By Mark C.N. Sullivan
Forty-five years later, Rick DeAngelis '70 remembers playing baseball for Holy Cross as if it were yesterday.
He remembers the clatter of baseball spikes going from the locker room in the basement of Kimball dining hall across the street and down the stairs to practice at Fitton Field. "I can still hear that sound toda.y," he says
And he remembers Coach Bob Curran '48 (right).
"Coach Curran would come up for practice from his insurance business in downtown Worcester, dressed impeccably in suit and tie," DeAngelis recalls. "He understood the way he carried himself made an impact on 18- and 19-year-olds like me. When he addressed us, he called us all 'men.' I think he did it purposefully. What he was trying to do was to teach us how to be men-how to be responsible to one's self, to one's school, to one's teammates."
Today DeAngelis is himself a successful coach, the founder and manager of the Lexington Blue Sox, nine-time champions of Greater Boston's amateur Intercity League. "Baseball has always been a passion in my life," he says, showing a visitor two rings he proudly wears, one from the champion Blue Sox, the other from the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame. Curran put him on the path to both those rings, as well as to success in business and life, says DeAngelis, now a father of two and the senior vice president and counsel at Boston Properties. (Read DeAngelis' Hall of Fame page here.)
"As manager of Blue Sox, I find a lot of my leadership style is based on what I learned from Bob Curran," DeAngelis says. "It's so rewarding and fulfilling to be involved with such talented baseball players and good young men. There's not much I wouldn't do for them."
To honor his mentor's legacy, DeAngelis has established the Robert T. Curran Leadership Award, presented to members of the Holy Cross baseball team who exemplify the spirit of the late coach. The first Curran Leadership Awards were presented this past May, to the team's four seniors, Nick Ciardiello '11, Jack Laurendeau '11, Brendan McCrea '11 and Eric Oxford '11, as well as to head coach Greg DiCenzo. "[DeAngelis] is a coach, a mentor and a very close friend, and I was honored that he selected me, my fellow classmates and our Coach to be the first recipients of the award," says Jack Laurendeau '11. (Read more about the award here.)
Those who played baseball for Coach Curran from 1967 to 1971 were playing for a Holy Cross legend. A two-sport captain for the Crusaders in basketball (1947-48) and baseball (1948), Curran was inducted into both the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. He passed away 1977. "There is a plaque on the wall at the Hart Center dedicated to Bob Curran-a tribute to a Worcester native who joined the military in World War II, did his duty, returned to Worcester and married his high-school sweetheart," DeAngelis says. "He was a center on the NCAA champion basketball team in 1947, and captain of the '48 Holy Cross baseball team that beat the Boston Braves. He was a tremendous athlete. But he never told us about it. He led by example, by how he carried himself. He was a quiet leader. His accomplishments spoke for themselves."
DeAngelis (right) smiled as he shared anecdotes from his time playing baseball for Curran at Holy Cross in the late 1960s.
"Coach Curran was the quintessential Irishman," he notes. "There were a lot of Italian players on the team-Stagliano, Lilore, Sabella, Petrazzolo, Pitochelli, DeAngelis-and a lot of Irish guys, too. Bob Pitochelli pronounced his name Pit-o-kelly. I think Coach Curran thought his name was Pete O'Kelly. He always called him Pete-why else would he call him Pete? One day, Bob-Pete-is pitching. Bob is getting roughed up. Whoever we were playing, they were hitting the heck out of the ball. Curran, frustrated, yells out, 'Pete, go ahead, goose another one in there for them to hit!' Bob-AKA Pete-has been known as 'Goose' ever since. Goose Pitochelli was the Goose before Goose Gossage, thanks to Bob Curran.
"I can remember hitting a baseball down the right field line, and coming out of the batter's box. I was determined to turn the hit into a double. The coach said, 'Where the hell is he going?' Then, when I was safe, he said: 'That's what I'm talking about! Aggressiveness!' A pragmatic approach to coaching!
"The era I played in was a time of unrest on campus 'Make Love, Not War,' and freedom of expression," DeAngelis continues. "When we traveled, the rule was, slacks, jacket and tie. No one traveled in Hawaiian shirts or cutoffs. We didn't wear sneakers. Coach Curran told us, 'Men, you're representatives of the College. You need to distinguish yourselves.' We didn't have many hippies playing baseball! We were the counter to the counterculture.
"Traveling on road trips, we often played cards in the back of the bus for nickels, dimes and quarters. Sometimes the sports information and trainer would join us. Curran got wind that the card games were going on. Back on campus he calls a meeting and says, 'Men, I'm putting the red light on card games with staff. They have families to support. They can't afford to lose money playing cards with you.
Curran also helped settle disputes off the field. "As a senior I got into a little dispute with the student in charge of admitting people into the dining hall," DeAngelis remembers. "I didn't have my ID. Later I got a letter of reprimand from the dean of men. Coach Curran found out and pulled me aside after practice. He said, 'You know, you can't let your Neapolitan temper get the best of you. You've got to stay under control. Nobody can punish you for your thoughts. Think before you speak or act. Think about what you say and do.' He was correct. It's advice that has served me well ever since."
The coach also gave him a chance, DeAngelis says, during the 1967 fall baseball season, when DeAngelis was a second-year student. Curran opened the right-field position to competition. "He didn't just give the spot to a senior. He made it clear the position was open, and that I could compete for it. I became the starting right fielder and went on to become an All New England baseball player."
Moreover, the coach saw that DeAngelis received a scholarship to play baseball for Holy Cross. "I'm a kid from Revere, from a blue-collar family, whose father was a coppersmith at the Boston Navy Yard," DeAngelis explains. He recalled one summer spent working at the A&P warehouse in Somerville unloading freight cars, being covered with soot after unloading bags of charcoal briquettes. The scholarship freed him from the freight yard to play two summers in the Cape Cod League, with Cotuit in '68 and Harwich in '69.
"Coach Curran was a leader who inspired you to to reach as high as you could reach, but you had to work hard to get there," DeAngelis says. "He viewed his job as not only coaching baseball but mentoring young men. He made a big impression on the people like me who played for him. I don't think he even knew he was a mentor. He was a guy I liked a lot. I had a great regard and admiration for him.
"When I was in law school at Boston College, he had given up coaching. I would see him occasionally in Boston. He was in the insurance business. He would stop and chat. I wanted to find time to go out to lunch with him, to sit with him as a peer and say thank you-thank you for all you've done for me-thank you for helping me become a productive man. He died way too early, at 58, of cancer, and I never had that opportunity to say thank you. This leadership award is my way of doing that."
Read more about Coach Bob Curran as an athlete in "The Little Team that Could" (Holy Cross Magazine, Spring 2007).