Above: The Townies in 1964.
By Brian Pernicone and Bruce Mastracchio
The main part of this piece was written by Brian Pernicone of the East Greenwich Pendulum. I will add and intersperse my own material in this article. When I am the subject, it is Brian Pernicone’s writing. You all have been reading me for awhile. See if you can pick out where he begins and I end or vice versa. Seeing this is football season, another gridiron story.
“Camaraderie was one of the reasons we did so well,” Coach Iannazzi said. “There’s no doubt the offense wanted to show up the defense, and the defense wanted to show up the offense. And, the special teams wanted to show them both up. That was a big factor in our success. Yet they were cohesive and worked well in their units and responsibilities. They went out and did the job, and that’s what led to our success. They carried out their assignments and gave it everything they had.”
The offensive line was big and tough with guys tipping the scales at 6’4”, 6’6”, 240 to 250 lbs.
“We had a tough bunch of quahauggers on that line,” said Joyce. “You’re not going to find a tougher bunch of guys than those guys.”
“We were very talented and very big,” added Mastracchio. “Funny thing though, the only two guys to start both ways were the two smallest guys on the team. Joe Harris and me. We also
returned the punts and kicks. Of course, having all that size around you, you knew you were
protected. They were pro size for those days.”
But then the pros reared their heads. Professional football gained a foothold in New England (until 1960 there were NO New England Patriots. Mastracchio was a Cleveland Browns fan; most people in EG followed the Giants). The AFL had a franchise in Boston and television started broadcasting NFL games on a regular basis. Unlike the early days, the Townies were no
longer the only game in town.
“We were the only thing around at the time,” said Joyce, “and we got good crowds. Even state senators and big wigs (Chafee, Fogarty, Corr, etc.) used to come to our games. But the advent of pro football on TV started to kill us.”
The NFL was paid $615,000 per year by NBC and the next year ABC paid $4.65 million to broadcast pro football. With the ability to stay home and watch games on TV, attendance started to dwindle at semi-pro games.
That coupled with the start-up of the draft for a war in Vietnam signaled the death knell once again, as young players were drafted to go to war. Soon the Townies were no more. This time it seems forever (though Mastracchio did try to get a Townie AC going for all sports. Still could happen . . . ).
But for now the sandlots are abandoned and semi-pro football in EG is but a memory. Thirty-Nine years later the Townies, a bit older, a bit grayer, and definitely a bit slower, all got together for a reunion at the Greenwich Tavern (the former Chianti’s, now Ritrovo). That night the glories were revisited. They ran like the wind. Scored TDs in bunches and shut out every opponent. At least with their talk. At least in their minds. IF only for a night.
The 1947 Townies still living: Fritz Johnson, John Moran, Phil Hopp, Tubby Anderson. Deceased: Bud Rhodes, Fran Healy, Gene McGiveney, Tommy Oliver, Brute D’Attore (coach),
Fran Roy, Dan Harrington, Ed Portaluppi, Lindy Cookson, Bill Brennan, Henry Murray, Herb Horne, Ray Olson, Tiny Wilson, Bud Newell, Pete Healy, Popeye Cookson, Jim MacNie, Joe Trudell, Don Rhodes.
The Rebirth of the Townies 1960s: Ray Fish, Buddy Davis, Dave Mars, Stan Fish,
Johnnycake Thomas, Fuzzy Thurston, Bruce Roberts, Pini Aurelio, John Cragan, Tony Blanchard, Benny Kettelle, Ralph Hockhausen, Arthur Drew, George Battey, Steve LaCorbiniere, Ken Harris, Len Harris, Lester Kettelle, Bob Lallo, Dick DeLuca, Ducky Kettelle, Tom Joyce, George Graham, Joe Harris, Bruce Mastracchio, Charlie Scalise, Bob DeRensis, Leon LaPlante.