January 20, 2011

By the early 1930's the Mansfield "Townies" were a rough and tumble, gritty football team. There wasn't one Italian on the squad. Almost all were Irishmen, big Irishmen with names like Dennehy, Darmedy, Dacy, and Dooley. The Italians played a game called "Kick the Bar". In the early 1930's Aldo Carbonetti had graduated from Boston Trade High School and played the game there. He brought it back to Mansfield. Of course they had no money and no uniforms.

'Kick the Bar' was a pretty simple game and one that would cost no money. All you needed was an fairly good bicycle tire that had a blowout. One would cut up the tire into 10 inch lengths. You would stand it on one end, step back and kick it. No gloves were needed. No mitts, masks, or any bats were used, just a blown out piece of tire. It was played like baseball only a center line drawn from first to third marked the line you had to kick the tire piece in the air over. You would kick singles, doubles, triples or home runs. It was a popular game and even leagues were formed.

But the Italians of the North End, had a taste for football and wanted to play the game.

The 1930 Mansfield High School football team was one of the best ever. Lead by Coach James J. Kelley and captain Cyril Bellavance, the team went 9-2. Seven of the eleven games were won in a shut-out which included a Thanksgiving game rout over Oliver Ames 86-0. This team racked up 345 points while just giving up 33. Those 345 points stood as an offensive record for 62 years. The team was comprised of a number of North End Italians, including Certuse, Rossi, and DeLutis.

Then came the 1931 Mansfield High School team. After a season opening game against Canton that ended in a 0-0 tie, the 1931 team ran the table with nine straight wins. They finished the season with 8 shutouts and behind captain Francis Murphy, went undefeated at 9-0-1. They scored 252 points while giving up just 14. They trounced Oliver Ames again on Thanksgiving by the score of 49-0. The defensive record of just yielding 14 points with a minimum of nine games played in a season still stands today, 79 years later. Again more Italians played the game including Guilani, Baldini, Bellucci, Annese, and Carbonetti.

Watching the Mansfield Townies and playing Kick the Bar was not enough.

They wanted to play football.

It was in 1931 when Vincenzo Luciano [James] LoDico was chosen to help organize a football team among the Italians. James had the football playing and coaching experience. 'Jim' LoDico was a member of the fabled first Mansfield High School team of 1919. He organized the Italians from the North End and Fuller Place "Pee Wee Gang".

Soon a challenge was sent south of the lights on Pratt & Main Streets for a game and the right to be called Mansfield's Townies.

Not much is known or recorded about that game but it must have been a war.

When the dust settled, Mansfield had a new Townie team and a new coach.

The new Townies took off like a sky-rocket and soon the old town team couldn't compete and was no more. With Jim LoDico as the coach, they became the "Townies". It was one of the best teams the town ever had. The best in the state. Almost all the players were Italian: Hugo "Putt" Blandori, Aldo "Footie" Certuse, Guido "Skeets" DeLutis, "Pee Wee" Falotico, and Ceasere "Chippy" Cipriani, Al "Bed' LoDico, Frankie Bruno, Raldo "Coots" Baldini. It seemed the whole football team lived north of those traffic lights on Pratt and Main Streets.

Over time, the team became comprised of the best town players; be they Italian or not. James LoDico coached through the 1930s and into the mid 1940s. One of the best players on the Townies was a kid named Alexander "Al" Ferzoco. He was a great football player in high school and part of the 1935-37 Mansfield High School football teams. Other great players on the new Townies included Ray Delliacono, Leo Annese, Joe & Albert Sankey, Mackinlay Warren, Patty Cataloni, Wally Gordon, and 'Lindo' Galanti.


Kick the Bar continued, but it was never the same.

The 1931 Mansfield Townie Team