Waterbury American Graffiti

The Crosby High Class of 1959




Craig Kirsch, Robert Brady, John Rinaldi, Robert Gardner, Pat DiDomizio, Robert Janatiss, Donald Hassinger, Carl Spencer

Home basketball games were played at the State Armory on Field Street

My father (left in front row), who was also Acros B Hyalumnus, was on the basketball team from 1924 to 1927.


Anthony Del Negro, Robert Janatiss, Joseph Cutrali, Pat DiDomizio, Robert Barone, Leonard Marino, Edward Readel, Nicholas Del Rosso, William Baldwin, David Stolfi, Fred Heckler, David Brady, Thomas Feliciani, Justin Donnelly, Robert Gardner

The 1958 Crosby High School football team turned in the third best record ever set by a Crosby football team. A near-perfect 8-win season was marred by one loss to Ansonia High School in the second game of the season.


Home football games were played at Municipal Stadium on Watertown Avenue






Half-time entertainment at the football games included the Crosby High School Marching Band led by Majorette Anne Mancino.








The 1958-1959 Crosby Swim Team won the city and northern district championships, and tied with Greenwich for the state title. Outstanding seniors on the team were: David Pierpont, David Fleming, Thomas Melia, and Robert Jokubaitis who all excelled in the free style events. Other outstanding swimmers included: Ward Brandvein and Shaffer Bloodgood in the backstroke event; Captain Michael Gureckas, in the breaststroke; and Edward Readel and James Bulger in the butterfly.




Judith Schnaars, Roberta Ciarlone, Nancy LaCapra, Joyce McKenna, Karen Moran, Elaine Simone, Carol Zailskas




Joan Joyce, who struck out Red Sox slugger Ted Williams at Municipal Stadium in 1961, is a Crosby High Class of 1958 alumnus.






Crosby Argus May 1957 Sports Page


(Waterbury Republican-American, 8/22/05)


If you loved Waterbury high school sports in the 1950s, perhaps the golden era of city sports, then you will want to be at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury on Sept. 24. Who will be there? Many of the great stars, the legendary coaches, even the officials that made Waterbury high school sports programs among the finest in the state. What started as a 50th reunion for the undefeated Crosby High state championship football team of 1955 has been transformed into a city-wide celebration.


Graduating classes hold reunions. Former teammates hold reunions. Old friends hold reunions. But an entire decade? This is a unique day to celebrate a unique time.


I won't go "happy days" on you, but it is a time that will not come back again. It was a time when every city high school, Crosby, Wilby, Leavenworth and Sacred Heart, were downtown, and it fueled a dynamic city center. You did all of your shopping downtown. You went to a movie downtown. You went to basketball games downtown. 


Every neighborhood had students at all four schools. I am amused by today's debate on school choice. In the 1950s everybody in Waterbury had a choice. Did you want to study a trade? You went to Leavenworth. Were you interested in business or secretarial skills? You went to Wilby. Were you college prep? Then you could decide between Crosby and Sacred Heart.


You could have four families living on the same street all with sons playing football for different schools. They left the house each morning wearing a different letterman's jacket, but they boarded the same bus, a city bus shared by men and women going to work.


This city-wide mix took a tight community and made the weave even tighter. Waterbury may have been a city but it felt like a small town.


When the dismissal bell rang the students poured onto the downtown streets, Wildcats and Bulldogs and Engineers and Hearts, and they'd all show up on The Green, at the Handy Kitchen, or the Chocolate Shop, or maybe over at the Tower Grill.


It was an era when your best friend, the kid who grew up next door, who still lived next door, was on the mound for Wilby while you stood at the plate for Sacred Heart. It was an era when Leavenworth football players and Crosby football players all got on a city bus after school and shared the ride out to Watertown Avenue. They walked into different locker rooms, put on different uniforms, and then went out to practice on opposite ends of the Municipal Stadium complex, Crosby at the north end, Leavenworth at the south end. Can you even imagine two high school football teams today practicing side by side?


It was an era when football captains called for a captain's practice prior to the start of school. It wasn't just for Wilby or Crosby, it was for everybody. Dozens of players from every school gathered at night at Brass Mills. They did conditioning drills, ran laps, sprints, and even helped each other with skill work. There were no coaches and no parents. After practice they trooped up to The Basin, the old swimming hole off Hamilton Avenue and Route 69, for a swim together.


It was a time like no other. That's why this is a reunion like no other. What started as a football reunion grew into a city-wide sports reunion. It hasn't stopped growing. Were you a cheerleader? You're invited. Were you a coach or an official? You're invited. Were you a little kid who thrilled to basketball doubleheaders at the Armory, or hitched a ride to Municipal Stadium to watch high school football? You're invited too.


Maybe every decade of city sports has a special meaning to those who played. But the kids who played in the 1950s had a bond with their school, with their city, and with themselves that was like no other era. They hope to remember it all once again on Sept. 24.


(Waterbury Republican-American, 9/25/05)


The altogether unique 1950s Waterbury High School Sports Reunion was held Saturday at Quassy Amusement Park. More than 200 of the city's greatest sports stars, coaches, fans, even cheerleaders, gathered to tell stories, renew friendships, and in some cases just say thanks. Crosby High Class of 1959 members who attended the Reunion included Norm Blondin, Tony DelNegro, Joe Cutrali, Bob Barone, John Rinaldi, Carl Spencer, Ernie Mosley, Nick DelRosso, Dave Stolfi, Bob Janatiss, “Bucko” Galvin, Dave Fleming, and Pat DiDomizio. Mary Ann Stolfi and Marie Crowley, cheerleaders from the Crosby High class of 1958, also were there.


At one table sat the great John McKenna, 83, coach of the 1953 Wilby High state championship basketball team. At another was John Reardon, 78, another of the city's great coaches in swimming and baseball. And there was Bob Boland, also 83. All he did was coach football at Crosby for 28 years. Did we mention past coaches like Freddie O'Brien and Bill Evans were there too? So was Terry Tata, once one of the national pastime's finest umpires, and Elmer Deschaine, the 1957 Crosby grad who went on to glory at Gonzaga, and Carl Spencer, the Crosby grad of '59 who won two NIT basketball titles at Providence College, and his Providence teammate, Sacred Heart grad Tim Moynahan. And even Ron Diorio, the former major leaguer with the Phillies came to toss a few high, hard ones.


Ever heard of Roger Zailskas? Thought by many to be the greatest athlete ever to come out of this town, the former Crosby star, class of 1957 and future star at West Point, came all the way from Boothwyn, Penn. to talk about growing up in Waterbury. And even some basketball officials showed up, like Joe Cavanaugh, and also the man who is Waterbury's ambassador to the world, 81 year-old Norm Feitelson.


Every sport was represented. Art Moore, Wilby High grad of 1963 and the first ever winner of the Billy Finn Award, was there, and so were four out of five members of the 1961 All-City and All-NVL basketball team: Joe Ciriello (Croft '61), Reggie Maton (Crosby, '61), Shellie Ferguson (Wilby, '61), and Bobby Brown (Wilby, '62).


Who was the fifth man that was missing? That would be the late Billy Finn of Sacred Heart, perhaps the greatest of them all. Players told stories about the best there ever was, and that means that the topic of conversation often focused on the late Dick Clary, who played basketball in the 50s the way nobody did until the 60s.


"This was a celebration of friendship," said Ron Stolfi, a member of the Crosby state football champs and part of the event's organizing committee. "We didn't want to make any claims about what generation is better, or say that generations that followed had to try to be like us."


All generations have their memories, said Stolfi, but I'm not sure they can rival the wonder and the joy of growing up and playing sports in Waterbury in the 1950s. It was an era before the school board carved the city up into districts, and that meant that virtually every high school athlete had close ties with the kids who lined up on the other side of the ball. It was a day before the city yanked its high schools out of downtown, when all of Waterbury's youth gathered on The Green or in the sweet shops and formed bonds that made a big city feel like a small town


It is that bond that made men like Mike Farrar come back from Washington D.C., and Bobby Brown from Ohio, and Dave Thomas from Georgia, and Ron Lemieux, Leo Bonicki, Dick Yuskas come all the way from Florida.


For Thomas, 67, Wilby '56, of Clarksville, Ga., it was simple. "I came back because I wanted to see John McKenna. I have thought about him all of my life. I never found the time or had the opportunity to thank him."

There were moments like that all over Quassy Saturday.


Ron Lemiuex, 70, Crosby '53, said, "If they could put me back anywhere I want to be put back in the '50s. I didn't have a nickel in my pocket, but it is when I was the happiest."


Boland, a Crosby grad in 1940, said that the day represented what he always thought was best about city sports: "I would say the athletes then were among the most committed I have ever seen."


The most poignant thought of the day came from Spencer, who is now 63 and living in Bloomfield. "Just look around at who is here and the quality of athlete this city produced in the 1950s," said the '59 Crosby grad. "It makes a statement. We were making history. I don't think we appreciated it at the time. We do now."


And that's why they came. They came to see old friends, sure, but they embraced this reunion because it was a chance to wrap their arms around a time that may be gone, but not lost. These men won't let that happen. 

Sure, you can say they are living in the past. But oh boy, what a past it was.


(Joe Palladino, Waterbury Republican-American, 8/7/06)

The Tour of Connecticut bicycle race, and the accompanying Tour of Waterbury, has been canceled for 2006. They will try and revive it in 2007. I hope they do. The event brought some of the best cyclists in the world to town.


The coming and going of world class bikers left little impression on Waterbury and yet, we can safely call it the biggest thing we had going on. What has happened to us?


Waterbury once was a great sports town. That is ancient history. We chased every minor league baseball team out of town by simply staying away. We occasionally have a good high school football game in town, but watching a game at Municipal Stadium is akin to laying across the Metro-North tracks and waiting for the 9:17.


We've always had sensational high school basketball games, and I presume we always will. But we'd rather stay home and watch UConn on the tube. It's pathetic.


We used to come out for anything. Now we have nothing to come out for.


Back in the 1950s Waterbury people came out and supported everything. Today, we support nothing.


The level of support Waterbury gave its teams and its athletes, once upon a time, was stunning. In 1990, when Waterbury American Legion won the state championship, fans packed Municipal Stadium on a nightly basis. At one Sunday-morning showdown between Waterbury and Naugatuck, at Veterans Field, 2,000 fans showed up. It was played in a heat wave not unlike the one we endured last week. Emergency medical personnel were called to the field twice to treat fans overcome by the heat.


Would we see that level of support from local fans today? No chance. What has happened to us?


We used to bring 2,000 fans out to Hamilton Park Sunday afternoons for City Amateur League games. Major League teams played exhibition games here on off days in the 1950s because they'd draw big crowds in Waterbury. We packed gymnasiums to see Calvin Murphy and his all-stars. We'd fill the Stadium with 10,000 fans every Friday night for boxing matches. We packed the Armory to see Gorilla Monsoon. We sat and shivered at the Stadium for Waterbury Orbits games.


This used to be a sports town, the best in southern New England, bar none. But we haven't been able to call this a sports town in years. Look at what we let happen to our sports stadium. We fix our fields with money from the state. We won't pay for it ourselves. That's a crime. Don't even get me started on the golf courses.  

We have come to this: A bike race became our top sports attraction, and we lost that too.


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