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~ Malden Musings ~ The Malden Sun-Times & Shawn Brickman

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By Peter Levine


I am binge reading The Malden Sun-Times from the 1970’s courtesy of Ron Cox. Ron donated many back issues to me while cleaning out his desk at MATV (aka UMA). Perusing a special edition of The Malden Sun-Times from 1977 was a cool trip down memory lane for me. Many names of old friends, such as Shawn Brickman (who appears throughout the whole decade), Billy Smeglin and Dave Angelo, are mentioned. A couple of items stand out.

In 1976 Shawn Brickman was 11-1 for the Malden High School baseball team! Eleven wins, one loss as a junior! Amazing! He and Billy Smeglin would go on to fame (if not fortune) pitching for many more years in various leagues at many different levels – Smegs finally hanging up his cleats last year after rotator surgery at the ripe old age of 64. Shawn dominated the Inter-City League for many years before hanging up his cleats. Now retired from the USPS, he spends much of his time these days as a man of leisure, a doting, loving grandfather, and elder statesman at the IACC.

Here are a couple of fun takeaways from The Malden Sun-Times of March 31, 1977: “It will be a rebuilding year for the high school boys’ baseball team with only five players returning from last year’s varsity. Of those five, only two have seen any real varsity action. All-Scholastic Shawn Brickman pitched to an 11-1 record last season and Billy ‘Smegs’ Smeglin who started late in the season came on strong and lost to Catholic Memorial in the State Tournament 6-5 on a five-hitter.”

“John Furlong had some limited experience at shortstop and Tommy ‘Quinner’ Quinn played in the infield and outfield last year. As of now they are leading candidates for shortstop and third base.”

“The lack of space to practice in the bad weather has been contributing factors to the prolonged tryout period. Some possible candidates for different positions have been mentioned but these are still tentative because of the cramped quarters. The three leading candidates for catcher thus far are seniors Kenny [Karyn’s little brother] Lockhart, Victor Souza, and George Salie.”

“First base possibilities are Ricky Flammini and Michael Svenson. The outfield is also still undecided with Timmy Buckley, Eddie Moffitt, Steve Petruzzello, Billy ‘Goat’ Trodden, Donnie King, and Steve Powell as possibilities. Powell is also a hopeful for the pitching staff along with Danny Cook, Eric Provitola, and Steve Spinale.” My note: That is an outstanding pitching staff!!

The Malden Sun-Times of August 12, 1976: “St. Rocco’s Festival” – “The Traditional St. Rocco’s Festival (it is NOT a Festival, it is a Feast!) will begin tomorrow, and continue through the weekend (Aug 13-15) in Ward 2 (Edgeworth), and will be marked at various times by entertainment, religious observance, and a procession through the streets near Saint Peter’s Church in honor of one of the Catholic Church’s most revered Italian Saints.”

“The festival [it is NOT a Festival, it is a Feast!] is directed by Father Antonio Cintola, pastor at St. Peter’s, and will begin on Friday with a Mass in honor of the Saint in the Pearl Street Church. The mass will be followed by a concert at Devir Park by the Joe Sica Orchestra and a performance by Roberta Mauriello, church soloist and entertainer.”

“The activities on Saturday include entertainment at Devir Park by the ‘Reflections,’ a musical group featuring Ron Merullo, and ventriloquist Vikki Taylor who has enchanted audiences throughout Europe and the United States.”

“On Sunday, there will be a High Mass at 10:15 in the morning at the church in honor of St. Rocco, with sacred music by the St. Peter’s Senior Choir. This will be followed by the Procession through the streets around the church in honor of the Saint, and lead by many local dignitaries and the Immaculate Conception Drum and Bugle Corps of Winchester. A benediction and singing at the Church will follow the Procession.”

“Sunday evenings’ entertainment will begin at 7:30 at the traditional Pearl Street location, and will include Jack Alessi, the Don Alessi Trio, Giuseppe Pisaturo, his daughter vocalist Luci Martin Zampitella, and accompanist Vaughn Beau.”

“Daniel Brandano is chairman of the St. Rocco Committee. Joseph Falcone is Treasurer, Luci Martin Zampitella is Director of Entertainment, and Joseph Smarilla is Procession Marshall.”

“Other committee members include David Angelo, Anthony Brandano, Gertrude DiAvola, Anna Marie De Filippo, Muffie DiDonato, Edith Falcone, Luigi Firmani, Salvatore ‘Butch’ Gennetti, Anthony Guerriero, Michael Lozzi, Donna Petto (Pitts), Henry Petto (Pitts), John Puleo Jr., William Spadafora, Tom Toomey, Gregory Umile, and Richard Zampitella.”

This one blows my mind (as we used to say back in the day)! Imagine debating equal rights for women?! The Malden Sun-Times of August 12, 1976: “Voice of Malden” by Debbie Freeto:

“This week, the Malden Sun-Times reviewed residents of Malden about one of the referendum questions on the upcoming November Ballot. The question asked of a random sampling of Malden voters went as follows: ‘There will be a constitutional amendment (to the Massachusetts Constitution) on the November ballot called the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); Will you be voting for it or against it?’

“We obtained the following responses…

  • Anne Falzarano of Boylston Street: ‘Yes; I think everyone should be equal and that’s all there is to it.’
  • Florence Buchanan of Glenwood Street: ‘Yes, because I believe in equal pay for women – that no woman should be deprived of a job in any office because she’s a woman. If it’s not going to hurt the family, deprive the children of having a mother around, I’m all for it.’
  • John Disano of Adams Street: ‘Yes, I’m going to vote for it,’ but added, ‘I have no feeling about it.’
  • James Daily of Maple Street: ‘No, I’m against it. I don’t think we’re ready for it. It would create too many legal problems with things like welfare and alimony payment. I’m not a chauvinist but I think we should go a little slower – think it out a little better.’
  • Percy Wagner from Pleasant Street: ‘Oh sure, why not, it’s a good thing. Nowadays, why shouldn’t women have the same rights as a man?’
  • Thomas Buckley of Plainfield Ave: ‘Yes; from what I’ve read about it, I believe in it. Women should be on the upper echelons of business – women attorneys and teachers, for example, don’t get equal salaries. Women should have equal rights in all areas.’

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – on a Shawn Brickman personal note…arguably the best athlete of my lifetime Shawn dominated (Malden) sports (and most of us at one time or another) for decades. From Little League to Babe Ruth League to MHS, on every basketball court in the city, including the uber competitive Malden Men’s Recreational Basketball League, through the Inter-City League (and beyond). Who remembers Shawn’s clutch 1985 series finale clincher as the “Miracle Mustangs” came roaring back defeating the Melrose Rams after being down three games to none?! Shawn going six strong innings, limiting the Rams to four hits – final score 3-1 as the Eddie DiGiacomo–led ’Stangs won their first championship (in front of 3,000 rabid fans at Playstead Park, no less) in almost 20 years! Well, that’s just one of Shawn’s many accomplishments through the years; space limitations prevent me from listing them all. Best thing about his long and storied career? Yeah, he was a bulldog on the field; a killer on the hoop court; the type of guy you would gladly follow into battle. But he was also a humble and unassuming human being – to this day one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever known. He never acted the role of (arguably) Malden GOAT. He was your teammate first, no matter your talent level; always supportive, always treating you with respect. Shawn no longer dominates the hoop court (I bet he could if he wanted to) – now dominating the bocce court at the Italian American Citizens Club, where his teams are regularly in the hunt for yet another championship trophy – another trophy to hand down to his beautiful children and grandchildren (right, Earl?). And if I may dare say one more thing about Shawn: a sweetheart of a man.

Postscript 1: I just love the accompanying photo! Taken at one of Malden’s best family-owned restaurants (621 Tavern & Grille), you can actually visualize through the image what good pals these five gentlemen really are. Their friendship spanning over 50 years – the smiles on their faces, the ease with which they embrace each other says it all. Furgie, Jonesy, Brick, Pitty and Benny: five of Malden’s finest people (and athletes) captured for the ages.

Postscript 2: I called 621 Tavern & Grille one of Malden’s best family-owned restaurants, keeping in mind that Floramo’s of Malden (“where the meat falls off the bone”) now sits on Centre Street. John, don’t get me wrong; we love you and we thank you for settling in Malden. Best steak tips and mashed potatoes around and we are very grateful you are here. Your joint is right up there also. Keep up the great work (and food!). Insert smiley face. Say hello to your sister Lisa for me.

Postscript 3: You got a friend in me… John Mehos and Shawn Brickman go so far back… They remember their first pizza together at the Highland Café, their first saucy sub at the Big A, their first clam plate at King Neptune’s; buying their first pair of Chuck Taylor’s at the Converse Retail on Pearl Street; probably even their first case of Schlitz purchased out the back door of the old Elmwood on a Sunday afternoon. Harry’s little brother Johnny gladly shared his thoughts on his longtime friend: “I’m proud to say I began blocking for Shawn in the fall of 1971 on the Pop Warner B squad. Through Beebe Jr High and Malden High School, tag rush and flag football leagues you always knew who the QB was, no questions. It was an honor to play with one of the very best our fine city has ever produced. By the way, we just finished our 30th (?) year of bocce together and YES, he’s been called one of best on the court there too. Shawn Brickman my friend for over 50 years!”

“You’ve got a friend in me, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you, we stick together and can see it through, cause you’ve got a friend in me.”

Peter is lifelong Malden 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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