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~ Malden Musings ~ “Malden’s Best According to Mr. Baseball”

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By Peter Levine


Here is something Bob Rotondi and I have been kicking around for a short period of time: the top five hitters (note to Jason Munroe – we’re talking baseball players, not gangsters) to come out of Malden in the last 75 years. We are just talking hitters and in no particular order. We (or I should say, Bob) came up with Malden Police Officer Michael Langston, the late great Highland Cafe bartender Pete Trabucco, Michael Jordan’s teammate in the White Sox organization Carmine Cappuccio, Dave Caiazzo’s mentor Steve Ring, and possibly the best of them all, Johnny Salmon. This was a tough call all around, Bob mused, so many “batsmen’ came to mind. I threw out the name of Edgeworth’s Dennis Damiano from the 1970 City Champ Barons in the Babe Ruth League. Bob agreed he was a vicious hitter for his time in the BRL but if he didn’t go into the service (Navy), he may have been the best of them all (my opinion). Bob mentioned Edgeworth’s Rob Santo, who did time in the Orioles system, Steve Durant and Billy Croken, who excelled in the Red Sox organization. Mr. Baseball suggested maybe we could put an asterisk after his name, but (former Bruins great) Andy Brickley could flat out hit and played in Malden until he turned 13 when the family moved to Melrose. Andy did return a few years later to play in the inter-city league. His older brothers John and George could really “rake,” too.

Bob suggested that maybe my readers might enjoy coming up with their own lists. It could make for some interesting debates, as well as some much-needed laughs. Loyal readers, let me know at the email address below (please stop laughing at my AOL account) whom you would like to recognize as the best batsmen from the past 75 years. Thanks for taking the time to reach out to me, Bob. Readers, have at it.

I know I am a little late with this remembrance but circumstances beyond my control prevented me from posting it sooner. This time of year, I dutifully take a moment and remember two Malden boys (and boys they were) who were tragically killed one early summer day 52 years ago. Most remember the night as if it were yesterday. Me included. Malden Street’s Al Owens and Beltran Street’s John Surette were in the ninth grade at Beebe at the time when they were hit by a train on the (pre-MBTA) tracks behind Tricca’s Restaurant (Pearl and Adams) – killed instantly. Beebe Jr. High mourned. We never stopped mourning. Here’s to you, Al and John – always in our thoughts.

  • Diane Wishoski remembers sitting in a large circle in the park on the Malden Street side when she heard the news.
  • Billy Settemio reflects, “Living up against the train tracks we had an abundance of caution. We played on those sandy banks, but that day was horrifically sad. All of us kids were exposed to tragedy and sadness the day we lost those boys from the neighborhood. God rest their souls.”
  • Steve Silva: “I was only 11 but it is burned in all of our collective memories I am sure – terrible day!”
  • David Dortona said John was the “big brother he never had” and that he “missed him every day.”
  • Joani Fucci: “I remember Ross Schifano was actually walking under that bridge when it happened. He was a mess when he reached his home on Whitman St. I’m sure it’s etched in his mind forever; it was such a sad day in Edgeworth.”
  • Vinny Della Gatta recalls he saw Rossie running towards his house on Adams Street “crying like crazy.” He then went up the hill towards the tracks and saw what a mess the scene was. Then Ptl. Butchie Gennetti came up to him and told him to leave the area. It was the year Jimmy graduated, but the memory of that day has never left him. He lived behind Tricca’s on Adams close to the scene of the accident; he was in the shower when the train whistle loudly blew. He heard a thud and knew there was some sort of accident; that is when he ran outside and his life “changed forever.” He continued: “right next to Tricca’s Restaurant on the corner of Adams and Pearl after that happened is when they started to work on the track for the new transportation and made it so no one can just walk up there like the early 1950’s into the early 1970’s, I walked those same tracks to the Strand Theater and Al’s Pool Room all the time. Everybody remembers Al’s Pool Room; we all did our ‘homework’ there.”
  • Scotty Mallett: “My father was working on an addition to the Spadafora’s Florist Shop on Pearl St. against the tracks and real close to Tricca’s when all the commotion drew his attention, he and his crew ran up the hill to the tracks behind them. I remember my father coming home white as a ghost telling us what had happened. So sad, so young.”
  • Cheryl Rowe: “My dad was one of the police officers at the scene, he was the police photographer at the time. I had never seen my dad so devastated about anything he had ever seen on the job before or after that day. Cannot imagine what the families went through.”
  • Claire Lester: “My dad was a firefighter at Pearl Street Station, one of the first at the scene. I never saw my dad so upset when he got home.”
  • June Garrity Fagan: “I remember the loss of these two classmates very well, and it affected me deeply. Somehow at that age we think of ourselves as invincible. Death of a contemporary is so surreal. I will never forget the loss I felt for these two, nor the sense of loss it imposed on our class as we progressed through Malden High.”
  • Michele Jesi Magner: “It was horrific. For many of us at Beebe, it was our first experience attending any type of services. Still remember it to this day.”
  • Kathy Thing-Lewis: “I remember this so well. We lived in Oak Grove. John would come over and hang out with us. We had a wooden fence out in front of our house, we used to sit on the rails of it and some of us carved our initials on the top of the posts that held the rails. John’s initials were there for years until the old fence came down. I remember riding in a car with someone from the Community Center in the Grove right after we heard about it and the radio was playing Cat Stevens’ ‘Moon Shadow.’ So very sad.”

It is said in “Malden Musings”…

  • The beautifully painted crosswalks on Salem Street – somebody forgot to let those driving through them that the paint was still wet. Insert smiley face!
  • Here’s hoping that Bravo Pizza reinvents itself into something Malden Square can be proud of.
  • Best breakfast in Malden, as we all know, is at Cornucopia Foods in Malden Square. Homemade muffins, pies and other delights await you as well. But what caught my eye recently was a poster in the window informing Maldonians that they now serve hot dogs! Who doesn’t love a good hot dog? Neil, I’ll be in soon for a couple of dogs “all around,” as we used to say whenever we’d order a dog or two at Joe & Nemo’s!
  • I ventured out of Edgeworth on my walk last week. Newland Street and environs were my destination. Glad I did. I discovered what a lovely, quiet neighborhood that area is. Joe and I thought of you, Cathy Mac, as we walked past Miller Park. Thank you to all that have implored me to leave Edgeworth every once in a while. Insert smiley face.
  • If you are ever on Appleton Street, stop for a moment and marvel at the tree that lives at 32 Appleton – an incredible sight to behold.
  • See retired MATV big cheese Ronny Cox lately?! He looks relaxed, tanned and years younger! Add that cool, hipster-style half-modified “van dyke” beard, and Ronny is ready for his closeup! Love ya dude – stay young, my friend!

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – a couple of weeks back I wrote about Officer Neville, who patrolled the streets of Malden at the turn of the last century. Then there is this…an always welcome comment from the “Pride of Maplewood,” Neil Kinnon: “Another great column Peter. Always enjoyable. Was on my morning walk through Holy Cross Cemetery today and walked past MPD Officer Neville’s grave (Abraham Neville 1860-1921). Often wonder about the people in those graves’ lives, particularly the ones with ties to Malden. You ensure with your keyboard/pen he is not forgotten and for a few days brought back to life.”

Postscript: In the “book of life is brief” department, let’s remember Ermelinda “Mimi” Callahan, Gloria J. (Iaobacci) Pasciuto and Mary G. (Cocco) Smeglin one last time. “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”—Helen Keller


Peter is a longtime Malden resident and a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.

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