–By Kevin E. Kelly
Who’s next?…As the third generation of Charlestown athletes make their mark in the various sports arenas, history has proven that anything is possible where “Townies” are concerned. NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, with his Charlestown roots, is a classic example of “dreams do come true.” Who do you think will be the next star?
In many cases, hockey rinks have been the proving ground for those special “Townies” who have been blessed with the fortitude, internal drive and God-given talent to succeed where others have not. Bill Whelton, who was drafted by and played for the Winnipeg Jets, had “it.” Paul O’Neil and Jimmy Vesey, who each played three seasons in the NHL (including brief stints with the Bruins) also had “it.” I can still picture O’Neil cruising around Charlestown in his brand-new, green Cutless Supreme with the “ENSIGN” license plate. Mike Fidler, who notched 84 goals and 97 assists in his 7-year NHL career, and Jack O’Callahan, who in addition to earning an Olympic Gold Medal posted 31 goals and a 115 assists in his 8-year NHL career, definitely both had “it.”
Who was the best?…Despite the overwhelming number of prolific Charlestown hockey players who have excelled at all levels, be it high school, college, the ECL, IHL, WHA or AHL, my vote for the best “Townie” athlete of all time was not a hockey player. Whenever this discussion comes up around the gin mill, one name is always mentioned — Chuck Chevalier. What makes Chevalier so special, is that he is, arguably, the best-ever Charlestown athlete in three different sports. He was an All-City quarterback, shortstop and point guard for Charlestown High School and an All-American point guard and shortstop for Boston College. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1962 and was the last player cut from the team (the Celts were in the middle of their 11-of-13 year championship run). He later coached for many years at Archbishop Williams High School, where he tutored former NBA player Bob Carrington. He also played in the Boston Park League, the oldest amateur baseball league in the country, and is recognized as one of its greatest players. In each case he is a member of the Hall of Fame. I saw Chevalier play during his later years in the Park League and remember him as a combination of Rickey Henderson/Ozzie Smith/George Brett/Wade Boggs, able to affect the outcome of a game with his glove, bat, arm, and more often than not, his legs.
What’s in a name?…Though I don’t think anyone could ever accurately complete the list, here are some more names of “Townie” athletes who were not included in last week’s column: Tibbetts, Stillman, McGoff, Boucher, Justice, Leonard, McCabe, Tallent, Golden, Sanborn, Godfrey, Dagle, Fiama, Hansen, Hallissey, Duggan, Barnett, Durham, Poole, Doe, Rea, Ridings, McCann, Boyce, Urqhart, Fitzpatrick, Langan, Dighton, Fleming, Duffy, Mattarazzo, Castledini, Rooney, Green, Haggerty, Carmody, Charbonnier, Kane, McGill, Ridlon, O’Shea, Saita, Keane, Schievink, Hayes, Caldwell, Millerick, Ward, Doris, DePaw, Humphrey, Biggins, Dowd, Willard, Fitzgerald, Barrett, Carroll, Luce, Tracy, Foley, Lewey, Grace, Jaena, Lacey, Evers, Pothier, Connolly, Hickey, Crespo, Donovan, Pelton, Desmond, Simpson, Hughes, Cormier, Wadman, Enos, Downey and Carey.
Unsung, and then some…I’m adding these names to my “Townies” unsung heroes list: Kendall Junta (standout captain of the St. Anslem women’s hockey team), school teacher Brigid Houlihan (record-breaking swimmer at Roger Williams University), one-time track sensation Dr. Chucky Fitzz, Boys & Girls Club stevedore/role model and erstwhile Boston University football standout John Killoran, Gloria Conway (the person most responsible for my interest in writing) and Dave Cahill (Little League martyr and coach extraordinaire). Two unsung heroes I really miss are Denny Borden and Jimmy Powers. I treasured my impromptu meetings with Denny in the aisles of Johnnie’s Foodmaster, where his self-deprecating personality would always put a smile on my face. Jimmy, in addition to being a very underrated basketball player, was the best friend, husband, father, and greatest billiards player I ever knew.
History in the making…If anyone has old photographs or artifacts of past Charlestown sporting events or athletes, you are encouraged to send them to Charlestown Historical Society (CHS) archivist Arthur Hurley. The CHS is based at 43 Monument Square, inside the Bunker Hill Museum.
Name that nick…Slip, Twinkle, Ro, Chippa, Hunzie, Dinga, Devil, Butchy, Crash, Potts, Boo Boo, Pinebox, Suitcase, Bubba, Mo, Munka, Chickenhead, Arnie, Duece, Bo, Manny, Joe Gunn, Pic, Pablo, Genie, Lefty, Charbo, Shorty, Ditso, Fitzy, Red, Bimba, Soddy, Sid, Fishhead, Popeye, Walt, Dusty, Obie, Rusty, Chip, Bean, Silky, Dots, Stumpa, Stilts, Fidda, Mick, Pudgy and Mugsy.