One of the Greatest
Summers of My Life
A Remembrance by Gary
This is a picture of my 1976 American
Legion Little League team. In some ways you could refer to us as the real life
"Bad News Bears." For me and many of my former teammates, there is a great story
associated with this picture. I'd like to share it with you.
First off, we were the last team in the
history of the entire Brookline Little League program to wear the old flannel
uniforms. Anyone who remembers these knows how hot they could be on a summer day.
We were supposed to get the new double-knit uniforms that year, but they never
showed up. Mr. Angelo Masullo was our manager, however he stepped up for the
league and took over the presidency that was vacated when old Mr. Bryen got
sick. Mr. Gus Lannon and Mr. Jay Malfatti volunteered to take over the team.
While Mr. Masullo ran the league, he still tried to be a part of the Legion
team, but his duties as President kept him away quite a bit.
Well, we had a lot of "fun" that summer
without Mr. Masullo coaching us. We got to go swimming on game days, which was
something that was never allowed before. If Mr. Masullo ever found out
that you had swam on a game day he would only allow you to play the minimum two
innings that night. Our practices, even though we respected Mr. Lannon and Mr.
Malfatti, were pretty lax. We were like kids in a classroom with substitute
teachers. We only managed a .500 record in the first half, and we didn't
really care. Quaill's Cleaners was the best team anyway, and they had new
Mr. Masullo showed up one Saturday morning
at one of our practices, just after the first half had ended, and called us
"a bunch of prima donnas." It was either Eddie Hartman or Kevin Price that told
him that we would make it up to him by winning the second half. Mr. Masullo, I
am sure had heard such predictions like this from 12-year olds before. The team
wanted to make a deal to show him that we meant business.
Well, he went along with our boast, and
we agreed that day to a deal. If we won the second half and the championship, Mr.
Masullo would have to take the entire team out for a steak dinner. Considering
the way we had played during the first half of the season, I'm sure he felt quite
secure in this bet, and went back to his chair behind the backstop and waited for
us to crumble under the pressure of such lofty expectations.
From the start of the second half, we
turned things around and started winning. Mr. Lannon and Mr. Malfatti stuck with
us, and with an outlined mission we ended up in a first place tie for the second
half with Mr. Rich Anderson's Droz Steel team.
The tie-breaker for the second half would
be a one game winner-take-all. The night that we played the game, there seemed to
be more people watching from the stands than I could ever remember at one of our
Little League games. Half were rooting for the scrappy "old school" Legion team
and the other half for the sentimental favorite Droz team. In all of the years
that I played, Droz Steel/Tony's Barber Shop never contended for a top place in
the league standings. So, when they tied us for the second half there were a
great deal of people pulling for Mr. Anderson's Cinderella team. That night we
ended one dream, but fulfilled another. Legion won the game, 11-1, and with it
the second half championship.
Now, we would face the first half winners
and the prior years champion, Quaill's Cleaners, in a best of three series. Destiny
had been set with the steak dinner deal. We went on to sweep Quaill's in two games
and take the 1976 Brookline Little League crown. True to his word, Mr. Masullo took
the entire team out for a steak dinner as he had promised and proudly handed out
the winning trophies.
That was one of the greatest summers of my
life. Mr. Lannon and Mr. Malfatti gave us the opportunity to win. Mr. Masullo was
there for us as a team as well as being there for the league as the President. To
this day, I still run into guys from that team, and no matter where we are in our
lives or what the differences are, the summer of '76 seems to have bonded us as
Highlights from the Brookline
Journal - August 19, 1976
Comes On Strong To Take Championship
Legion spotted Droz a homerun by
Tony DeMaio in the 1st inning, rebounded to score 10 runs in the 4th,
survived a 30-minute rainstorm and scored one more run to record an 11-1
victory, which qualified it to meet Quaill's defending champions in the
Ed Hartman and Jim (Buckner)
Manning belted two hits each while Kevin (Little Biggy) Price drove in
two runs to spark Legion's victory. Price struck out nine as he recorded
his 7th victory against only one defeat.
Hartman, who also walked twice,
started Legion's big fourth with a single. Jake Zucco walked. Price
singled and Charles Tommarello flied to right, where the fielder dropped
the ball for an error. Gary Gielas walked and Mike Healy singled. After
Szewczyk whiffed, Mike Joseph was hit by a pitch and Manning
Carmen Cirigliano relieved Jim
Herron and Hartman walked. Zucco also walked and Price got his second
single of the inning before Tommarello grounded out and Gielas struck
out. Legion's ten runs came on four hits.
Mike Healy and Mike Joseph slammed
homeruns to lift surprising Legion to an 11-6 victory over Quaill in the
playoff opener, with Ed Hartman striking out seven for the slab
Charley Tommarello drove in four
runs with a 4-for-4 batting feat while Joseph, Jake Zucco and Kevin Price
drilled two hits each. Steve Tripodi smashed a three-run homer, his 9th
of the season, and Tim Tarr drove in a pair with two singles for
Legion clinched the championship
and dethroned Quaill as Kevin Price notched his 8th victory against a
lone loss with an 8-3 conquest as Jake Zucco, Charles Tommarello, Mike
Szewczyk and Mike Healy delivered the big blows on
Don Graham clinched the LL homerun
trophy by blasting his 12th with one on for Quaill. Don also singled and
was the losing hurler.
<Click here for more Legion 1976 Season
Highlights from the Journal>