn on the cob. Although I was on crutches with a casted leg at the time, I hobbled around and saw firsthand the pride the people had in their animals. I completely understood this woman’s concerns. I thanked her for her time and began walking away...

Before I got very far she asked “Are you the fellow who takes care of the field and empties the trash?”

I turned and said “Yeah, that’s me-”

She went on “I really appreciate what you’ve been doing here over the last couple of years. It hasn’t looked this good in a very long time… Maybe you could hook up a few hoses to my house and use some extension cords to get electric over…”

“You wouldn’t mind?”

“No, not at all!”

We had water and electricity for our tournament.

When Killington coach Ray Foley arrived at the field on Friday afternoon after a long ride from Vermont, he stood on the hill and gazed down at the baseball field in the hollow. With the American flag hanging on the foul pole in right moving just slightly in the summer breeze and a steady chorus of “baaaas” coming from the “prize sheep” next door, he looked at me, smiled, shook my hand and said, “What a beautiful field. Thanks for inviting us to play in your tournament.”

On Their Sleeves: Part Three

The Ames Street Playground football field where the Sharon Red Devils practiced and played their home games beginning in 1967, was heavily worn; parts of it were used primarily as outfields for the four little league baseball fields whose diamonds were at each corner. Large portions of two infields were blended into the gridiron, but we didn’t care about the field conditions; when it rained we happily played in the mud. We played football for Jack Cosgrove and we were proud to say we did. The field conditions didn’t matter.

Before the regular season got underway, Mr. C and several volunteers, including George Russell, Cliff Adams, Earl Pitt Sr., Erwin Levine, line coach Tim Rogers, special assistant Johnny Googin, and Lou Kafka cemented in white goalposts made from threaded galvanized pipe, a requirement for participation in the South Shore Pop Warner League. Googin and Rogers did not have sons or relatives on the team. They volunteered to coach because they loved the game and wanted to teach it to young players. Their commitment to our team was obvious and they both became important members of Mr. C’s coaching staff.

I looked forward to each and every practice, hustling and making big hits, trying to get Mr. C to notice me. Everyone was vying for Mr. C’s attention; it made us a better football team. When Mr. C took you aside to talk one-on-one, you would return to your position energized and believing in yourself more than you had before. He had a way of lifting any limitations and emotional barriers you placed on yourself, and inspiring you to play with the confidence to achieve more than you ever thought possible. No one benefited more from this than me…

Wearing a waist length, blue and white herring bone, zipper front work jacket common to drivers in the milk industry back then, black Knapp work shoes, and with a freshly lit cigarette tucked comfortably between his lips, Mr. C could consistently punt fifty yard spirals. He kicked field goals off a tee or drop kick style, either way, sometimes twenty in a row from forty yards out. It was always quite an exhibition.

With Mr. C’s help, lineman/linebacker Alan Fine (#54) became our placekicker and he was able to consistently kick extra points. Alan had jet-black hair, thick eyebrows above narrow eyes, he was quiet, ruggedly built, and very coachable. Playing football for Mr. C was definitely something he enjoyed; he went full-tilt all the time.

Our backup tight end/defensive end, Bobby Brownell, handled the punting. Bobby was tall with blonde hair, always smiling, and very likable. Friendly looks aside, Bobby knew his way around the Sacred Heart Docks and used that experience to bolster his game. Like Larry Russell and Chris Canton, Bobby wore black high-tops, and that just made him look even taller.

J.D. Condon shared time with Charlie Banks at flanker and defensive back. “Jimmy” had severe asthma and always had a breathing apparatus on hand. It was not just an inhaler either. It was a compressor that required electricity to work and his parents always scrambled at away-games to find a power source. Jimmy used it regularly during practices and games, and we all respected him for “hanging tough” and for his willingness to play and be an important member of this team. As tough as some of the kids were, Jimmy did more to set the “toughness bar” than anyone else. He was fast, a good football player, and an athlete; the asthma didn’t get in the way of that.

I’m sure Mr. C had his favorites, but you would never know it watching him coach. Each player was special to him and if you came to practice and gave your all, you played in the game. There were no “mandatory rules of play” back then that forced coaches to use their entire roster, but Mr. C wanted everyone in uniform to be a part of the team, and so all the second-stringers got in. And when we did, we all played with great intensity; we did not want to let Mr. C down.

On Their Sleeves: Part Two

I was just 10 years old when some of the women in the neighborhood complained to my mother that I was rough housing a bit too much and hurting their children. On direct orders from our family doctor Vincent P. Ryan, I was ordered to sign up to play football, an outlet for my aggressive behavior. On the day of sign-ups, I arrived at the Ames Street Playground wearing white clam-diggers with two black stripes down the side (because they looked like football pants to me at the time), and a white, loose-fitting, short-sleeved cotton football shirt with black numbers front and back.

After watching the action from the sidelines at the first practice I immediately knew I wanted to be part of this football team. I had just turned eleven, but my father encouraged me to lie about my age and play with the older kids who were twelve and thirteen. My size easily allowed me entry into the older group. I was given a game jersey with the number sixty-six, becoming a second-string lineman on the A team. Playing against older boys taught me how to take big hits and eventually how to return them. Mr. C loved big hits and always became animated when someone laid one on.

Mr. C’s hard exterior enabled him to take control of any group of boys, and that was immediately evident on the practice field. His softer interior was kept under cover at all times, but eventually we all discovered it. It’s what made us play above ourselves and continue to love and respect the man throughout our entire lives.

In 1967 the team featured an interesting cast of characters, many of whom were playing organized football for the first time. Teddy Marvelli (#63) was the middle linebacker and captain of the defense. He was small for his position, but played with the passion, toughness, and emotion that Mr. C expected from all of us. He gave everything he had on the field and his intensity influenced the way I would later play the position myself. At the end of practice when Teddy would unfasten his chinstrap and remove his helmet, a boy with smooth dark skin, curly brown hair, and a slight overbite would reveal himself. At thirteen he already displayed the confident demeanor of a leader.

Then there was lineman Larry Russell (#60), by far the toughest kid on the team, a big kid and a big hitter. His “whiffle” haircut, chipped front tooth, and dangerous eyes were right at home inside a football helmet.  Mr.C loved how Larry’s violent nature translated on the football field. I was always matched up against him during practice and I took some vicious hits as a result. We all learned quickly to stay out of Larry’s way, on and off the field…

Our halfback was small but lightning fast and incredibly strong.  I immediately recognized Johnny Rockett (#9) from the Sacred Heart docks at nearby Lake Massapoag where only the tough guys hung out. Because I had an older sister, I knew about the docks and made every effort to sneak away from my mother and the safety of the public beach to watch the daily rumbles. The lone, floating wooden dock was owned by the nearby Sacred Heart School and became a place where anybody bold enough challenged the toughest for standing room out in deeper waters where the whistles of lotion rubbed lifeguards with their cream-covered noses had no jurisdiction. The action at this anything goes free-for-all was always rough and loud enough to draw the attention of passersby. Amid a chorus of laughter and screams, young healthy bodies one after another, got tossed from the dock, landing violently, turning the calm water surrounding the dock into a furious section of turbulent white water. The rumble ended only after fatigue sent most of the cut-off clad combatants swimming for the safety of the jagged, grassy shoreline less than fifty yards from the soft sand of the public beach. When the action finally stopped and the water was still, only Johnny and a few others had earned the right to stay and enjoy a brief, but peaceful post battle reprieve aboard the quieted dock. With jet-black wavy hair, ripped abdominals, and dark boyish eyes that effectively hid the devil in him, Johnny definitely possessed all the star qualities worthy of his name. He smoked cigarettes, and that just added to his tough guy rebel persona.

Dougie Ferguson (#48) was one of our tight ends. By thirteen he had already established himself as a hockey star and pre-adolescent lady-killer. His medium length, straight, light-brown hair covered most of his forehead and along with a lightly freckled face, big white rough-cut front teeth, and contagious smile, he was a great addition to this team’s chemistry. His kid sister Lauren was one of the original cheerleaders and her good looks got a fair amount of attention too…

Kevin Delaney (#46) moved to Sharon in ’67 from New York, bringing with him his accent and football experience. He was as fast as Johnny and became our split end and deep threat. He had great hands and rarely dropped a pass. He was more than capable of outrunning any defensive coverage.  

Earl Pitt Jr. was our fullback. He was blonde-haired, tanned, well-spoken, and had a reassuring smile. His father was one of the presidents of the Foxboro Company. The Pitt's  lived in an older neighborhood located near the center of town in a large three-story home that was made of stone, had an elevator and tall, decorative wrought iron fencing protecting its perimeter. Earl wasn’t the fastest or the strongest on the team, but he worked hard and dug his cleats in and played with focused intensity and became a team leader. His kid sister Sue, although pretty young at the time, was an original cheerleader and as she got older she would turn some helmets…

Wayne Delaney (#56) was the first one out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage. Nicknamed “Dink”, Wayne was our center and team prankster. He was the tallest on our team and was always getting in trouble with Mr. C, nothing a couple of extra laps around the beat-up cinder track at the Ames Street Playground couldn’t fix.  His spirited personality was a welcomed distraction to what was otherwise, a well-disciplined offensive line.

Chris Canton (#55) was rock-solid both on offense and defense. He worked as hard as anyone and at times even harder, and he was a great role model to the younger players.

Charlie Banks was a flanker, defensive back, and a character. He was thin, lanky and very quick; he appeared to be gliding when he ran. He didn’t get many carries and was prone to east-west running when he did, but played solid on defense. He displayed a great deal of off-field confidence, especially in front of younger players. He once sat at a picnic table at the Ames Street Playground and challenged all takers to an arm-wrestling contest. I was shocked when no one could beat him. As I watched I noticed “Chuckie”, wrestling with his right arm, was pressing his left palm up against the bottom of the table for counter leverage. I stepped in and to his surprise, exposed his carefully contrived strategy. He smiled, laughed a bit and immediately got up from the table, acknowledging his fun had ended. 

Mr. C’s oldest of five, Jackie (#7), was our quarterback. He was tall like his mother, resembling her in looks and facial expressions. He was a friendly kid with a fiercely competitive nature. Being successful and eventually winning was the driving force behind all his actions. He was a born leader and had no problem taking control of a huddle full of rowdy boys who for the most part, were a year older than him. Starting at quarterback was no act of nepotism; Jackie was a definite big-time player and would go on to prove it throughout his illustrious football career…



1967 Sharon Red Devils

  Charlie Banks, Stu Bayuk, Bobby Brownell,  Chris Canton, J.D. Condon, Jackie Cosgrove,  Kevin   Delaney,   Wayne Delaney, Dougie Ferguson, Alan Fine, Steve Graham, Roy Horan,  Peter Jacobs,  Art Levine, Teddy Marvelli,                 Earl Pitt, Johnny Rockett, Larry Russell, Eddie Schnurr,  Chris Uggerholtz, Steve Waldstein,    

On Their Sleeves: Part One

There was a last minute change in field availability forcing us to either cancel our first home baseball tournament or move it to another field. The only other field was in miserable shape, but I told Chuck we had a week to get it ready and that we could do it. He looked at me like I had two heads, not because he thought I was crazy, but because he knew I was serious…

Its 1:30 Friday afternoon (August 6th 2004) and the baseball tournament I decided to host starts at 3:00. I’ve been pushing this 21” walk-behind mower in the hot sun for over two and a half hours and I’ve got a ways to go before the spectator hill is finished. Randy Beals is bringing his squad Planet Baseball from Attleboro and is scheduled to play Canton in the first game. Ray Foley is bringing his team from Killington, Vermont and he’s playing in the second game against the Norton Mavericks, that’s us.

I’m digging in, knowing I have to get home in time to shower, return to greet my guests here at the Lions Field, play the National Anthem over our make-shift loud speaker (actually through a hand held bullhorn), and then announce the starting lineups. I’m beyond dehydrated, but there’s no time to stop except to refuel the mower or empty the bag.

The ten yards of new infield mix Rob Paulhus, Chuck Moitoiza, Neil Stanley, Bob Cronin, and I spread, rolled, and compacted last Saturday after rototilling, looks great and there are no ankle-breakers in the outfield; the loam I got from Everett Leonard Field, where the tournament games were supposed to have been played, filled them in nicely... The mound is exactly nine inches above home plate, line levels don’t lie, and the front of the newly installed pitchers rubber is exactly forty-six feet from the apex of home plate. I put the foul poles in myself earlier in the week because Mick never showed, and in doing so I got a serious case of Poison Ivy that was bad enough that I’m on Prednisone…

There, I’m done. I’ll just push the mower through the high grass and into the woods and get it later, after the games. I got to get home so I can shower, grab Dylan and get back in time to start the baseball tournament, aptly named “Tournament of Champions”.

One last look from the top of the hill—the field looks unbelievable! Jack would be proud…


My first experience playing organized football was in 1967 on a Pop Warner team called the Sharon Red Devils  coached by Jack Cosgrove. The effect his coaching had on me then is still evident in everything I do today, some forty years later.

At the time he was my coach, Jack was employed as a truck driver for the Whiting Milk Company, beginning each day before most people took their first poke at a snooze button. Mr. C, as we affectionately called him, was average in height and build, but his ability to motivate his young players was anything but. I always wondered where his motivation came from; unselfishly investing incredible amounts of time and energy in total strangers. It’s only after many years of coaching throughout the course of my life that I am beginning to understand the special place that type of motivation comes from and how uncommon it is…

Powered by Squarespace.  Copyright 2014 Vincent LeVine