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Sports September 17, 2009  RSS feed

When Garity Knights Ruled At Oval And Glendale’s Rizzuto Was A Rook

Who remembers the Garity Knights?

Recently, Don Graham from Bethlehem, Pa. checked in with an e mail and a team photo.

Don writes:

“With fall fast approaching and football season right around the cor ner, I wanted to share a photo taken by my brother Bob Graham. This photo of the Garity Knights junior team was taken on Dec. 5, 1965.

“That year, the juniors won the Pop Warner Football Conference championship with a 10 2 record, outscoring our opponents 339 to 50.

“Home games were played at Farmers Oval and our namesake, the Joseph Garity American Legion Post, always fielded competitive teams.

“Going to Grover Cleveland H.S. at the time, I shared many classes with boys who played for the Green point Crusaders, our main rival. The Friday before one of our games always brought out friendly needling.

“Thank you for considering put ting this into the paper. I’ve seen the recent items from the ’50s and thought this one would also be inter esting.

The 1965 Garity Knights junior team won the Pop Warner Football Conference’s championship, compiling a 10-2 record. (photo: Bob Graham) The 1965 Garity Knights junior team won the Pop Warner Football Conference’s championship, compiling a 10-2 record. (photo: Bob Graham) “I lived on Forest Avenue near the corner of Palmetto Street, over the barber shop (‘Seven Barbers No Waiting’ was a sign they had in the window).

“I have listed most of the names of the players and coaches. But there are still a few that need to be identi fied. Any help from your readers would be greatly appreciated.

As provided by Don, the names and uniform numbers include:
• Gus M. (4)
• Walt Abrams (7)
• Eddie Stone (8)
• Ted Provic (10)
• Jack Lehman (17)
• Tony Michaels (22)
• Henry Kruger (35)
• Mike Pienkos (37)
• Joe S. (41)
• George Moroso (42)
• Ron Kuefner (54)
• Joe Iannuzzi (61)
• Tom Sellers (68)

• Rubin R. (70)
• John Kelly (71)
• Joe M. (75)
• Jack Lanzer (76)
• Don Graham (77)
• Philmore Yacenda (80)
• Bruce Madonia (81)
• Bob Easter (82)
• Rich R. (85)
• Nick B. (88)
• Al M. (89)

Phil Rizzuto (third from left) may have been a rookie shortstop for the Yankees when this photo was taken in 1941, but no one ever accused him of being tight-lipped about his baseball opinions. He shared some in a Ridgewood Times article, including a prediction of success for pitcher and fellow rookie Charley Stanceu (second from right, standing in rear). Unfortunately, Stanceu had only a brief career in the majors, compiling a 5-7 record while pitching in parts of two seasons, 1941 and 1946, for the Yanks and Philadelphia Phillies. This picture was snapped outside the Rizzuto family’s home in Glendale’s Liberty Park section, following a day game at Yankee Stadium. The new Yankees are pictured with (from left) James Garfola, William Furone and Lou Pellegrino, who had gone to the game to root for Rizzuto. (photo: Ernest Furone) Phil Rizzuto (third from left) may have been a rookie shortstop for the Yankees when this photo was taken in 1941, but no one ever accused him of being tight-lipped about his baseball opinions. He shared some in a Ridgewood Times article, including a prediction of success for pitcher and fellow rookie Charley Stanceu (second from right, standing in rear). Unfortunately, Stanceu had only a brief career in the majors, compiling a 5-7 record while pitching in parts of two seasons, 1941 and 1946, for the Yanks and Philadelphia Phillies. This picture was snapped outside the Rizzuto family’s home in Glendale’s Liberty Park section, following a day game at Yankee Stadium. The new Yankees are pictured with (from left) James Garfola, William Furone and Lou Pellegrino, who had gone to the game to root for Rizzuto. (photo: Ernest Furone) Jimmy Kelly is pictured standing behind Henry Kruger (35).

The head coach, Gene Grandinetti, is pictured on the far right, while the assistant coach, Joe Callarota, is on the far left.

The team’s trainer, Frank Veneri, is shown at center of the top row.

The Garity Knights, who played in the Pop Warner Conference, were founded in 1957, with the late Jim Dolan as their first head coach. Jim is regarded as the one who got the Joseph B. Garity Post to sponsor the newly organized football team.

After Jim moved to New Jersey, Gene Grandinetti succeeded him in coaching the juniors.

If anyone can add to the list of names and numbers provided by Don Graham, consider this an invitation to do so. Use the contact information listed at the end of this week’s col umn.

* * *

Of the National Football League’s founding teams, which two are still in existence?

The above trivia question is in honor of the NFL’s anniversary the league was founded 89 years ago, on Sept. 17, 1920.

Hint: Originally, the two teams played in the same state.

The answer appears elsewhere in this week’s column.

* * *

There has been much well de served celebrating of Derek Jeter’s season and accomplishments. Given the chance to draft him, there’s no current player I’d rather have on my team and I root for the Red Sox in the AL and the Mets in the NL.

But let’s not forget about another Yankees shortstop especially since he was a local product.

It’s well known that the late Phil Rizzuto came from the Ridge wood/Glendale area. But in wonder ing how it might have been covered by this newspaper as he was launch ing his career with the Yankees, I found an interesting piece, written by Ridgewood Times staffers Charles DeMangin and Nino LoBello. It was published in the Jan. 3, 1941 issue.

Headlined “Glendale Gladiator Now Major League Shortstop,” the story has some interesting bits of in formation about young Rizzuto in cluding his opinion on whether players should wear batting helmets.

As written by DeMangin and Lo Bello, the story reads as follows:

Soon the crowds will be swarming to the ballparks.

Soon the bleachers will roar with enthusiasm.

The 1941 baseball season then will be in full swing.

But this season will be different. All eyes will be trained on Glendale’s Phil Rizzuto, pet rookie of the Yankee baseball fans.

The 22 year old shortstop is slated to fill the spikes of Yankee Frankie Crosetti, while in the mean time, all of Greater Ridgewood is be hind its prize protege.

His scant 22 years are packed with baseball.

Sandlot ball the Tally Ho Club of the Queens Alliance was his first diamond venture. In his sophomore year at Richmond Hill High, he played varsity ball, the next year be coming captain third baseman. Later, he covered the short field.

Columbia University and the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t want the Glendale Gladiator because of his short stature, but Yankee scout Paul Krichell, seeing promise in the youth, signed him up for the farm system.

Bassett Club in the Bi State League first saw Phil in professional action. There his brilliance afield and abat was retarded somewhat by a charley horse which later turned into a gangrenous condition that threat ened the amputation of his leg.

“My father worried heavily over my condition, and I was almost forced to quit the game, but I man aged to stick it out after an operation in which the docs took out four inches of torn muscle and gave me 37 stitches. They later told me that the operation saved not only my playing career but my life,” Rizzuto admitted.

Skipping Class C ball, Rizzuto jumped from Class D to Class B, where at Norfolk he met Gerry Priddy, with whom he later teamed at the keystone sack in Kansas City to become the sensational double play combination of the Midwest. While cavorting with the K.C. Blues, the pair was responsible for two pen nants playing heads up baseball throughout

Phil is the proud possessor of two awards: Most Popular Player at Kansas City for 1939 and Most Valu able Player of the American Associa tion for 1940.

His last season’s averages speak for themselves. He batted .347; he fielded .949; and he led the league in stolen bases with 35. In four semes ters juggling the horsehide, he’s never hit below the .300 mark. His stolen bases have never fallen below the 25 mark per season average and he’s been on every All Star team.

“I’ve faithfully tried to fashion myself after Crosetti, because he’s al ways been my idol,” the five feet, six inch “giant” Yankee revealed. “He has no wasted effort. Once he told me not to jump around so much on the field because it cuts down your play ing years. I take it a little easier now.”

As a fan himself, the Glendaler, who lives at 78 01 64th St., was wont to root for the Dodgers until he went to bat for the Yankee system (“Now I can’t get the Yankees out of my sys tem”).

“I first saw the Yankees play sev eral years ago when Ruth and Gehrig were in their hey day. At that time, I was sitting in the bleachers and I never thought for a moment that some day I’d be on the playing field, myself. Would you believe it, al though I follow the game closely, I’ve only seen four major league games in my whole life,” the big little man ejaculated.

Here’s Rizzuto’s biggest and best boner:

“Once, we, at Kansas City, were playing Toledo. We were a half game behind Minneapolis, then the leaders. With one out, I hit a double. The next fellow followed with a short high fly that fell for a single. After I waited to see how the ball would land, I scooted past third and dashed for home. I shouldn’t have done it be cause I was out easily and it cost us an important game. But in the end, we won the pennant anyhow.”

A valuable minor leaguer himself (the Yankees wouldn’t sell him for $150,000), Phil is qualified to list rookies that show the most promise.

Gerry Priddy (who’ll be sitting Priddy if Joe Gordon sticks around), Rube Melton (relative of the Giants’ Mountain Music Cliff), Mickey Steinmann (who lives across the street from Phil) and Charley Stanceu (pitching sensation who was once Phil’s roommate in the minors).

Rizzuto, who on the 14th of Feb ruary leaves for the training camp down south, attributes most of his success to ex major leaguers Buzz Boyle and Jack Saltzgaver, who taught him all he knew.

Although the diminutive diamond demon has been beaned several times, he nevertheless, thinks that ballplayers shouldn’t wear helmets for “it detracts any of the rugged ness from the sport.”

Rizzuto, who weighs 160 and was born in Ridgewood, Sept. 25, 1917 is unmarried, although many strange girls pursue him through the mails and over the wires. He, though, re mains immune to it all.

Most of his spare time is spent at the Glenwood Manor, where he can be seen every Monday night, bowl ing for Lou Webber’s Vim team.

Who knows that in the future, when in listing Yankee immortals, this combination will appear:

RUTH, GEHRIG ... RIZZUTO.

* * *

Regarding the NFL trivia question that appears this week, two of the league’s original teams are still play ing, 89 years after they began as league entries in Illinois: the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardi nals) and the Decatur Staleys (now known as the Chicago Bears).

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To share a local sports related rec ollection, send letters to Memory Games, c/o Times Newsweekly, P.O. Box 860299, Ridgewood, N.Y. 11386 0299, or via e mail at b.mitchell@timesnewsweekly.com.