On Oct 23, 2015, Malden Catholic (MC) welcomed nearly 40 players, coaches and cheerleaders from the 1965 football team to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their championship run. That year, the Blue Jackets, as they were called, achieved a perfect record of 8-0, winning both the Catholic Conference Championship and the Class B State Championship – outscoring their opponents 200-62. On that memorable day Coach Ricupero was led on the field by seniors Neil Hurley, Richie Cullen and Frank “Red” Harris.
The Blue Jackets were the last undefeated state champion football team in Malden. Both Malden High School and MC have had many very good and successful football teams over the past six decades, but no other team has gone undefeated. This story came across my rolltop desk when Edgeworth’s (best and brightest) Billy (“Tecca”) and Bobby (“Bull”) O’Leary approached me about this amazing team. I had no knowledge of the ’65 team. They told me a bunch of the guys from the team met periodically at the A.O.H. on Charles Street and would love to share some stories. They brought me over. I was privileged to sit with these giants for a short while and listen (having the honor of already knowing Chick, Bunky, Commish and Dickie Cullen). I reached out for additional information. One of Malden’s most famous sons, Steve Wishoski, was an invaluable source when it came to putting this article together. New Malden may not recognize the name, but Steve Wishoski was instrumental in putting together “Malden 2022” as a former Director of the Malden Redevelopment Authority. Steve is in my Edgeworth Hall of Fame. So is his sister Diane and brother Walter, many of us youngsters having a crush on the lovely Diane and many of us being served our first beer by Walter at Mike’s Cafe.
The 1965 MC Blue Jackets stepped up whenever the competition got tough, including big wins against St. John’s Prep and Revere. Revere, at the time, was a Class A team and unbeaten in their previous 17 contests. Many players from the ’65 team flourished after high school, going on to play football collegiately at big-name schools like Boston College, Harvard, Dartmouth, Boston University, Central Connecticut and Rutgers. Red Harris (Malden Catholic Hall of Fame [MCHOF], 1989) would go on to set several passing records at BC. He was then drafted by the NFL Detroit Lions and had a brief stint with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Along with Coach Ed Ricupero and Harris, five other members of the 1965 team have been inducted in the MCHOF. They are Neil Hurley (1989), Richie Cullen (1990), Paul Richard (1992) and assistant coaches Paul Gover (1990) and Dennis Cullen (2002). The team itself was also inducted in 1991. Not too shabby!
There were many talented athletes who contributed to the Blue Jackets’ success hailing from Malden, Medford and Everett. Here are but a few:
- All-Scholastic selection Red Harris was the quarterback going on to a very successful career at BC and eventually into their Hall of Fame.
- Rich Cullen, from Edgeworth, was the All-Scholastic center and team co-captain. Rich had a very successful football career at BU. He became a Malden educator and coached football and softball at MHS and football at MC.
- Neil Hurley, a Green Street guy, was the running back and the other co-captain – also selected to the All-Scholastic team in 1965. Neil went on to a successful career at Harvard playing both football and baseball. Neil also played in the now famous 1969 game against Yale that ended in a 29-29 tie.
- Tom Denehy, of Malden Street (Edgeworth), was the starting guard. Tommy became Malden’s Fire Commissioner and to this very day can still be seen walking his dog at Devir Park mumbling to himself about “the good old days.”
- Bob Ciccarelli, also a Malden Street kid (Edgeworth), was the team’s tight end.
- Paul Richards, who grew up in the Linden Projects, was the team’s wide receiver and defensive back – a superb athlete (football and baseball) at MC.
- Bill Reagan, a resident of Medford (direct quote: “just over the Malden line so we accepted him as one of us”) was the other running back as well as defensive back. Described as an “incredible player” without whom the team would not have been so successful, Bill went on to play football at Rutgers.
- Steve (Wishoski) was the other wide receiver and defensive back and a proud resident of Emerald Street (Edgeworth).
As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character “Columbo” would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – Michael Goldman is the Larry Bird of political consultants. The ubiquitous media masseur, political talent agent and Democratic party kibitzer is the best of the best – at the top his game – one of his more recent success stories being former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, now the 29th United States Secretary of Labor. Michael was recently voted into the MHS Alumni Hall of Fame. I know I go to the “Mike Goldman Well” often, but he is so darn smart and knows his Malden like it ain’t nobody’s business, I keep going back. To give you a small slice of what Malden was like in 1965, I offer to you wisdom submitted by Michael Goldman:
“The advantage of history is we know how the story turns out.
“In September of 1964, walking as a sophomore through the halls of Malden HS, there was no way to have known the political and social tsunami that was about to explode both across our nation, as well as around the world.
“Having later taught a course called ‘1968, The Year of the Century’ well over a dozen times during the past 40 plus years, I realize more than most the role 1965 eventually played in creating today’s America.
“What is important to remember was that in September of 1964, we had a Presidential Campaign where neither candidate ended up ever mentioning our ongoing involvement in Vietnam even a single time.
“In September of 1964, Mohamad Ali was still known as Cassius Clay, and that 90% of sportswriters were predicting he would quickly be dethroned later that year as reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World after he was beaten in a rematch by former champion Sonny Liston.
“In September of 1964, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack were still considered the apex of ‘cultural cool’ and the Beatles were thought by most to be merely a passing fad soon to disappear back to England.
“In September of 1964 the word ‘Ms.’ did not exist, nor did the idea that women ought to have the right to earn equal pay for equal work or to have the personal private right to elect to have an abortion.
“In September of 1964, the idea that the United States was actually two countries, one White and one Black, separate and unequal, was considered un-American thought.
“In September of 1964, nobody had ever heard of Miranda or the Miranda ‘right to remain silent.’
“And in September of 1964, for good or ill, the world was about to change. The generation that was later labeled the ‘Greatest Generation’ for its role in defeating the Axis Powers in WW2 thought it would be they who were remembered as the driving generation of the 20th century in America. A label that was later rightly placed on the heads of the Boomers like me who walked the halls of MHS in the mid-1960’s and had no idea that in 2022, America was going to split into silos of separate Americas, unable or unwilling to see ourselves as one nation, with shared values, shared visions, and shared dreams.” Brilliant Mike, thank you.
Postscript 1: There were 677 Seniors in the graduating class of ’65 at MHS. Johnny Marsinelli was a year or two away from his tour of duty in Nam. (Thank you sincerely for your service, by the way, John.) “Rock” is an “enthusiastic Brighamite.” For new Maldonians, in days of yore, the Square was broken up into little tribes: There was Park Street, Signor Pizza, the Auld-New Lounge, the doo-wop crowd who spent their evenings in the many doorways in the Square honing their craft, the Jack Haney crowd. Then there was Brigham’s. Brigham’s, if memory serves me correctly, was a hangout for Malden’s young, popular jocks, like “Marse.” John and his wonderful wife, “Saint” Mary Alice, still call Malden home and are giving their son, John, the best life he could ever ask for.
Postscript 2: So, Malden, as you enjoy your Malden Advocate this morning, raise your cup of coffee in honor of the Blue Jackets, those wonderful Boys of (that long ago) summer.