~ Malden Musings ~
“A Lea Called Coytemore” was written in 2014 by Bob Rotondi. In 2022 it is presented to you by Peter F. Levine:
“Of all the parks in Malden, the one whose appearance has changed the most is Coytemore Lea. The West Side open space easily wins ‘biggest change’ honors, as none of the other parks had a river running through the middle.
“Coytemore, long before the Mountain Avenue pool opened on its south end, was a diamond-less tract of land with a fenced in creek running from north to south, In the center of the park was a concrete bridge over the brook that connected the two sides. On the west side, sitting behind the houses on Linden Avenue, was a line of gigantic elm trees, under which sets of swings, a seesaw, and sand boxes provided entertainment for the young’uns.
“On the east side, the larger side, which in front of Park View Terrace, lay a flat patch of ground, a veld, or lea, stretching from Clifton Street to Mountain Avenue. With makeshift bases, an infield was laid out by the participants to play baseball. Home plate was at Clifton Street, and the batter hit towards Mountain Ave. A bit narrow, but sufficient for the neighborhood baseball-playing wannabees. The problem arose when a struck ball ended up in the brook.
“The waterway, which came from Melrose in the north, ran through backyards and eventually under Clifton Street, through the park, under Mountain Ave. After disappearing, the creek then continued under Joslin’s Department Store on Pleasant Street in downtown Malden, later Jordan Marsh (then CVS, now an extension of Boda Borg), eventually reaching the Malden River.
“Ruth Kimball Randall wrote in her 1975 book, ‘Malden, from ‘Primitive Past to Progressive Present,’ that ‘Thomas Coytemore, a Puritan Sea captain, built a gristmill, which is a mill for grinding grain, by the pond in Malden Square, on a portion of the 35 acres he was awarded in 1640. His dam, near present day Mountain Ave, on the easterly side of Three Mile Brook (later, Spot Pond), carried the water in a wooden trough to the gristmill below. This early enterprise flourished for years, long after the death of the then original owner.’
“Kimball continued, ‘Scarcely four years after he had begun his mill, Captain Coytemore was lost at sea off the coast of Spain. He commanded ‘The Trial’ the first ship ever built in Boston, completed in 1642.’
“From Saint Patrick’s Day until near Thanksgiving, baseball was the sport of choice for the athletes of Coytemore. The difference between baseball played at other parks across the city of Malden and Coytemore, was often a batted ball ended up with a splash. Since baseballs were in great demand, the outfielder closest to the bridge had to run between the fence and bridge and grab the ball before it went under Mountain Ave, never to be seen again.
“Of course, occasionally, the retriever fell into the brook, which was studded with rocks, creating ripples, and re-routing the ball in various directions. After a heavy rain, the river would swell into the Colorado River, and the ball would gain momentum, racing toward the bridge. In an instant, the bobbing covered rawhide sphere would disappear forever, If it was recovered, the ball would be put back into play immediately, even though it weighed twice as much as it did before it was driven into the waterway.
“However, they came to play, through the 1950’s, into the 1960’s, until the MDC Pool was constructed. Dozens of the immediate area’s youths matriculated to the ‘hole,’ the pasture, the lea that was Coytemore.
“The Rodenheisers, Dick and Bert. Dick later played for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, coached by Jack Riley, Jr of Medford, that won the Gold Medal, defeating Russia at Squaw Valley in 1960. Brother Bert became a Malden Police Officer. Ralph Billings, Donnie & Robert Davidson, Dickie Kelly, the Garrant brothers, Oscar Spear, Bobby Keefe, the Leonard brothers, Billy McGrath, Tommy DeLue, and the Coleman brothers Tommy & Billy who later became Councilman for Ward Four, where Coytemore Lea sits. The third Coleman, Jimmy, is in the MHS Sports Hall of Fame. The Coleman brothers never ended, they just kept coming.
“Then there was Dom, Joe, and Sonny Presterone. Dom later changed his name to Prestone and became the professional boxer, John Forde. Billy McLaughlin, Bobby McCarthy, and Tommy Dennen also. Wow! Don’t get me started! Ronnie King, Chris McGadden, and the ‘teaching’ Sherry twins, Jimmy & John, David Le Cain, Larry Scofield, and the Maxwell brothers Bill, Doug, and Bruce. There was Steve Mikhov, (Court Officer) Larry Bendell, Bobby Sibley, Parker & Paul Dunne, Lester Schneiderman, Wayne Carney, and Jackie Carl.
“It wasn’t just the ‘Boys of Summer,’ as a few of the girls could play just as well as the boys. Ann Tibbetts, Jacqui Siegel, Nancy Pica, and Nancy Fowle were talented. Larry Culleton, a hard-throwing lefty, was chased by the New York Yankees but hurt his arm his senior year of high school. The Joyces, Lonny & Gary. Gary coached in Little League, then in the Babe Ruth League for many years. Jimmy Ministeri, Paul & Billy Carty, also in MHS’s HOF. Stu McInnis, Walter Brooks, Dickie Lutz, Paul MacDonald, and Anthony Dainys all found time for the national pastime at the Lea. Donny Schultz and Aldo Agnoletti came off the Main Street side of Waitt’s Mount to play. Dr. Fox’s son, Jay, when he wasn’t practicing his trombone also. The list goes on and on.
“It was a different time. No uniforms. No coaches, no umpires. Hand-me-down equipment. Their skills were honed by playing from sunrise to sunset. And yes, in the Summer Parks City Program where Coytemore did compete against the parks and playgrounds across town. Edgeworth, Maplewood, Amerige, Faulkner, Linden, Forestdale, and Suffolk. The only handicap: none of the other parts of town would come to Coytemore. Forcing us to play all away games.
“Before the MDC put the swimming pool in, every winter Malden would build a berm of earth, maybe 200 feet by 75 feet and flood the area for ice skating. The depth of 4 to 5 inches assured parents their offspring would not drown. After World War 2, located closer to Clifton Street, clay tennis courts were erected. But seldom used. Once those fences came down, it opened up things for baseball.
“Once the MDC Pool was built, in the early 1960’s, most everything ended. For a long while, little went on at “The Lea.” The hurricanes of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s had knocked down many of the stately elms on the west side of the park. Eventually, the brook was covered with a culvert. The water now runs under a pagoda. The bridge is long gone; a basketball court now sits over the creek that once was.
“Today, most of the season finds the bare legs of little soccer players racing around the old pasture called Coytemore Lea.”
Bob is lifelong Malden, a neighbor of Coytemore Lea Park, and one of the best friends the youths of Malden have ever had. Ever! Love ya, Bob.
As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character “Columbo” would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – Malden was a hotbed for outstanding baseball players when I was growing up; from all corners of the city, we produced some of the most formidable athletes on the North Shore, nurtured by passionate adults from Little League right up to Intercity League competition. I think it is time to revisit Malden’s all-time greatest baseball players from the late 1960’s through the late 1980’s. Without further ado, I bring to you my squad. Please feel free to disagree:
- Right-handed starting pitcher: Dave Caiazzo.
- Left-handed starting pitcher: Richie Howard.
- Long relief: Ruffino Mugica.
- Set up guy: Shawn Brickman.
- Left hand specialist: Sammy Steed.
- Middle guy: Dan Cook.
- Spot starter: Billy Smeglin.
- One pitch and out guy: Keith Forbes.
- Two pitch and out guy: Buddy DeMontier.
- Closer: Kevin McGlinchy.
- Starting catcher: Billy Croken.
- Bullpen catcher: Dommy DiSario.
- Sideline catcher: Paul Abbatinozzi.
- First: Rob Santo.
- Second: Johnny Salmon.
- Third: Bobby Foley.
- Shortstop: Mike Ploumbidis.
- Left: Dennis Damiano.
- Center: Steve Carpenter.
- Right: Carmine Cappuccio.
- Right hand pinch hitter: John Vitale.
- Left hand pinch hitter: Jimmy Coleman.
- Pinch runner: Bobby Langston.
- Late inning outfield defensive specialist: Scott Rutledge.
- Late inning infield defensive specialist: Matt Chiccuarelli.
- Extra inning outfield defensive specialist: Bobby Harrison.
- Extra inning infield defensive specialist: Steve Carlin.
- Right hand designated hitter: Bobby McVicar.
- Left hand designated hitter: Michael Langston.
- Manager: Bob Rotondi.
- First base coach: Frank Adorn Sr.
- Third base coach: Larry Collins.
- Bench coaches: Joe Saia, Steve Freker
- Hitting coach: MacDaniel “Mac” Singleton.
- Bullpen coach: Bob Rosano.
- Scorekeeper: Harry Mehos.
- General Manager: Eddie Larson.
- Batting practice pitcher: Steve Ring.
• Bat boys: Kevin Killion, Jimmy Walker, Johnny Bionelli, Frankie Fantauzzi, Kevin Larson.