• Midcentury Medfield Memories: Redemption and Legacy for the 1961 Medfield High Football Team

    by  • October 30, 2017 • 1960s, Football, Medfield, Medfield High School, Medfield Warriors • 1 Comment

    The Medfield Warriors were just coming off their second dramatic win over the Apponequet High School football team in Lakeville, Mass. in the November of 1961. Trailing at the half, Coach Ed Keyes entered the locker room and stood in the middle of us and spoke firmly. With anger in his voice, Coach Keyes began speaking about the mistakes we were making out on the field. Perhaps the biggest complaint concerned our attitude and lack of desire. His voice cracked with a show of emotion.

    EdKeyes1961img263 (2)In the second half we played with great intensity and won 16-14, our second consecutive victory by just two points. Next up: Thanksgiving, playing at home against Holliston.

    The Twist, Marilyn

    Chubby CheckerIn the meantime, it was time to relax on the late Saturday afternoon and enjoy the record hop being held at the new Medfield High School on Pound Street. The new dance craze was called the “Twist.” It had been introduced by Chubby Checker (né Ernest Evans) who lip-synced and danced on American Bandstand, a daily afternoon tv show Dick Clark emceed from Philadelphia. Chubby was a big, tall, portly African-American man with a great smile and energy to match his enthusiasm. The dance and the song became sensations, as teens across America accepted Chubby’s invitation: “Come on baby, let’s do the twist.”

    The twist industry soon gave rise to a whole new variety of dances that were very similar in style, like the catchy song “Let’s Dance,” by Chris Montez that said, “We’ll do the twist, the stomp, the mashed potato too, any old dance will do, but let’s dance.”

    Although we may have thrived in the moment, we were just starting to realize that there was much more in life than just high school football and dances.

    Joe Dimaggio_Love YouIn those earlier times of August 1961, we heard of the tragic news of Marilyn Monroe’s untimely death at age 35. The Boston Herald ran the story of her death and photos from her movie career on the front page of the newspaper for the entire week. We all saw how Joe DiMaggio went to pray at her grave site. He was quoted as saying good-by with the words, “I love you.”

    When my “Mama Flaherty” heard that the great Joe DiMaggio said those words, she quickly and loudly said, “If he loved her, why didn’t he stay with her instead of divorcing her?” My mom always had her opinion. She thought that Marilyn Monroe had a special beauty and had been exploited by Hollywood and the men she married and the press that always seemed to demean her talent.

    Thanksgiving Football

    The ’61 Medfield Warriors still had to play the Thanksgiving Day football game. Our opponent was Holliston High School. For motivation, Coach Keyes put a newspaper clipping from the Patriot Ledger of the Holliston High football team up on the bulletin board near our locker room. Maybe he wanted all of us to know just what we were up against.

    We looked at that newspaper picture with amazement. Those Holliston players were huge, and some of the linemen looked big enough to be playing in a semi-pro league. They had lost only one game all year. They had even scrimmaged against – and beaten – class B city teams like Everett High School. Holliston played “smash mouth” football long before it became fashionable and a popular saying. And those players were probably licking their chops at the prospect of playing the Medfield High School Warriors on the final game of the season.

    Thanksgiving Day came quickly enough and we all suited up and got on the bus headed for the Dale Street football field. Many Medfield townspeople had already arrived on the field and were gathered behind the spectator fence. Even though it was cloudy, cool, and drizzling, the faithful Medfield fans started arriving about a half hour before game time. On the visitors’ side, a great multitude of confident, enthusiastic Holliston supporters nearly overwhelmed Medfield students selling tickets to the game.  It looked ominous for Medfield.

    The game started at 10:15 am with Holliston kicking off. Bruce Allen, a Medfield sophomore running back with good speed and a thick crop of red hair, ran to the 30 yard line of Medfield and no further. Then Medfield quarterback Mike Rogers, a complete athlete who also lettered in basketball and baseball, handed the ball off to Doug Vliet, a tall, muscular kid originally from New Jersey.

    The Swarm; A Failed Experiment

    What happened next was like watching bees go to honey; it was unlike anything the Warriors had experienced before. As soon as Doug ran two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, he was immediately swarmed and gang-tackled by about six defenders. Of course the Holliston fans cheered their team every time they made a play like that, which was actually quite often. Holliston almost scored at will, practically every time they had the ball.

    True to their character, the Holliston players had earned their reputation and they were every bit as hard-hitting as their tough-looking newspaper photo made them out to be. With half time called, the Warriors headed to the locker room holding their heads up, having withstood the scoring blitz from Holliston’s high powered game plan.

    When Coach Keyes started talking we could tell that his expectations of us were perhaps lower than any game before in the season. For the second half, he had our offense use a new set of plays that we had practiced the week before the game. The passing formation was called the “swinging gate offense,” designed to throw the defense off guard. Coach Keyes must have concocted this formation from Mad magazine or maybe “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” Yet the formation had potential as a lineman could be an eligible receiver. We practiced an offense that split the front line into three parts. The center and two guards, Ralph Baker and David Clark, were down front. The two tackles, Steve Harrison and Mike Donahue, with the ends, Billy Callahan and Tommy Flanagan were 10 feet away, each at opposite ends of the front three. Quarterback Mike Rogers was behind the center, John Miner, a rugged sophomore. Two other sophomores, Jay Halloran, a powerfully built fullback, and Jeff Cook, a spirited hard-hitting halfback, were both lined up in back of the quarterback.

    If this all sounds confusing, then one would understand how the players may have felt with such an unconventional offense. We ran plays from that formation on only three attempts and each time the plays failed to gain any ground. Coach Keyes then had us go back to the original game plan.

    When Holliston had the ball, we could all see how hard Michael Horgan tried to close the gap when Holliston ran an end sweep. The blockers would hit Michael with cross body blocks that pulled his feet right out from underneath him. In frustration, Michael would look up from the ground and then pound and dig his elbows into the muddy turf. On the other side of the defense, Tommy Flanagan was praised by Coach Keyes for knocking down the interference. As the Holliston backfield and linemen were running toward him, Tommy would block their players and thus enable the Medfield defense to tackle the Holliston running back.

    Near the end, Coach Keyes asked the referee to tell him when there were just two minutes left. He wanted to put all of the freshmen out onto the field before the game ended. As it turned out, Bobby Curry was the only freshman who got into the game as those two minutes dried up very fast and before we knew it the game was over.

    Somehow we all managed to survive without injury except to our pride. The two teams met at mid-field, and we shook hands and sincerely wished one another a happy Thanksgiving. Holliston won the South Central League Division.

    As the Medfield players were headed for the bus, we could overhear one of the Holliston players talking to Mike Rogers.

    “Wait ‘til next year”

    “Hey, how many players are graduating from your team?” asked the Holliston player.

    “We only have three players – Mike Donahue, Ralph Baker, and Eddie Duggan – graduating next June. We’ve got practically the whole team returning!” Mike said assuredly.

    At least there was something to feel positive about. That statement was prophetic – the 1962 football team went 5-3.  Two of the losses were to Hopkinton and Leicester – teams that were no more talented than Medfield but were more highly motivated and played harder on game day. The third loss of 1962 was to mighty Holliston.

    We all enjoyed our 1961 Thanksgiving turkey along with our families, while many of us later in the day found consolation in nostalgia, while watching “Miracle on 34th Street,” a movie about a man named Chris Kringle and the Macy’s Day Parade held on Thanksgiving.

    Some of football players tried out for the Medfield High School basketball team, but many kids decided to hit the books as we all knew that college was coming soon. Anyone wanting to go to a good college knew that they would be competing with a lot of baby boomers from all over. As freshmen, little did we suspect that by the time we graduated in 1965 the Vietnam War would be escalating. This would be a deciding factor in whether one decided to go to college or not.

    Larry Loflin and Other Memorable Teachers

    It just happened that many students in the freshmen class had Mr. Larry Loflin for English class, who started teaching at Medfield High in 1961. He was a very bright young teacher who had also served in the US Army, and would very often speak about some of his experiences in the service. He spoke of how some of his fellow soldiers at times asked him to help them write romantic letters to their girlfriends.

    That year, we were introduced to Shakespeare with The Merchant of Venice. We were to read and discover some of the most enduring characters like Portia, the heroine, and Shylock, who wanted the “pound of flesh.”  Mr. Loflin had each of us memorize a passage of the play and then individually recite in front of the class, like the lines, “In sooth I know not why I am so sad.” Although many of the students didn’t enjoy the play or reciting, it was a good experience nevertheless getting out of one’s comfort zone. In addition, each student had to choose a poem and discuss it in class. The most-chosen poem chosen the most was “The Raven,” by Edgar Allen Poe.

    cv090560_1At the back of his classroom, Mr. Loflin had placed various photos and articles of literary interest. One picture stood out prominently, a friendly looking bearded face on what had been the cover of Life Magazine. It was a photo of Ernest Hemingway, a favorite of Mr. Loflin but who, depressed and in poor health, had recently committed suicide. The photos of the younger Hemingway on the wall showed a very fit, brawny, and muscular man. He wrote about the Civil War in Spain, about hunting expeditions in Africa, bullfights in Spain and fishing off the island of Cuba. He lived hard, drank hard, and died hard, just like so many of his characters. The novel, “The Old Man and the Sea,” was a classic that was very enjoyable, with scenes on the deep salt water off the shores of Cuba. The symbolism involved the warm Caribbean Sea, the beautiful fish and the ravaging sharks that the old man had to fend off from eating his catch.

    Mr. Loflin was also a devoted fan of J.D. Salinger, and he had us read “Catcher in the Rye.”  Many of us could identify with the main character, Holden Caulfield. We didn’t realize that Holden was telling his story from the confines of a mental institution. As students, we would come to realize what Salinger meant when he was quoted saying, “If a body sees a body coming through the rye.” The “catcher” was to save the children who were coming through the rye. After he left the teaching profession, most everyone remembered Larry Loflin, as we would one day see him in Life Magazine when he became very active in the anti-war movement of the mid-sixties.

    Many of the students that year took typing with Paul Carbone. He was an outstanding teacher and athlete, and students found him very approachable. But bullies were afraid of him because he would get right up in their faces and give it right back to them. He also taught most of the business courses and was a very good athlete, participating in the student/faculty basketball game each year.

    During that freshman year, some of us satisfied the foreign language requirement by taking Latin with Mr. Charles Laverty. He was fluent in the language and the class was an interesting one as we studied the Roman Empire as well.  Mr. Laverty had been our English teacher at the North Street Junior High School. He lived in Medfield and raised his family on Harding Street.

    Freshman general science was taught by James Reddy, a newcomer to the Medfield School System. His class was meant to prepare college-bound students for biology, chemistry and physics courses in our sophomore, junior and senior years. Mr. Reddy was very knowledgeable of these sciences, and he only requested that if you weren’t listening in class that you remain quiet and respectful of those students who wanted to learn.

    Cuban Missle CrisisIn October 1962, President Kennedy ordered the blockade of Cuba. Aerial reconnaissance flights over the island of Cuba showed Russian missiles that had been stockpiled by Fidel Castro from the Soviet Union. U.S. naval ships were then placed around the island in order to prevent any further Russian distribution. President Kennedy warned Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev that failure to remove the missiles could lead to nuclear war. Supposedly Russia had placed the missiles there because the U.S. already had missiles in Turkey.

    Ultimately, both sides were able to save face by deescalating and removing their missiles.  But before that happened, most everyone in school, both students and faculty were talking about the situation, pondering what would happen in a nuclear war. In the previous year, Air Force U-2 pilot Gary Powers had been shot down while photographing and spying over Russia. This was of great embarrassment to the Kennedy administration. However, on Feb. 10, 1962 the United States was able to swap Russian spy, Rudolph Abel for Gary Powers. During a hearing at the United Nations, the U.S. publicly chastised Russia for violating the western territory as declared in the Monroe Doctrine. However, this incident didn’t at all deter either of the two countries from continuing nuclear testing.

    John GlennFortunately, on Feb. 20, there was more good news, as marine pilot John Glenn, 40, in the Mercury program’s Friendship 7 capsule, became the first American to orbit the earth. He circled the earth three times and landed safely in the Pacific Ocean despite technical problems on his flight. Glenn, already an American hero, was honored with a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York City.   Glenn went on to serve 24 years as a U.S. Senator from his native Ohio, and in 1998, at age 77, he became the oldest man in space, spending nine days on the shuttle Discovery.

    Although Americans were never fully aware of what was happening militarily in Southeast Asia, U.S. advisors in South Vietnam joined in the fight against the communists on March 9, 1962.

    About

    Tim Flaherty, a lifelong Medfield resident, served in the Peace Corps in Africa and in Central America. He has published numerous articles and is nearing completion of his second novel.

    One Response to Midcentury Medfield Memories: Redemption and Legacy for the 1961 Medfield High Football Team

    1. Stu Palmer
      November 1, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      A great read. Enjoyed it completely. You cover such a wide range of topics and really put the reader in the moment of those games.

      Stu Palmer
      Medfield ’85
      HS English teacher/Track coach
      My. Ararat HS Topsham Maine

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