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…