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Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday – Boys of 1973 Summer

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  They are Malden’s version of the “Boys of Summer” (circa 1973). They were the neighborhood tough guys, the barflies, the saints and the sinners – running the back streets of Malden from Robinson’s News in Linden to Park Street to Oak Grove to Edgeworth and all points in between. These 1973 Malden High School classmates led the way for many of us. Role models and mentors back in a day unrecognizable from today: on the baseball diamonds at Roosevelt or South Broadway, on the frozen infield at Devir Park, at Pearl Street Stadium, the hoop court at Amerige or any (and all) of the neighborhood bars that filled Malden in the 1970s. The 1959 TV series “Naked City” started each episode with the tag line “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” Sitting with these guys recently at the Sons of Italy in Revere for another of their sensational semiannual mini reunions, I discovered that the naked city may have “eight million” stories but this group of Maldonians has many, many more than eight million.

  A mini reunion was called recently at the Sons of Italy in Revere. “Sammy the Cook” prepares the food at the Sons of Italy. Think mom’s Sunday dinner growing up (if you grew up in an Italian household in Edgeworth): tortelli ravioli, meatball and sausage, roast beef, roasted potatoes au jus – antipasto! – french bread straight outta Bova’s in the North End! Forgetaboutit! This crew brought an appetite and ate like Italian American Citizen’s Club members at a free buffet. A fine job by “Sammy the Cook.” Sammy actually has a much more colorful nickname, but this being a family newspaper, it cannot be printed. Insert smiley face here.

  When we arrived the unofficial leader of the pack was already present and accounted for. Ronny Drinkwater sat at a high-top table holding court with reunion co-organizer Freddy “Sceebo” Scibelli. Modest, humble and still Hollywood handsome, “Drinky” led an interesting life to say the least. All Scholastic lineman for the 1973 Malden High School football team; professional boxer who fought “The Greatest” (Muhammed Ali) in an exhibition match in Boston in 1978 and floored him (Ali didn’t like that by the way); professional actor appearing in the mid-eighties Boston-based TV series starring Robert Urich, “Spencer: For Hire”; successful businessman. “Bevy” is also respected, far and wide. Small example: I’m sitting late night at the bar in the Florentine Café on Hanover Street in the North End, maybe 1996. Ronny walks in with another gentleman as big and burly as he is. Ronny’s sporting a full-length black leather jacket with a black turtleneck sweater. His friend has on a mid-length suede jacket and is just as big and as “formidable” as Bevy. The room is elbow to elbow. As the pair walk in the crowd splits in two (think Moses, the Red Sea and any scene from “Goodfellas”). They walk to the end of the bar and are greeted by what look like regulars sitting in that area and by an endless stream of well-wishers coming from the kitchen area. When you can walk into a bar in the North End and are greeted like you’re the mayor, that’s respect! Forgetabouit! That’s Ronny Drinkwater!

  Freddy (Scibelli) and Billy McNamara are the impetus behind these mini reunions. The charismatic and amusingly bellicose “Mac” being one of the coolest cats on Pearl Street growing up – the best baker to ever come out of Edgeworth and Pearl Bakery. If you want the best Italian pastry or bread, Mac still plies his trade at Esposito’s Bakery in Stoneham. A while back I told him I would make him a (cable) TV star, but he’ll have to settle for his name in the paper. TV stardom, unfortunately, is in the rearview mirror, Mac.

  Joe Levine and Tommy Stein came bouncing into the room at about 5:30 – both southpaws, both on that 1973 boys’ hoop team at Malden High that lost more games than they won (nobody had more fun in the process, though). Point guard T Stein (unofficially) led the nation in assists that year. With Danny Meyers and Bruce Vining running the lanes with him, once he made that first pass, the ball disappeared – usually in the hole. Danny and Bruce averaging 20 points per game, neither of them shy on the court (or off).

  Oak Grove hockey, baseball and football stud Danny Bolan was his usual engaging self, reminding me, once again, that Malden consists of more than Edgeworth. Point taken, my friend.

  Growing up, Jimmy Damiano and I looked up to Steve Saraceni like he was Mickey Mantle or Captain Carl. One of my first memories of Steve walking the halls at Beebe Junior High with Jimmy D as 7th graders: Jimmy and I walk by him; Steve was all 1970 cool: mid-length black leather jacket, jet black hair with thick mutton chops to match, black denim Levis. He nods at us. We were in. Nobody messed with you if you were from Edgeworth, “Sara” had your back.

  We ate, we drank (like gentlemen) and we told tales (some tall, most cannot be printed because the statute of limitations may not have run out yet) before it was time to call it an evening. No more closing the bar. No more party to the break of dawn. Like gentlemen we departed till the next time Freddy puts out the word. Same bat time, same bat channel.

  “This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end” – the Class of ’73 lost a few mates along the road to 2021. But that happens with most large classes (669) on this long, strange trip called life. The Class of 1973 has a lot to be thankful for, though. I can personally attest to that. They came of age during one of the most “messed up” times in the history of our country. In my opinion their greatest graduation gift was the truce that was called on that gosh darn war while they were seniors, their numbers never getting a chance to be called. My brother never having to make a decision. I am sure, to a person, they are eternally grateful for that.

  Postscript 1: They also came of age during one of the greatest decades ever. Jack Haney’s in Malden Square, Philly soul, Lucifer’s in Kenmore Square, Grand Funk Railroad, Jack’s on Mass. Ave., the Sugar Shack, the best weed ever, Disco and Morrison’s in Linden Square. They enjoyed the best of times as the country recovered from Nam, Nixon and Watergate, never, ever getting cheated out of good times. So, let’s raise a pint of ale for the Class of ’73. Friends made for good, here’s to many more mini reunions, to many more good times. Here’s to the good life, gentlemen.

  Postscript 2: I would be remiss if I did not mention that Malden lost too many wonderful boys during the Vietnam War. Once again, I want to personally extend my heartfelt appreciation to all that served and to all who made the ultimate sacrifice during those horrific times. Also, thank you to Malden’s Veteran’s Service Director, Kevin Jarvis, for doing such an outstanding job – always putting his heart and soul into his work. Special salute to my dear friend Johnny Marsinelli who came back from Nam to make Mary-Alice the happiest woman in Malden.

  Postscript 3: The rock from the Class of ’73, Dommy DiSario, was missed – to a man (and woman).

  Postscript 4: Maybe you’ve heard, maybe not…congratulations to the 1973 Malden High School Hockey Team who were inducted into the MHS Sports Hall of Fame as a team last month. Check out this incredibly talented bunch of hockey players: Al Ruelle, Bob McCarthy (Edgeworth), Kevin Howard, Ray Porter (Edgeworth), Steve Sideri, Gary DeSousa, Jim McGonagle (Edgeworth), Dan Boland, (Captain) Joey Mayne (Edgeworth), Coach Joe Bogan, Dave Surette (Edgeworth), Bob DiMeco (Edgeworth), Matt Marden (Edgeworth), Tom O’Connor (Edgeworth), Mike Stefanilo, John Finnegan, John MacDonald, Rich Howard (Edgeworth), Bob Gallagher (Edgeworth), Mike Marcucella, Steve Surette (Edgeworth) and Coach Bill McCormack.

  Postscript 5: Yes, most of the boys came from the streets of Edgeworth. Edgeworth was a hotbed of hockey talent during the Big Bad Bruins days with most of these guys honing their skills on the flooded big-league diamond at Devir Park. This is just a small sample of the hockey talent in Edgeworth back yonder. We also had the Hanley’s Frankie and Mike, Brian and Mike Powers, Brian Hitchcock, Mark Brady, Jimmy Rooney, John Levasseur, Johnny Taglieri, Larry Scibelli, Buddy Lawler, the whole Mayne family, the Halpins, the Lynchs, Bobby DiMeco’s brother Joey and Dennis, Timmy and Billy Murphy, to name just a few more.

  Postscript 6: The pride of Emerald Street and a vital cog on that ’73 team, Bobby McCarthy, was able to track down many players – each player stoked for the induction. He was even able to locate Team Manager “Skinny John” Marsinelli (now retired to Florida with his lovely bride Dorothy).

  Postscript 7: Long overdue acknowledgement for the co-GBL Champs going 15-2-3 and beating Norwood in an exciting first-round, triple overtime win at the old Boston Arena, 3-2 – goalie extraordinaire Steve Sideri making 35 stops and Al Ruelle scoring the winning goal. Amazing!

  Postscript 8: All but forgotten was how good the Surette brothers were and how important they were to this team. Also, their father an important figure in the development of hockey and hockey programs back in 1970s Malden. Steve was so good he was league Most Valuable Player that year.

  Postscript 9: Something I never knew but should have is how they actually flooded Devir Park during the winter months. Bobby and his family grew up on Emerald Street across from the park. He remembers more than most. There’s a manhole in the infield of the softball diamond closest to the Shell Gas Station on the corner of Emerald and the Fells. In said manhole is a water pipe of some sort: what Monte used to hook his hose up to in the old days to water the field. Bobby remembers vividly the excitement as a child when the first major winter event was about to fall. The snow would hit first then the flood gates would open from said manhole. Bobby would wake up the next morning to a winter wonderland: Devir Park under a perfect sheet of glass. The ice was ready for all of Edgeworth’s hockey rats!

  Postscript 10: Rest in peace to deceased members Gary DeSousa, Johnny Finnegan and Bobby Gallagher.

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