Angelo Masullo Sr.
Coach and Mentor

Angelo Masullo, W-I-N-N-E-R

Winner is a noun which describes "one that seems destined to win or be successful." That's how Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language defines the word.

In Brookline, natives simplify it by breaking down their interpretation to two words. Ange Masullo! By contrast, Ange pleads ignorance to any knowledge of another Webster noun - loser.

Vince Lombardi is a sobriquet applied to Ange Masullo, earned because of so many successful seasons in Brookline Little League's American Legion in the '70s and the Senior League's Stebbrook Pharmacy in the '80's. Also under Masullo, Resurrection Grade School's proud Raiders provoked shudders among their South Hills basketball rivals in their heyday under the reigns of "Big Ange."

The late Vince Lombardi's oft-quoted "winning isn't everything, its the only thing" doesn't stir a flicker of interest in Ange Masullo. Big Ange never tracked the wins. If the league kept records, he would stand in the upper echelon of Little League greats, alongside Joe Power, Walt Evans, Jack Henry and Bob Schwemmer.

That doesn't faze Ange. "I never kept count of wins. That was never the important thing. My teams didn't worry about winning, we just never thought about losing."

Losing was never an Angelo Masullo trait.

Forced into an early retirement by an on-the-job injury, Ange has devoted his life to youth and his community, in which he takes so much pride and is so eager to better.

"I remember my days on the Hill, where our parents didn't allow us to play football and some of the other tough stuff," Ange recalls, "so we had to sneak. Chink Affif (he boxed as Young Zivic and was a topnotcher in the 1950s) and Guido Leone (a traffic cop) kept us off the streets and out of trouble. We rode streetcars to our games, sometimes trucks and cars, when we could get them. Played our home games at Washington Park."

"I remember breaking a leg sliding into third base. They hustled me to the hospital. My dad, who came from the old country after he married mom, walked into the room and I was soaked with sweat, fearing what he'd say and do. He let me off easy, but let me know he didn't like me sneaking around playing games."

Ange married his neighborhood sweetheart and moved to Brookline in 1957. Chance meetings in 1967 with Sam "Big E" Bryen and Walt Evans sparked Ange's interest. Angelo Jr, "Little Ange", was at Little League age and little Joey, later a speedball with Quaill's and the Brookline Lions, was almost ready. With proud mom Millie and elder sister Pam as the cheerleaders, the man noted for his gruff bark signed on with Tony Colangelo and never looked back.

Ange put his no-nonsense approach to work, and although it has provoked parents and kids, over the years they have realized that his demand for discipline "before even talent" is what makes winners and good citizens of their sons and daughters. The winning seasons soon began rolling in.

Wistfully, Ang recalls his Washington Park athletic days in the Hill District. I played with Tony Bartirome, the ex-Pirate trainer, Bobby DelGreco, Corky Albert, Ray Budway, Joey Petraglia, oh just so many guys who went on to more important things. Great gang. But for Chink Affif and Guido Leone, who knows...we might have been in all kinds of trouble. They gave us discipline and love."

 of Angelo Masullo Sr and his 1973 Legion team.
Angelo Masullo Sr. (back right) and his 1973 Legion squad, the first in a long line of title winners.
Big Ange spent 33 years with the Brookline Little League program.

In 1970, Ange replaced Bud Vietmeier as manager of Little League's American Legion. Almost annual contenders followed. Legion won championships in 1973 ("the year we discovered Ray-Ray Benvenuti",) 1976 and 1981 under Masullo's wing, and were runners up several times. Among the boys he remembers as the "good ones" are Jimmy DelGreco, probably my best; Benvenuti, who could do it all; Johnny Lee, who had the most "unorthodox pitching delivery I've ever seen"; Eddie Hartman, Mark Bazari, Carmen Tripodi, Mark Sciulli, Kevin Price and "oh yeh, don't forget the girl I had, Donna Caterino, MVP in the Robinson Township tournament in 1979."

Masullo took three Brookline Little League All-Star teams into the Williamsport tournament, with the 1974 team advancing the closest to the state semi-finals. The years were 1972, 1974 and 1977. The players he recalls as most outstanding alphabetically and by year: 1972 - Eddie Beveridge, Rege Carver, Georgie DelGreco, Jimmy DelGreco, Timmy "Crazy Legs" Schumacher. 1974 - Ray-Ray Benvenuti, Johnny Boyle, Clint "Bo" Burton, Timmy Gremba, Brian Phillips. 1977 - Cathy Caterino, Eddie Hartman, Jim Herron, Mike Joseph, Walt "Rusty" Miller.

Ange pulled double-duty from 1976 through 1980 by managing Legion and holding the position of Little League president, the esteemed throne vacated by Sam Bryen after nearly a quarter century.

During his tenure as head honcho, the Brookline Little League entered a new phase with the building of Danny McGibbeny Field and the Sam Bryen Baseball Complex. Under a 1966 agreement, the community sold the Communtiy Center, now Brookline Park, to the city for $1 with the promise that a million-dollar recreational facility would be built. The city stalled, and stalled some more. It was the persistance of Masullo, and then Community Council president Elva McGibbeny, who prodded the city to fulfill its promise. When the 1976 season was threatened due to more municipal delays, Masullo personally led the effort to get the Parks Department to act.

Again in 1980, when the city cited funds shortages as their excuse for post-poning the final development of the pool and Sam Bryen fields, it was Masullo and McGibbeny who "persuaded" Parks Department head Louise Brown to find the remaining $200,000 to complete the project.

There is no question in anyone's mind that without the dedication of Big Ange, and his tireless no-nonsense approach, that Brookline Memorial Park would not be the first-class facility that we enjoy today. The thought of losing never entered his mind.

Ange passed the presidency on to Ed Motznik after the 1980 season and relinquished his Legion team to newcommer Jack Kobistek after the 1981 championship season. In the years immediately following, he devoted his time to his other coaching job as leader of Ressi's Raiders.

Beginning in the mid-70's, Big Ange's bellow could be heard echoing around the gymnasium at Resurrection Grade School, were his sixth through eighth grade hoopsters were making their mark as a Diocesan powerhouse.

"At Ressi," Ange interjects, "I had a sixth-grade group in 1982. They won the Diocesan championship. The previous two seasons my sixth grade group had gone to the final before losing. My eighth graders in 1984 won the Diocesan and State championships."

Thinking back over four years with the sixth grade, four with the seventh, and two with the eighth, Ange reflects:

"I had so many good kids there. Just like Little League baseball, I'm afraid I'll miss mentioning a few, and I hope those kids forgive me, but here are some of the Ressi Raiders I remember as real good ones:"

Coach Angelo Masullo Sr at Resurrection.
Resurrection Basketball Coach
Angelo Masullo Sr.

"Jeff Bombeck, Johnny O'Toole, Johnny Miller, Greg Girdis, Pat McGrath, Pat Camarco, Steve Tripodi, Donny Graham, Frankie Slinger, Jim "Bim" Wheeler, Kevin Price, Mark Walsh, Johnny Meyers, Chris Sestili and, of course, those fantastic twins, Mark and John Boris."

Soon the names of his 1984 squad came flooding back:

"We had Sestili, Frank Battista, Dave Binkowski, Anthony DeIuliis, Mario Panucci, Billy Joe Spratt, Jimmy Walsh, Steve Rossa, Mike Brown, Bill Lonero, Darren Thomas, and coach (and former Little League Legion charge) Johnny Lee. What a talented group that was."

Resurrection Raiders Varsity
 Basketball Team - 1984
Angelo Masullo Sr. and his 1984 Resurrection Raiders state champion basketball team.

Asked to name his best Raider, Ange fumbled for a moment, not wanting to offend any of his many scholastic stars, then replied, "John Bolla. He may not have had the most talent, but he had guts."

Angelo Masullo Sr's basketball coaching days ended with that 1984 championship and he returned to the familiar baseball diamond, this time as coach of Stebbrook Pharmacy under manager Bob Schwemmer. Ange and Bob were old Little League rivals, and their pairing seemed quite contrary to their coaching styles.

The gruff Masullo and the mild-mannered Schwemmer were truly an odd couple, but the pairing of the two "deans" of Little League coaches yielded instant results. Stebbrook captured Senior League titles in 1985, 1986 and 1987. After Bob Schwemmer moved on to coach the Colts in 1988, Big Ange found himself again holding the reigns as manager.

Teaming up this time with his son Angelo Jr (a rare father/son coaching duo), Angelo Sr led his charges to one final championship with Stebbrook during the 1993 season, his seventh in Brookline baseball. After the 1996 season, sponsorship changed to Pittsburgh Internal Medicine and Big Ange passed the managerial torch to Little Ange, prefering to take a backseat as coach. There he remained until his official retirement after the 1999 season from the Brookline Little League Association. Ange had spent the better part of 33 years serving the kids of Brookline.

Asked to name his best players from his days as skipper of Stebbrook, Ange recalls, "Bobby Skaris, Matty Greb, the Matts brothers (Keith and Joe), and Dom Bigante, "arguably the best centerfielder ever to play Senior League. There were so many. I hate to name names because you inevitably leave someone out who belongs in the list."

Always devoted to the safety and welfare of the Community's children, for many years you could find Angelo Masullo Sr in the mornings and afternoons protecting the local schoolkids as a School Crossing Guard. He was posted at the Dunster/Pioneer intersection, where he remained until sidelined by illness in 2004. You can bet that many a daring motorist heard that all too familiar bellow when they disobeyed the rules of the road and put the children in peril. After all, discipline is discipline, and winning comes in many forms.

Big Ange Masullo passed away on September 13, 2005, after a battle with the one opponent he could not subdue, cancer. The Community of Brookline lost a great man, and so many of us who knew him, and learned from him, lost a good friend and mentor. If there is a baseball or basketball team in the afterlife, you can bet Big Ange will soon be pacing the sidelines and bringing his winning ways to the team in white.

A casual, impartial observer once offered sage advise:

"Guys like Angelo Masullo coach (and live life) from abridged dictionaries. Look under "L" and betcha can't find loser. They are the invaluable assistants who put the "W" in Vince Lombardi's dictionary. W? That's the key to W-I-N-N-E-R!

On April 30, 2011, a plaque was hung on the BLLA Wall of Fame in Brookline Park honoring Ange Masullo for his thirty-three years of devotion and service to the Brookline Little League Association.


Article derived from Brookline Journal article dated March 1, 1984, by Dan McGibbeny,
and updated by Clint Burton - April 30, 2011.

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