By Peter Levine
What fun we had at the 64th Annual Malden BRL Banquet aka the Malden Bob Rotondi League Banquet! I just love this banquet and each year look forward to the Bat phone ringing, the call from Bob with my invite. Staying connected to the BRL, which was a big part of my youth – playing for Bob Rosano’s Stars – is something I really cherish.
I love the Moose! They make you feel so comfortable, and the food/service is always wicked good! Everybody was there that night! Amazing how Bob can fill a room full of rambunctious teenage boys and have them all behave themselves (and pay attention)! That Bob Rotondi “stare down” is legendary! Insert smiley face.
So, Ralphie Kelly was behind the bar as he always is when you enjoy another night at the Moose Hall. Ralph’s the man! Great athlete when he was a youth and a man in really good standing at the old YMCA (and of course, he was a Chowhound). At the head table sitting like the royalty they are were Mayor Gary Christenson (stayed the whole night, by the way, as he does whenever he attends any youth sporting event, contrary to a snarky remark made by an online cretin residing in their parents basement), BRL State Commissioner Mark Matanes (a really good guy who loves the game of baseball and, from what I can tell, loves mentoring youth), keynote speaker Lenny DiNardo (former Boston Red Sox pitcher, current NESN color commentator and a stand-up guy), Janell Summer’s husband BRL Treasurer Deano, (the man, the myth, the legend) BRL Secretary Dave Allan, player agent Chris Kosuk and BRL President and former Councillor-at-Large Greg Lucey. (Fun fact: As a 13-year-old, Greg was on the 1970 Barons who won the city series behind the bats of league co-MVP Dennis Damiano and his big brother – the late – Brian, as well the rubber arm pitching of tall lanky right-hander Bruce MacDonald).
Vice President Bob Rotondi moderated the night in his usual low-key, quick, droll fashion (awesome job, by the way, Bob). Malden Recreation Dept. Director Joe Levine – and his counterpart in Melrose, Joan Bell – were in attendance, front row. Malden Little League directors ‘Phish” D’Anna and Kenny Mazonson were spotted seated front and center enjoying the night. Author Dave “Davey Cai” Caiazzo (“Life Tried to Throw Me a Curveball” still available in paperback), former MHS Principal and former Ferryway Green denizen Dana Brown (look for a DB Ferryway Green article in the very near future) and Malden’s unofficial sports historian, BRL statistician (and mensch) Harvey Nadler were all seated at a head table in front – all Malden MVPs in their own right. Also seated close to Mr. Baseball were BRL Administrative Assistant Wayne Martineau and Coaches Andy Scarano and Paul Maccioli – all spotted having their fair share of antipasto and ravioli! Fuhgeddaboudit!
Awards! We had awards! The “Outstanding Contribution to the Program Award” went to none other than the Recreation Department’s own Laura Perez. Laura, by the way, is an indispensable employee for the City of Malden. Her contributions are innumerable – which has allowed Recreation Dept. Director Joe Levine to sleep a bit more soundly at night. Here are a few more awards presented this evening…
- The MVP of the playoffs went to David Ruane.
- Doreen Iovanna presented the “Unsung Hero Award” to Joey Hatch.
- Mayor Christenson presented the “Gary Christenson Sportsman of the Year Award” to Karen Bogan’s little boy, Bo Stead.
- Mike Guida and Collin Belloise tied for “Rookie of the Year.”
- Ryan McMahon and Chris MacDonald shared the MVP Award. The last time the MVP Award was shared was 1970 when “Malden Evening News Athlete of the Decade (1970s)” Dave Caiazzo was co-MVP with one of the most devastating hitters the BRL (and Edgeworth) has ever produced, Dennis Damiano. Bob tried to get a Dennis/Dave reunion this night, but Dennis was unavailable.
- MHS baseball coach Steve Freker, after giving out the Senior Awards, gave a very “positive and inspiring” talk on the status of baseball within Malden (alive and well!). Great job, Steve. We look forward to your novel Malden Baseball Hall of Fame when you roll it out next spring!
- Three of former Boston Bruins star Andy Brickley’s brothers showed up to help support baseball in Malden. John, George and Quinton appeared as a package deal and were inspiring to listen to. Though noted for their hockey skills, Bob says all five of the brothers (especially Andy) could “rake.”
- The “Joe Zaia Award” was again presented by daughter Gail to Pilot manager Nolan Bagley. Next time you enter Macdonald Stadium, take a moment to read the bronze plaque dedicated to Joe that sits at the base of the flagpole directly in front of the Dom Fermano Field House.
- Longtime BRL sponsors Steve “Brother of Mike” Wishoski and his lovely wife Carol were seated front and centered enjoying the four-course-dinner all the while being “entertained” by Harvey Nadler.
- Longtime coach Joe Caraco (straight outta the North End) and Pine Banks Park Superintendent Kevin Benner worked the door for the 16th straight year (I could swear I saw Kevin daydreaming of square pizza slices from the North End’s Galleria Umberto as he collected tickets). Joe and Kevin followed Bob and Del Warner, who followed the forever beloved Pearl and Perry Verge taking tickets at the door.
It is said in Malden Musings…
- Malden breathed a sigh of relief on Election Day, November 7, when incumbent Mayor Gary Christenson sailed easily to victory, despite an onslaught by a handful of disgruntled Maldonians. Kudos must go out to his opponent for running such a positive campaign – easily the most controversy-free election season in a very long time. Gary’s mayoral credentials turned out to be insurmountable. The people have spoken. Again, congratulations, Mayor Gary Christenson! Let’s keep moving forward!
- The MHS football season may not being going as well as Head Coach Witche Exilhomme had hoped for, but Malden is still 100% behind you, my friend. Keep up the great work. Keep motivating. The wins will come.
- Thank you, Dante DiSerio, for taking time out of your life to run for public office. It was appreciated by more people than you can imagine!
- Congratulations to Louise and Buddy Arthur on their 52nd Wedding Anniversary (Nov. 6). This ageless couple must have gotten married when they were 12! Both look marvelous! All the best to such a wonderful people!
- On a perfect Saturday for football, “Old School Malden” travelled to Rhode Island to watch Yale take on Brown and their star quarterback, Jake Willcox. That kid can play, by the way! Tommy Stein, Dana Brown and the Levine brothers – Joe and Peter – watched Brown take one on the chin this beautiful afternoon, but Jake made his family and friends proud, as he always does. Jake grew up in Everett, but has deep Malden roots and many, many friends here. We bumped into his dad Dennis, aunt Julie, uncles Johnny, Freddy and Kevin as well as all sorts of cousins and friends. Some of the connections with the Browns, Willcoxes, Levines and Steins go back 50 years or more. As the saying goes…all roads lead back to Malden. Thank you, Dana Brown, for inspiring me (to get off my recliner for a Saturday afternoon!).
- Little known fact department: In 1969, Dennis’s younger brother Jimmy was also a devastating hitter, punching 18 round trippers over the green wooden fence at Devir Park’s Bruce Field as a 12-year-old for the Saxons of the National League (I should know, I was there for each one).
- I am long overdue for a sit-down with a real Malden legend, Bill Dempsey – World War II hero, a Malden Public Schools superstar and one of the nicest men ever to walk these streets. Look for a Bill Dempsey write-up in the very near future.
As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – with the passing of Edgeworth’s Joanna Goodwin, Malden lost another little piece of its soul. Tightly interwoven into the fabric of Ward 2, Goodwin and her family were what made this tiny Italian enclave so special. She and her family will be missed.
Speaking of the Goodwins… so long to one of my besties (Joanna’s son) Bobby. “Goodie” and his wife Kelly are fleeing cold New England nights for the warmer climes of Florida despite nary a good Italian restaurant in the whole state (insert smiley face). Bobby and I go way back to the summer of 1978. We saw the Ramones every time they stepped into New England for at least 10 years. We had many a late-night China Garden feast on the steps of Johnny Angelo’s Barber Shop on Highland Avenue, Gabby’s. And we spent (too many) hours sitting on a barstool with Albert (Spadafora) in the old lounge at Anthony’s on Canal Street. Goodie, those were the days, my friend. Stay well, until the next time we meet.